There has been a surge of interest in “system diagnostics” among those seeking to improve education in poor countries. The interest is seemingly driven by recognition that numerous efforts to improve learning have not had the desired impact and that there is limited understanding of why this is the case.
Advocates of ‘system thinking’ argue that developing a better understanding of the education sector will help foster a transformative reform agenda, targeting interventions at key challenges and increasing the likelihood that they will lead to sustained improvements in learning outcomes.
In developing countries, education sector plans epitomize the sector reform agenda mainly financed on domestic resources and supplemented by international aid.
In theory, these sector plans are developed in an inclusive manner to set the stage for government-led collective action, domestic and international financing mobilization, and alignment of all education stakeholders’ support to the education system sector.
In practice, the picture is more nuanced. Recently conducted country-level evaluations by GPE highlighted that while the overall quality of education sector plans keeps improving, the link between planning and implementation remains to be strengthened.
Nevertheless, sector plans are important tools to improve accountability and have potential to influence gains in student learning.