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Incentives to Improve Education

A New Perspective Robert McMeekin, Centro de Investigaciôn y Desarrollo de la Educación, Santiago, Chile
Incentives to Improve Education identifies three categories of incentives: rewards, (financial rewards for teachers), competition (educational choice, often in the form of payment for education by voucher) and threats (introduction of external standards and accountability for performance).
Extent: 224 pp
Hardback Price: $127.00 Web: $114.30
Publication Date: 2003
ISBN: 978 1 84376 068 9
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  • eISBN: 978 1 78195 296 2

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  • Economics and Finance
  • Economics of Education
  • Institutional Economics
  • Labour Economics
  • Post-Keynesian Economics
  • Education
  • Economics of Education
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Public Policy
  • Social Policy and Sociology
  • Labour Policy
Incentives to Improve Education identifies three categories of incentives: rewards, (financial rewards for teachers), competition (educational choice, often in the form of payment for education by voucher) and threats (introduction of external standards and accountability for performance).

Using new institutional economics as a basis, Robert McMeekin develops a theoretical framework in which micro-level institutions – the ‘rules of the game’ – within school organizations influence the effort and the performance of teachers, students and other members of school communities. This model is used to analyze alternative approaches within each category of incentives (for example, merit pay for individual teachers versus merit awards to whole schools) and the reasons why some are more effective than others. The book argues that an incentive’s impact on schools depends on how it influences the institutional climate within the school. Contracting in schools and networks of schools are also explored.

Drawing on a body of economic thought – rarely applied in education studies – that explains how and why different approaches to providing incentives work, this book will be invaluable to economists, practitioners and others with an interest in educational policy and governance and in improving school performance.
‘Schools’ success depends on what happens inside the organisation, in just the same way as for business. Robert McMeekin’s book offers a powerful and highly welcome framework for understanding the forces at work. It will help move debate away from current excessive emphasis on measurement “from outside the black box” and preoccupation with inputs and toward concern for process.’
– Alison Wolf, University of London, UK

‘Robert McMeekin’s volume is an enormous contribution to the debate on vouchers, school choice, and accountability. It provides a highly original application of new institutional economics to contemporary issues in school reform. It also presents a rich array of data on schools in Chile – a country on the forefront of such reforms. The book will be greatly welcomed by a wide range of scholars in the economics of education, education policy, and comparative education.’
– Patrick McEwan, Wellesley College, US

‘Robert McMeekin’s book provides a unique and highly readable analysis of the combined effects of rewards, competition, and accountability on educational performance. . . A superb contribution to research and to public policy deliberations.’
– Iris C. Rotberg, The George Washington University, US

‘McMeekin examines a variety of types of incentive: reward based systems designed to elicit enhanced worker effort; free market competition aimed at increasing efficiency; and regulatory pressure. To examine what goes on within the “black box” of an organisation, his approach is to analyse information collected from around the world using the theoretical toolkit of the new institutional economics. In terms of both its conceptual contributions and its international harvest of empirical evidence, the book is a tour de force. It should be compulsory reading for any academic, practitioner, or policymaker with an interest in how incentives operate in the education sector.’
– Geraint Johnes, Lancaster University Management School, UK
Contents: Preface 1. The Theoretical Framework 2. Institutions within Schools and School Performance 3. Rewards for Good Performance 4. Competition 5. Threats: External Standards and Accountability 6. Conclusions Appendix A: Contracting in Schools Appendix B: Networks of Schools Bibliography Index