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SAI Education Seminar

Tara Beteille, World Bank

Chair: Akshay ManglaAssistant Professor, Harvard Business School

This paper provides a detailed account of how the system of teacher transfers operates in large parts of India. It presents evidence to suggest that teacher transfers form the bedrock of a patronage-based low-accountability school system. Politicians need teachers because teachers are politically powerful and can convincingly threaten them with electoral sabotage. This deters politicians from adopting strict teacher accountability policies. Knowing how powerful teachers can be in the collective, politicians attempt to control the behavior of individual teachers through patronage-based transfers. But reality is not as neat and clean, and it is difficult to point fingers at specific politicians, else the task of accountability might have been easier. This happens because of the profusion of middlemen, who promise to connect teachers to politicians. Middlemen sometimes fabricate instances of bribery, preying on informational asymmetries and an institutionalized belief in corruption. They generate a system of beliefs regarding corruption in transfers that becomes self-fulfilling. Grim as the situation may appear, the paper offers hope based upon the recent experience of two states in India.

Cosponsored with the International Education Policy Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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