Malawi 2015 Open data

Contracting primary schools for performance


Introducing Result Based Financing to strengthen the education system

We aim to test an alternative for the prevailing input-based financing system for education in Malawi. By linking payments to verified performance, the internal efficiency of the system will be strengthened. During the pilot, we stimulate 30 schools and surrounding communities in Mangochi district to jointly improve access, equity, quality and relevance of their primary and pre-primary education.


  • SDG 4: Better access to quality education for all children


High drop-out and high repetition rates at the primary level are rueful reflections of the low conducive learning environment in Malawi. Hampering supply side factors are shortage of class rooms (resulting in overcrowded classrooms), shortage of learning materials and lack of teachers. The internal efficiency of the educational system in Malawi is considered to be weak. The Internal Efficiency Coefficient (IEC) is particularly low (35%) at the primary level among Standards 1 to 4, where the highest repetition rates are found. This implies that 65% of public resources are wasted in paying for repeated grades or schooling for students who dropout before cycle completion. Currently, the system requires 23 student years to produce one Standard eight graduate (instead of eight years with an ideal internal efficiency). The current set-up of the educational system leaves however little room for school managers to optimally allocate the available (limited) education budget to improve results.

Initial situation

For this RBF programme Cordaid has selected the Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) to fulfill the role of Contract Development and Verification agency. CSEC is a coalition of 84 diverse independent and voluntary organisations (non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, trade unions, religious based organisations, etc), which have come together in the pursuit of the right to quality education in Malawi. The vision of CSEC is “A society where all people enjoy the right to education that promotes equity, relevance, accessibility, quality and critical thinking”.


In line with the government priorities for education, Cordaid and the Malawi Ministries agreed to three goals:
• More equitable access and retention, with special attention for girls and other marginalized children;
• Improved quality and relevance: via school performance contracts, capacity building and coaching focusing on materials and infrastructure, pedagogy, improved inspection/supervision and improved transition from pre-primary to primary education;
• Improved governance: strengthen school governance and entrepreneurship via strong community involvement and system improvement.


  • SDG 4: Better access to quality education for all children

Target group

The project targets 30 primary full-cycle (standard 1-standard 8) schools in Mangochi district, Malawi. 15 of these schools will in addition be incentivized to set up pre-school facilities.
The final beneficiaries are the 30.000 pre-school and primary school children, their teachers and communities.

Project plan

The overall objective of the project is to contribute to an improved educational system for quality education for all children in Malawi. The impact that Cordaid aims to achieve is that the educational system works more cost-efficiently, with more autonomy at decentralized levels, meanwhile increasing its capacity to absorb and retain more children and to enhance the quality of the delivered educational services.

In order to pursue this objective, we aim to conduct a pilot to test our approach. We need to study whether implementing our approach, based on Results Based Financing (RBF), is feasible in the context of Malawi, whether it meets the expectations in terms of cost-efficiency, and whether it generates adequate results in terms of educational outcomes. The pilot focusses on two specific objectives:

1. To introduce and implement a functional Results Based Financing (RBF) based model in Mangochi district to improve access and quality of pre-school and primary education.
2. To build a support base amongst all relevant stakeholders within the education system for the introduction and up-scaling of RBF to the national level.

The following results and activities have been designed to achieve the above objectives:

Result 1.1: System adapted for Result Based Financing (RBF)
– Conduct 2 half-day training sessions for regulator evaluators (inspectors)
– Conduct 2 half-day training sessions for Community Verifiers
– Contract Community Based Organisations (CBOs) for user satisfaction surveys (2% sample, once per term)
– Contract regulator/inspection for quality evaluation (once per term)
– Conduct monthly verification visits
– Transfer funds to contracted schools, CBO’s and Inspection, based on approved invoices, once per term
– Conduct 2 (social) external audits

Result 1.2: a) 30 primary schools with 28770 pupils contracted for standard 1-8 under RBF; and b) 50% of these piloted schools additionally contracted for pre-primary education for 1500 children aged 3-5

– Select 30 primary schools
– Contract 30 primary schools, and subsequent revision of contracts
– Provide coaching on business plan development to school management

Result 1.3: School governance and management of 30 primary schools improved

– Conduct 2 half-day training sessions for school management & parent teacher committees of 30 schools per year (an estimated 300 participants in total) on governance and accounting

Result 1.4: School resources and teaching conditions of 30 primary schools improved

– Primary schools together with the communities construct a minimum of 10 pre-primary centres and 20 classrooms

Result 1.5: Improved quality of teaching

– Training of 350 – 360 (pre-school) teachers in child friendly pedagogy/21st century skills (on average 4 half-day training sessions/ /teacher/year)

Result 1.6: Improved (transition) programs

– Organise at least 2 pre-primary to primary school transition workshops for all piloted pre-school – and early primary teachers and adapt programmes for enhanced transition

Result 1.7: Enhanced community participation in pre-primary and primary education

– Conduct half-day training for an estimated 180 community volunteers per year

Result 2.1: Established and functional RBF expert network with all relevant education stakeholders for linking and learning

– Organise RBF workshop
– Linking and Learning sessions
– Advocate for further autonomy of school facilities and decentralization of funding

Result 2.2: Evidence built of RBF model for pre-primary and primary education for up-scaling to the national level

– Conduct baseline and research (including “control” group)
– Conduct RBF costing exercise and update regularly

Result 2.3: Evidence-based full RBF scenario for up scaling agreed upon by relevant education stakeholders

– Develop and budget proposal for up-scaling and draft MoU with education stakeholders (year two)


By introducing this Result Based Financing approach in the education system in Malawi, we improve the efficient use of scarce resources while at the same time improving the quality of the education. We invest in and train all stakeholders within the education system in governance and (social) accountability: we provide parents, community organisations, parent-teacher committees, teachers, school management and inspection with skills which will have a long-lasting impact. We give schools more autonomy to allocate their cash revenues the way they deem best to improve the quality of their services. By increasing autonomy we also promote entrepreneurship and stimulate school managers to find creative solutions that fit best their local realities.

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