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School-Based Management


What is school-based management?

New Publication: 
-Making Schools Work - New Evidence on Accountability Reforms (pdf, 3MB). 2011
Key Resources: 
-Decentralized Decision-Making in Schools: The Theory and Evidence on School-Based Management (pdf, 1MB). 2009
-Impact Evaluation for School-Based Management Reform
-Toolkit: Guiding Principles for Implementing School-based Management Programs 

School-based management (SBM) is the decentralization of levels of authority to the school level. Responsibility and decision-making over school operations is transferred to principals, teachers, parents, sometimes students, and other school community members. The school-level actors, however, have to conform to, or operate, within a set of centrally determined policies.

SBM programs take on many different forms, both in terms of who has the power to make decisions as well as the degree of decision-making devolved to the school level. While some programs transfer authority to principals or teachers only, others encourage or mandate parental and community participation, often in school committees (sometimes known as school councils). In general, SBM programs transfer authority over one or more of the following activities: budget allocation, hiring and firing of teachers and other school staff, curriculum development, textbook and other educational material procurement, infrastructure improvement, setting the school calendar to better meet the specific needs of the local community, and monitoring and evaluation of teacher performance and student learning outcomes. SBM also includes school-development plans, school grants, and sometimes information dissemination of educational results (otherwise known as ‘report cards’).

Starting in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, SBM programs have been implemented and are currently being developed in a number of countries, including Hong Kong (China). The majority of the SBM projects in the current World Bank portfolio are in Latin American and South Asian countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, and Sri Lanka. There are also two Bank-supported SBM projects in Europe and Central Asia (in FYR Macedonia and in Serbia and Montenegro), and one each in East Asia and the Pacific (the Philippines), the Middle East and North Africa (Lebanon), and Sub-Saharan Africa (Lesotho). Other projects and programs have been introduced more recently in Madagascar, the Gambia, and Senegal.

Why is school-based management important?

Advocates of SBM assert that it should improve educational outcomes for a number of reasons. First, it improves accountability of principals and teachers to students, parents and teachers. Accountability mechanisms that put people at the center of service provision can go a long way in making services work and improving outcomes by facilitating participation in service delivery, as noted in the World Bank’s 2004 World Development Report, Making Services Work for Poor People. Second, it allows local decision-makers to determine the appropriate mix of inputs and education policies adapted to local realities and needs.

Impact of school-based management

Evaluations of SBM programs offer mixed evidence of impacts. Nicaragua’s Autonomous School Program gives school-site councils – comprised of teachers, students and a voting majority of parents – authority to determine how 100 percent of school resources are allocated and authority to hire and fire principals, a privilege that few other school councils in Latin America enjoy. Two evaluations found that the number of decisions made at the school level contributed to better test scores (King and Ozler 1998; Ozler 2001). Mexico’s compensatory education program provides extra resources to disadvantaged rural primary schools and all indigenous schools, thus increasing the supply of education. However, the compensatory package has several components. If one breaks the intervention up in its multiple components, then it is shown that empowering parent associations seems to have a substantial effect in improving educational outcomes, even when controlling for the presence of beneficiaries of Mexico’s large and successful conditional cash transfer program (Oportunidades, formerly Progressa). This is strong evidence of the positive effects of decentralizing education to the lower levels (Gertler, Patrinos and Rubio forthcoming). Various evaluations of SBM programs in the United States have found evidence of decreased dropout and student suspension rates but no impact on test scores.


  • King, E. and B. Ozler. 1998. “What’s Decentralization Got to do with
    Learning? The Case of Nicaragua’s School Autonomy Reform.” Working Paper on Impact Evaluation of Education Reforms. Washington, DC: World Bank.
  • Ozler, B. 2001. “Decentralization and Student Achievement: The Case of
    Nicaragua’s School Autonomy Reform.” Working Paper on Impact Evaluation of Education Reforms. Washington, DC: World Bank.
  • Gertler, P., H.A. Patrinos and M. Rubio-Codina. Forthcoming. “Do Supply-Side-Oriented and Demand-Side-Oriented Education Programs Generate Synergies? The Case of CONAFE Compensatory Program and OPORTUNIDADES Scholarships in Rural Mexico.”

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Last updated: 2009-04-22

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