Building Effective Teacher Salary Systems in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

Rebecca Winthrop, Susy Ndaruhutse, Janice Dolan, and April Golden



Susy Ndaruhutse

Head of International Development and Education, CfBT Education Trust


April Golden

Operations Analyst, Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Secretariat

An effective and efficient teacher salary system is one of the most important elements of a high quality education system in any country (INEE, 2009). Teacher pay is directly linked with expanding access to schooling and while it may not have a direct impact on specific learning outcomes, an education system’s ability to pay its teachers well and on time is closely linked with positive results such as teacher recruitment, retention, satisfaction and morale, as well as class size; factors that have themselves been connected with education quality (Sommers, 2005). Ensuring teachers are paid in full and on time is also only fair to teachers as many, particularly in contexts of state fragility and armed conflict, educate other people’s children at enormous sacrifice to themselves and their families.

Establishing and maintaining an effective teacher salary system is not easy in any country but in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS) it is frequently a major barrier to rebuilding the education system (INEE, 2009). There are numerous examples, particularly in contexts plagued by state fragility and conflict, where teachers are either not paid at all, or if they are paid, their salaries are frequently not paid in full and often weeks, if not months, late (see example in Box A).

box A

The lack of effective teacher salary systems both denies young people their rights to an education and also hinders the ‘peace dividend’ that usually comes with quickly restoring equitable access to education (Buckland, 2005). Governments must determine how much teachers are paid and establish a system to increase compensation based on experience and performance. They must also establish appropriate mechanisms to ensure that funds transferred through the system are notlost or leaked and they must maintain adequate teacher and education information management systems as well as payroll and financial transaction records. Managing these systems can be especially difficult in FCAS where the government often has limited capacity and resources to ensure that these mechanisms are in place and are functioning properly.

Understandably, external donor assistance is frequently sought for teacher pay problems. Indeed, the thrust of much of the call for donor support of teacher salaries is for increases in aid channelled directly into paying salaries (Commission for Africa, 2005; Bennell, 2004 and Global Campaign for Education, 2008). However, if a teacher salary system is not effective, any existing or additional funds that are given to pay teachers, either from national governments or external donors, are likely not to reach teachers. Hence, this report argues that policymakers need to have a dual focus – not only on increasing national and international resources for teacher salaries, but also on supporting teacher salary systems and the individual parts within them to ensure that resources reach their intended destination.