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Pop Quiz! What’s the Average Tenure of Ministers of Education in the Developing World?

By Wayan Vota on December 8, 2010

Recently, I was standing in the lobby of the Ministry of Education in Jordan. On one wall was the photograph and name of every Minister of Education that served the Education Ministry since its founding 89 years ago.

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Question: How many Ministers of Education do you think Jordan has had in the 89 year history of its Education Ministry?

Answer: 89, and one Minister served for 8 years. Which means the average tenure of a Minister of Education in Jordan is less than one year.

Do not think Jordan is unique with such short duration education ministers. Around the world, there is a revolving door at the ministerial level that can negatively impact education. A 1997 study on decentralization in Latin American noted that:

In Argentina, Bolivia, and Colombia, the average tenure of ministers of education over the last several decades has been less than 18 months, not an unusual situation in Latin America. When ministers change, senior and mid-level managers typically change as well, thus providing even less continuity to reforms underway.

There is even a rumored report by Ernesto Schiefelbein, a former Minister of Education from Chile, that showed an 11.5 month average tenure across Latin America. Interestingly, my anecdotal research into Africa shows slightly longer minister tenure. Tanzania has had 5 ministers in 10 years, Ethiopia and Kenya had 4 in 10 years, and Djibouti had only 2 in 10 years.

Yet before anyone thinks this is only a developing world problem, a recent British study found that average minister tenure in the UK government has dropped to 1.5 years across all ministries. And as I was administering this pop quiz to a friend, her response was: What’s the average tenure of an USAID Administrator?

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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2 Comments to “Pop Quiz! What’s the Average Tenure of Ministers of Education in the Developing World?”

  1. Chris Burley says:

    Hardly it seems … but who’s calling the shots? I appreciate your post Wayan, it makes you wonder about educational consistency, changing educational visions and most importantly long term impact on the youth and young adults of Jordan. U.S. has a secretary of Education that is swapped out each presidency change with some going a bit quicker than others. In the past 31 years we’ve had 9. Which brings us the question … how many years is enough?

  2. Wayan Vota says:

    9 in 31 years just over a 3 year average for US Deptartment of Education administrator. That is respectable in relation to the global average, but I take your point – how long is long enough to effect change but not so long as to stifle it?

    I would put forth 5 years, which is longer than most staff are able to resist change, therefore change would actually reach throughout the Education Ministry, yet not so long as to become the fiefdom of one individual or be resistant to change from the next leader