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School of Public Policy


Public Policy

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In this dissertations, I analyze education-decentralization reform in Bulgaria and the involvement of the World Bank (WB) in it. The WB has been promoting a decentralized approach to providing education in a number of developing and transitional economies. Bulgaria is one of the countries assisted by the Bank in adopting a decentralized education system. Insufficient public funds, a demographic crisis, inefficient use of public resources, and unskilled labor force were the main reasons that Bulgaria began reorganizing its education system and searching for outside assistance. School reform in Bulgaria is an interesting case study of a middle-income country that had to restructure its education system to respond to the needs of a changing economy. While education experts and government authorities did not see universal access to education as an issue because most of the children had access to basic education, the country was falling behind in its efforts to provide high-quality education appropriate for the changing needs of the labor market. This study contributes to the debate of advantages of decentralization versus centralization in education by analyzing if decentralization reform, as planned and implemented in Bulgaria, was a tool promoting efficient use of resources aimed at improved student outcomes, or increased the disparity of access and education expenditures in Bulgarian schools. The findings of the study suggest that education-decentralization reform led to a decrease in dropout rates and grade-repetition rates among students and did not worsen the equity in access to education. However, it seems that the effect of the central element of the school decentralization, the Delegated School Budgets, on student dropout and grade-repetition rates was diminished, mainly because of the simultaneous implementation of another efficiency measure, the consolidation of schools, and the lack of accountability measures at the local level of governance that would make the school director responsive to the needs of students. The research also shows that full education decentralization in Bulgaria was not achieved because even though financial decentralization was implemented, a decentralization of authority at the municipal level of governance was never adopted. This study provides policymakers in Bulgaria and other countries in the region with similar education systems and officials in the WB with further insight on the effectiveness of decentralization and the trade-off between its achieved efficiency and perceived inequality.