Monitoring and data use in developing countries: Findings from a systematic literature review

David Eddy-Spicer*, Melanie Ehren, Mukdarut Bangpan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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Purpose: The collection and dissemination of standardized performance information about students, teachers, schools and school systems offer potentially important tools for school accountability and resource allocation as well as school improvement in developing countries. However, performance monitoring systems in developing countries are in many cases copied from those in high-income countries without a clear understanding of their functioning in contexts of limited resources and capacity for change. The purpose of this paper is to examine the conditions under which and the mechanisms through which system-wide performance monitoring affects school-level organization and processes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). 

Design/methodology/approach: The review employs realist synthesis because of the complexity and dynamism of conditions in LMICs, the wide variability in available literature and the aim of explaining how particular organizational outcomes arise, given particular conditions. The authors draw on findings from a systematic review of 22 studies and reports, published since 2001, related to the implementation of performance monitoring. 

Findings: The findings highlight key barriers to the use of data to inform school accountability and improvement. Capacity to collect, interpret and use data is an important condition to both effective external accountability as well as improvement of schools. 

Originality/value: The review uses realist approaches to building middle-level theories to help scholars, educational advisers, policy makers and educational leaders understand the causal processes that result in certain outcomes from monitoring activities and to identify the conditions that are necessary for those processes to have the desired outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-197
Number of pages26
Issue number3
Early online date13 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Data-based decision making in developing countries


  • Data teams
  • Decision making
  • Leadership
  • Professional capital
  • Professional judgement


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