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


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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