Since the 1990 Jomtien Conference on Education for All, basic education in developing countries has attracted growing attention, both globally and do-mestically. Many policies have been initiated to improve educational access, quality and equity. While the accrued interest in education has followed a certain rationality, context-specific realities have nonetheless imposed dif-ferent turns on the planned interventions. An actor-oriented approach to policy study offers the opportunity to uncover how grassroots actors from the periphery unpack, transform and domesticate globally promoted educa-tion policies. Using an actor-oriented approach, the current study sets out to examine policy in practice. It focuses on grassroots actors in the implementation of a competency-based curricular reform in Benin’s primary education system. In Benin, the development promise attributed to the new curricular para-digm was quickly contradicted by considerable resistance from grassroots actors. Although opinions converged on the failure of the school system to yield satisfactory learning outcomes for students despite the unprecedented nature of the reform policy, actors in the system diverged on the probable causes of this shortcoming. The bone of contention in the debate was the new curricula, which had been initiated to improve Benin’s school system but instead came to exemplify problems of ownership and appropriation at the grassroots level. Bottom-up implementation scholars and normative discourse state une-quivocally that front-line actors’ ownership and appropriation of planned measures are prerequisites for the effective implementation of public policy. In this light, the current study examines the policy debate on the curricular reform in Benin to explore how the controversy affected implementation of the education policy. Set in the tradition of actor-oriented policy studies, the research follows a qualitative design, combining the techniques of extensive fieldwork, interviews, focus-group discussions, direct observations, docu-mentary investigation and analytic induction.

J.W. Björkman (Jim)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ISS PhD Theses
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)