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School-based management (SBM) has been a prominent topic in the literature related to decentralisation reforms in western countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and the UK. SBM has been promoted as a decentralising strategy, aiming to decentralize and democratize educational policymaking. It is based on a widely accepted view that better quality education can be obtained when schools possess their own decision-making. Egypt has been no exception to the decentralizing movement sweeping the world. In the early 90s, Egypt's government started a comprehensive educational reform programme with educational decentralization being a key theme on the reform agenda. As part of this move, SBM has been promoted through a number of decentralization initiatives aiming to devolve more decision-making powers to the local school level. However, evidence from recent research indicates that the rhetoric surrounding this move is much more significant than its substance. This paper highlights the apparent paradox between policy and practice and provides possible explanations for it.