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Strategy sessions II.7 > Financing
 
World Education Forum
Dakar, Senegal 26-28 April 2000
 
Mobilizing new resources for basic education
Issues Paper
 
Strategy Session II.7
 
Original : English
 
External aid
 
   To achieve the objective of providing quality primary education for all by the year 2015, new resources and better use of existing resources will be necessary. Although some donors have considerably increased their aid for basic education, none can satisfy the needs. Indeed, as a proportion of total aid, that for education has fallen or remained constant since the mid-1980s. Globally, basic education represents less than 1% of total bilateral aid and 5% of the funds provided by the World Bank. Of these amounts, only 12% is allocated to the basic levels and only one-third of aid for education goes to countries where fewer than half of all children are enrolled in primary school.
 
   World Bank loans for education in sub-Saharan Africa have amounted to no more than 13% of expenditure on education in the last three years. Further decreases are expected in the next three years, due to the reduced availability of concessionary loans for education. Among the aid donors of the DAC1 which largely finance education, few devote sufficient funds to basic education, thus considerably weakening the impact of their educational aid on poverty reduction. Only a handful of aid donors show good quantitative results in terms of the prioritization of basic education and the targeting of the most marginalized countries. In sum, donors give only a quarter of what they should be giving under the terms of the 20:20 initiative to achieve the objective of free primary education for all by the year 2015 2 (see attached table).
 
Moreover, external aid often has conditions attached to it which affect its impact. It has often been said that Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) have had a negative impact on the capacity of governments to provide free, quality education. The education sector represents a large share of public expenditure, and suffers badly from the cuts required under SAPs. Other types of attached conditions include tied aid, under which a proportion of the aid returns to the donor country through consultant contracts or the supply of materials. It has been said that sectoral approaches to educational aid can help to reduce wastage in the sector, by enabling governments to plan and control expenditure more effectively. In the absence of a sectoral approach, the governments of the South are obliged to devote their resources to complying with the conditions imposed by aid donors in terms of reporting, consulancy assignments, etc.
 

Which new partnerships can be developed today to optimize aid to the education sector, and ensure that such aid does not result in increased dependence on the part of the countries of the South?

 
The contribution of the community
 
In education, governments still play a major role - and this will certainly continue to be the case - particularly in the financing of primary and secondary education. But other entities are also involved, and this phenomenon will no doubt continue to grow in the years to come.
 
UNICEF's report The State of the World's Children, 1999, concentrated on education. One of the themes of this report concerned partnerships and the changing role of the State. The report notes that "the formation of partnerships has become a central concept in planning and managing education, especially in situations where significant numbers of children are deprived of education. The State retains responsibility for setting national objectives, mobilizing resources and maintaining educational standards, while NGOs, community groups, religious bodies and commercial enterprises can all contribute, making education a more vital part of the life of the whole community". The publication adds that "instead of acting as an omnipotent central authority, States are finding that partnerships with multiple sectors of society offer a greater chance of achieving Education For All, and many are passing power to lower levels of the system to improve efficiency and responsiveness".
 
As governments look for ways of decentralizing responsibilities, increasing equality of educational opportunities and further mobilizing resources, they need strong, innovative allies. The Amman Forum (1996) noted that the wider and the more active those partnerships have been, the better the results that have been achieved since Jomtien (1990). The main partner in this context remains the community, which is simultaneously the host the and beneficiary of schools. Scenarios vary according to context and country. Contributions by the community can cover the total cost of the education system, or may simply take the form of modest school fees.
 
The question of the financial contribution of the community has given rise to controversy: Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) stipulates that "Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages". This same principle is found in other standard-setting texts adopted since then by the international community. In the light of those texts, the reality of the poorest countries requires that these costs be shared to a certain extent. Thus, the Jomtien Declaration (1990) advocates that we "mobilize existing and new financial and human resources, public, private and voluntary", although it does not include any clause concerning provision free of charge. The logic followed here is that cost-sharing through the charging of tuition fees can generate the necessary resources and, by means of a system of redistribution for the benefit of the most impoverished, can guarantee better social justice. In the absence of such mechanisms of social justice, the principle of cost-sharing through tuition fees nevertheless increases the marginalization of the poorest populations. According to certain analyses, community contributions are perceived as a particular form of privatisation of the education sector, and this carries the risk of marginalizing the role of the State and turning the education service into a commercial product governed by the capacity of its consumers to pay the price demanded for it.
 
One of the main arguments in favour of community contributions is that the education systems of countries where community contributions cover a major part of the operating budget make it possible to contemplate partnerships with the educational authorities in a new light, and lead communities to become more fully involved in the system. Conversely, there are those who point out that, at present, communities do not usually have much control over the education system, even though they contribute to it in a major way. In a number of governmental programmes, community financing is considered to be an alternative to direct taxation, and communities have no more control over their funds than they would have over tax revenues. Also, communities may have only a limited role in programmes organized by donors. In reality, as Wright and Govinda observe (1994), "It is not always certain that partnerships with communities are designed to encourage real participation and fair monitoring, rather than simply to induce the communities to pay for programmes drawn up by others".
 
Innovative, constructive partnership initiatives have nevertheless come into being in recent years, offering different scenarios in terms of sharing of responsibilities, and blurring the terminological distinction between the "formal system" and "informal system " categories. These partnership initiatives have also highlighted the non-financial role of community participation, in that they have drawn on local knowledge in the context of teaching and in that certain tasks inherent in the system (management, monitoring etc.) have been delegated to communities. These contributions, although difficult to quantify, represent in certain cases a not insignificant share of the operation of education systems.
 
This strategy session will address the following issues:
 

How, in the twenty-first century, can the delicate balance be achieved between the necessary central role of the State and the rights of communities to be more than mere contributors, when on the one hand, the State must continue to be the guarantor of national unity and of the values of society which education is to convey, and on the other, populations have the right to demand to participate in devising an education system adapted to their needs?

What can external partners do to help countries in their search for this balance?

 
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