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The findings > Thematic Studies>Community Partnerships... >Part 4
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Community Financing
 
Issues concerning the sources and control of finance have already been mentioned, and underlie almost all dimensions of community partnership in education. This section begins by considering the possible spectrum of situations with different balances in partnerships but sometimes with hidden similarities. It then turns to controversies concerning fees for primary education. The third part addresses other ways to raise resources; and the fourth part links financing to control, pointing out that community provision of resources does not always provide commensurate control over how those resources are utilized.
 
Contrasting Situations but Hidden Similarities
 
Analytically, one may envisage a spectrum of situations with different balances of funding. At one end of the spectrum are systems in which all resources come from the government and no resources are contributed by communities. At the other end are systems in which all resources come from communities with nothing from governments. Deeper scrutiny may show that this model is over-simplified, but it is a useful starting point for consideration.
 
In general, systems which are fully funded by governments have low degrees of community partnership, though communities may be invited to assist in the operationalization of policies and plans determined by the government. Conversely, systems which are fully funded by communities commonly have low degrees of government partnership, though governments may insist that school managers meet certain requirements in maximum class size, minimum teachers' qualifications, etc.. From the perspective of partnership, therefore, the most instructive situations are ones in which governments provide some resources and communities provide others. Particularly common are models in which governments provide some or all of the teachers' salaries, and communities provide land, buildings and other facilities.
 
Within these intermediate categories of shared resourcing, many variations may exist. For example, systems may be basically government-operated but with substantial community inputs; or they may be basically community-operated but with substantial government inputs. Often it is necessary to scrutinize actual patterns rather than to rely on labels. This may be demonstrated by contrasting Cambodia and Indonesia:
 

In Cambodia, the dominant provision of primary education is normally described as a public system. However, research in 1997/98 showed that within this so-called public system, the government provided only 12 per cent of total costs. Households and communities met 60 per cent of total costs, while politicians met 10 per cent, and NGOs and external aid agencies met 18 per cent (Bray 1999, p.42). Many of the community contributions were solicited on a village basis, in which community members were taxed and made other inputs even if they had no children currently in the schools. Contributions were also made by Parents' Associations, working as collective bodies. Some village leaders had become expert at soliciting contributions from community members who were resident abroad. In these cases, the community was defined in terms of historical and emotional ties rather than place of residence.

In Indonesia, over 3 million pupils at the primary level, representing over 10 per cent of the total, attend privately-owned Islamic institutions known as madrasah ibtidaiyah (World Bank 1998, p.123). Although nominally private, in 1995/96 these institutions received 71.3 per cent of their income from the national and regional governments (Bray & Thomas 1998, p.41). The other 28.7 per cent was provided by families, communities, and the foundations which operated the schools. In this situation, communities were defined according to a combination of religion and place of residence.

 
This pair of situations shows the danger that labels may be misleading. Although Cambodia ostensibly has a public system, in practice most inputs come from non-government sources; and although this part of the Indonesian system is ostensibly private, in practice the bulk of inputs come from government sources.
 
One question to be explored further, however, concerns the extent to which in the domain of financing the distinctions between governments, households and communities are real. Governments of course derive incomes from many sources, including royalties on minerals, government-owned enterprises, and foreign aid. Yet the main source of income for most governments is taxation. Again, taxes may be of many kinds, including taxes on businesses and property. However, in the majority of countries most taxation income is obtained from individuals and households. In this sense, some government revenues are ultimately derived from the same sources as the non-government revenues: governments gain their incomes from individuals and households, and communities gain their incomes from individuals and households.
 
Table 5 shows data on taxation revenues by region as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Although considerable variation exists within groups of countries, taxation levels in industrialized countries are generally higher than those in less developed countries. In turn, this means that governments in industrialized countries are able to pay large sums for primary and other levels of education, and are less in need of direct household and community inputs. Less developed countries, by contrast, tend to have less sophisticated structures for taxation. This means that their governments are less prosperous, and that the governments are unable to invest large amounts in education.
 
Table 5: Taxation Revenue as a Percentage of GDP, 1997 (not available)
 
Source: United Nations Development Programme (1999), pp.184-187.
 
The importance of considering taxation may again be illustrated by reference to Cambodia. While in Cambodia the bulk of investments in primary education are provided directly by households and communities rather than by the government, Cambodia has a very inefficient system of taxation. Cambodia's ratio of taxation to GDP was just 6.0 per cent in 1994 (Asian Development Bank 1996, p.33). The regional average (for 26 Developing Member Countries of the Asian Development Bank) was 14.4 per cent, and figures for specific countries included 20.2 per cent in Malaysia and 17.2 per cent in Thailand. Thus in Cambodia, households and communities may have been paying large direct amounts for primary education, but they were paying small indirect amounts.
 
Situations similar to those in Cambodia may also be found in other settings. In Uganda, for example, households and communities in the late 1980s and early 1990s met between 65 and 90 per cent of the total costs of primary education (World Bank 1993, p.35); but that was chiefly because overall government operations had practically collapsed, which in turn meant that very few taxes were being collected. Communities realized that if they wanted schools, they would have to help themselves - perhaps investing directly some or all of the resources which under other circumstances they would have had to pay in taxation. Comparable comments might be made about such countries as Chad and Somalia (Esquieu & Péano 1994; Shartz 1998).
 
This set of statements does not imply that community financing is necessarily an appropriate alternative to taxation. One major purpose of most taxation systems is to extract greater proportions of revenue from the rich than the poor. This, in the language of taxation, is "progressive", and spreads the burden of education over populations and even generations in what is arguably a more desirable way.
 
Community financing, by contrast, is more likely to be regressive - i.e. to demand proportionately more from the poor as a percentage of total incomes than from the rich. Also, as a source of finance, taxation is better suited than community financing to long-term investments of the types needed in the education sector. As such, one major recommendation might be that governments with weak taxation systems strengthen them. Meanwhile, however, in some settings community financing operates as an alternative to taxation.
 
An alternative possibility is one in which the structure of government is strong and far-reaching. In some settings, such structures include micro-level as well as district, regional and national governments. In these cases, the boundaries between community and government may be blurred. This was especially the case in old-style communist systems, where the distinction between a commune and a community derived from semantics and/or the political orientations of the observer more than from identifiable structures.
 
This point may be illustrated by patterns in the People's Republic of China. The 1990s brought weakening of government structures because of political changes and the advent of the market economy, but up to the late-1970s communes were still an important part of the structure of governance and also played a major role in the financing of education (Robinson 1988). Communes were subsequently abolished in a formal political sense and to some extent replaced by informal structures. Thus many communities in China employed their own teachers, known as minban teachers. Recently this term has been broadened to include teachers in private schools; but at the primary level the majority of minban teachers during the 1980s and 1990s were employed by communities rather than by private entrepreneurs. In the mid-1990s, 40 per cent of all primary teachers, and 50 per cent of rural ones, were minban teachers (Cheng 1997, p.400). Some of these were in rich communities, but many were in poor ones. Related to this, a 1995 study of the financing of primary education in 491 poor counties showed that 14.6 per cent of the total costs were met by communities, and a further 6.7 per cent by households through per-pupil fees (Jiang et al. 1997, p.27). This was part of a transition from centrally-planned activities to a more flexible system in which more decisions were made at the local level. The new structures were substantially different from the old ones; but in many parts of the country the commonality remained that financial resources were contributed by households and communities to sustain their local schools.
 
Fees for Primary Education
 
Mention of fees for primary education raises a policy issue which is controversial. Most communities which fund substantial parts of school budgets rely on per-pupil fees for a major part of their revenues. Communities commonly find that fees are the only way to ensure regular revenues in cash, which are needed to pay teachers' salaries and meet other recurrent needs. Fees also have the advantage that the people who pay them can clearly see a link between their payments and the services provided. However, many policy-makers find the notion of fees, particularly for primary education, problematic. This is chiefly because they are mindful of the danger that the poorest families may be excluded from school by the existence of fees. Also, fees may be regressive because poor families tend to have more children than rich families. In addition, systems which charge fees encounter various administrative complications arising from the costs of collection and the need for accounting arrangements to reduce the danger of money going astray.
 
Opposition to fees has deep roots in various international declarations. One of them, as noted above, was the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Article 26 of the Declaration stated that "education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages". Principle 7 of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child stated that "the child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages"; and Article 13 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that "primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all".
 
Significantly, a clause of this type was not included in the 1990 Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All. This may reflect some evolution in thinking. The summary of roundtable discussions (Windham 1992, p.3) observed that "'free' education provided by government alone is often of an insufficient quality to benefit the individual child, the community or the country". The report continued (p.4):
 
The neediest pupils will not be able to adjust to user-fee financing schemes with the same ease as middle and upper-income pupils.
 
This statement clearly envisaged the possibility of fees, and instead shifted the question to how the poor should be protected in contexts where such fees existed. The implied logic was that fees for middle and upper-income pupils might actually be desirable, on the grounds that school systems need the resources and that these people can afford to pay. The World Bank has gone further, stating (1999, p.19) that in "in principle, fees and other contributions paid by non-poor beneficiaries could free up public resources for targeting to the poor".
 
For those who accept this approach, the next question concerns mechanisms for protecting the poor. Part of the problem is that communities themselves may not be sympathetic to the plight of the poorest. Muya et al. (1995) report that in Kenya many parents feel exploited by school committees, which are sometimes considered demanding and unsympathetic to the burdens they impose. Similar comments have been made about Uganda by Opolot (1994).
 
However, survey of experiences in different countries shows that many communities do have leaders who are sensitive to the needs of the poorest. These leaders may reduce the monetary charges on the poorest, and/or permit families to provide labor or materials instead of cash, or waive charges altogether (Bray 1996a, 1997). The question then becomes how such practices can be encouraged. The answer partly lies in raising awareness at the school and community level of the consequences of not making allowance for the needs of the poorest. Governments can also assist communities by pointing out some of the mechanisms for assisting the poor.
 
In summary, views on fees at the primary level tend to be polarized. On the one side are agencies and individuals who are vehemently opposed to fees. Oxfam (1999, p.239) is among the agencies in this category, on the grounds that "high cost is probably the single most important factor excluding the children of poor households from school". Also, although the 1990 Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All was silent on the matter, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, maintained the tradition of the predecessor international declarations. Article 28 of the Convention stated that signatories recognized the right of the child to education, and "with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular … make primary education compulsory and available free to all". In the years that have followed, a powerful lobby has constantly called attention to the matter (see e.g. Oxfam 1998; UNICEF 1999a).
 
On the other side, however, is a growing group of agencies and individuals who are more tolerant of fees in education. This has been particularly evident in tertiary education, and has also been witnessed at secondary and even primary education. The argument, as indicated, is that education sectors need all the resources they can get, and that fees in some circumstances provide enough resources to secure not only the quantity but also the quality of education. Middle-income and rich parents, the argument goes, should be actively encouraged to contribute resources; and a fee-free education policy is misguided if it prevents willing parents from contributing to education. Scholarships and other mechanisms for protecting the poor can be financed from revenues provided by the middle-income and rich.
 
Other Ways to Raise Resources
 
Communities may have many other ways to raise resources for education. The range of different methods has been analyzed elsewhere (Bray 1996b, pp.8-13), but is worth summarizing here.
 
One important distinction is between resources for capital needs and for recurrent needs. For capital works, community leaders commonly organize focused activities such as launching ceremonies. In Nigeria and Kenya, for example, fund-raisers rely on community structures to create a sense of obligation, and even impose sanctions on individuals who do not contribute (Igwe 1988, pp.111-112; Hill 1991, pp.237-238; Rugh & Bossert 1998, pp.32-55). In prosperous and well-organized communities, these events may raise substantial amounts of money.
 
Among the alternative ways to raise money for capital works are fêtes, carnivals, cultural shows, harvest festivals, raffles, and sponsored walks. In these cases, government-community partnerships may exist at the micro-level as well as at higher levels, for government-employed teachers commonly work with community members to organize the events.
 
A further way to raise resources either for capital or for recurrent needs is through a levy on each household or individual. Tsayang (1998) and Moorad (1999) have described the ways in which decisions are commonly made in Botswana. Some individuals and households contribute cattle, but others contribute money according to minimum and maximum rates determined at village meetings. Each meeting is usually organized by the school committee, and presided over by the village chief. Strikingly similar systems may be found in parts of Asia. For instance in Lao People's Democratic Republic, construction of rural schools is commonly overseen by chairpersons of Community Associations. Levies may be imposed on individual adults, or they may be by household. Commonly, households are levied equal sums, regardless of the incomes of those households or the numbers of their school-aged children, though perhaps with some allowance for substitution of labor in the case of households which are very poor (Bray 1996a, p.31). Comparable systems are used in parts of India (Rajagopal & Sharma 1999, p.61).
 
Where collection of cash is problematic, teachers may be willing to accept at least partial payment in food, accommodation and/or labor. Madagascar has become known for its "drums of rice schools" in which teachers have been paid in rice (Tilahimena 1999, p.7). In Mali, the communities of schools run by the NGO World Education have paid teachers an average of US$50 per month in cash, but have provided additional inputs in kind worth US$35 per month (Tietjen 1999, p.38). The additional inputs include lodging, firewood, millet, land for cultivation, and help with cultivation.
 
Schools sponsored by religious organizations may also meet recurrent needs from collections made during church/temple/mosque/synagogue ceremonies, and from other regular sources of income such as rent on properties. When religious organizations have more than one school, they may be able to subsidize the deficits of some institutions from the surpluses of others. Also, teachers and other workers in religious schools commonly work at less than the market rate, therefore providing a hidden subsidy. Many religious schools in low-income countries are also able to attract funds from religious organizations in more prosperous countries.
 
Balances of Financing and Control
 
A common expression in the English language states that "He who pays the piper calls the tune". It means that the person (or organization) which provides the finance decides how that finance is spent. However, in the domain of community financing of education, this expression is not always applicable. Communities do not always have great control over the content and scale of education, even when they make major financial inputs. In many government-sponsored schemes, community financing is seen as an alternative to direct taxation, and communities have little more control over their funds than they would over taxation revenues. Communities may also have limited control in schemes sponsored by donor agencies. Indeed, as observed by Wright & Govinda (1994, p.22) "it is not always clear that partnerships with communities are designed to encourage genuine participation and fair control, rather than simply getting communities to pay more for the pet schemes of others".
 
This is not always the case, of course. Much depends on the willingness of governments to devolve decision-making, and of the communities to take it up. In Papua New Guinea, as noted above, communities may have the power even to decide on the languages of instruction despite the fact that the government meets the major costs of elementary education.
 

Nevertheless, comparative analysis shows that governments have an array of tools to influence and direct community decisions, even where communities provide substantial proportions of the total costs. These tools include:

Controls on registration of schools. Governments may insist that schools must be registered, including schools that are independently managed and financed. They do this first to help shape the geographical coverage of education, and second to permit enforcement of regulations.

Teacher recruitment, qualifications and salaries. Some governments insist that all teachers in both government and community schools be employed by the public service. This does of course require those governments to have sufficient budgets; but it allows the governments to control teacher recruitment, qualifications and salaries. Usually this is done in the name of quality, but political and other factors may also be involved.

Enrollment of marginalized groups. One danger of leaving most decisions to community leaders is that school systems may discriminate against marginalized groups, defined by gender, class, race, religion or other criteria. Governments sometimes insist that community schools be open to pupils who are not members of those communities.

Curriculum. Governments may be anxious that community schools teach certain core elements and promote values which are consistent with national unity. In some countries, regulations restrict the extent to which communities can devise their own curricula.

Buildings. Some governments insist that, for the safety of the pupils, buildings meet minimum standards of various kinds. This may include not only the quality of basic construction but also adequacy of ventilation and lighting.

 
The challenge for policy makers is to decide what sorts of controls are necessary in what sorts of situations. In some cases controls are desirable to harmonize components of national education systems and to safeguard the rights of the children. However, in other cases controls stifle community initiative and make a mockery of claims about partnership.
 
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