Clarifying the Obscure: Facing the “Measurement” Challenge of the Education Post-2015 Targets

By Dierdre Williams, Open Society Foundations.

OSFAs the process of developing indicators for the Post-2015 education targets unfolds, some of the targets are at risk of being dropped on account of being ‘un-measurable.’ However, excluding more holistic but harder to assess educational targets will inevitably remove vital focus from some of the most important aspects of high quality education provision. The Open Society Foundations has identified three of the education targets (OWG[1] targets 4.1; 4.7; 4a & 4c and EFA-SC[2] targets 2, 5, and 6) that are particularly contentious and commissioned four papers proposing formulations of indicators that suggest ways of measuring what we care about rather than what is easiest to measure. The targets selected relate to: 1) determining what Relevant and Effective Learning Outcomes students completing primary and secondary education should achieve; 2) identifying Knowledge, Values, Skills, and Attitudes to Establish Sustainable and Peaceful Societies; and 3) securing Teachers and Safe, Inclusive, and Effective Learning Environments.

The first set of concrete and actionable goals to increase development and improve access to education for all children was laid out in 2000. The Education for All (EFA) goals and the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for education emphasized literacy, numeracy, and life skills. The new post-2015 education goal and its related targets revisit these themes and also introduce new and controversial terrain, including education for sustainable development, cultivating lifelong learners, and developing global citizens.

The global community formulated the post-2015 targets through a broadly consultative process that has included states and civil society. The UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG) proposed ten targets, while the Education for All Steering Committee (EFA-SC) proposed seven targets. These two sets of targets are largely consistent, though there are some notable differences. Indicators appropriate for monitoring progress toward these targets are currently being developed.

Economist and philosopher, Amartya Sen has critiqued the MDGs, arguing that they narrowed the Millennium Declaration, on which they were based, by dispensing with anything that was not immediately measurable. There is a similar risk of narrowing in the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) process. The three proposed education targets that are the focus of works commissioned by The Open Society Foundations (OSF) are particularly contentious and are being deemed ‘not measurable’ either because they lack specificity or because data for proposed measures are ‘currently unavailable.’ This raises an important question: How can we start valuing practices and outcomes of teaching and learning that are difficult to reduce to numbers?

It’s not just that measurable education goals aren’t enough—our concern is that excluding more holistic but harder to assess educational targets from systems of accountability will inevitably remove vital focus from some of the most important aspects of high quality education provision.

The four papers commissioned by the OSF suggest formulations of indicators for the proposed EFA-SC and OWG targets relating to: 1) determining what Relevant and Effective Learning Outcomes students completing primary and secondary education should achieve; 2) identifying Knowledge, Values, Skills, and Attitudes to Establish Sustainable and Peaceful Societies; and 3) securing Teachers and Safe, Inclusive, and Effective Learning Environments.

>>Read the full text of the four commissioned papers as well as a synthesis report.

These three targets (OWG targets 4.1; 4.7; 4a & 4c/EFA-SC targets 2, 5, and 6) are at risk of being excluded from the final formulation of the SDGs in response to practical concerns about the number of targets being excessive as well as concerns that targets such as these “rely too much on vague, qualitative language rather than hard, measurable, time-bound, quantitative targets.”[3]

The indicator frameworks presented in these commissioned works reflect the authors’ diverse thinking, rather than consensus on any of the issues explored. The annex report that synthesizes the commissioned works lays out the full text of the indicators proposed in the commissioned papers. The proposed indicators highlight the crucial need to capture more holistic data that can convey the complexity and diversity of national systems. These proposals are intended as a resource for policymakers and advocacy groups as the process to settle the new SDGs unfolds.

Dierdre Williams is a Senior Program Officer in the Education Support Program, Open Society Foundations. Email: dierdre.williams@opensocietyfoundations.org  

 

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NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

[1] UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

[2] Education for All Steering Committee.

[3] International Council for Science. (2015). Review of targets for the Sustainable Development Goals: The Science Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.icsu.org/publications/reports-and-reviews/review-of-targets-for-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-science-perspective-2015

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Global Governance of the Draft SDG Education Goal and its Targets: Critical Challenges for both North and South

By Kenneth King, Editor NORRAG News.

WEF logoUnder the above title, NORRAG, in association with the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) in Bangladesh, and the BRAC Institute of Educational Development, put on a Side Event on the 20th May at the World Education Forum (WEF) in Incheon.

This Side Event asked its audience to consider WHO the WEF Education Goal and its Targets were aimed at. The 6 Education For All (EFA) Dakar Goals and the Education Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), for example, had been widely considered to be aimed at the South. So, there has been much interest in ensuring that the draft WEF Education Goal and its Targets were seen to be universally relevant, to both North and South.

This is no simple exercise. In the context of the continuing rich world-poor world gap in terms of mean years of schooling of their adult populations, what do common goals and targets actually mean? Does it make sense to make the Education Goal and Targets so ambitious that they cannot be mistaken as a prescription for the poorer countries of the world?

Getting this right is a highly contested terrain. We have just been told in April by the 2015 Global Monitoring Report (GMR) that the last fifteen years have been only a ‘qualified success’ in terms of achievements. It added: ‘Overall, not even the target of universal primary education was reached, let alone the more ambitious EFA goals, and the most disadvantaged continue to be the last to benefit’ (EFA GMR: 2015: xv). In a situation where the world has not managed to deliver on Dakar 2000, especially for the poorest people and countries, should we be principally concerned to ‘raise the bar’, so that the new Goal and Targets are unmistakably seen to be one-world proposals?

Even if the Education Goal and Targets can be somehow made to sound common, at a general level of abstraction, surely the Targets also have to be adapted and contextualized to fit each country? This is of course why the framers of the Muscat Agreement (in May 2014) and the Open Working Group (OWG) in July 2014 had included for several of the Targets that they should be set at ‘x%’, to be decided nationally.

By coincidence, however, WEF is taking place in the very week that the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in New York are discussing several targets that had been revised from the earlier OWG statements. These revised target proposals include no less than four from the existing Education Targets (4.4; 4.6; 4b; and 4c). For example, the revised 4.4 would change from ‘By 2030, increase by [x] per cent the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills’ to ‘By 2030, ensure that all youth and adults have relevant skills.’ The rationale for such a proposed change was stated to be ‘to ensure the highest possible level of ambition’.

Intriguingly, in Incheon, these revised target statements were discussed by the large NGO Forum on the first day of WEF, and the Forum members decided unanimously to recommend to the WEF the adoption of ALL the Revised Education Targets from the New York process. In the 2015 NGO Forum Declaration, distributed to all participants in WEF, it was affirmed that ‘We support the recommendation of the co-facilitators in the New York Intergovernmental Negotiations that where x% is used in the adult literacy, skills and teacher targets, they should be replaced by “all”.’

This is not the only area of contention and debate in the WEF. Readers of NORRAG News and the NORRAG NEWSBite will recall the damage done in Dakar 2000 by the careless framing of Goal 3, with its use of ‘life skills’ rather than some clearer statement about essential skills for work. History seems to be repeating itself in Incheon:

The target statement about ‘equal access for all women and men to affordable quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university’ (Target 4.3) is apparently contradicted by the next target statement pledging to ‘increase by x% the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship’ (Target 4.4).

But ‘relevant skills’ are clearly wider than technical and vocational skills. And to add more obfuscation to the mix, Target 4.5 talks about ‘equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable’ (Target 4.5). Is ‘vocational training’ different from ‘relevant skills’ or from ‘quality technical, vocational and tertiary education’?

Oh, wait a moment, what about the indicators for these skills statement and targets?? There seems only to be one, and it appears only to be concerned with access and not with quality or with affordability. Indicator 14 reads as follows: ‘Participation rate in technical-vocational programmes (15- to 24-year-olds)’.

Now, as of breakfast time on the last day of the WEF, we don’t yet know what the Drafting Committee will decide to do with this powerful proposal from the NGO Forum or with the apparent contradictions in language amongst the skills targets. But by noon today the text will be finalized and will be presented to the last plenary of the Forum for ratification.

Let’s hope there is clarity about the framing of skill. We don’t want to have another vague skills’ target to carry around for the next 15 years.

And we need to clarify the tensions between the universal and the national and local in the wider framing of all the education targets at WEF. The Forum is not drafting an international treaty, with its specialist technical language. But the drafters do need to capture very clearly the moral obligation to deliver on what we have failed fully to deliver these last fifteen years, and to inspire both richer and poorer countries to adopt meaningful, affordable but inspirational ambitions for the next fifteen years.

WEF still has four hours to go! Plenty of time!! But clear heads are needed.

Kenneth King is the Editor of NORRAG News. He is an Emeritus Professor at the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Email: Kenneth.king@ed.ac.uk

NORRAG is at the World Education Forum in Incheon. Follow @NORRAG_NEWS for up to date info.
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NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

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World Education Forum: Songdo Takeaways

By NORRAG.

WEF logoThe World Education Forum is currently taking place in Songdo, Incheon – Korea. Below are a few takeaways from Day 1.

Results based financing and implications for post-2015 education indicators

Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank, announced that the World Bank Group plans to double results-based financing for education to US$5 billion over next 5 years. Is this a signal that other donors might shift more resources to results-based mechanisms? Might a consequence of this be that greater importance would be given to the post-2015 education indicators?; e.g. where donors would only agree to fund education interventions that directly contributed to the achievement of specified targets, measured by specified indicators.

A Global Fund for Education, building on the Global Partnership for Education?

Jeffrey Sachs noted in a recent op-ed that the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) ‘should be supported to help build a true Global Fund for Education’ – an issue he raised again at the World Education Forum in Incheon, noting that we need to ‘build on the GPE’ to create a Global Fund for Education. Meanwhile Julia Gillard, the Chair of GPE – while not addressing directly Sachs’ comments about a global fund, noted at the World Education Forum that ‘we need to get serious about financing for education, building on the GPE’ (emphasis on build added).

While it is clear that Sachs is proposing that such a global fund build on the existing GPE, it is not at all clear how this would happen in practice; what would be the proposed relationship between a new ‘Global Fund for Education’ and the current GPE?

Of course, Gordon Brown (UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and former UK Prime Minister and former Member of Parliament) has also recently called for a ‘Global Emergency Education Fund’ to support children who are out of school because of conflict, disease or natural disasters. Brown also previously (2012) put forward the case for a Global Fund for Education ‘that builds on’ the GPE (emphasis added).

For the cost of one Songdo a year: Upper secondary education for all

The World Education Forum 2015 is taking place in the Korean city of Songdo, built from scratch on reclaimed land at a cost of about US$ 40 billion. This is almost the same amount (US$39 bn) that Aaron Benavot, the Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, revealed at the World Education Forum on 19th May to be the annual global financing gap of achieving upper secondary access for all. One Songdo a year or filling the global financing gap for upper secondary? Clearly upper secondary education for all is affordable, if priorities are re-assessed.

Where are UNESCO Group 1 country ministers of education?

Ministers of Education from UNESCO Group 1 countries (Western European and North American States) seem to be in quite short supply at the World Education Forum – and no one seems to be talking about this. What does their absence say about the concept of universality for education post-2015, and the extent to which these countries see the post-2015 education SDG as being relevant to them?

Does education need its own Bill Gates?

Noting the success of global health funding, Jeffrey Sachs asked ‘who is the Bill Gates for education?’ This call for an education Bill Gates is not new of course; Pauline Rose, the former Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report made such point in 2013. Sachs’ point (19th May) was that much of the ‘money in the low income countries isn’t with the governments’, but with private sector and individual billionaires. Tapping into this non-state financing, he argued, is important when it comes to financing post-2015 ambitions for education. Sachs urged the World Education Forum audience to contact billionaires in their neighbourhoods. I’ll just do that now.

NORRAG is at the World Education Forum in Incheon. Follow @NORRAG_NEWS on twitter for up to date info.

Incheon by night

At the World Education Forum? NORRAG is organising a side event today – 20th May – in collaboration with the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) and GCE, Dhaka. It will take place at 1pm in Room 201/2 Songdo Convention Centre (2nd floor).

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NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

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The Implications of Changing Private Rates of Return to Schooling

By Harry Anthony Patrinos, World Bank.

High returns signal that tertiary education is a good private investment; the public priority, however, isn’t a blanket subsidy for all, but a concerted effort to improve fair, equitable, sustainable cost-recovery at the tertiary level.

In addition to being a basic human service, education produces some strong economic benefits. One of the most commonly cited is labour market earnings.  Known as the returns to investment in schooling, they have been calculated since at least the 1950s. It is only recently that we have had such estimates for the vast majority of countries.

In many emerging economies, education and labour market experience are the only assets for a vast part of the labour force, especially the poor. Therefore, it is important for students, their families, providers and funders to know the economic benefits of investments in schooling.  For the individual, weighing costs and benefits means investing as long as the rate of return exceeds the private discount rate (the cost of borrowing and an allowance for risk).

In a recent paper with Claudio Montenegro we report the latest estimates of the private – what the individual student earns – returns to schooling using comparable data from 139 economies and 819 harmonized household surveys.  The results of the study show that there are significant returns.

The global average private rate of return to schooling is 10 percent per year of schooling.  The returns are highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (13 percent).  The five economies with the highest returns are all in Africa: Botswana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania.  Returns are lowest in the Middle East and North Africa (7 percent).

The returns to schooling are higher for women.  The overall rate of return to another year of schooling for women is 12 percent and 10 percent for men.  At the primary school level the returns are about the same.  At the secondary and tertiary levels, the returns diverge, with higher returns for females at the secondary (9 versus 7 percent for men) and tertiary (17 versus 15) levels.

In a stunning reversal from previous compilations, and what might be surprising to many, the private returns to university education are now higher than the returns to primary schooling. The returns to primary schooling are above 10 percent, and they decline precipitously at the secondary level to just over 7 percent, before jumping to 15 percent at the tertiary level.  Still, the returns are higher in Sub-Saharan Africa at all levels.  There are variations by region: there are high returns to primary schooling in the Middle East and North Africa (especially for females), while the returns to tertiary are low.  Returns to primary schooling are surprisingly low in South Asia.

The biggest change in the patterns observed is that the returns to primary education are no longer the highest.  However, the results reported here are private returns.  Policy makers need to know the social returns to schooling.  Yet, there are policy implications emanating from this compilation.  There are three important policy lessons.  The first is that there is a continuing need to focus public investment on the poor.  The returns to primary schooling may be falling because the quality is poor.  If the quality is poor, then access to the secondary and tertiary levels for the poor will slow down and higher returns at the tertiary level will lead to growing inequality.  A focus on the poor, starting with quality basic education, is also an investment in the higher education of the poor in the near future.

Therefore, the second implication is to invest in education quality.  The focus on basic education emphasized access and not enough attention has gone towards quality.  Access to basic education increased considerably over the last few decades.  Lower returns to primary schooling do not imply that one should abandon basic education as a priority.

The third implication is that higher education should be expanded.  High returns to tertiary signal that university is a good private investment.  Therefore fair, equitable, sustainable cost-recovery at the university level is warranted.

Harry Anthony Patrinos is Practice Manager, Education at the World Bank. Email: Hpatrinos@worldbank.org

This blog is based on an article in the forthcoming issue of NORRAG NEWS on ‘Financing Education & Skills’, due out in May 2015 at www.norrag.org

 

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NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

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Rethinking Education: Towards a Global Common Good?

By Sobhi Tawil and Rita Locatelli, UNESCO Education Research and Foresight.

rethinking edRethinking Education: Towards a global common good? is being released by UNESCO just as the international education and development community formulates the global framework of Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The publication is the result of the work of the Senior Experts’ Group established by the Director-General of UNESCO to examine the purpose and organization of education in a world of increasing complexity and contradiction.

Rethinking Education thus identifies issues likely to affect the organization of learning. These include the recognition, validation and assessment of learning in a context of growing mobility of persons across borders, occupations, educational institutions and learning spaces. They include the challenges of identity formation inherent to social and civic learning in a plural and interconnected world. It also examines issues related to the governance of education, and in particular the principle of education as a public good. It is intended as a call for dialogue with the aim to stimulate public policy debate on foundational principles for education in a changing context of learning.

Reaffirming a humanistic approach to education

In doing so, Rethinking Education recalls and re-contextualizes a humanistic approach to education. It argues that there is a need to go beyond the strictly utilitarian vision and the human capital approach that characterize much of the international discourse and that narrow the policy focus to the role of education in socio-economic development. It argues for an integrated approach to education that gives equal importance to the economic, social, cultural and civic dimensions of learning as reflected in the four pillars of learning to know, to do, to be and to live together (Delors et al., 1996). The integrated approach articulated in the four pillars, however, is fundamentally under threat in the context of current societal challenges, and particularly,  learning to be and to live together.

A humanistic approach to education and development reaffirms a set of core ethical principles that should constitute the foundation of an integrated approach to knowledge, learning and development. These principles include: respect for life and human dignity; equal rights and social justice; respect for cultural diversity, as well as a sense of shared responsibility and a commitment to international solidarity, all of which are fundamental aspects of our common humanity. It is an approach that recognizes the diversity of knowledge systems, worldviews, and conceptions of well-being as a source of wealth. It recognizes the diversity of lived realities while reaffirming a common core of universal values. A humanistic approach implies a central concern for sustainable human and social development, in which the fundamental purpose of education should be to sustain and enhance the dignity, capacity and welfare of the human person in relation to others and to nature.

A humanistic approach has a central policy concern for equity. This implies inclusive policy-making, as well as transparency and accountability in the provision of meaningful learning opportunities for all. It further implies recognizing the importance of non-formal and less institutionalized educational spaces in a lifelong learning framework. It also recognizes the foundational importance of the teaching profession at all levels. The role of educators is critical as guides who enable learners to develop and advance through the constantly expanding maze of knowledge throughout their lives. In order to ensure this, teachers and educators need to be offered more attractive, motivating and stable living and working conditions, including salaries and career prospects.

Reframing the principle of education as a public good

In terms of governance, Rethinking Education suggests that the principle of education as a public good is now under strain in a changing global context for learning.

This is partly the result of the rapid development of digital technologies that is transforming the educational landscape. It has weakened the monopoly of formal education institutions on the creation, transmission and validation of knowledge. This transformation requires a more fluid approach to learning as a continuum, in which schooling and formal education institutions interact more closely with other less formalized educational experiences from early childhood throughout life. How can the principle of education as a public good be reinterpreted in this emerging context of networks of learning spaces and in a lifelong learning perspective?

The strain on the principle of education as a public good is also the consequence of the growing scale and diversification of the engagement of non-state actors at all levels of education and training. This is partly the result of growing demand for voice, participation and accountability in public affairs. But it is also in response to the need to relieve pressures on public financing given the spectacular expansion of access to all levels of formal education witnessed worldwide over the past two decades. The diversification of stakeholders in education is challenging the role of the state in the regulation of education as a public good. This is particularly so when education is treated as a commodity and opened to the market and to profit-making interests, with the risk of exacerbating inequalities.

Education as a common good?

Bearing in mind these changes, Rethinking Education proposes that education be considered as a global common good. Considering education as a common good is an attempt to go beyond the dichotomy of the public and the private. It reaffirms the collective dimension of education as a shared social endeavor rather than an individualistic socio-economic ‘investment’. It is not only the quality of life of individuals and families that is the focus, but also the quality of life that humans hold in common. It is not the intrinsic characteristics of these goods that make them common, but the significance they embody for the community in question. Moreover, beyond the educational services/goods available, the process of defining what kind of education is to be provided and for what kind of society is, in itself, a common good. Rather than notions of co-ownership, the idea of the common good implies joint action. This implies an inclusive and participatory process of public policy formulation and implementation with shared responsibility and commitment to solidarity. Going further, both education and knowledge may be considered to be common goods. Indeed, the process of creation, transmission, acquisition, validation and use of knowledge is common to all people as a collective societal endeavor. How then can the roles and responsibilities of diverse stakeholders in the regulation of education and knowledge as common goods be reframed at local, national and global levels?

>>> Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good? is available here for download.

Sobhi Tawil is a Senior Programme Specialist, at Education Research and Foresight (ERF), UNESCO. Email: s.tawil@unesco.org

Rita Locatelli is a Research Assistant at ERF, UNESCO. Email: r.locatelli@unesco.org

 

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NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

 

 

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National Policy on Education: Issues in Financing of Higher Education in India

By Jandhyala B G Tilak, National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi.

The first national policy on education was formulated in 1968, 18 years after development planning in the newly independent India was launched.  It was exactly 18 years later that the second national policy on education was formulated in 1986, which was then marginally revised in 1992. During the last few years, the need for another national policy on education has become increasingly felt, given the significantly changing landscape in all spheres of development, and in the education sector in particular.

In the absence of any new policy, during the last couple of decades changes in the education sector were introduced with executive orders and uncoordinated initiatives. Immediately after coming to power, the current government indicated that it would come out with a new national policy on education.

This short note focuses on higher education, and especially on the financing of higher education. Higher education is widely acknowledged as an important public good, and as a social responsibility. Because of its direct relationship with development, and more importantly the externalities[i] it produces, state funding of higher education assumes critical importance. It is necessary that the state makes a firm commitment to the funding of higher education. It has been repeatedly reiterated that we should spend at least six per cent of GDP on education, as stated in the 1968 National Policy on Education, and 1.5 per cent on higher education, as recommended by the Committee on Financing of Higher Education of the Central Advisory Board of Education in 2005. While there is need to revisit these targets, these may be viewed as minimum targets for the immediate future.  These resources need to flow out of general and specific tax and non-tax revenues of the government (at central and state levels). Presently less than about four per cent of GDP is allocated to education.

There should be a proper sharing of responsibilities in funding higher education in India between the union (central) and state governments. While the central government, directly or indirectly through the university grants commission (UGC), fully funds the central universities, only the development expenditure of state universities and colleges is funded by the union government. Recent commissions / committees (e.g. National Knowledge Commission, Yashpal Committee) have suggested that the union government should fund state universities and colleges as well, beyond only covering development expenditure.

The higher education sector needs to be adequately funded keeping in view the goals relating to expansion, improvement in access of marginalised groups, the improvement in quality to an acceptable level, and the achievement of excellence in a large number of selected institutions. Before expanding further the higher education system with new universities and colleges, it is necessary to ensure that the existing institutions are reasonably well developed and are put on a sound financial footing. Like the ‘operation blackboard programme’,[ii] it may be required to launch a similar programme to ensure investment in needed basic infrastructure facilities in all institutions of higher education.  To promote quality and excellence, substantial resources need to be allocated to promote research in all universities and other institutions of higher education. Reasonable proportions of budgetary allocation to higher education need to be committed to research and also to scholarships to promote equity and merit.  The flow of funds to the higher education institutions needs to respond to the varying needs of different institutions on the one hand, and the performance of the institutions on the other.

A related issue that one has to examine is: whether it is justified to allocate public funds to private universities and colleges, which are defined otherwise as ‘self-financing’ and are treating education as a ‘business’, as the Yashpal Committee observed rightly.  The issue becomes particularly important as state resources are not enough to adequately finance even the public institutions of higher education. So financing of private institutions may mean ‘public pauperization and private enrichment.’

Since higher education produces a wide set of social benefits to the whole society, there is no justification to expect the higher education institutions to significantly rely only upon student fees.  Earlier committees constituted by the UGC and the All-India Council for Technical Education have suggested allowing these institutions to generate about 20 per cent of their budget requirements through student fees and other sources.  A Committee of the Central Advisory Board for Education (2005) has suggested that this 20 per cent may be seen as an upper limit so that equity considerations of higher education are not traded off.

Similarly, while student loans are becoming increasingly popular, these also cannot be seen as a reliable method of financing higher education on a large scale. The adverse effects of student loans on students’ attitudes and approach towards higher education and the values that these loans  impart, besides its accentuating role in commercialization of higher education, need to be carefully examined before further expanding loan programmes.

Strong higher education systems are created in some developed countries with liberal funding by the state and equally liberal funding by the society at large, specifically through donations and endowments from the corporate sector and individuals, including alumni. In some of these countries, student contributions in terms of fees constitute a relatively minor source of overall funds. It is necessary to develop a framework in India that promotes this missing source of funds – the non-state and non-student sector.  Besides trying to link some of the provisions of the Corporate Social Responsibility Act specifically to the higher education sector, innovative measures to promote individual and corporate donations and endowments to higher education need to be found.  A proper system of matching grants to higher education institutions needs to be put in place.

Lastly, at least a 10-20 year plan of funding of higher education that corresponds to a long term plan of higher education development in the country needs to be produced, based on sound principles of financing of higher education.  Such a plan should assure the higher education institutions of a steady flow of funds for a 10-20 year period, with sufficient provision for rewards and punitive action. This might also require that every institution prepares a sound, feasible long term plan for development.

Jandhyala B G Tilak is a Professor at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi, India. Email: jtilak@nuepa.org

This blog is based on an article in the forthcoming issue of NORRAG NEWS on ‘Financing Education & Skills’, due out in May 2015 at www.norrag.org

Follow this blog by email, Facebook or via Twitter @NORRAG_NEWS

NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

[i] Externalities here refers to the public socio-economic benefits that result from higher education.

[ii] ‘Operation Blackboard’, outlined in the 1986 National Policy on Education, and commenced in 1987 aimed to upgrade physical facilities in primary schools across the country.

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Low-fee Private Schools in Peru

By María Balarin, Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE), Lima, Peru.

peruLow fee private schools are a growing phenomenon in many low and middle-income countries. Their emergence usually takes place in the context of a default privatization processes which, though often aided by generous legislation, are not the product of government design but a more bottom-up response to the unavailability or perceived inadequacy of public education services, especially in such countries’ poorest areas.

Hailed by some as an area of hope and greater opportunities for the poor (Tooley and Dixon 2005a, b), questions have been raised about the regulatory environments in which low-fee private schools operate, and about the extent to which such schools might be trading on the dreams and hopes of the poor without really offering much in exchange (Robertson and Dale 2013).

A case study of de facto privatization and the rise of low-fee private schools in Peru provides insights into the complexities of this sub-sector of private education (Balarin 2015). Peruvian low-fee private schools have emerged, en masse, in the past decade against the backdrop of a legal decree passed in 1998, which sought to promote private investment in education by reducing legislative constraints for opening private schools, allowing private schools to operate for-profit and offering generous tax credits to investors. This led to a surge in the supply of private schools, which since 2004, when the country entered a decade of strong and steady economic growth, has been met with an equally important growth in demand for private schooling. Private school enrollments have gone from 13 percent in 1998 to 26 percent in 2014. In the city of Lima, which holds almost one third of the country’s population and approximately half of all enrolments in basic education, private school enrollments are now at 50 percent, up from 29 percent in 2004 (Cuenca 2013). Evidence shows that the trend is well established in most major cities in the country.

In Peru, the growth of private education has taken place in the context of a process of decentralization, through which executive capacities have been devolved to newly created regional administrations whose administrative capacities are still weak. In this process, regulatory functions with regard to private schools have almost disappeared. Licenses for new schools are granted by local authorities which do not perform any regular supervisory role with regard to private schools, nor collect any regular data that could facilitate their regulation or the development of knowledge about this growing school sector.

Evidence from other studies shows that Peru is one of the Latin American countries with the greatest degree of school segregation and where, consequently, students socio-economic characteristics are most strongly correlated with their educational achievement (Benavides, León, and Etesse 2014). Research also shows that the school system is deeply stratified, with schools catering for very distinct populations on the basis of their residential location and purchasing capacity. These trends are marked in both the public and private sectors, but the range of stratification is greater in the latter, where supply is often beyond the reach of the state’s regulatory control.

Poor families who choose to send their children to low-fee private schools navigate the school market with no public funding and very little information to enable and support their choices. Driven less by an ideological preference for the private, or by the status concerns that often drive the choices of middle and upper class families, poor families’ choice of private schools derives from very practical concerns about service availability in their areas, student-teacher ratios and the lower risk of sending their children to a small school near their home where they can keep an eye on them. Families are also concerned about the quality of teaching and learning, but their parameters for judging quality are often weak or even misguided. It is when faced with problems such as their inability to pay or the lack of responsiveness from schools that are often run as family businesses – employing unqualified staff or incurring in inadequate practices – that families realize the potential (or real) implications of sending their children to a low-fee school: the likelihood of their children having to interrupt their schooling trajectories and the lack of protection from inadequate or abusive practices.

That their choice of school will provide their children with the opportunities these families hope for seems unlikely in a context where low fee private schools operate under such loose regulation and standards. Such a claim has further support from the Peruvian national assessments, which have shown that children in private schools operating in areas with high concentrations of poverty tend to have similar, and in many cases worse, results than those in public schools operating in those same areas.

Beyond this, however, lie the implications for citizenship and social justice of an unregulated school market that separates children from different socio-economic groups in entirely different schools, with the negative consequences this tends to have for the children from the poorest backgrounds.

References

Balarin, M. 2015. “The default privatization of Peruvian education and the rise of low-fee private schools: better or worse opportunities for the poor? .” CIES, Washington D.C.
Benavides, Martín, Juan León, and Manuel Etesse. 2014. Desigualdades educativas y segregación en el sistema educativo peruano. Una mirada comparativa de las pruebas PISA 2000 y 2009. In Avances de Investigación. Lima: GRADE.
Cuenca, Ricardo. 2013. “La escuela pública en Lima Metropolitana.¿ Una institución en extinción?” Revista Peruana de Investigación Educativa (5):73-98.
Robertson, S, and R Dale. 2013. “The social justice implications of privatisation in education governance frameworks: a relational account.” Oxford Review of Education 39 (4):426-445.
Tooley, James, and Pauline Dixon. 2005a. “Is private education good for the poor.” Cato Institute. Washington DC.
Tooley, James, and Pauline Dixon. 2005b. Private education is good for the poor: A study of private schools serving the poor in low-income countries: Cato Institute Washington, DC.

María Balarin, PhD, is an Associate Researcher at the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE), Lima, Perú. Email: mariabalarin@gmail.com

This blog is based on an article in the forthcoming issue of NORRAG NEWS on ‘Financing Education & Skills’, due out in May 2015 at www.norrag.org

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