This step will help you assess whether the policy failures you identified in Step 3 are a result of inadequate financing. This will further strengthen your case that the deprivation or inequality you have identified is avoidable.

Firstly, the connection between education financing and the right to education will be explained. You will then be introduced to the three most important expenditure and resource allocation ratios that measure States’ efforts with regard to the fulfilment of the right to education. Lastly, you be guided on how to interpret the data you gather for these ratios when compared to relevant benchmarks.

The role of education and resource allocation ratios in monitoring the right to education

States are subject to different types of obligations regarding the right to education, one of which is totake appropriate financial measures.

Given that all human rights impose positive obligations, it is unthinkable that the obligations the right to education entails can be met without financial resources. However, as explained in What to monitor?, international human rights law acknowledges that the full realisation of the right to education is not immediately achievable due to resource constraints and instead imposes an obligation toprogressively realise certain aspects of the right to education according tomaximum available resources, although it should be stressed that some aspects of the right to education impose obligations of immediate effect.

Obligations of immediate effect are unqualified and not limited by other considerations. Vis-à-vis the right to education obligations of immediate effect include:

  • Ensure the right to education is exercised free from discrimination of any kind.
  • Provide free and compulsory primary education, or if this is not immediately possible States must work out and adopt a plan of action for the progressive implementation, within a reasonable number of years, to be fixed in the plan, of the principle of compulsory education free of charge for all.
  • Take “deliberate, concrete and targeted” steps towards the full realisation of the right to education.

The obligations to secure the right to education free from discrimination and to provide free and compulsory primary education are alsominimum core obligations of the right to education, along with the obligations to:

  • Ensure that education conforms to theaims of education.
  • Adopt and implement a national educational strategy that includes provision for secondary, higher andfundamental education.
  • Ensure free choice of education without interference from the State or third parties, subject to conformity with “minimum educational standards”.

Minimum core obligations are also immediate in nature and must be prioritised when it comes to the allocation of resources.

The remaining content of the right to education is subject to progressive realisation according to maximum available resources. Progressive realisation does not mean States can defer their obligations; rather States have a specific and continuing obligation “to move as expeditiously and effectively as possible”. This means that States must continuously improve conditions necessary for the full realisation of the right to education and refrain from taking retrogressive measures that diminish peoples’ enjoyment of the right to education. For example, budget cuts that have the effect of reducing enjoyment of the right to education, particularly of alreadymarginalised groups, would not be permissible under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, unless such measures have been “introduced after the most careful consideration of all alternatives and that they are fully justified by reference to the totality of the rights provided for in the and in the context of the full use of the State party’s maximum available resources”.

Progressive realisation cannot be understood without reference to maximum available resources. According to theInternational Budget Partnership the use of maximum available resources requires States to:

  • Mobilise as many resources as possible, including maximising domestic revenue through the collection of tax.

  • Prioritise economic, social and cultural rights in the use and allocation of their resources.

  • Efficiently spend funds, including ensuring funds are not wasted through overpaying for goods and services.

  • Ensure that expenditure is effectively spent, that is, expenditures must have the effect of enhancing peoples’ enjoyment of the right to education.

  • Fully spend funds allocated to the right to education.

  • Ensure that funds allocated to education are not be diverted to other areas, especially programmes that are not related to economic, social and cultural rights.

The obligation to dedicate the maximum available resources to the realisation of progressive elements of the right to education is itself subject to the obligation “to strive to ensure the widest possible enjoyment of the right to education under the prevailing conditions”.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) also makes it clear that resource constraints, even in times of economic recession, do not eliminate the obligations to monitor enjoyment levels of the right to education, and to devise strategies and programmes to realise the right to education (Paragraph 11). The CESCR also specifies that there is a special duty to protect the most vulnerable members of society through the adoption of relatively low-cost targeted programmes (Paragraph 12).

Expenditure and resource allocation ratios can be used to conduct a basic analysis of expenditure patterns. Ratios can help to assess the adequacy and distribution of resources allocated to education. More specifically, ratios can help you identify when a government:

  • Devotes insufficient resources to the education sector, hampering the realisation of minimum essential levels or the progressive realisation of the right to education, as illustratedhere.
  • Prioritises aspects of the right to education that are subject to progressive realisation rather than obligations of immediate effect or minimum core obligations, for example disproportionate spending on tertiary versus primary education, as illustratedhere.
  • Fails to raise sufficient revenues to be able to adequately fund the education inputs necessary to fully realise the right to education.

Using the Indicators Selection Tool

To access the finance indicators, selectEducation Financing under the selection criteria Governance and Policy Processes.

If data is available for the indicator you have selected, you will be directed to the relevant source.

Expenditure and allocation ratios

 1.  Education expenditure ratio

This ratio refers to the percentage ofGDP spent on public education. This is the most basic expenditure ratio related to the right to education. It provides a snapshot of the extent of State commitment to the provision of education, reflecting the level of resources the State is willing to invest in education relative to its level of development.

A low education expenditure ratio means that resources may be insufficient to effectively address the various obstacles inhibiting access to quality education.

  2.  Education allocation ratio

This ratio refers to the percentage of public expenditure allocated to education. It reflects the relative priority given to education amongst competing budgetary needs.

According to international law, national sovereignty implies that governments have a wide margin of discretion in selecting the appropriate measures necessary for realising economic, social and cultural rights. This includes spending priorities. Nevertheless, there are limits to that discretion. Therefore, the extent to which a low education allocation ratio is problematic from a human rights perspective depends on the circumstances. If a State has not fulfilled its minimum core obligations regarding the right to education, for example, a significant number of individuals deprived of the most basic forms of education or a wide disparity in the primary completion rates of boys and girls, then a low education allocation ratio would not be justified.

Thus, this ratio can help expose and challenge cases in which a government might make false arguments about lack of sufficient resources to discharge its duty of progressive realisation when, in fact, the problem is not resource constraints but rather the preference of that government to use available resources for other less essential areas, as illustrated here.

  3.  Primary education priority ratio

This ratio, which refers to the percentage of the total education expenditure allocated to primary education, reflects priorities within a given educational system. The interpretation of this ratio will depend once again on the circumstances. Countries that have already achieved high enrolment rates and standards of primary education may be justified in prioritising secondary or higher education, for example. However, in countries where a significant proportion of the population is illiterate or where many children are deprived of the most basic forms of education, a low primary education priority ratio could be interpreted as a violation of the State’s minimum core obligations to provide free and compulsory primary education.