Beyond looking at expenditure ratios, there are multiple other factors related to the management of financial resources that bear upon the realisation of the right to education according tomaximum available resources, including:
Discriminatory distribution of education resources
The prohibition ofdiscrimination is an immediate obligation under human rights law. This means States cannot invoke a lack of resources as a reason for non-compliance. It is therefore necessary to analyse whether resources are being distributed in a discriminatory manner amongst different groups.
One form of discrimination would be if funding for education is disproportionally allocated to districts where most people are from the majority ethnic or religious group. This could be assessed by comparing the education budget allocated per child in districts where most people are from the majority ethnic or religious group to that where most people are from minority ethnic or religious groups.
Another form of discrimination includes unfair distribution patterns of public education programmes that benefit people other than those who need assistance most. Paragraph 12 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultral Rights (CESCR) General Comment 13 states: “In times of severe resources constraints whether caused by a process of adjustment, of economic recession, or by other factors the vulnerable members of society can and indeed must be protected by the adoption of relatively low-cost targeted programmes.” A failure to meet this immediate obligation can be assessed by contrasting the benefits of a programme with levels of deprivation that the programme is supposed to address, as illustratedhere.
Discrimination resulting in inequities in the quality of the provision of education is a related problem. The CESCR recognises that “sharp disparities in spending policies that result in differing qualities of education for persons residing in different geographic locations may constitute discrimination under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” (CESCR General Comment 13, Para 35). One way to measure this is to compare data,disaggregated by region or municipality, on the quality of an essential education service (eg quality of teachers or conditions of school facilities) with demographic data from the same regions or municipalities disaggregated by ethnic group or poverty level. This could show, for instance, that less qualified teachers – a primary factor in the quality of education – are teaching in the areas largely populated by an ethnic minority or persons living in poverty, as illustratedhere.
Gap between approved budget and its execution
Comparing the approved budget for education with theexecution of this budget over time can give an indication of the real commitment (as opposed to its intentions) towards the full realisation of the right to education. This comparison could raise questions regarding the government’s compliance to various types of human rights obligations. For instance, if that comparison shows that the government has not spent a significant percentage of the overall budget that had been approved for the education sector, this may suggest a failure to actually fulfil its obligation of the use of maximum available resources for theprogressive realisation of the right to education, for examples of this, seehere. On the other hand, if the gap between approved budget and its execution is specific to a programme designed to provide the goods and services necessary to ensure that disadvantaged groups (eg girls, children belonging to an ethnic minority, etc) enjoy the right to education, this may suggest a discriminatory practice against that disadvantaged group.
Inertia of the budgetary process may undermine a government’s decision to adopt a policy that prioritises marginalised groups
In many countries budgets are to a great extent determined by inertia – utilising past budget allocations to determine budgets for the forthcoming year. This inertia in the budgetary process mayundermine the intentions of a government to shift its policy priorities in order to comply with its human rights obligation.
The first step in assessing whether the education budget is largely determined by inertia is to compare the current budget with those of previous years. If the education budget (and the composition of the budget, such as the percentage allocated to the various levels of education and amount dedicated to infrastructure) is static buteducation policy has changed significantly, this may indicate that insufficient resources have been allocated to fully implement the new policy.
You may want to interview government officials (from the Treasury or the Ministry of Education) and ask whether, over those years, education priorities have changed. If they have, you should ask them how is it that if priorities have changed, these changes are not reflected in the budget. You may also want to ask whether the Ministry of Education requested extra funds from the Ministry of Finance to adequately cover new education priorities and policies. If they offer no reasonable response, you could reasonably infer that the budget is determined to a great extent by inertia. Alternatively, you may prefer a more direct approach and ask to what extent past budget allocations are used to determine budgets for the upcoming year.
Timely flow of resources
Another aspect that should be assessed is the extent to which resources reach schools in a timely manner. A failure to do so may undermine the government’s efforts to comply with its obligations regarding the right to education. For instance, if schools, local authorities or education ministries receive the funds necessary to buy essential resources (eg textbooks) towards the end of the school year, this may affect children’s right to education. For an example, seehere.
Corruption in the education sector
In many countriescorruption in the education sector is rampant, siphoning scarce public resources into private pockets and undermining the government’s ability to provide quality education for all. Frequent forms of corruption in education include the illegal charging of ‘enrolment fees’, selling educational material and school supplies that should be distributed freely, accepting bribes to influence the selection of grant recipients, selling school diplomas or exam scores, and the use of school facilities by administrators or other people for private purposes.
Various aspects of corruption can be assessed. These include:
- The extent to which there is corruption in the education sector (in comparison with other sectors).
- The areas of the education sector in which corruption is more widespread (egprocurement of textbooks, demand of illegal fees, chronic absenteeism of teachers, etc).
- The marginalised groups that bear the brunt of the corruption practices in the education sector.
- The governance weaknesses (both within the education sector and overall in the country) that are driving corrupt practices (eg inadequate salaries for teachers, inadequate accountability mechanisms, people’s lack of awareness about the services they are entitled to, etc).
Various methods and tools can be used to assess corruption in the education sector, including:
- Household surveys that measure people’s actual experience with corruption in the education sector (and other relevant sectors) are particularly helpful in assessing the impact of corruption on everyday lives. Experience-based surveys also help to identify the extent to which disadvantaged groups bear the brunt of corrupt social services and whether corruption impacts on access to education and related services.
- Interviews with various education stakeholders, including parents, teachers, head teachers, representatives of school governance bodies (eg Parent Teacher Associations) and local government officials, can help to uncover problems in the use of public resources for education and in the accountability mechanisms regarding those resources. For examples of relevant questions, seehere. For examples of monitoring exercises using this method, seehere.
- Another method for assessing financial management is to track public expenditures. Data on budget allocations on education provides a rough indication of the relative importance a government attributes to this area, but offers little insight into how much actually reaches schools. To analyse this and other issues related to budget utilisation, Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS) devised by the World Bank could help you to track the flow of resources from the central government (eg Ministry of Finance) through the various levels of state administration down to schools the front-line service facilities, focusing on en route leakages and corruption. For information on conducting PETS, seehere. For an example of the effectiveness of this method, seehere.