Improving school financing : The use and usefulness of school grants. Lessons from East Asia and the Pacific
Grauwe, Anton de
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In the context of decentralization and school-based management, as well as fee-free education, a growing number of countries are choosing to introduce school grants. Schools that once had little or no say in financial management are able to access grant funds directly from central government. While specific school grant policies differ between countries, most aim to contribute positively to access, equity, and quality of education. However, the impact of school grant policies is strongly influenced by their design and implementation. This raises two key questions: How have school grant policies been designed and implemented to achieve these objectives? And do school grant policies contribute to achieving these objectives in practice? To answer these questions, the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) coordinated intensive research programmes on the use and usefulness of school grants in Eastern and Southern Africa from 2010 to 2012, and in four countries in East Asia and the Pacific (Indonesia, Mongolia, Timor-Leste, and Vanuatu) from 2012 to 2014. This book presents the main findings from research programmes in the second region. The research focused on the following themes: grant objectives, policy formulation and dissemination, criteria and mechanisms of distribution, school-level financial resources, actors involved in decisionmaking processes, grant use, and monitoring and control. In total, 56 schools were studied across the four countries. Researchers visited schools and interviewed a wide range of actors, including principals, teachers, parents, students, members of school committees, and district and provincial-level officials. For certain issues, such as the total amount of resources available at school level, grant amounts received over time, and broad categories of spending, quantitative analysis was carried out on a wider range of schools within the districts covered by the research. School grants in the four countries studied have several similarities. All grant policies were introduced alongside fee-free education with the exception of Mongolia, where recent grant policies were developed during the democratization process in the 1990s. In addition, the grant policies all cover primary and secondary education, and share common objectives such as increasing access and improving education quality. In some cases, grants also aim to provide specific assistance to disadvantaged groups, as in the case of Mongolia for disabled students, and in Indonesia for poor students. Finally, in line with global trends towards decentralization and greater school autonomy, grants often aim to increase administrative efficiency. The research first looked at the contexts in which grants were developed, paying particular attention to the actors involved in policy formulation and dissemination processes. In all four countries, grant policies were developed in a top-down manner by national authorities, with the exception of Mongolia, where recent reforms on school financing favoured a more consultative approach. In Timor-Leste and Vanuatu, international advisors also played an important role in formulating grant policies. Most countries employed similar strategies for disseminating information on the grants. Large-scale media campaigns on fee-free education and school grants were launched everywhere except Mongolia. Furthermore, each country developed various policy documents, such as guidelines or handbooks, to guide grant management and use. Training sessions for school-level actors on grant management and use were also arranged in all cases, although the regularity of sessions varied between countries. School grants in all four countries are allocated on a per-pupil basis, with the exception of Mongolia, where grants take into account specific school characteristics such as location and number of disabled students. At the same time, schools in all countries must meet certain conditions before grant funds are released. These generally include availability of enrolment data, a school bank account, a school plan, and financial reports. In Indonesia and Vanuatu, funds are transferred directly to school bank accounts, while in Mongolia grant funds are transferred to the district level. In Timor-Leste, education at local level is organized through clusters, consisting of one larger central school and several surrounding filial (or ‘satellite’) schools. Grants for the filial schools are kept and managed by central schools. Although school grants are the most significant source of funding at the school level, in most cases they do not constitute the sole source of school budgets. In Indonesia and Timor-Leste, schools can request additional funds from national, provincial, or district authorities for specific purposes or students. Parental contributions also persist in all four countries despite the introduction of fee-free education, with such contributions being least common in Timor-Leste. In some cases, budgets are completed by funds from donations, income-generating activities, and fundraising.