Policy seminar: Use and usefulness of school grants

27 October 2016

IIEP-UNESCO, with the support of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), organized a policy seminar on the use and usefulness of school grants from 10 to 12 October 2016 in Paris. This event brought together about forty participants, including high-level decision-makers from the Ministries of Education and Finance from 10 countries, the representatives of international organizations and development partners, as well as members of four national teams representing Haiti, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo where the research was conducted in 2015-2016. 


What transpired?

The policy seminar was opened by Suzanne Grant Lewis, the Director of the IIEP- UNESCO, and Anton de Grauwe, head of the Department of technical cooperation at the Institute, made an opening statement on the objectives of the research.  In his presentation, he highlighted that “through this research, we have studied the written policy, participation and decision-making processes of the actors inside and outside the school, in order to understand how the policy is implemented and to consider whether the policy objectives have been met. We are meeting today to address these issues and to identify solutions to the problems. "

The policy seminar was divided into two formats: presentations and working groups. The first part of the seminar was devoted to a discussion of research results in the four francophone countries, while the second part was focused on group work and identifying strategies to improve school grant policies, including its definition of objectives and implementation procedures.  The seminar’s agenda can be found here (only available in French).

As a special event for the first night, the participants were invited to attend the premiere release of the documentary film named “Aina’s school”.  This film was created by IIEP-UNESCO while conducting research interviews in a school in Madagascar. The film explores the effects of school grants through the personal experiences of Aina, a Malagasy student.  


What are the connections between the objectives of school grants policies and fee-free education?

School grants have two main objectives: enabling access to education by removing or reducing parental contributions, and improving daily school management. However, parents and school principals have declared that these goals are not clear to them. The launch of the school grants programme created a misunderstanding among parents about the elimination of school fees in Haiti, DRC and Togo. In fact, the school grants policy did not mean universal free education in these countries. 

With the arrival of the school grants in schools, the parents’ contributions have decreased, but they are not eliminated since the grants received are deemed insufficient for the schools to fully operate. In his remarks, Mr. Gwang-Chol Chang, Chief of Education Section, UNESCO Dakar, emphasized that "fee-free education is always relative in the countries concerned, it is more helpful to speak of a lessening of the financial burden of parents [to educate their children].”

During the discussion, participants underscored the importance for education ministries to make distinctions between school grants and fee-free education. They also emphasized the importance of being clear regarding the contribution of school grants to lessening parents fees.


What is the level of implication of local school actors in defining the school grant policy?

Chloé Chimier, assistant program specialist for IIEP-UNESCO, introduced the topic with the question "What is the level of involvement of local school actors in defining and policy-making on school grants?" The research found that most school actors are uninformed about the procedures of school grant allocation. 

To address this concern, the participants of the seminar were requested to identify alternative communication tools to render the policy understandable to local actors (i.e., illiterate adults). Such recommendations can help to strengthen the local actors’ capacity to make use of the school grants policy. 


What are the strategies to improve the criteria of funding allocation and mechanisms of distribution?

The criteria for funding allocation has not been based on the actual needs of students and schools, especially in rural areas. In addition, the system of fund distribution confronts several challenges such as delays in the wire transfer to schools or intermediaries (microfinance agencies and local education offices). In addition, the undeveloped banking sector also limits the autonomy of schools to directly receive the funds. . 

The solutions proposed by the participants were to conduct surveys of the schools to determine the actual needs of schools in order to develop a policy that addresses that challenges of school principals and teachers. In this respect, Mr. Kossivi Amaglo, Director of Financial Affairs, in the Ministry of Education of Togo, reiterated that "it is important to involve local communities in policy development in order to create a policy based on the actual needs of schools.”  What is needed to assure transparence in the policy development is clear criteria of the funding allocation that incorporates the socio-economic conditions and needs of schools.



What are the recommendations for improving the use and the control of school grants?

The research concluded that when external controls are included in the policies, they are not systematically applied or are limited to the administrative controls of financial reports. However, the social control by parents and local communities, as another source of control of learning conditions, proved effective in this regard as explained by the Professors Sena Yawo Akakpo-Numado (Togo) and Crispin Mabika (DRC).

To ensure the best use of the school grant, it was recommended by participants that external actors create a system of sanctions for abuses and that school actors are trained on the procedures to manage the school grants. 


The way forward

"In order to develop the ideal policy, it is necessary to examine the different experiences and technical tools developed in these Fragile States. It is crucial on the national level to find solutions to improve school grants policy to the benefit of students” concluded Mr. Youssouf Tahir Ahmat, director of Administration, Planning, and Resources of the Ministry of Education, Chad.

Participants worked in groups to identify short and long term strategies to improve school grant policies. 

The seminar concludes by introducing the next steps, which will be the national dissemination of research results in the four francophone countries, as well as IIEP-UNESCO’s publication of the comparative research findings in early 2017.


For additional information about the seminar, learn more on Storify. (in french)