School grants research expands in French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean

15 October 2015

UNESCO’s International Institute for Education (IIEP) has announced during a workshop in Antananarivo, Madagascar today that it has expanded its research on the effectiveness of school grants – subsidies given directly to a school from central authorities – to four new Francophone countries.

First launched in 2010, the new research begins with a week-long technical workshop and school visits in Madagascar, before continuing in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Togo.

Four Madagascan public primary schools – ranging in size and location, including urban, semi-urban and rural – will first be visited on 19 and 20 October. The research teams will interview teachers, students, accountants, parent associations, school inspectors, school management councils and the local school districts to better understand how grants received directly by the school are used and managed.

"We hope that this research program will result in policy recommendations for schools so that subsidies can continue to serve inclusive, quality education for each child," said the National Minister for Education of Madagascar, Paul Andrianiaina Rabary during the launch event of the workshop.

During the technical workshop, from 15-21 October, the research teams will discuss preliminary findings from the Madagascan schools, revise the research tools and discuss a research plan for the remainder of the project.

"This workshop provides a unique opportunity for us to learn from the experience of managing school grants in Malagasy schools and enrich our thinking about such policies developed in other participating countries," said Candy Lugaz, IIEP project coordinator.

The project will then extend to a total of 15 schools in each country with teams made up of two researchers and a representative from both the country’s ministry of education and ministry of finance.


New trends in education financing

The research responds to a growing number of developing countries undertaking a major reform in the management and financing of education. While most schools would previously not intervene in the management of their finances, it is now increasingly common for schools to autonomously manage grants given to them by the government.

Already common practice in many OECD countries, the new reforms unrolling across the developing world are largely linked to the advent of free schooling. As schools are no longer allowed to charge tuition fees from parents, they now receive government subsidies to compensate for the loss of revenue.

Studies have identified a number of benefits of school grants, including:

  1. Less bureaucracy,
  2. More relevant choices of how to spend the money when decided directly by the school,
  3. Direct transfer of funds to the school avoids losses at various administrative levels,
  4. A positive impact on equity if higher amounts are allocated to disadvantages schools.

However, the reality on the ground can often be very different. The IIEP research program – ‘Improving school financing: The use and usefulness of school grants’ – aims to unearth some of these realities. Through school visits, the research asks question such as: “How are school grants actually used?”, “Who decides how to use the subsidies and what are the actual benefits for schools?

A global inquiry

After an extensive literature review by IIEP and the Center for Education Policy Development in South Africa, the research first examined school grants in Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi and Uganda from 2010-2012. In East Asia and the Pacific, Indonesia, Mongolia, Timor Leste and Vanuatu were also explored from 2012-2014 in collaboration with UNICEF and its regional and national offices and ministries of education.

Now covering a total of 13 countries, the new research is supported by the Global Partnership for Education’s Global and Regional Activities Program. A first phase of this programme was implemented in Honduras, in collaboration with IIEP-Buenos Aires.

The research will result in technical guidelines on how to effectively use school grants, a set of publications including a comparative analysis between the four countries and national briefs for each country surveyed and a mini-documentary.