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UNESCO and Kobe University Review School Finance in Southeast Asia

One of the most important aspects of education policy reform is to look at the relationship between adequacy, equity and efficiency of the government expenditure. The way in which resources are invested and used has more impact on student learning outcomes than the quantity of resources available to school systems.

Given a number of decentralization reforms in the Asia-Pacific region, responsibilities for the provision of basic education are being shifted from the central government to subnational governments or to the schools themselves. Therefore, education policy-makers and planners are continuously faced with challenges regarding education financing, budgeting, and financial management processes at different levels.

In this context, since 2013, Kobe University and UNESCO Bangkok, with support from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan (MEXT), have been implementing a project on education management and finance. The project started with the development of a “Guidebook on Education Management and Finance” in four languages (English, Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese) and organization of capacity development workshops in three target countries: Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam. The workshops in 2014 and in the beginning of 2015 suggested that there were challenges in financial management at lower levels of the education system, especially at the school level. A responsibility is delegated to schools in line with decentralization reforms; however, school level staff do not necessarily have enough skills to manage financial matters by themselves and there is a lack of appropriate guidance for school finance management. Based on the findings from former phases, the project currently focuses on education finance management at the school level. 

During late July and August 2015, Kobe University and UNESCO Bangkok conducted field research on school finance in three target countries. They prepared a research framework based on challenges in school finance identified in a literature review, questions of the World Bank’s Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) - School Finance and UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) and UNICEF’s analytical framework for the school grants study.

For the field research, research teams led by Professor Keiichi Ogawa and Ms. Lina Benete, conducted semi-structured interviews with departments related to education finance at central, provincial and district levels, and schools in urban, rural and disadvantaged areas, and other educational development partners. During interviews in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, research teams collected information on the national school finance management system and budget allocation mechanisms including school grants. Specific areas of research included grant distribution, training for grant management and the use and monitoring of funds at the school level. Some preliminary findings indicate that effective management and control at provincial and district levels influence the efficiency of finance management at the school level (Cambodia); and that clear guidelines and strong school leadership are key for effective school grant implementation (Viet Nam).

Three country case reports will be developed based on the field research results. The national workshops in Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam will provide feedback on the studies by the end of 2015. Then UNESCO Bangkok, with financial support from Malaysian Funds-in Trust and in collaboration with Kobe University, IIEP, World Bank and other relevant partners, will conduct research in seven more countries.  It will develop a comprehensive regional report to compare diverse national school finance policies and systems in the Asia-Pacific region and prepare practical guidelines in establishing an efficient school finance system with a focus on school grants. The regional report and guidelines will be presented at the Regional Workshop on School Finance in the beginning of 2016. Eventually, the guidelines will become part of the Education Microplanning toolkit, a practical tool developed by UNESCO Bangkok to build capacities in education planning at the local level.

For more information, please contact Lina Benete [l.benete(at)] or Akemi Ashida [a.ashida(at)] the Education Policy and Reform Unit.

Written by Akemi Ashida [a.ashida(at)] and Lina Benete [l.benete(at)]

Related Links:

• Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies (GSICS), Kobe University

• World Bank's Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER)

• UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP)- School grants

• The Education Microplanning Toolkit - UNESCO Bangkok