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Education Finance

While enrollment of children in schools is higher than ever before, in 2013 there were still approximately 17.3 million out-of-school children in the Asia-Pacific Region, many of them from marginalized and disadvantaged groups (UIS, 2015). Challenges in education financing and management at country level contribute to keeping children out of school.

Education financing systems in the Asia and Pacific region are varied and complex, differing in modalities of financing, degrees of decentralization, level of spending, and extent of private sector involvement. The region has witnessed a number of decentralization reforms, following which responsibilities for the financing of basic education have been transferred from the central government to subnational governments and/or schools.

School finance encompasses mobilization and allocation of resources to schools through management and use of budget at school level.  The largest share of education budget in most countries is allocated for teacher salaries. In most of the countries, the government provides financial assistance to schools through per-pupil grants and block grants, and some countries offer Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), stipends and scholarships to the poorest income groups. 

To date, nevertheless, policymakers are experiencing challenges in ensuring adequacy, effectiveness and equity of education finance and in establishing synergies among education planning, financing, budgeting, and financial management processes, particularly at school level.

This calls for the readiness of governments to enable sustained, innovative and well-targeted financing strategies and efficient implementation arrangements in order to achieve the Education 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 4 and its corresponding targets. In order for all children to have access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities by 2030, it is important to guarantee a responsible and participatory governance to ensure transparent and accountable education systems, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of policy implementation and to reduce and eventually eliminate malpractice and inequalities in access to quality learning. In addition, effective sector management and governance systems as well as improved stakeholder participation need to be complemented by sufficient, efficient and equitable financing secured from multiple sources (Governance and Financing Background Note, 2014 Asia-Pacific Regional Education Conference, UNESCO Bangkok).

UNESCO Bangkok Activities

UNESCO Bangkok has been undertaking research, field studies and capacity development activities to support Member States in developing inclusive education financing systems. In collaboration with diverse partners, UNESCO Bangkok conducted a regional study on school finance in ten Asia-Pacific countries. Different materials were published on the topics related to education financing, including for providing guidance to governments to tap into innovative financing. In addition, regional policy seminars and capacity development programs have been organized in selected countries in the region. 


Regional Study on School Finance

UNESCO Bangkok undertook a regional study on school finance, in collaboration with UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP), Kobe University, Ministry of Education in Malaysia and other relevant partners. The study was built on IIEP and UNICEF’s data collection and analysis on school grants in Indonesia, Mongolia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.

During the first phase of the regional study on school finance, Kobe University and UNESCO Bangkok, supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan (MEXT), conducted country case studies on school finance in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam In late July and August 2015. They undertook field studies on school finance and conducted semi-structured interviews at central, provincial, district and school levels in three countries. Three country case reports, developed based on the research findings, were presented for feedback in national workshops in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam in the end of 2015. 

For the second phase, UNESCO Bangkok undertook research on school finance in seven more countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. This led to a comprehensive regional synthesis report to compare diverse national school finance policies and systems in the region. Such report laid groundwork for developing a training module on school finance as a part of UNESCO Bangkok’s Education Microplanning Toolkit, a practical instrument for capacity building in education planning at the local level. The draft regional report and training module will be finalized at the Regional Expert Meeting on school finance (Bangkok, Thailand; 31 March-1 April, 2016).

Research field visit in Viet Nam; Lina Benete/UNESCO Bangkok


Capacity Development on education finance and management in three Southeast Asian countries

Since 2013, UNESCO Bangkok and Kobe University, with financial support from the MEXT, have conducted a joint capacity development project on education finance and management for three Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. They provided reviews of the current education policy situation in the ASEAN+6 countries, with a focus on three target countries, and developed the Guidebook of Analytical Tools for Education Finance and Administration, which aimed at introducing different methodologies and tools for education finance analysis and administration and was translated into three national languages. In the course of 2014 and early 2015, government officials and experts from national universities attended capacity development workshops in Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Viet Nam to review the guidebook.   


Innovative Financing for Out-of-School Children and Youth

Although governments have committed to Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to improve access to education, approximately 18 million primary-aged children remain out of school in the region. Given the positive impact of education on individual and societies, there is great urgency for governments to provide alternative measures to provide basic education to children out of the conventional school system. However, despite its strong potential impact, provision of education to disadvantaged children have been chronically underfunded across the Asia-Pacific region. 

In recognition of the challenges that countries face in securing funding for out-of-school children, UNESCO Bangkok published a booklet "Innovative Financing for Out-of-School Children and Youthwith an aim to provide reference for policymakers in the region who wish to explore non-traditional financing approaches. It compiles best practices drawn from various sectors, in which successful educational interventions for out-of-school children were implemented. 


Innovative Financing for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

Studies show that early experiences influence brain development and lay foundation for life. The early childhood education, therefore, shapes a broad range of skills and learning capacities, setting the foundation for a healthy and productive life for children. It is estimated that the returns on investment in ECCE for disadvantaged children can be as high as 17 US dollars for every 1 dollar spent, indicating that it is one of the most cost-effective strategies for equity. 

However, ECCE is amongst the most underfunded sectors. In low and middle income countries around the world, approximately 1 in 3 children, under 5 years of age, is not achieving his/her cognitive development potential. Evidence from good practices in ECCE systems shows that sustained public funding, combined with quality standard and regulation, are essential factors to achieve quality ECCE for all children. 

Against this background, UNESCO Bangkok, in collaboration with the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia and with the financial support from the Government of the Republic of Korea, will complete a regional study on financing for ECCE development by May 2016. The report will provide policy-makers in the Asia and the Pacific with evidence, innovative practices and policy options for strengthening innovative ECCE financing and partnerships.


Financing of Secondary Education in the Asia-Pacific Region

Thanks to international efforts, there has been rapid progress in meeting the education targets with regard to increased schooling and completion of primary education in the Asia-Pacific region. As a result, the demand for secondary education has expanded, and in some developing countries, it has emerged as an important challenge to meet the higher demand. Legal and policy frameworks related to secondary education have attracted an increased attention of national policy debate in the region more than ever before. 

In this backdrop, UNESCO Bangkok produced the synthesis paper "Financing of Secondary Education in the Asia-Pacific Region". It provides an overview of the current status of secondary education, as well as useful insights on countries’ policies, experiences and challenges relating to financing of secondary education. It discusses ways and means that are being employed to improve financial resource management; to provide suitable teachers, school facilities and materials and to meet the current needs of education systems in the Asia-Pacific region. 


Decentralized Finance and Provision of Basic Education

UNESCO Bangkok published a booklet "Decentralized Finance and Provision of Basic Education" as part of the program on education policy reviews and analyses on sector planning, management and financing. The document provides a conceptual framework for understanding the issues involved in decentralizing the financing and provision of education. 

By introducing various country experiences in implementing education, the booklet describes the challenges that Asian countries have encountered in this process and provides a basis for well-informed decision-making regarding future education decentralization efforts, with a view to improving education equity and efficiency in the Asia-Pacific region. 

In November 2010, UNESCO Bangkok organized a regional policy seminar titled "Education Finance and Decentralization in Asia: Implications for Service Delivery". Important policy discussions took place pertaining to the role of non-state actors in basic education financing and delivery, funding arrangements for decentralized education and practical issues in designing and implementing decentralized education finance. 


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