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The risk of corruption in the education system


12.05.2014

Transparency International- Kyrgyzstan conducted a study entitled

"The risk of corruption in the education system - informal payments in schools"

Given the current dissatisfaction levels among parents of school aged children, the relevance of this study cannot be underestimated. The survey covered all areas of the Kyrgyzstan, including the cities - Bishkek, Kant, Kara-Balta, Tokmak , Karakol, Cholpon-Ata Balykchi, Osh, Jalal-Abad, Batken, Naryn and Talas. Calculation of the volume of informal payments was based on data on the average size of informal payments and the total amount that parents spend on education per child in a state secondary school for one school year.

In Kyrgyzstan access to the state education system is free, and guaranteed by both the government and the constitution. But while schooling is available, a variety of commercial relationships are increasingly becoming the norm. The cause of this - both in the official sphere and in hidden commercial dealings - is a lack of government funding for the education system. On the one hand, general education is declared as free; but on the other there is a severe lack of funding forcing schools to attempt to find alternate sources of funding, as the level of state funding is not enough to ensure proper training and teaching. The underfunding of educational institutions is made up for through parental payments. The so called "voluntary-compulsory" payments constitute a significant part of the schools income. This is indicated by the results of this study, the overall average of such payments (excluding admission fees and individual private lessons) equate to 2200480164,35 KGS (approximately 44million USD). In the capital, parents spend approximately 7,820 KGS in informal payments every year. In the regions this is 1,445 KGS.

At the same time, the current government is not in a position to track the informal school fees market. Although the Ministry for Education and Science prohibits any such payments and other charges in educational institutions, in reality these payments are a fixed part of school life. Hence, 93% of respondents (out of 100 surveyed) noted that these ‘voluntary' contributions are present in almost every school in Bishkek. In the regional cities the presence of such payments was confirmed by 67% of parents questioned. 37.5% of respondents claimed that they were forced to make these payments, whilst 46.1% stated they felt pressured into making these payments by the parents' committee or equivalent organisations.

Overall, this study examined a number of issues including:

* Basic staff positions which are paid for by parents

* The average amount paid by parents per child per year

* The respondents views on such payments

* The nature and methods of collection of these payments

* Transparency in the spending of funds accumulated through such payments

* The effects of such payments of poorer families

The estimated sum of the informal payments was one of the main objectives of this study. Assessing the scale of corruption in the education system as a whole would have been virtually impossible given the difficulty in determining the boundaries between informal school payments and outright corruption.

In this study, informal school fees are seen currently unsecured with no mention in regulatory documents, allowing for a market-type environment becoming increasingly prevalent in the state education system. As such, they are unaffected by price-fixing, financial accounting or inspections by either the state or parents.

Above all, respondents to the study stated that the informal payments were not always voluntary. On the one hand, this practise is illegal, and the charges levied on parents are received in the name of the local community and society, but on the other hand such payments are illegal and forced. In the lifetime of the school this money becomes a necessity. For this reason direct appeals to parents are common - by the schools' authorities, parents' committees and various community organizations such as the board of trustees or local schooling funds - who are asked to provide financial assistance to cater for various needs: on-going repair works, cleaning materials and cleaners wages; the school doctor; security for the buildings; general maintenance of school grounds etc. In addition to this parents committees may also collect money for other school needs: new classroom equipment; office furniture; to carry out various teaching activities and for other gifts.

From the perspective of the school and from the standpoint of the law the above is not required. However, the results of the study show that these parental fees become compulsory and a regular occurrence in schools. Those families who refuse to ‘invest' in the school essentially place their child into the position of an outcast, excluded from the school student community. These ‘voluntary sponsorships' of a child amount to 3,772 KGS per annum in Bishkek; 644 KGS in regional towns and cities; and 284 KGS in villages.

As well as determining the total value of informal school fees, this study sought to identify the risk of corruption and the vulnerabilities associated with it in the secondary school system. Following a survey of school principals, administrators and parents the following observations were noted:

1. Failure on the part of the government:

   a) Inaction in tackling problems in schools

   b) A lack of administrative control

2. Failure in funding for education

   a) Inadequate budgets

   b) Inefficient distribution of moneys

   c) Lack of resources directed at improving education policy

3. Weak school management

   a) Due to a centralized system with descending tiers

   b) A lack of autonomy and experience by school administrators

4. The need to reduce the private cost of education

   a) Including social indifference

   b) And social injustice

5. A wide disparity in the quality of service provided by different schools

6. Informal payments to schools

   a) The forcing of parents to pay ‘voluntary' contributions

   b) The unauthorized establishment of parental contributions

   c) Entrance fees levied on parents upon a child's admission to the school

   d) An increase in pressure on the students themselves

   e) Inadequate levels of concrete content and a lack of social responsibilities on the part of the government (with regards to additional education services; higher levels of funding for schools, gymnasiums and specialized schools as well as funding for extra-curricular activities

   f) An absence of structure for community input - insufficient levels of involvement by parents and the wider community in school management

   g) The struggle over informal payments is formally demonstrated

   h) Lack of openness in schools

   i) Principals and teachers receiving additional material gifts

   j) Widespread informal payments "everyone gives so I have to"

   k) The submissiveness of different stakeholders (and the need to adopt uniform standards)

   l) A lack of transparency in spending parental resources

7. Rating the effectiveness of the board of trustees and parental committees

 

The issue of informal payments in the school system, which are not regulated, is often ignored and thus in many cases are a sign of wider problems in society. Since these informal payments are commonly accepted but are rarely discussed in public, to determine the ‘boundaries' of such payments it will take all those interested in education reform to openly discuss and decide what can and cannot be done in the field of informal payments.

As educational institutions have strong links with other institutions a high degree of corruption extends into this field. However, one should bear in mind that such payments are often an obstacle to proper education - especially to children from poorer backgrounds, as it can prohibit them from attending their preferred schools. With regards to commercial relationships in the field of free general education one must understand that in many cases families lack the funds to pay for additional education services or to pay for the needs of the school, or to overcome other barriers to quality education. Hence, the commercialisation of school education unfairly restricts opportunities for children from these families.

In today's day and age, in order to improve the education system as a whole one must work to match the standards of a modern democratic society. Namely, it is necessary to fulfil international obligations concerning education. In particular, increasing in funding for education; ensuring equal access to education, and introducing new mechanisms to improve the quality of education. However, whilst general changes are important, it requires reform of individual legislation. Specifically, in reference to the "Model Regulations for boards of trustees in the state and municipal educational institutions of the Kyrgyz Republic", developed and approved by the Ministry of Education, requires a number of amendments to enhance its effectiveness. This would improve transparency and accountability in the education system, increase the public's ability to file complaints and in turn better official accountability among other adjustments. Moreover, it is necessary to strengthen the control of funds that have been established in schools and allow for greater involvement and awareness of the parents on budget and off-budget financing of educational institutions, again to alleviate the current lack of accountability.

 


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17 июля 2011, 12:08
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16 июля 2011, 22:21
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