Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 3 “Only the sun rises for free”

On the third day, predicted to be the only day with sunshine during the seminar, coincidentally the focus was on finance. A number of things were immediately made clear; we are discussing funding, effective and efficient spending and accountability. Nothing helps better to understand a situation than what I would call some ‘in your face’ facts, so herewith a handful:

What does it tell you when:
  • 70% of the poor are not in low income countries
  • An authority spends more on prisons than on schools
  • the poorer you are the less is spent per pupil
  • Aid pays up to 50% of teacher salaries
  • Per 1 financial unit that comes from aid, 1.5 comes from remittance and 6.5 from south-south trade
  • For achieving literacy for everyone you cut costs by using ‘barefoot’ teachers and manage to achieve your initial goal and then you make the next step
  • The weakest regions refuse aid, because the conditions set cannot be met because these are the weakest regions
To borrow another term from the financial world another lesson of today could be to get the balance right. Find and/or fight for the right mix of financial support from federal governments, local governments, civic society pressure, legal action, community contributions private funding and/or aid without staying fixed on the traditional way of funding whatever form that currently takes. It is interesting to note that e.g. where in one country cost cutting takes place at the local government level and one looks successfully or not to the federal government for support, in other countries federal governments cut budgets and expect local governments to address the consequences. 

From China came an interesting example of implementation of finance policies over a period of more than 15 years based on evolving goals, monitoring of effects, learning from mistakes and pressure from communities and experts to change, leading currently to a division between local government and central government funding that is differentiated across regions and aspects (tuition fees subsidies, infrastructure, text books, effectiveness and efficiency measures in spending, etc.) 

Besides the right balance of current finance streams a number of suggestions can be made to look for developing and inclusion of other forms of financing of which a few are: Bond financing,  Voluntary consumer contributions, Earmarked taxes, Debt swaps, Impact investing. 

The challenge for education is to become more visible again and be ahead of the curve instead of being bogged down in amongst other conservatism, lack of innovation and lack of risk taking. More visibility also would help to make the case for including Education as part of broader innovative financing such as health, community development etc. These suggestions can only be successfully advocated if accountability and transparency of spending improves.

To finish on a cultural metaphor: During the late afternoon visit to the Mozart house in Salzburg, a small performance was given on the original pianoforte on which Mozart had played. The keyboard was smaller and the white and black keys were reversed, because at that time ebony wood was much cheaper than ivory. The music played however was just as beautiful…

Posted by: Gerben Van Lent
Executive director for Knowledge Management,
Market Support and Governance at ETS GLOBAL

No comments: