Governance Challenges in Education: Similar Problems, Different Causes, Tailored Solutions
While a massive body of water separates Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo, there’s not an ocean of difference between them in terms of the scale of the governance challenges facing their education sectors.
Still, while both countries share education systems with very high levels of non-state provision and financing, they have arrived at this point via different historical paths and any programme to help address these challenges will have to take this into account.
“Governance and the broader political economy play a key role in enabling or impeding development outcomes. This is even more true of countries affected by fragility,” according to Erika Boak of CfBT Education Trust, who recently collaborated with several others on a EuropeAid-funded study, “Study on Governance Challenges for Education in Fragile Situations”.
Ms. Boak focused on DRC and Haiti but other case studies included Lebanon, Liberia, Southern Sudan, Somalia, Cambodia and Aceh, Indonesia. The research was conducted in 2009, prior to Haiti’s devastating earthquake of 2010.
In DRC, Ms. Boak found an education system suffering from the ongoing legacy of former President Mobutu Sese-Seko, with years of neglect and predatory interference.
“The last two decades have seen an almost total removal of the state from financing education. Only 35 percent of fees collected in primary schools remain at the school level. This means that community members finance school running costs, the administration of school networks, the construction and maintenance of Ministry offices, teacher training, inspections and exams. They also top up the salaries of Ministry officials right through to the capital level,” says Ms. Boak.
The management of teacher salaries is also an issue.
“Between 30 and 40 percent of teachers are not on the government payroll in DRC and it is estimated that over half of those who are on the payroll are due for retirement. The actual payment of teachers is strewn with governance problems due to the absence of banks outside big towns so the salaries are transported in cash, passing through many different actors, resulting in serious delays and incomplete salaries.”
The fact that parents are providing a large share of the financial support for education has major implications for children’s access to primary school as well as the management of the education system.
According to Ms. Boak, “there is a need for phased substitution of community financing with appropriate regulatory and legislative frameworks. This needs to take place within the context of a whole-of-government approach reviewing civil service remuneration, in order to address the root causes of the quasi private system. DRC has demonstrated that there may be no political appetite for governance reform in education (in relation to the collection of school fees) where the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education stands to lose.”
On a more positive note, “there is high-level political and national commitment to education as part of the stabilisation and reconstruction process. A National Strategy for the Reduction of School Fees has been developed and a sub-sector education plan was also being developed. The country is starting a radical decentralisation reform which will impact education, with the delegation of service delivery responsibility to sub-national levels.”
Haiti meanwhile has a history of political instability, with 14 governments and five coups over the past two decades, compounded by violent uprisings and catastrophic natural disasters. Public provision of education has been, and continues to be skeletal and this has meant that trends in exclusion and marginalisation have been anchored in Haiti’s past. In fact Haiti is known for its very high levels of non-state provision.
“The Haitian state has very limited service delivery or regulatory capacity, due to entrenched historical reasons. This has led to the uncoordinated proliferation of non-state providers in the education sector. Only 19 percent of primary school going children attend public schools and only 35 percent of non-public elementary schools are accredited. The process to become accredited is complex and susceptible to nepotism. Curricula and pedagogy are fragmented and quality is poor with only 10 percent of teachers having teacher training qualifications,” says Ms. Boak.
“The Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training suffers from a legitimacy deficit in the eyes of both non-state providers and Haitian citizens, making developing and enforcing regulation a real challenge. The relationship between the Ministry and the main education providers has, in the past, been characterised by mistrust and suspicion,” according to her findings.
“Haiti is a clear example of a country in which historical donor support has affected relations between the state and non-state providers for the worse. Certain bilateral donors bypassed the Government during the 1980s due to political instability and financed faith-based providers. This served to build the legitimacy and capacity of faith-based organisations – thereby providing much needed education – however no link was made to the Ministry of Education.” She argues that this reinforced the chasm between the two.
“Since then a Presidential Commission has been created which is a broad-based body with the remit to update the 1998 Education and Training Plan. Legislation was passed in 2007 for the creation of the National Office for Partnership in Education which is to manage non-state providers and promote their involvement in policy development. Although the financial envelope for education is still low, the budget allocations have increased by around 30 percent since 2005.”
Standing back from this research, Ms. Boak believes that some of the more sensitive areas of governance analysis, such as the interests and incentives and informal relationships between different actors are rarely documented, so researching these can be challenging. This makes informal interviews and conversations particularly important.
Ms. Boak concludes: “The study rightly sought to identify areas of resilience within the education sector as well as fragility. In countries affected by fragility, this is an important angle in order to ensure donor support builds positively on local and national resilience.”
For a note on Ms. Boak’s methodology, consult the introductory pages of the full report.
You can also view a related presentation prepared by Ms Boak, on her findings from Haiti and DRC: