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close this bookMeeting Basic Learning Needs: A Vision for the 1990s (UNICEF - UNDP - UNESCO - WB - WCEFA, 1990, 170 p.)
close this folder2. The Context and Effects of Basic Learning in the World
close this folderB. Indicators of the Context and Effects of Basic Education
View the document(introduction...)
View the document(i) Background characteristics
View the document(ii) Financial capacity
View the document(iii) Educational effort
View the document(iv) Educational effects
View the document(v) Social impacts

(iii) Educational effort

Despite the general economic and financial conditions described above, many nations have made impressive attempts to maintain their financial commitment to basic education. The pattern suggests that a willingness to support the meeting of basic learning needs is a necessary condition to offset the most harmful effects of financial restraints. Between 1980 and 1987, fourteen of the twenty-two low-income countries reporting expenditure data maintained or increased total education expenditure as a percentage of GNP. Fifteen of the twenty-four lower-middle-income countries and fourteen of the sixteen upper-middle-income countries did the same. A similar pattern exists for education as a percentage of total government expenditure. Some countries, despite their economic difficulties, have made the commitment to reallocate government expenditures in favour of, rather than away from, education. An appropriate inference from this data is that although choices concerning educational expenditures are constrained, it is still within a country’s own ability to choose education.

A large number of countries (especially in the poorest categories) have maintained or increased the share of primary education in the total education budget between 1980 and 1987. More than half of the low-income and lower-middle income nations reporting comparable data have managed to increase primary education’s share in their education budgets. However, in two-thirds of these countries this increase was coupled with a decline in the per pupil expenditure (in current dollars) during the same period, due to increasing enrollments. On the other hand, in the upper-middle-income economies, and notably in Latin America, primary education’s share in some countries’ education budgets has declined because of the relative expansion of secondary and tertiary education. Because total resources for education have increased in many of these nations, the relative decline of primary education’s share does not automatically imply a decline in per pupil expenditures on primary education. Even with increasing primary school populations, five of the six countries in this category that experienced a decline in primary education’s share, managed to increase their per pupil expenditure between 1980 and 1987.

As a further indication of education efforts, a large majority of countries continued to expand enrolment during the 1975-85 decade, and some even reduced teacher-pupil ratios. Because of governmental financial constraints and parental choice, many countries have an increased proportion of their primary school pupils in private schools. Even though many private schools receive some form of direct or indirect government subsidy (and almost all benefit from teachers prepared in public institutions), the expansion of private schools can allow governments to target a portion of their expenditures more directly on the needs of the disadvantaged; for example, through subsidy formulas based on community income. There always is the danger that the private system will evolve into an elite alternative with access determined by family income alone, or that public schools will be comparatively neglected. However, appropriate planning can avert these effects by assuring a recognition of the inevitable interdependency of the two sectors.

The development of private education has been more dramatic in the industrial economies than among the developing economies. Only seven of twenty-four low-income countries showed an increase in the proportion of pupils in private primary education, while twenty-three of forty-nine middle-income countries, and fourteen of twenty industrial market economies did so. One inference is that the more advantaged nations are benefiting from the mobilization of nongovernment resources for primary education, while in low-income countries, whose public budgets are already burdened in other ways, governments continue to assume the highest proportion of fiscal responsibility for educational services. Obviously, private resources in low-income nations also are constrained, but nongovernment alternatives can assist in financing even in the poorest nations. For example, Haiti has more than half its primary students in private schools, and there are initiatives to mobilize family and community resources for basic education throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Parallel efforts (by public, religious, and nongovernment organizations) to provide out-of-school basic education for children are harder to document in a comparable quantified manner. Despite difficult economic conditions, however, many nations have maintained and some have expanded their out-of-school programmes equivalent to formal primary education. These often provide instruction with the same content as that of primary schools and also often teach basic knowledge and skills to youth and adults. Better documentation of such programmes and their participants, costs, and results will be required for the future planning of basic education.