Studies have revealed a strong correlation between quality of education and increased corruption in a country. According to a Transparency International report, data collected to track progress in education in 42 countries showed that the practice of paying bribes is associated with a lower literacy rate among adolescents. Corruption is also linked with increased inequality in the quality of education between the rich and the poor. When resources allocated for public education is inadequate or do not reach the schools, it is the poor who bear the brunt. Unlike the rich, who can afford private tuition for their children, the poor have to depend on the government.
The issues that have been identified include, forgery in procurement practices; hiring and promotion of unqualified teachers; bribery in admission and exam administration; and fabrication of documents and false reporting (e.g., number of students enrolled or resources needed or used). Poor governance practices, including lack of transparency in budget formulation and resource allocation, non-existent or deficient book keeping, weak capacity of local governance structures, weak monitoring, and enforcement procedures are identified as loopholes that encourage corrupt practices in the education sector. Additionally, social norms, public apathy and a lack of political will to address corrupt practices in education services are said to exacerbate the problem further.
These issues were discussed at the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference held recently in Bangkok. During a workshop dedicated to this topic, experiences from Ghana, Mongolia, the Philippines, Romania and Vietnam were shared, all reporting similar issues and making similar recommendations in combating corruption to enhance the quality of education. Prevention education was seen as key, but the consensus was that the answer lay primarily in promoting enforcement strategies. Strengthening administrative and criminal sanction mechanisms, including review of the existing legal framework, strengthening inspection and monitoring mechanisms, legal enforcement, financial management and systematic book-keeping, and building capacity in supervision and management were recommended as effective measures in controlling corruption in the education sector.
In addition to taking institutional measures, public awareness and empowerment of citizens were seen as essential in pressuring the state authorities to be responsive and accountable for quality delivery of education services. Social accountability tools such as community score cards, social audit, and community monitoring have involved citizens in rating the quality of services and tracking proper use of allocated resources in the education sector. In Uganda, communities were mobilized to monitor budget allocated for public schools, which uncovered cases of corruption, resulting in the dismissal of the guilty officials. Similarly, the community awareness and advocacy campaigns exposed the district education officials, head teachers and building contractors for misappropriating public funds in the country. In the Philippines, boys-scouts, community members and CSOs were mobilized to monitor text book service delivery in different parts of the country, which resulted in improved service delivery and accountability in the education sector. In Romania, the increased level of public awareness and participation in the monitoring and ranking of universities is said to not only have increased the quality and quantity of public information, but also revealed a number of serious fraud cases that were ultimately sent to court.
Education is the cornerstone of a vibrant and involved populace. For this reason alone corruption within the education sector cannot be allowed to flourish. The difficulty, as always, lies in the solution. Experiences such as those above suggest that citizen empowerment and institutional strengthening must go hand in hand to promote accountability, transparency, and integrity within the educational system.
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