Parents, Cost Sharing, and FPE
What are the arguments for cost sharing?
There are several arguments for school fees and sharing the cost of education with parents. First, cost sharing can help improve the quality of service and make up for limitations in what the government can provide. Some researchers argue this can ultimately lead to educational expansion and greater equity. Second, it is argued that at the community level, cost-sharing can improve the management of funds. It can also lead to increased parental involvement and the development of community-level capacity. Finally, others believe that if parents pay for school, they will have greater ownership of their schools and as a result, place a higher value on education in general.
There are several arguments for school fees and sharing the cost of education with parents. First, cost sharing can help improve the quality of the service and make up for limitations in what the government can provide.
Zambian teachers had different opinions regarding the elimination of cost-sharing schemes (prior to fee abolition). Some felt that without community funding, schools would fail entirely; others believed it would help boost enrollments (Oxfam-Zambia & Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, 2001). (This report was based on qualitative analysis of data collected from observation of 54 households and 13 schools; questionnaires were given at the district, school, and house level; and group discussions with teachers, PTA members, children, and parents.)
There are three main arguments against the abolition of school fees. First, fees are necessary due to poor fiscal capacity from the government. Second, fees "are justified to offset government failure to provide services". Third, fees increase the involvement of parents who are paying for their child's education (Kattan, 2006, p. 29). (This working paper was based on the findings from a survey of World Bank task team leaders. Ninety-three countries responded to the primary school questions and 76 responded to the lower secondary questions.)
Abolition of fees in South Africa may not be a desirable policy option. First, school fee revenue from fees is helping to run schools and freeing up public funds to help needier schools. Second, if fees were not allowed, the middle class families would likely exit the system and send their children to private schools. Third, the higher fee paying schools are likely producing well-educated students to help propel the nation's economy (Reschovsky, 2006). (This article is based on data from the South African Department of Education and informed by numerous scholarly articles.)
In better-off developing countries, the problem most often is quality, not access. Fees can help quality, so governments should not make any sort of contribution impossible. Rather, governments should restrict the application of those funds (Crouch, 2003). (This article was based on data taken from numerous sources including government statistics, World Bank and UNESCO reports, statistical databases, and non-governmental organization data. Data collection was not done systematically but rather included countries where information could be found. The data were reviewed for trends and numerous statistical analyses were performed.)
Some researchers argue this can ultimately lead to educational expansion and greater equity.
Thobani argues that raising fees when there is excess demand can in fact improve equity in the long-run. Although at first the negative impact on enrollment from increased fees will more likely hurt the poor, the revenues generated from the higher fee can be used to expand access and thus improve equity. "The positive impact on equity due to the expanded service may well outweigh the direct benefit of a lower price" (p. 421). Applying this case to Malawi (prior to FPE), Thobani concludes that tuition fees could be raised to cover the costs of books and other learning materials. The savings from government subsidies for these items can be used to hire more teachers and thus, lower class size. The fees may deter some students but, he argues, those who attend at the higher fee are less likely to drop-out (Thobani, 1984). (This article is based on scholarly articles, World Bank documents, and Thobani's development of an economic framework to assess the efficiency of school fees. Data from the Malawi Ministry of Education is also used.)
"Some schools have been known to use the proceeds from cost recovery for investment over time in quality (for the case of Mali, see World Bank, 2003). These investments in quality may, in turn, increase the demand for education (see Kremer, 1995). The revenues collected through cost recovery schemes may also finance education expansion directly" (Tiongson, 2004, p.10). (A brief review of recent education reforms using case studies and empirical literature.)
Second, it is argued that at the community level, cost-sharing can improve the management of funds. It can also lead to increased parental involvement and the development of community-level capacity.
Public accountability is facilitated through school fees. "When public school systems and governments must rely on parents' resources, there emerges the possibility of establishing some political relationships of accountability through public participation" (Dauda, 2004, p. 29). (This article was based on interviews with government officials, a case study of seven schools in Jinja, Uganda, and secondary sources.)
Eliminating school fees may reverse hard-won participatory processes. Eliminating school fees will "resurrect the old negative attitude toward participation and the habit of marginalizing public input (in Uganda)" (Dauda, 2004, p. 30). (This article was based on interviews with government officials, a case study of seven schools in Jinja, Uganda, and secondary sources.)
Local financing of education has both good points and bad; on one hand, it may increase accountability and feelings of ownership among parents (Bray, 1996). (This book used information from four sources: (1) existing literature, (2) data from questionnaires sent to UNICEF officers in each country, (3) the author's experience and fieldwork and (4) data from the World Bank.)
Finally, others believe that if parents pay for school, they will have greater ownership of their schools and as a result, place a higher value on education in general.
In Cambodia, efforts to further reduce household contributions may be detrimental. Bray contends that although barriers to school should be removed, many parents are willing and able to contribute towards their child's education. Their efforts promote accountability and keep schools as an integral party of society in which all are invested (Bray & Bunly, 2005). (This working paper was based on field research conducted in Cambodia in 2004. The data were collected through school surveys (n=116), focus group discussions (n=64), and interviews.)
"When goods and services are distributed totally free of charge, they are commonly undervalued by recipients" (Bray & Bunly, 2005, p. 1). (This working paper was based on field research conducted in Cambodia in 2004. The data were collected through school surveys (n=116), focus group discussions (n=64), and interviews.)
The possible creation of a 'hand-out mentality' among those on the receiving ends of government funds is a major concern with moves towards abolition fees. As noted by Swartland and Taylor (1998) "increased government support too early turns into conformity and control. It also heightens expectations of what government can and should do and reinforces a dependent mentality rather than one of self-reliance. Having got subsides, teachers, and buildings from the government, the schools are now asking for film projectors, security fences, 'official-free' stamps, school vehicles, and graders to level their sports fields" (p. 44; as cited in Bray & Bunly, 2005).
Knowledge Gaps: Many of the arguments in favor of cost-sharing are not supported by evidence. More rigorous research needs to be carried out to determine if these arguments are supported by evidence, and if benefits such as increased accountability, more ownership, or a greater valuation of education actually occur on a large-scale in a cost-sharing situation.
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