Parents, Cost Sharing, and FPE
What are the arguments against cost sharing?
There are also several arguments against cost sharing. In addition to prohibiting the poorest from enrolling, the desired results of cost sharing may not be possible when a community does not have sufficient resources. Cost sharing may not improve accountability, participation, or feelings of ownership. Some parents may actually feel exploited. Finally, using fees as a means to increase quality can exacerbate inequalities, as is demonstrated by the case of South Africa.
There are also several arguments against cost sharing. In addition to prohibiting the poorest from enrolling, the desired results of cost sharing may not be possible when a community does not have sufficient resources.
Cost sharing schemes in areas of Zambia that were extremely poor appear to lessen enrollment and retention rates as parents were unable to make the necessary contributions for a decentralized system. Community schools were established because parents could not pay the fees of the government school; they charged substantially less than the government schools. Most pupils at one school walked 16km to get reach a lower cost school (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.)
The assumption that financial partnerships with communities, cost-sharing and school fees promotes greater responsibility and accountability at the local level (such as Mali and Zambia tried) is problematic because of the limited finances communities can supply and their affect on poor families (UNESCO, 2001). (This document synthesizes nine country Situation Reports, scholarly articles, and UNESCO data. Each report analyzes the country's progress towards EFA goals.)
"Over decentralization" can be a problem if the responsibility for the provision of basic education is pushed down to the level of townships, and even villages. This is often too heavy a financial and managements burden for those levels of government (i.e., a 2001 World Bank report on two provinces in China, where expenditures on personnel were comparatively high, ranging from 98-93%) (Bray et al., 2004). (This book relied on secondary sources, focusing primarily on studies associated with the Gansu Basic Education Project. The authors also visited schools in 2003, however, no details are provided.)
The Malawi government still utilizes cost-sharing as part of its FPE policies, with parents expected to contribute funds toward learning materials and labor toward new school construction. This is particularly burdensome for poor families, who neither have the funds nor the extra time to partake in cost-sharing activities (MacJessie-Mbewe, 2002). (This article was based on a review of the literature from Malawi, including government reports and donor documents.)
Although user fees can promote accountability, ownership, and responsibility, there is no guarantee that will happen (Reddy & Vandemoortele, 1996). (This working paper was based on secondary sources, largely from peer-reviewed journals.)
Cost sharing may not improve accountability, participation, or feelings of ownership. Some parents may actually feel exploited.
Despite a high priority set by the World Bank for greater household participation in the schooling process-in terms of choice and school management-parental involvement is usually reduced to 'material sacrifices', especially among poorer households, while actual participation is typically limited to more well-off families (Urwick, 2002). (This article was based on data from both an urban and a rural chiefdom area in Nigeria, each with a large number of private schools. Children were sampled from all grade levels in the schools and interviews were conducted with the heads of the household, with 151 urban households sampled and 159 rural households.)
Cost sharing might not increase the total investment in education, and may conceal inefficiencies and rigidities in the public finance systems (Penrose, 1998). (This research paper was based on data from several household surveys, including the 1994 Tanzania Human Resources Development Survey, the Cornell/Economic Research Bureau of University of Dar es Salaam, and The 1995 Ghana Living Standards Survey, and the author's own survey in Tanzania in 1994. This survey sampled 863 public school pupils and 942 private school pupils. In addition, parents and teachers at both school types were interviewed. However, the sample cannot be considered representative.)
Local financing of education might cause feelings of exploitation among parents who feel the government is retaining control while they foot the bill (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, using fees as a means to increase quality can exacerbate inequalities, as is demonstrated by the case of South Africa.
In the Eastern Cape, Lemon (2004) found that racial divisions in South African schools have been substituted by class divisions, and the primary cause of this is the presence of schools fees. Public expenditures into poorer schools only cover teacher salaries, leaving the schools without sufficient textbooks, supplies, or other inputs. The fee policy effectively removes any chance for equality of opportunity among South Africans. (This article was based on fieldwork carried out in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Fifteen schools were visited and data supplied by the Provincial Education Department and Examinations Centre.)
South Africa's school fee policy since the end of apartheid has proven to have little impact on enrollments. Even with school fees, enrollments have reached near universal levels in primary schools. Furthermore, the policy has prevented the middle class from flocking to private schools. However, disparities in the quality of schools are high and families appear to sort themselves into schools based on race and social class (Fiske & Ladd, 2003). (This paper used school level data provided by the Eastern and Western Cape Departments of Education to generate calculations. Interviews with policymakers and school principals supplemented the data.)
South Africa's mixed method of school funding (encouraging schools to supplement government resources with school fees) has shown to be effective at keeping middle-class families in public schools. However, the policy has not improved educational quality for the most disadvantaged students (Fiske & Ladd, 2003). (This paper used school level data provided by the Eastern and Western Cape Departments of Education to generate calculations. Interviews with policymakers and school principals supplemented the data.)
The downside of fees in South Africa is that they exclude the poor from high caliber schools and also create schools with vast differences in quality. Schools with a large number of poor children must rely almost extensively on public funding (Reschovsky, 2006). (This article is based on data from the South African Department of Education and informed by numerous scholarly articles.)
Knowledge Gaps: As with arguments in favor of cost-sharing, there is little evidence to support the arguments against cost-sharing. Of particular interest is the extent to which parental contributions support or hinder inequity. Additional research is needed to answer questions such as, what do the differences in contributions equate to in terms of eventual differences in educational persistence and learning outcomes?
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