Fee or for free?
Why must schools be free?
Free and compulsory education is a fundamental human right. Free and compulsory education for all the world’s children forms the backbone of international human rights law but does not shape global educational strategies. The global human rights minimum standards mandate that education be free so that it can be compulsory until the minimum age of employment. Although the law is more than 80 years old, the bitter reality of economic exclusion from education is evidenced in no less than 22 different types of charges which are levied in open defiance of its requirements.
Everyone agrees that education is a priority. However, prioritising education in public expenditure is a different issue. Governments face many challenges in allocating their budgets and, while they may claim to support education, they do not always ‘put their money where their mouth is’. By analysing financing issues we can gain insight into government priorities and the factors that influence spending, and at the same time collect information which can be useful for our campaigning and influencing work. Understanding the relationships between local, national and international levels is key to work in this area. What is spent on education locally is determined by national policy, which in turn is influenced by international policy agendas. By enabling people to explore issues of education funding, various opportunities are created to situate the local situation within the wider picture, and develop mechanisms for local people to engage in the big questions of national economic policy.
“Individual countries are vulnerable to such conflicting advice when they need external finance for education but that advice is hugely expensive. Only 2% of educational funds come from international aid, while governments finance 63% of its cost and 35% is privately funded.3 (In comparison, only 8% of compulsory education is privately funded in the OECD).4 Within the 2% of internationally funded education, much is taken up to finance parallel creditors’ and donors’ bureaucracies and to generate mountains of documents, which each of them requires to record its own endeavours.” (Tomasevski, 2006). Report executive summary
See more on the different regions of the world:
Katarina Tomaševski, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, spent six years compiling this Report before her untimely death in October 2006. The State of the Right to Education Worldwide is the first global report to review the education laws and practice in 170 countries and to expose the hypocrisy whereby the right to free and compulsory education is loudly and universally proclaimed, and quietly and systematically betrayed. The result should serve as a wake-up call to all those concerned with global education and poverty reduction. It exposes the global pattern of poverty-based exclusion from primary education, and calls for poverty reduction strategies to use the elimination of economic exclusion from education as a benchmark. The current reality – of education being priced out of reach of the poor – subverts human rights, and denies another generation its birthright: free and compulsory education worthy of the name.
Amnesty International report: ‘Why can't I afford to go to school?’
Global Campaign for Education report: 'Fund the Future: Education Rights Now', detailing a 10-point plan for transforming aid to education.