“This important study calls us to action,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura. “Such widespread corruption not only costs societies billions of dollars, it also seriously undermines the vital effort to provide education for all. It prevents poorer parents from sending their children to school, robs schools and pupils of equipment, lowers teaching standards and thus education standards generally, and compromises the future of our youth. We cannot let it go unchecked.”
Several case studies from all regions of the world are presented in the Report, showing the great variety of corrupt practices in both rich and poor countries. According to the Report, leakage of funds from education ministries to schools can represent up to 80 per cent of the total sum of non-salary expenditures in some countries. It finds that bribes and payoffs in teacher recruitment and promotion tend to lower the quality of teachers, while illegal payments for school entrance and other hidden costs contribute to low enrolment and high drop-out rates. Recent surveys have shown that ghost teachers on school payrolls represent five per cent of the payroll in Honduras and 15 per cent in Papua New Guinea.
According to the Report, corruption in tertiary education takes the form of fraud in transborder education, fake universities and bogus degrees and accreditation fraud. The number of fake universities on the Internet that offer bogus degrees increased from 200 to 800 between 2000 and 2004. In the Ukraine, high officials from private universities revealed in 2005 that most successful licensing or accreditation applications—which are obligatory for the country’s 175 private universities—required some form of bribery.
The authors, Jacques Hallak and Muriel Poisson, look at several places where the introduction of simple measures has all but stamped out corrupt practices. In the early 1990s in Uganda, for example, only 13 per cent of the annual amount granted to schools per student actually got there. The rest was captured by local officials for purposes unrelated to education. A national campaign to inform local communities about where the funds were going has led to a complete reversal of the situation with some 85 per cent of allocated funds reaching their rightful destination as a result.
The authors of the report argue that leadership and political will at the highest level of governments is essential. Furthermore, more transparent regulatory systems, stronger management capacities for greater accountability, and greater ownership of the management process can help free educational systems from corruption. They make a number of recommendations on how the problem of corruption can be dealt with, most notably:
- Establishing clear norms and regulations, transparent procedures and an explicit policy framework that specify the respective responsibilities of different stakeholders in the allocation, distribution and use of educational resources.
- Improving management, accounting, monitoring and audit skills for administrative staff and other stakeholders, including Parent-Teacher Associations, unions and other relevant civil society organizations;
- Providing access to information to build participation, ownership and social control. Those closest to the point of delivery – the schools – must be sufficiently well informed not only to be able to detect fraud, but also to claim what they are entitled to receive.