The Costs of Primary and Secondary Education

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Byline: Dr. Florangel R Braid

A SUB-REGIONAL conference on the costs of primary and secondary education in Southeast Asia which ended yesterday examined findings and recommendations which have significant implications in the restructuring of financing and management of basic education. The five-day meeting sponsored by the UNESCO National Commission in cooperation with the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) was attended by representatives of planning and educational ministries in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, and the Philippines.

The meetingas agenda focused on private education a" not in the traditional way we understand it a" like privately-owned, managed, and funded enterprises, but the search for new approaches in financing and management within the framework of new trends a" globalization and the growth of information technologies. The latter are driving forces which have led to the questioning of traditional ways of delivering education. The trend, according to a book by UNESCO IIEP programme specialist Igor Kitaev, is based on the recognition that in terms of management, private actors can be more efficient than public bureaucracy due to their initiative-taking, problem-solving, and financial diversification. The new hybrid model of school ownership is a combination of various forms (be it public, private, or mixed) with private management, with mixed but largely public funding and with an overall government regulation in the areas of supervision, inspection, examinations, and curricula.

In building a conceptual framework, Kitaev raises these questions: Should primary and secondary formal education be considered a public good, or alternatively, a private good, or mix of both? Is formal primary, basic, and secondary education a government monopoly, or is it a part of the market (or industry) of educational services? Who benefits from formal compulsory education and who should pay for it? Should the State keep its key role in provision of formal primary, basic, and secondary education, or should it be subject to competition, furthermore deregulated, and privatized as, for example, railroads, energy, or telecommunications? Should parents have a school choice and pay some school expenditures directly to the school instead of paying government taxes? Are market forces and individual initiatives better able to manage schools and deliver the educational services than public authorities? What are the implications of private education for equity and efficiency of the whole education system? Is expansion of private schools a sign of growing income and spending disparities?

Although Kitaevas main focus is on developed societies, the questions are as relevant to developing societies and suggest challenges in the

funding and management of education. They suggest debatable issues for both Congress and the media. To respond to the myriad requirements a" improved teacher salaries, continuing teacher training, upgraded facilities, access to adequate instructional materials, etc. would require exploration of innovative financing schemes. …