UNESCO report spotlights corruption in education systems


Entitled “Corrupt school, corrupt universities: What can be done,” the study by UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning traces illegal registration fees, academic fraud, embezzlement and other problems which are undermining education systems worldwide. “Such widespread corruption not only costs society billions of dollars, it also seriously undermines the vital effort to provide education for all,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “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.” The report assessed the experiences of more than 60 countries, with information derived from government ministries, development agencies and research institutes. Several cases studies illustrate the array of corrupt practices in both rich and poorer countries. Bribes and payoffs in the recruitment and promotion of teachers lowers their quality, and illegal fees paid for school entrance and other hidden costs result in low enrollment and high dropout rates, the study noted. Also, according to recent surveys, ‘ghost teachers’ take up five per cent of the payroll in Honduras and 15 per cent in Papua New Guinea. In universities, much of the corruption is in the form of fake universities offering bogus degrees and engaging in accreditation fraud. Phony universities offering sham degrees have quadrupled from 200 to 800 on the Internet between 2000 and 2004. The report also examines cases in which corruption in education systems has been ameliorated through the introduction of simple measures. For example, in the early 1990s in Uganda, only 13 per cent of the funds granted to schools per student was actually received, while the rest was utilized by local officials for purposes unrelated to education. However, a national campaign highlighting the fact that the funds were not reaching their intended target has lead to an improvement in the situation, as schools are now receiving 85 per cent of the allocated funds. Leadership and political will at the highest levels of government is crucial, the study argued. Transparent regulatory systems and stronger management efforts to bring about greater accountability are among the improvements necessary for corruption in education systems to abate. The report recommended that management, accounting, monitoring and audit skills are crucial for such groups as administrative staff of schools, parent-teacher associations, unions and other individuals associated with the educational process. In addition, schools must be properly informed to not only detect possible fraud, but also to know what resources they are entitled to receive. 6 June 2007Corruption in schools creates serious obstacles to education, according to a new report launched today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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