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School education in India more expensive: UNESCO
October 12, 2007 12:29 IST
Families in India have to spend a considerable amount on the primary school education of their children, making the fundamental right to basic education a distant dream, according to a recent UNESCO report. In contrast, university education remains subsidised and costs just half of the primary school spending.
"Households pay for more than one-quarter, 28 per cent, of the costs to send their children to primary and secondary school. These fees pose a very real barrier for the children of poor families," said the 'Global Education Digest 2007', released by UNESCO's Institute for Statistics.
"Yet, at the same time, households assume just 14 per cent of the costs for university education, which typically benefits better off students," it added.
Mapping latest education statistics from primary to tertiary levels in more than 200 countries, the report focuses on the financing of education and provides a series of indicators to compare spending patterns across countries and levels of education.
The report stresses the need to monitor the balance between public and private expenditure. "Systems that are overly reliant on private contributions, especially at the primary level of education, raise the risk of excluding students from poorer families," it warns.
Noting that in a small number of countries the main flow of funding for primary and secondary education comes directly from the government to public institutions, the report says there are exceptions such as India where "a substantial share of the public education budget is channeled to private institutions."
"In India, it is the result of a system by which the government contracts private schools to help meet demand for the schools exceeding public systems," the report said
As for distribution of educational resources in the country, the UNESCO report said that the distribution of funds was extremely uneven. "In India, this is largely because of low participation rates at the higher levels of education. The majority of children do have access to low cost primary education but are largely excluded from higher levels of education where greater resources per student are invested," it said.
"Equity issues are clearly at play given this uneven distribution of resources," it adds. In the global scenario, the US emerged as the single greatest investor in education with its public education budget being close to the combined budget of all governments in the six regions: the Arab States, Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, South and West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Nations in sub-Saharan Africa spend only 2.4 per cent of the world's public education resources. But over 15 per cent of the school-age population lives in these countries, according to the report.
In contrast, the United States, which is home to just 4 per cent of the world's children and young people, spends 28 per cent of the global education budget. "This is mainly due to the large numbers of university students and the relatively high costs associated with this level of education," the report said.
East Asia and the Pacific has the second-highest share of global public spending on education at 18 per cent, after the North American and Western European region. Yet governments in the region are investing considerably less than their share of global wealth at 28 per cent of GDP on 29 per cent of the school-age population.The opposite scenario is found in South and West Asia, where 7 per cent of the world's public education resources are spent on 28 per cent of children and young people. A more balanced situation emerges in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region which accounts for 8 per cent to 9 per cent of global education spending, the school-age population and global wealth.