Tackling taboo of education corruption

Money bag

"There was always a lot of resistance about talking about this problem. They didn't want to associate this word with education."

The word causing such discomfort is "corruption".

Muriel Poisson is a senior researcher for the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), based in Paris, France, which this week launched an international initiative to try to prevent corruption within education.

The IIEP, a research institute that is part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), has created a global online database and information centre for tackling the misappropriation of education funding.

It's been claimed as the world's first such online hub specialising in preventing corruption in schools and universities.

"It hasn't been solved, but least we're talking about it," says Ms Poisson. "It's more and more on the agenda."

'Leakages'

It's not difficult to see why corruption in education systems, particularly in the context of developing countries, has been an uncomfortable topic.

Mural in school The drive to improve schools is put at risk by corruption, say researchers

If donors are being asked for money to improve education in poorer countries, it's difficult if funding is failing to reach its intended target.

The information being gathered by the IIEP researchers talks of "leakages" between the money and material being put in to the system and what arrives in the classroom.

A search through the anti-corruption database - called Etico - shows that in some sub-Saharan African countries in previous years there could be leakages of 80% in supplying textbooks.

"Talking about corruption means you're pointing the finger," says Ms Poisson.

This might mean accusing high-level officials. But it can also raise some more complex questions about who is to blame for low-level corruption in schools in impoverished countries.

The problem of "ghost teachers", where payments are taken for non-existent teaching posts, or where teachers are absent, can account for 15% to 20% of the budget for teaching staff in some countries, says the IIEP.

Transparency

But teachers can be missing from school because they haven't been paid their salaries for months - and they have to take up jobs in other schools or in other workplaces. Who should be blamed?

African classroom Funds are badly needed to improve classrooms in developing countries

And teachers who are paid low wages might have become accustomed to topping up their pay with unofficial fees for a place in school.

There are many factors that hold back education in developing countries, says Ms Poisson. "But corruption can be a key factor - and it's often the poorest who are the first to be affected."

The idea behind the online database is to build a digital reference point for any research into the topic and to provide examples of projects with ideas for tackling corruption.

Among the cases highlighted is a transparency scheme in Rajasthan in India, where details of what should be allocated to the school and the attendance of teachers is painted on to the side of the building, so that everyone can scrutinise the finances.

In Brazil there have been councils of local people created to supervise spending on school meals and to prevent fraud.

Lack of information

As well as a reluctance to address corruption in education, there has also been a scarcity of reliable data on the scale of the problem, says Ms Poisson. She says that "millions of dollars have been sucked out of the system", but there is no confident estimate of how many millions.

Going to school in New Delhi Walking to school in New Delhi: The Unesco project will create a research hub

"It's been very scattered. It's very difficult for people to get clear information," she says.

The online portal is intended to gather such information, offer case studies of successful anti-corruption tactics and build an archive for researchers and policymakers.

But it's a problem with many dimensions. It can be major fraud, such as the dishonest awarding of lucrative contracts or procurements in building work, learning materials, staffing or school supplies.

It can mean inflating costs in a way that uses education funding to line pockets rather than furnish young minds.

Or else it can be more localised, such as bribes for a university place or buying a fake degree.

In either case, it's deeply corrosive to the fairness and reliability of an education system. And it's an obstacle for any attempt to raise standards.

Concerns about fraud in education have been highlighted by Transparency International, the Berlin-based anti-corruption campaign group.

A report said one in six students around the world had been asked for a bribe in the course of their studies.

"It's very difficult to say whether it's getting worse or better," says Ms Poisson.

"But the fight against corruptions should be at the top of the agenda."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    10:19: CHINA MOBILE

    China Mobile the nation's largest telecom provider, said net profit for the first nine months of 2014 fell 9.7% to 82.6 billion yuan (£8.38bn,$13.49bn) amid rising competition from rival carriers and Internet-based service providers.

     
  2.  
    10:01: MORTGAGE LENDING
    A row of terraced houses in south London

    Mortgage lending for the three months to the end of September was £55.5bn. That's 8% higher than the previous three months and 13% higher than the same period a year earlier. So, not a huge amount of evidence of a slowdown in the property market, really. Bank of England chief economist Andrew Haldane's comments that interest rates might not rise until after the general election may also mean people feel a little less nervous about taking out a mortgage. But then again, if stock markets continue to tumble then mortgage activity might slow as confidence evaporates. Serious question: Who'd be an economist?

     
  3.  
    09:53: MORTGAGE LENDING

    Mortgage lending in September stood at £17.8bn - 1% lower than August's £18bn figure, but still 10% higher than the £16.2bn advanced to mortgage borrowers in September 2013, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has said. The body which represents 95% of mortgage lenders in the UK reckons uncertainty about the timing of an interest rate rise by the Bank of England was one of the key factors in the slight slowdown in lending.

     
  4.  
    09:35: ROYAL MAIL JOBS
    Royal Mail staff at the St. Rollox sorting office in Glasgow,

    Incidentally, Royal Mail has also started its annual recruitment drive to help with the Christmas post, saying 19,000 temporary jobs will be available. Now all we need is the first Christmas ads and John Lewis to put its Christmas decorations up in store, and we're all set for the traditional retail frenzy that embodies the spirit of the festive season. That's right, isn't it?

     
  5.  
    AMAZON JOBS Via Twitter Ben Thompson Business correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: "Amazon to create 13,000 seasonal jobs in run up to Christmas. On busiest day last year, customers ordered 4.1m items - 47 every second."

     
  6.  
    09:07: SAP DOWNGRADE

    German software developer SAP has fallen 3.9% this morning in Frankfurt after letting on that 2014 profit will be lower than previously forecast. Services in the cloud are putting pressure on profits.

     
  7.  
    08:50: FORD INVESTMENT Radio 5 live

    Ford is investing about £200m at its Dagenham plant creating about 300 jobs to make diesel engines. Mark Ovenden of Ford is on 5 live. Engines are Britain's strength in vehicle manufacture, he says.

     
  8.  
    08:39: MARKET REPORT

    The FTSE 100 is behaving a bit oddly in early trading. It opened up 8 points this morning then promptly remembered the eurozone is teetering on the edge of a third crisis and there's less global economic growth out there and fell again. Now it's up 3 points again at 6313.64 . The situation is a bit worse for Germany's Dax - down 52 points to 8797.85 - and France's Cac-40 - down 23 points to 4010.12.

     
  9.  
    08:28: TAX MARK

    SSE is touting its award of the new Fair Tax Mark, which has been set up to show companies are being open about what tax they pay. Other recipients include Go-Ahead Group , Midcounties Co-operative, Phone Co-op and Unity Trust Bank. Margaret Hodge, chair of parliament's Public Accounts Committee, said she hoped other companies would follow SSE's example.

     
  10.  
    08:16: PONTOON CYCLING
    Computer generated image of the floating cycle route

    Is the floating bike path a sustainable solution or an expensive distraction? We think you probably just need to look at the picture (above) for the answer to that question. But if you really feel the need to read about one of the more outlandish proposals being considered by Mayor of London Boris Johnson then by all means take a look. Some have baulked at the £600m price tag. But no doubt the team behind the 'Thames Deckway' thought "Boris. Keen Cycler, loves things that float (think airports), it's bound to be a winner."

     
  11.  
    08:00: SHIRE FINANCE CHIEF EXIT

    Drugs firm Shire has announced that interim chief financial officer James Bowling has resigned after ten years with the firm. He is joining Severn Trent as CFO and will leave Shire at the end of March 2015. Shire saw more than 30% of its share value wiped out last week after the collapse of a £32bn takeover from US rival AbbVie. Shire will start the search for a new CFO immediately.

     
  12.  
    07:45: SPIRIT PUB OFFER
    The badge of Greene King brewers on a pub wall

    Spirit pub company, which runs about 750 pubs, says Greene King has made a better offer to take the company over. They would get 0.1322 Greene King shares per Spirit share and a cash payment of 8 pence, worth a total of about 109.5 pence. Spirit's board says it may recommend the offer once a few details have been ironed out.

     
  13.  
    07:33: BUDGET GIVEAWAY?
    Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

    Don't expect any traditional tax giveaways ahead of the general election. In a move akin to "good luck, there's no money left", Cabinet ministers have been warned by the Treasury that it is likely they will have to rein in their spending in the run-up to the election because of a shortfall in tax revenues and concerns about the global economy, the Financial Times has reported today. Treasury secretary Danny Alexander has told the Cabinet tax revenues are not recovering as quickly as the economy so he might have to impose new spending controls in the Autumn Statement. Yikes.

     
  14.  
    07:21: BANK OF JAPAN

    Japan's central bank has maintained its economic assessment for eight of the country's nine regions in its quarterly report, saying they continue to recover. The north-eastern Tohoku region cut its assessment from July, to say that the recovery trend is slowing.

     
  15.  
    07:07: IBM NEWS
    chip

    IBM says it will make a "major business announcement" today. Various newspapers including the Wall Street Journal think it will sell off its loss-making microchip-making business. IBM will pay Globalfoundries $1.5bn (£931m) to take the chip operations off its hands, says the WSJ.

     
  16.  
    06:50: UK GROWTH BBC Radio 4

    Peter Spencer, economic adviser to the EY Item Club, tells the Today programme housing investment along with business investment has been responsible for "about half of the economic growth" we have see in the UK since the start of the recovery. But people are beginning to worry about global growth and the UK's economic outlook. Concerns about economic developments at home and abroad has meant there are already signs of "a return to caution by both borrowers and lenders in the mortgage market".

     
  17.  
    06:35: STOCK MARKET TURMOIL BBC Radio 4

    Last week's stock market sell off is on the business agenda today. "Everyone was feeling nervous. We just need a very small straw to break the camel's back I think it was the Ebola virus," James Bevan chief investment officer at CCLA Investment Management tells the Today programme. "We had a lot of other things going on but I think Ebola was the thing that made investors say to themselves 'let's sit this one out'. There has been no real change in the hard economic data." He is worried about bond yields spiking "as they did in 1987" though.

     
  18.  
    06:24: EUROZONE ECONOMY Radio 5 live
    Jose Manual Barroso

    Jose Manual Barroso, outgoing President of the European Commission, has told the BBC he doesn't think another recession in the eurozone is likely. Official statistics suggest a "weaker recovery than anticipated. Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament is on Radio 5 live and says Britain should be "more positive towards the eurozone"

     
  19.  
    06:13: INTERN PAY Radio 5 live

    Christian May from the Institute of Directors is on 5 live talking about employment reform, including reforms to how interns are paid, or otherwise. "It's worth considering it's unlikely to be a silver bullet," he says. There's a chance restrictions could be gamed to allow employers not to pay interns. While 25% of businesses have interns they don't pay, "in this day and age its getting difficult to justify having someone work for them and not paying them."

     
  20.  
    06:03: ETHICAL INVESTMENTS Radio 5 live

    Justin Urquhart Stewart of 7 Investment Management is on 5 live talking about ethical investment. "It's very badly marketed so people don't understand it ," He says. But because such investments strip out companies such as tobacco, alcohol, arms and oil, returns can also be slim.

     
  21.  
    06:01: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning. Get in touch via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk and twitter @BBCBusiness.

     
  22.  
    06:00: Matthew West Business reporter

    Morning folks. It's a gloomy start to the day with the EY Item Club downgrading its 2015 UK economic growth forecast quite sharply this morning as a result of the global slowdown and uncertainty over interest rates. There's more housing market data out later and the Prime Minister is going to be pushing for more apprenticeships today too. We'll bring you more as it happens.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.