For some of countries lagging behind in progress, the problem is not always because they lack necessary resources in catching up with living standards and ensure quality service for its citizens. To the contrary, resources are just one of the necessities required in ensuring fair and equal development. This reasoning applies to all aspects of sustainable progress. For the sake of the argument let us look at education. In many countries around the world today education is a social commodity maintained, developed and provided by the governments. Whether through foreign aid or direct in-country investments, governments receive or invest vast amount of financial resources to ensure provision of education services. Private as well as public education institutions equip young men and women with necessary know how. Albeit limited, families in need of assistance can apply for financial support programs thus ensuring their children’s education endeavors as well. These equal opportunity possibilities however misrepresent the idea of ensuring equal education for all. Because making good education free and accessible to all is not the only component for diminishing the inequality in the communities.
Education expenditures are the largest budget allocations under the public sector umbrella in a number of countries. Typically these investments amount to 20 percent of the total state budgets.
By itself, service of education is a very complex system, both in terms of the services provided and the administrative process of allocating the budget to provide these services. Thus, corruption is also a serious problem in education. Yet, due to the difficulties in measuring educational outcomes, it is not easy to differentiate inefficiencies in administrating and delivering educational services from corruption.
In the meantime, the social costs of corruption in education provision are enormous. After all, the youth, the future of society, are the ones receiving the formal education. By making formal education available not according to merit and need, but according to political patronage or other dishonest criteria the potential social returns of the investment in education are severely limited. Not only does a corrupt education system produce incompetent professionals such as doctors, engineers, scientists and politicians who are unable to provide services, but also it produces a future generation that, from a very young age, believes corruption is a socially acceptable norm.
Corruption in education disproportionately affects the poor and disadvantaged groups by preventing them from getting proper education and restricting their ability to improve their human capital. These groups cannot afford to make that “extra payment” to receive the “free service”. Furthermore, because they are not in a position to reciprocate a “favor” with a favor to the bribe seeker, they are asked to pay bigger bribes both relative to their income and in nominal terms.
The poor and disadvantaged groups are less informed about their rights and less likely to challenge corrupt behavior. Therefore, as is documented in rural Cameroon, it is more likely that their children will suffer from missed education days by corrupt teachers. As in Pakistan, it is more likely that ghost schools will be built in impoverished communities rather than in affluent neighborhoods. As in South Korea, when public school teachers ask students to come to their private lessons in order to learn, the children of poor and disadvantaged families are left out. As in China, the public schools that provide good education but ask for illicit payments in recruitment and admissions are only afforded by the rich and advantaged groups. I don’t want to talk about education services in Azerbaijan. Every single citizen knows about it may be more or less than me. The list of corrupt activities in education that prevents children from poor and disadvantaged groups from receiving a quality education is a long one. Yet, the main premise is simple: education expenditures as a social investment are not producing the best results. In particular, the poor and disadvantaged groups are the ones who are not getting their share from this investment.
What there is to remember is that lack of good governance defined as a participatory, accountable, transparent, efficient, all inclusive, law abiding and with reduced prospects for any corruption in providing education service affects those with lower human capital more than others.