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."


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.


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


Business Live

    09:21: Paddy Power results
    World Cup

    It's a lucky day for Paddy Power investors after the company said it will return €392m cash to shareholders after failing to find any potential bid targets. Operating profit jumped by a better than expected 19% to €163.8m for 2014, helped by last summer's World Cup, which was won by Germany.

    Barclays results Via Email Chirantan Barua Bernstein Research

    Dividends were held flat for the fourth quarter at 3.5p as compared to last year and came in lower than consensus at 3.7p. Non-progressive nature will be taken as marginally negative and also highlights that the bank's key focus continues to be capital build.

    08:53: Business Matters World Service
    Royal Enfield

    Can India's cities become cleaner and greener? Business Matters on the World Service is live from Chennai all week. In the first programme Fergus Nicoll asks whether the infrastructure is fit for purpose - and visits an Indian success story with its roots in Britain: Royal Enfield motorcycles. Listen here.

    08:41: Barclays
    Barclays shares

    Shares in Barclays are down 2.3%, or 6.15p, at 256.6p in morning trading in London. The stock has not moved much over the past 12 months given that it's just 8.7p higher than the price on March 4 last year.

    08:27: Ford BBC Radio 4
    Ford Mustang

    Jim Farley, Ford's European president, tells presenter Simon Jack on Today that he hopes Britain does not leave the European Union. One in three engines made by the company comes from the UK, which he described as the "centrepiece" of its global enterprise. Asked about the Russian market, Farley said Ford believed in it in the long term but admitted that some short-term adjustments were required because of the volatile economy.

    08:14: Taylor Wimpey results

    If you're a house builder and you're not making piles of money, then something is very wrong. Fortunately for Taylor Wimpey that is not the case. Annual pre-tax profits are up two thirds to £450m before one-off deductions as 12,454 homes were completed across the UK - 758 more than in 2013 - with an 11.5% rise in average selling price to £213,000.

    07:56: Barclays results

    While Mr Jenkins takes his first annual bonus with Barclays, the overall 2014 bonus pool for the bank is down £520m to £1.86bn. Most of the total - £1.05bn - goes to the investment bank. Its capital ratio, a measure of strength against unexpected losses, is up to 10.3% from 9.1%.

    07:44: Barclays results BBC Radio 4

    Barclays chief Antony Jenkins is on Today. The bank is the healthiest it has been since the financial crisis, he says. Changing culture at the bank takes a long time, Mr Jenkins adds, but the "vast majority" of his 130,000 bankers "want to do the right thing". He is taking a bonus of £1.1m after the "huge amount of progress" the bank has made. Asked about the topic du jour, Mr Jenkins says he pays all his tax in the UK and as a US green card holder.

    07:37: Barclays results

    Barclays wrote down the value of its education, social housing and local authority loan portfolio by £935m. Last year the portfolio was valued at just less than £16bn, but at that time, the lender reclassified the loans as "level 3" assets. That's City-speak for loans you cannot value easily because they don't sell very often.

    07:24: Direct Line results
    Direct Line website

    It's been a good 2014 for Direct Line, with pre-tax profits up 12% to £456.8m and a windfall of £430m from the sale of its international business. Shareholders will pocket total dividends of 27.2p per share, up from 20.6p in 2013. Harvey Keitel probably pocked a pretty penny too for featuring in its TV ads.

    07:16: Barclays results

    Antony Jenkins will take his first bonus as chief executive of the lender: £1.1m. The bank also said it would increase its provision for payment protection insurance (PPI) by £200m for the last three months of 2014, taking the year's total to £1.1bn. Excluding these provisions and other things the bank considers one-offs, pre-tax profit rose 12% to £5.5bn. But including the nasties, the figure sank 21% to £2.26bn.

    07:03: Barclays results

    Barclays have posted their 2014 results. They have set aside an extra £750m after those investigations for foreign exchange manipulation, taking the pot to £1.25bn.

    06:53: Barclays BBC Radio 4

    Chris Wheeler, of Atlantic Equities, has also popped up on Today. He tells Simon Jack that Barclays is doing only "averagely well ... it's still work in progress". He expects pre-tax profits to be about £5.2bn when the bank reports its annual results at 7am.

    06:35: Markets performance Radio 5 live

    Justin Urquhart-Stewart of 7 Investments is still on 5 live. "We are dealing with companies that make a profit and make things," he says of the Nasdaq's rally. The dotcom boom was based on companies that failed to make money, although "we have to be wary" because markets in 2015 are gorged on cheap money and cheap debt.

    06:23: Barclays results Radio 5 live

    Chris Wheeler of Atlantic Equities is talking about Barclays. £5.2bn pretax profits are on the cards for the bank in its annual results, he estimates - a tad ahead of last year's result. However, "it's the return on equity that counts", he says. The bank is struggling to make 10%, which for a high-risk endeavour like banking is not where you want that figure, Wheeler adds. Results come at 07:00.

    06:11: Markets performance Radio 5 live

    Justin Urquhart-Stewart of 7 Investments is on 5 live as the markets guest. "You have a global economy in pretty good shape and in the eurozone some better figures," he says, following soaring US markets. The FTSE 100 may grow further if there's better sentiment from China, he adds.

    06:02: Mobile World Congress Radio 5 live

    Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent, is in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai is "making some tough decisions" and focusing Sony on things like films and games and camera technology: the areas that make money, he tells 5 live. Like many companies, it's finding mobile phones a tricky market.

    06:00: Chris Johnston Business reporter

    Get in touch via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on twitter @BBCBusiness

    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning! US stocks hit record levels, with both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 closing at all-time highs and the Nasdaq breaking the 5,000 barrier for the first time in 15 years. Is that going to last? Stay tuned for more.



  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

  • Aimen DeanI spied

    The founder member of al-Qaeda who worked for MI6

  • Man in pollution mask in BeijingSmog storm

    Chinese climate film inspired by baby's tumour goes viral

  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?

From BBC Capital


  • 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statueClick Watch

    Using drones to 3D map the famous Brazilian landmark Christ the Redeemer

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.