Lessons From Kosovo: Primary Education Spending in a Post-Conflict Context – By Milena Lavigne

March 3, 2016Company News

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During 2015 summer, Fiscus’ Evaluation Specialist, Milena Lavigne, worked on a UNICEF-funded public expenditure review ofprimary education in Kosovo (read her report here). The work constituted a very rich experience in a complex country that faces considerable challenges, particularly in the education sector. Public Expenditure Reviews are “diagnostics instruments used to evaluate the effectiveness of public finances. They typically analyse government expenditures over a period of years to assess their consistency with policy priorities, and what results were achieved” (World Bank). This blog summarises some of Milena’s key lessons from her work in Kosovo.

This was the first time, an estimation of total public spending on Primary Education had been prepared in Kosovo, and it has allowed the Government and its partners to see how the country is performing against international benchmarks. In 2014, education spending was some 18% of total public expenditure, of which primary education spending was just less than a third (4.95 % of total public expenditure). In per capita terms, it amounts to €522 per pupil, or 17.1% of per capita GDP, which is substantially less than the regional average: if Kosovo is to catch up with high performing neighbours such as Slovenia, it must raise per capita spending on primary education.

Figure 1: Public Expenditure on Primary Education as percentage of GDP and as percentage of GDP per capita: Kosovo* and Neighbouring countries (2012 or latest year)

 Source: UNICEF (2015) Public Expenditure on Primary Education for Kosovo [online]: http://www.unicef.org/kosovoprogramme/Kosovo_(UNSCR_1244)_Primary_Education_PER_Summary_of_Report_Final.pdf

 

In terms of results, Kosovo has almost reached the target of universal primary education. Net enrolment rates are 98% and completion rates of primary to lower secondary are 97%, both of which place its performance above most neighbouring countries.

However, in terms of quality of learning, the results of the 5th grade assessment suggest a low average (In 2010: 46.7 out of 100 in mathematics; and 51.7 out of 100 in language) as well as high disparities between municipalities. Moreover, Kosovo still suffers important disparities between ethnic minorities (particularly Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) communities). The results for these communities are far below the Kosovo average. Additionally, Serbian minority pupils have their own parallel education system funded by the Serbian Government, which also reflects the complexity of the situation that still remains in the country.

Figure 2: Primary education indicators for total population and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities (2013-2014)

 Source: UNICEF (2015) Public Expenditure on Primary Education for Kosovo [online]: http://www.unicef.org/kosovoprogramme/Kosovo_(UNSCR_1244)_Primary_Education_PER_Summary_of_Report_Final.pdf

The challenge for Kosovo is how to improve quality and address the needs of disadvantaged groups, while maintaining universal access to primary education. Three sets of changes will need to be made:

–          Firstly, public spending per pupil must increase, by increasing the share of the national budget to education and by keeping the savings made possible by the demographic change in the school-age population.

–          Secondly, the balance of spending must shift towards non-salary recurrent expenditures – those operations and maintenance expenditures needed to run the project at a level consistent with its expected use, and to maintain the capacity of the investment, and that do not include the salary. This would enhance quality: for example, by providing more modern (perhaps computer-based) teaching and learning materials and more regular and higher quality in-service training for teachers.

–          Thirdly, new spending programmes will need to be initiated to provide targeted support to the disadvantaged RAE communities and to introduce one year of pre-primary schooling. This is likely to be the most cost-effective way to enhance primary and secondary learning outcomes.

To conclude, our work has highlighted the importance of investing in education in post-conflict context as a social cohesion tool. In this sense, Kosovo* seems to have a relatively inclusive education system with efforts on multi-linguistic teaching, however, some communities remain marginalized from it, in particular for RAE children, whose education indicators are far below the national average.