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Corruption in Education
The greatest cost of corruption in the education sector is the denial of young people reaching their full potential and becoming positive, contributing citizens to their communities and society. Given that education is the major driver of personal and social development, corruption in education guarantees an uncertain future by denying people their dignity, rewarding achievement without merit, and normalizing societal mistrust. Sustainable futures for the global community are in peril if corruption breaks down the political, social, and moral structures of nations.
The report Global Corruption Report: Education released by Transparency International frames corruption in education within the context of global trends and explains why education is vulnerable to abuse of power for private gain. In most nations, the education sector receives the largest or second largest percentage of public funds and employs the greatest number of public servants. According to the report, in countries such as Ethiopia and Indonesia, public spending on education exceeds more than a quarter of total public expenditure. This is a strong indicator that education is valued for its transformative contribution toward human and national development, yet this intrinsic understanding and the amount of money involved for financing makes education a high-stakes endeavor. Corruption in education will prevail for many middle- and low-income countries, which do not have the national capacity to appropriately manage financing, strong national and local administrative systems and structures, stakeholders invested in quality education services, or accountability systems.
Through country case studies, the report also documents corruption of various scale through different education levels and aspects of country education systems. Of the 27 high-, middle-, and low-income countries surveyed, the global average percentage of people documented as having paid a bribe in education is approximately 15%. The highest percentage recorded was nearly 40%. The same countries were surveyed on citizen perception of corruption in education, with a global average trending toward "very corrupt." In Peru, for example, 48% of people see the education system as corrupt or highly corrupt. Perception did not necessarily correlate to the prevalence of bribes reported by individual countries as one measure of corruption, but the average general perception that education is corrupt no matter what income level of the country speaks to public awareness that education is a high-stakes sector open to manipulation, which is perhaps even more widespread than currently documented. Other forms of unethical education practices documented in the report include misappropriation of funds in the provision of free primary education, teacher absenteeism, and the corruption risk of a growing private tutoring industry in some nations.
Global Corruption Report: Education highlights innovative anti-corruption solutions, including various ways in which the teaching profession and teachers can play an instrumental role in tackling corruption. Developing codes of conduct for teachers, for example, may be an effective tool in promoting ethical behavior in the classroom. Codes of conduct for educators also have the potential to motivate educators to think about their work in schools and with students and to consider their identity as educators, with a view to improving behavior and reducing inappropriate practices. Teacher preparation programs and training that include consideration of their professional and ethical responsibilities may strengthen teachers' capacity to take a lead in opposing corruption.
Ultimately, pervasive corruption in the education system is an affront to the basic right to education. It impacts provision of and access to necessary infrastructure and school buildings, incapacitates the development of quality curriculum and materials, and lowers the standards of teacher professional development. As the report describes, all of these factors negatively affect the transformative potential of education, but as education is essential for the realization of other human rights, the impact of corruption in education is more widely felt and leaves little hope for the sustainable future and prosperity of a nation.