The general notion accepted on the subject of education financing understands that private education is much more expensive than public education. While parents have to spend a large part of their income on educating their children in institutional schools, they do not have to pay even a penny to educate their child at the basic level of community schools. Based on this notion institutional schools are often inculpated for the excessive fees they charge to operate their schools. However, one must understand that public education is not free and it runs heavily on the taxpayer’s money. Moreover, the government is not the sole financier of public education. It is only one of the many sources of financing community schools, which means that the fund received is often insufficient to carry out all the activities that a school needs to perform. Thus, a majority of schools opt to search for funding from other sources like local government, donations, charity from international organizations, leasing land, school run business and many other potential sources. If we add up all of these additional costs, the cost of education in community schools becomes comparable to (if not greater than) that in institutional schools.
This claim has been clearly justified with the cost per child calculation. The per student cost was NRS. 16097.11 in the year 2015/16 in community schools when calculated by dividing the total funds received by the schools with the total number of children enrolled. But, while accounting for other performance variables such as the retention rate and pass rate, the story changed entirely. While considering only those students who were retained until the end of the year 2015/16, the cost per child in community schools increased to NRs. 25799.39 from NRs. 16097.11. Furthermore, while considering only the students who were able to graduate, it further rose to NRs 27,883.68 in the same year. The per student cost in institutional school during the same year was NRs. 28, 392, which is comparable to the per child cost in community schools.
We can infer from this data that public education is relatively cheaper, but it has not been able to generate desirable results which have led to massive increase in costs. If the current state of public education continues, and community schools do not improve in terms of their pass rate and retention rate, the cost of public education will further rise and be costlier than institutional schooling. Hence, it is high time that we make reforms in the public education system in order to improve the outcomes in community schools. Improvement in the outcome is not only an extremely important goal to advance public education; but also a means to reduce the cost of education. Pouring more money into public education without proper reform is a huge waste of scarce financial resources.
The existing financing model of public education, size of public investment on education, and quality of output of public investment on education point to the fact that there is an urgent need to introduce a structural reform in the sector. Education is one of the biggest areas of government investment. In that sense, it runs heavily on taxpayers’ money. It, therefore, becomes imperative to ensure that allocation of resources is optimal to the extent possible; their use – efficient, and quality of outcome – high.