BUDGETING: TOWARDS A MORE EQUITABLE SHARE FORMULA FOR SOUTH AFRICA EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

Budgeting is one of the most important tasks carried out by the government. South Africa budget on education is an aim towards more equitable share formula for the country’s education system. This is because, without adequate funding, even the best policies and plans will be hard to implement successfully. Budgeting is a political, economic, administrative and human-rights-based process. Political in the sense that it entails competition among various groups for limited resources. Economic in the sense that the budget is the government’s most important economic tool for setting the direction of the economy, and for allocating resources within the economy. The budget process is also a  vital administrative process, because it is central to the purposes of planning, coordinating, controlling and evaluating the activities of the government. Finally, government budgeting is also a human-rights process, in that the ultimate goal of the budget is to raise and allocate funds in a way that enables the government to fulfil its constitutional and international human rights obligations to people. One major part that goes for budgeting is education, which we know is a substantial part of the growth of any country.

Education is still considered a government responsibility and one of its main items of expenditure. Education budgets, therefore, have to meet ever-growing needs while debt-reduction policies are putting pressure on them to better target government intervention. Globalization makes the situation even more complex, as governments are affected by numerous external factors beyond their control.

How Much Does South Africa Spend on Education?

Education in South Africa is so consequential that the country regular spends more than 20 per cent of its resources on basic and higher education and its combined education spending is more than 6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Her total basic education budget is mostly divided between the national DBE and the nine provincial education departments (PEDs). However, of the total funds that are allocated to the DBE, around 70% are subsequently transferred to PEDs in the form of conditional grants. This means that the total provincial budget for basic education is made up of two funding streams: conditional grants from the DBE, and an amount allocated from the provinces’ equitable-share allocation. The latter is the provinces’ main budget for basic education: conditional grants supplement this budget. While there are many ways to break down the total basic education budget, one way is to divide the budget between national DBE expenditure, conditional grants and provincial equitable share expenditure on basic education. These main funding streams cover the following functions and expenditures: National DBE expenditure includes administration costs, curriculum policy, support and monitoring, teacher education and institutional development,  planning,  assessment and educational enrichment services.

South Africa Ranking By OBI

For the past 10 years, South Africa has consistently been ranked among the top six countries in the world by the internationally recognised Open Budget Index (OBI) for the transparency of its budget process. This means that a large amount of information on the budget is made available by the National Treasury in a timely and accessible manner. Provincial  Treasuries and local governments have a more mixed record in providing timely and up-to-date information on their budget processes;  sometimes documents are not made available online at all and must be requested – either from the provincial treasury or local government concerned or from National Treasury. No matter how much information is available,  however,  engaging with the budget process can be quite daunting at first. The remainder of this section will try to make engagement with the basic education budget process easier,  by explaining the main stakeholders involved and the key documents produced in this process, and by showing when in the year key budget decisions are made, and how the public can provide input into these important decision-making processes.

South Africa Education Funding Model

In order for education to be transformed, South Africa has been practising a more progressive funding model that provides relatively more funding to poorer and more rural provinces. Under such a model, poorer and more rural provinces, and provinces with historical backlogs in relation to trained teachers and school infrastructure, would have more education funds available per learner than richer and more urban provinces. Under the present formula, the opposite is the case. At only 3% of the total, the weighting given to the poverty component in the equitable-share formula is insufficient to reduce the inequality that exists due to the demographic,  economic and geographical differences between the provinces. In 2016/17, 3% of the provincial equitable share amounted to about R12 billion; a relatively small amount, which even if distributed progressively (i.e. a higher share to the poorer provinces) would not have a significant impact on poverty and inequality within or between the provinces.

The National Norms and Standards for School Funding (NNSSF), do take into account some of the above factors and are therefore a more redistributive funding mechanism than the equitable share formula. The same is largely true of conditional grants made to provinces. However, the NNSSF and conditional grants affect only 10 to 20% of total education funding (the remaining 80-90% is equitable share and personnel funding, which is also not significantly progressive or redistributive), which means that however redistributive the NNSSF are, they cannot fundamentally reduce disparities between poorer and richer schools. Also, by the time each school’s funding allocation based on the NNSSF is calculated, the total provincial equitable share has already been determined based on a formula that doesn’t take the need for redistribution and the achievement of equity and equality between schools and provinces that much into account. So, even if a province really wanted to equalise schooling inputs and outcomes for example, by making significant extra investments into poorer public schools its ability to do so is limited by the fact that its main budget is based on an equitable share formula that hasn’t taken this consideration significantly into account

No doubt, the south Government have always tried her part in budgeting and it’s allocating formula, however, there are at least two things the government can do to achieve a more equitable share formula for education, such as a policy that the national Treasury and the Department of Basic Education should analyse the cost differences of providing education in rural and urban settings, and adjust the formula accordingly and also that treasury should increase the weighting given to the poverty component of the formula so that provinces with a higher share of their population living in poverty receive relatively more funds. This is necessary to reduce inequality within and between the provinces, as the Constitution requires.

Until these issues with the formula are addressed, the current high levels of inequality between wealthier provinces, schools and learners and those that are less well-resourced will be difficult to overcome. South African Government should keep pushing forward.

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