In the efforts made to progress towards the EFA goals, educational incentives – e.g. school grants, scholarships, special allowances or subsidies, free textbooks or school meals – are regarded as key tools to reach the individuals, schools, and areas most in need. However, as shown by previous studies conducted by IIEP in this domain, while targeted measures can prove very useful in reaching specific groups in some contexts, in others, they tend to divert from their original objective and never reach their intended beneficiaries.
In this context, IIEP has launched a study comparing different mechanisms of allocation of incentives in order to determine which ones prove more (or less) successful in reaching their intended beneficiaries according to various contextual elements. The research concentrated on the case of seven countries that undertook radical reforms of their policy of targeting incentives – USA, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Cambodia, India, and Viet Nam. The countries were selected according to criteria representing the main differences that permeate incentive programmes, including:
- Focus of incentives: beneficiary-focused vs. school-focused;
- Selection of programme population: targeted vs. universal programme;
- Granting of incentives: conditional vs. unconditional;
- Nature of incentives: cash-based vs. in-kind;
- Mode of implementation: top down vs. community based.
Findings conclude that there is no best incentive model for transparency and accountability, but rather various possible strategies depending on each country context, on national educational strengths and weaknesses, and therefore on the kind of incentive needed. More important than the adopted incentive model are the deliberate actions taken in order to face the existing risks to transparency and accountability. Robust evaluation frameworks, frequent and publicized reports, benchmarking, and channels for active community participation are among the various solutions available in the above cases to enhance programmes’ transparency and accountability.