Targeting pro-poor incentives

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.

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.

 Download the case study

IIEP's study "Achieving transparency in pro-poor education incentives" assumes that different models of design, targeting and management of pro-poor incentives can prove more or less successful in maximizing efficiency, transparency, and accountability, and in minimizing the likelihood of errors, fraud, and corrupt practices.

It demonstrates that some models may pose greater challenges to transparency and accountability than others (namely, targeted, in-kind, locally managed, or community-based). At the same time, these models may be the most adequate for local needs, especially if there are budget constraints, a vast and diverse territory, or demand for food at school.

Findings conclude that there is no best incentive model for transparency and accountability, but rather various possible strategies depending on each country's context, 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 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.

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