Written by Anne Sofie Olsen
In Haiti, education is expensive. The majority of families in Haiti cannot afford the costs of education. Given that most schools are privately owned and tuition-based, access to education is low. The government allocates only a small proportion of its budget to the sector (3.5% of GDP in 2014 according to the World Bank ‘Haiti Poverty Assessment’) and merely operates about 15% of all schools.
A new national pact on education is currently being developed by the Government of Haiti and civil society in order to ensure access to free and compulsory education across the Haitian territory. This pact entails five ambitious engagements towards; 1) compulsory and free supply of education, 2) education and protection of early childhood, 3) languages of teaching, 4) governance of the education system, 5) financing of the education sector.
Basically, by the start of the 2015/16 school year, the government is committed to securing a budget of minimum 25% of the national budget, or 6% of GDP for education – and already by September 2016 this should reach 30% of the national budget, or 8 % of GDP.
In 2016, the government also intends to ensure that all Haitian children between ages 6-11 have access to free education, while a language policy should be adopted underlining the usage of both French and Creole in schools as well as English and Spanish as foreign languages.
By 2020, the government of Haiti aims at having bridged the gap between public and private offers of education, and hence having reached public coverage of 60% of elementary school students across the national territory. Five years after, all children of elementary school should be entitled to free and compulsory education. Furthermore, by 2030 70% of all Haitian youth would have access to free secondary education, while all children between the ages of 0-5 would receive protection and education.
The question remains how the Ministry of Education and Professional Training specifically intends to achieve the transition from an education that is privately owned and quite expensive to an education system that is mainly public and free. According to the pact, one of the main activities foreseen in this process is elaborating contracts with certified schools that are receiving subventions from the state (30% of private schools are currently receiving subventions).
The IDB is supporting the Ministry in the development of several of the tools mentioned in the pact. Beyond building schools and supporting subventions, this includes a school mapping that will help determine the availability and needs of educational infrastructure in specific regions according to demographic information, as well as a financing strategy and the elaboration of legal frameworks and policies.
For those of us working in the education sector in Haiti, we look forward to following the actual implementation of this pact closely. The public-private gap in Haiti has affected educational outcomes negatively. Insufficient funding and lack of effective monitoring and regulatory enforcement have not only meant that access to education has been limited but also that education quality tends to be low.