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A qualified labour force is a key determinant of economic growth. The literature refers to education as a growth-enhancing asset. As such, Mauritius, being a small island economy with very few natural resources, relies heavily on its human capital for the development of the country. The basic principle underlying the concept of human resource development is access to education. Consequently, the introduction of free primary and secondary education in 1976 has been fundamental in transforming Mauritius into a success story. Since education is viewed as the birthright of every child, investment in education has always been on the high side in Mauritius.
Nonetheless, access to education can be largely limited by financial barriers, especially for the poor. The main financial constraints of education are direct costs (school fees), indirect costs (transport fees, school uniforms, stationery and other learning materials) and opportunity costs (foregone wages and time for household chores). At a macro-level, barriers arising as a result of situations of conflict and fragility (administrative incapability, lack of political will to provide primary education, hence resulting in an underinvestment in education) overlay financial and other barriers to access education.
Efforts to alleviate barriers to accessing education have been further accentuated in middle-income and low-income countries, conflict-affected and fragile states, by the goal of "Education for All" and the Millennium Development Goals. Such efforts encompass a range of social protection measures that include cash transfer programmes, abolition of fees and school feeding programmes. In this line, the Government of Mauritius also provides free education to all children of school age at pre-primary, primary and secondary levels to ensure that all children are literate. The Cambridge School Certificate (SC) and Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination fees are waived for those students whose monthly family income lies below Rs 7000. Free transport is also provided to all students at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, irrespective of their economic status such that transportation costs no longer act as a barrier to schooling. Inequality between the high and low performing primary schools is reduced through the introduction of the Zone Education Prioritaire (ZEP) strategy. Additionally, the special education needs of school-age children are taken care of by means of an enhanced regulatory and institutional framework that ensures increased and better access to quality education for all children with visual, hearing, mental and physical disabilities.
At the tertiary level, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources awards several scholarships including a full scholarship for students following courses at post-secondary institutions in Mauritius, with monthly household income not exceeding Rs 10,000 and who face severe hardship following the death or serious incapacity of the wage earner. The Ministry also provides a "Government guaranteed student loan scheme" allowing commercial banks to make loans to all students with an offer from a recognised tertiary institution in Mauritius. The guarantee aims at ensuring that no one is turned away from tertiary education due to financial constraints.
However, nowadays it is becoming increasingly important to employ public resources in the most efficient and effective manner owing to the expanding pressures on government resources that stem from demographic trends (ageing population) and globalization. These public resources are mostly generated from taxes which create distortions in the allocation of resources, and thus hamper economic growth. Hence, it is vital that resources are spent in such a way that long-term growth perspectives are improved. Similarly, in the case of government expenditure on education and social protection, the resources spent on these items should be efficiently allocated.
The study aims at assessing the existing social protection programmes directed towards addressing the educational needs of the vulnerable children in Mauritius as well as those that seek to improve the educational system in Mauritius. The effectiveness of the different programmes is assessed through the Programme Based Budgeting (PBB) of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources - the success of the schemes is examined with regard to their respective performance targets. Additionally, the efficiency of the programmes is measured mainly through the main education indicators, namely the school enrollment rates, transition rates, repetition rates and survival rates. The study is guided by the following sub-questions:
What are the different social protection programmes aimed at improving access to education, enhancing educational outcomes and what are their respective target groups?
Is there evidence of the impact of the different social protection programmes on educational outcomes in terms of school enrollment, transition rates, repetition rates and survival rates?
What are the design and implementation challenges of those education-related social protection programmes?
2.0 SHORT LITERATURE SURVEY
Dryden-Peterson (2010) stresses that cash transfers programmes conditioned upon enrolment and attendance at school have been successful in enrolling and retaining the poor children they target. Nevertheless, it is argued that such programmes could be more efficient in reaching excluded children in remote areas, where poverty and ethnicity, language and region interconnect to create large barriers. He also acknowledges high transportation costs and high opportunity costs in rural areas (herd livestock, time and labour to collect firewood) as barriers to accessing education. School feeding programmes, in terms of in-kind transfers to families, have been found to be effective in increasing school enrollment and attendance; as well as decreasing the drop-out rates of children leaving in isolated areas. Such programmes supply the necessary calorie intake usually provided by families and remove the need for children to travel long distances for their mid-day meals. The author also addresses the gender issue, positing that the exclusion of girls from school is more prominent in conflict-affected fragile states. In such cases, apart from conditional cash transfers and school feeding programmes, scholarships have also been successful in improving access to schooling for girls. For example, the Female Stipend Programme in Bangladesh aimed at increasing girls' enrolment in grades VI-X through the provision of stipends and tuition waivers, based upon the conditions of a minimum of 75 percent attendance rate, a minimum 45 percent performance in school exams, and deferred marriage until the qualifying exam or the age of 18. The programme resulted in a vast expansion in girls' enrolment in secondary school such that it is now generally accepted that girls can and should attend secondary school.
UNESCO (2010) stipulates that support for education can be direct in terms of fee waivers, funding for transport, books stipends and bursaries; or it can be secondary- employment creation, nutrition programmes or other measures that help households to get through difficult periods. Following other authors, UNESCO also finds that conditional cash transfers results in a superior school enrolment rate and to improved transition to secondary schools in some cases, especially in the rural areas. Nevertheless, even countries that are unable to introduce and administer conditional cash transfers can benefit from social protection in education since unconditional cash transfers can lead to fall in absenteeism. In addition to providing nutritional benefits, well designed school feeding programmes improves school attendance, participation and educational achievement.
Based on a review of documents on world-wide cash transfer programmes, Adato and Bassett (2009) discuss the potential of cash transfers to protect the human capital of vulnerable children and families. The general findings are that the impact of cash transfers on education is to increase and protect children's education by meeting schooling expenditure, compensation for foregone income arising from child labour and by creating incentives for attending school in the case of conditional transfers.
The World Bank and UNICEF (2009) draw out the practical lessons from the case studies of Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique. They found that successful implementation of fee abolition programmes requires a strong political leadership, careful planning, comprehensive communication and consultation, measures to protect the quality of education provided and the provision of school grants.
Evaluating the impact of conditional cash transfers on education, Son (2008) found that enrolment rates increased more in countries where the pre-programme enrolment rates were extremely low. Moreover, it was found that these transfers had no material impact on school attendance rate, educational achievement, or in attracting drop-outs to school.
Discussing proposals targeting improved equity and access to education, UNESCO (2007) found that social protection programmes in the form of conditional cash transfers have increased participation in primary schools, improved attendance and decreased grade failure and drop-out rates. They have also been found to increase transition rates from primary to secondary level, as was the case of the Cambodian scholarship for girls.
Based on the above literature, the present study seeks to assess the impact of the different social protection programmes, including conditional cash transfers, on educational outcomes for the case of Mauritius.
3.0 RESEARCH PLAN
3.1 Dependent Variable
The dependent variable in this study will be the impact of the social protection programmes. But the main focus will be on their efficiency and effectiveness in improving educational outcomes. Hence, the actual dependent variables will be the efficiency and effectiveness of the social protection programmes. The analysis of efficiency and effectiveness is, in fact, about the relationships between inputs, outputs and outcomes.
3.2 Explanatory Variables
As for the variables that are used to explain the dependent variable- the explanatory variables- they are the different measures of educational outcomes, namely, gross and net school enrollment rates at the primary and secondary levels, the transition, repetition and survival rates. The UNESCO definitions of these variables are given below.
Gross School Enrolment Rate
Definition: Total enrolment in a specific level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the eligible official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education in a given school year.
Purpose: To show the general level of participation in a given level of education. It indicates the capacity of the education system to enrol students of a particular age group. It can also be a complementary indicator to net enrolment rate (NER) by indicating the extent of over-aged and under-aged enrolment.
Net School Enrollment Rate
Definition: Enrolment of the official age group for a given level of education expressed as a percentage of the corresponding population.
Purpose: To show the extent of coverage in a given level of education of children and youths belonging to the official age group corresponding to the given level of education.
Definition: The number of students admitted to the first grade of a higher level of education in a given year, expressed as a percentage of the number of students enrolled in the final grade of the lower level of education in the previous year.
Purpose: To convey information on the degree of access or transition from one cycle or level of education to a higher one. Viewed from the lower cycle or level of education, it is considered as an output indicator, viewed from the higher educational cycle or level, it constitutes an indicator of access. It can also help in assessing the relative selectivity of an education system, which can be due to pedagogical or financial requirements.
Definition: Proportion of pupils from a cohort enrolled in a given grade at a given school year who study in the same grade in the following school year.
Purpose: To measure the rate at which pupils from a cohort repeat a grade, and its effect on the internal efficiency of grade within the educational cycle.
Definition: Percentage of a cohort of pupils (or students) enrolled in the first grade of a given level or cycle of education in a given school year who are expected to reach successive grades.
Purpose: To measure the retention capacity and internal efficiency of an education system. It illustrates the situation regarding retention of pupils (or students) from grade to grade in schools, and conversely the magnitude of dropout by grade.
3.3 Data Sources
Most of the data will be taken from the various reports issued by the Central Statistics Office of Mauritius, and from the UNESCO website. If need be, any other relevant data will also be collected personally from the Ministries concerned, mainly from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources; and from the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions.
4.0 ANALYSIS PLAN
I intend to first give a brief review of the social protection system in Mauritius, providing facts about public expenditure on social protection and education (Table 1) and describe briefly the actual education system in Mauritius (Figure 1). Then, I shall establish the link between social protection and education, explaining the role and importance of having social protection programmes in the education sector. After giving a summary of the main social protection measures in the education sector in Mauritius (Table 2), I will assess the effectiveness of these measures, focusing on the primary and secondary levels only (Table 3). Effectiveness relates the input or the output to the final objectives to be achieved (the outcomes). So the Programme Based Budgeting of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, as well as that of the Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions will be used to compare the performance targets set to the actual results so as to discern whether the objectives have been achieved.
Furthermore, the efficiency of these policies is then measured mainly through the enrollment rates, transition rates, repetition rates and the survival rates. For this case, several charts will be produced, showing the trend of these different educational indicators over the years and the difference, if any, before and after the implementation of the respective social protection programmes (Figures 2 onwards). Therefore, the analysis in this study will be mostly of a statistical type.
Nonetheless, it is acknowledged that there are several other exogenous factors that influence the educational outcomes, apart from the social protection policies and we should control for them. Since most of these variables are difficult to measure and due to data constraints, we would not incorporate them into an econometric equation but rather state those factors only.
Another section of the study will concentrate upon the design and implementation issues of the various social protection programmes considered previously. Recommendations will be made as to how the inefficiencies can be dealt with.