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With the newly enacted SDGs there is an increased demand for quality and comprehensive data on how much is truly spent on education, who bear the cost and who benefits. However, of all the data gaps that exist in education statistics today, the case of education finance data appears to be the in most severe situation. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, data on private funding of education represent the area with the lowest coverage in terms reporting. This is due to several factors, the main of which are the weak statistical capacity, the lack of relevant data collection and processing tools and disparate classifications. This situation hinders the review and analysis of education sector performances for better planning, monitoring and policy making at both national and international levels.
At national level, difficulties in collecting data on private funding and processing them in a structured approach make it difficult to have any objective discussions on issue such as the real cost of education born by students and their families and related issues of equity and cost-sharing mechanisms between the government and households. For instance, recent evidences have shown that household contributions on national education efforts are very significant but badly targeted. In fact, households contribute relatively more to lower levels of education than to that of higher education. This is both inequitable - students from wealthy families being over represented in higher education while that level receives greater share of public resources - and ineffective as the individual return on schooling being inferior in the lower levels of education.
At international level, the donor community also increasingly needs trustworthy and comparable statistics in order to assess its efforts in providing assistance to developing countries. In addition, the capacity of aid recipient countries to tap into domestic resources to fund expansion of their education systems is becoming increasingly questioned. For instance, following the recent progress recorded in the primary education enrolments, it is estimated that only a few developing countries will be able to fund the occasioned demand for post-primary education and training by their public resources only.
Consequently, rising household contributions will be inevitable and in order to conduct any evidence-based policy discussions aimed at more equitable and effective cost-sharing funding mechanisms, comprehensive and cohesive data on private expenditure on education will be critically needed to help assess issues the extent and the nature of household contributions to education financing, the relative weight of education funding in total household spending, by income level, by level of education, by main items, etc.
This paper first presents the current status of available data on private spending on education, discussing the methodological aspects, the data utilization and their limitations. It then explores possible solutions aimed at closing the data gap on private funding on education by discussing tremendous potentials offered by the National Education Accounts methodological framework along with other complementary options and tools aimed at improving data quality and coverage.