The need to fund education through public funding and the importance of progressive taxation to increase public resources were at the heart of a recent capacity building workshop on tax justice and education funding in Nepal. The workshop was organised by the Education International Asia-Pacific (EIAP) office for member organisations and partners in Nepal.
Leaders from each of Education International’s member organisations, i.e., the Nepal National Teachers' Association (NNTA), the Nepal Teachers' Association (NTA), and the Institutional Schools Teachers' Union (ISTU) attended the workshop, held from 29-30 October in Kathmandu. Eighteen participants from Education International’s affiliates also attended, along with representatives of the partner organisations, ActionAid Nepal and the National Coalition for Education (NCE), and representatives of Tax and Fiscal Justice Nepal.
The gathering was in line with the Education International/ActionAid/Tax Justice Network-led TaxEd Alliance project, supported by Education Out Loud, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) fund for advocacy and social accountability.
In line with the objectives of the TaxEd Alliance project, the workshop aimed to:
- Increase the domestic financing of public education systems in a sustainable, just, and progressive way, so that governments with lower incomes can achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.
- Build a partnership between civil society organisations working on tax and education and education unions to attain the objective.
Effective and sustainable financing for education
The NCE presentation took stock of education financing and underlined existing gaps, while ActionAid Nepal addressed issues linked to effective and sustainable financing for education.
A panel of leaders from Education International’s national member organisations highlighted the needs of public education by address the grassroots realities of:
- Where is public funding most acutely required? Students? Schools? Teachers? Educational aid? Community support?
- How is the quality of education in public schools affected by funding (class size, infrastructure)?
- What are other effects of underfunding in public education?
The Tax Justice Network outlined how the overall budget could be increased through progressive taxation. Its representative also explained tax evasion and leakages, the possibilities of generating extra public fund that could help the poorest in the country, how governments can control their own funds, and the progressive tax system in Nepal.
Education International’s Roadmap to education funding
Group discussions were held on Education International’s Roadmap to education funding, exploring each of the six roadmap areas. Group work presentation in the Nepali language was encouraged to ensure that all concepts in the roadmap were well understood.
Mixed groups, including representatives of Education International’s member and partner organisations, presented and discussed on the following issues:
- What is the situation of public education in Nepal?
- Is more funding required – and in which areas?
- In public education, what will benefit the most from increased public funding in the long-term?
- Why is it necessary to fund education publicly?
- Why education cannot be privatised?
- Why international aid alone cannot help to attain the SDGs?
Need to fund public education from state resources
The panel discussion, “Who we are and what we do and why is it important”, further highlighted the need to fund public education from state resources which must be enhanced by progressive and just taxation. The TaxEd Alliance project’s content, implementation processes, and the partners’ representation were at the heart of the discussion.
It was suggested that a project committee be established. It would have equal representation from Action Aid, NCE, Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia (TAFJA), NNTA, NTA, and ISTU. This committee would ensure successful implementation of the TaxEd Alliance project and facilitate the clarification of misunderstandings that might arise during the project implementation.
A brainstorming session also stressed the links between Education International’s Global Response campaign, wage bill research, actions against austerity, and the TaxEd Alliance project. Participants acknowledged that these programmes were closely interlinked.
Participants agreed that education activists must remain aware that education budgets may remain low due to austerity measures, and that the TaxEd Alliance must also consider wage bill constraints and International Monetary Fund recommendations to enhance progressive taxation and increase funding for education.
Toolkit on domestic financing for education
The Education International/GCE/ActionAid toolkit, “Financing Matters”, providing useful tools for TaxEd Alliance partners, was also presented. ActionAid Nepal offered to assist in printing the manual in Nepali, provided that the unions and Education International assist in translating it.
“The workshop was successful in many aspects,” said EIAP Director Anand Singh. “The presence of representatives of all partner organisations throughout the duration of the workshop enhanced the quality of each session. There was also a common understanding that there is a long way to go to achieve the project’s objectives. It requires more of an ongoing activism to ensure social justice.”