“Free schooling" is free only for the rich and
corruption makes the playing field skewed against the poor, Expert says

Dr. M Shahe Emran, a Scholar from the Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD), Columbia University, USA said, corruption in schools is doubly regressive in Bangladesh. The poor are more likely to pay bribes in the school and among the bribe payers; the poor pay a higher share of their income. He added, the parents of almost half the government primary school children need to pay bribes to get “free schooling” in rural Bangladesh. He detailed, bribes need to be paid for getting all types of educational facilities for admission, for getting free books, for getting stipends or even for collecting scholarship money.

Dr. Emran was presenting his paper titled ‘Admission is Free only if Your Dad is Rich! Distributional Effects of Corruption in Schools in Developing Countries’ in a lecture, organised by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University at the Vice Chancellors Conference room, BRAC University on May 7, 2014.

The paper states that if the total household income goes up 1 percent, the propensity of paying a bribe for schooling goes down by 1.06 percent. It also revealed, the average monthly income of a bribe-payer is as low as Tk 1,930, and a household ends up paying an average of Tk 241 in bribes per year.

At the discussion, speakers said, while policy makers are encouraging investment in education theorising that it will reduce inequality, it is in fact increasing inequality in the short term. They also said, rich are usually well-connected, and thus school authorities dare not ask for bribes from them.

This was the first lecture of the series of its kind titled BIGD Lecture Series in Development Economics. The programme was chaired by Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD. Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner of Anti Corruption Commission and Dr. Atonu Rabbani, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Dhaka University was the designated discussants. Dr. Binayak Sen, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Mr. Minhaj Mahmud, Head of research and Mr. Shahidul Islam, Research Fellow, BIGD also spoke at the session.