The first part of this paper sets out briefly some of the basic issues facing education policy makers in Africa, including the introduction of school fees and the private provision of schools. I argue that there has been insufficient attention paid to how policy advice is implemented, and that one of the weakest - if not the weakest - link in the chain of policy implementation is the relation between planning and budgeting, including how budgets are made. There has been a tendency to put broad educational policy objectives on the one hand and the economic planning and management of resources on the other into two separate compartments, so that while there is no shortage of analysis of what needs to be done, the means of achieving given objectives are often unspecified. This has led to unfortunate and self-defeating tensions between those who propose policies in international financing agencies and in governments, and those who must manage the implementation of these policies. As a result, most countries will experience considerable difficulty in implementing simultaneously the triple initiatives of expenditure reallocation, improved budget management and system expansion.
Most African public sector budgeting procedures and formats have not changed significantly since colonial times, and they cannot cope with translating short and medium term adjustment policies into practice. The second part of the paper is concerned with approaches to strengthening and/or reforming the planning and budgeting for education in African countries. These involve the full or partial replacement of annual incremental planning and budgeting systems with approaches which may be more appropriate to current problems. I suggest that many attempts to undertake necessary reforms have not succeeded because they have been limited to interventions in the education sector ministries without reference to government budgeting and administration systems as a whole. Reforms should also take full account of the need to strengthen a potentially beneficial relationship between the state and the private sector.
With these improvements better use can be made of external assistance which has, I argue, not always served those countries which benefit from it as well as it might have. The objective of the changes suggested in this paper is to enable countries to use their limited resources better and avoid stop-go educational development policies in order to achieve the capability of providing an education service which is both sustainable and affordable. In this respect governments have a crucial role to play in the process of change, even if in some aspects the 'market' will succeed where government planning has failed.
Educational Paper No. 7, DFID, London, UK, ISBN 0 90250 067 8, 32 pp. [reprinted 1998]