According to Transparency International, corruption in education is particularly damaging because it endangers a country’s social, economic and political future:
- Corruption in education is more detrimental than corruption in other sectors because of its long-term effects.
- Corruption threatens equal access, quantity and quality of education.
- Its consequences are particularly harsh for the poor who, without access to education or with no alternative but low-quality education, have little chance to escape a life of poverty.
- Corruption is incompatible with one of the major aims of education: producing citizens that respect the law and human rights.
- If children come to believe that personal effort and merit do not count and that success comes through manipulation, favouritism and bribery, then the very foundations of society are shaken.
As Transparency International points out, corruption in education can take many forms: bribes paid by parents to teachers to ensure good grades and examination results; bribes paid by teachers to public officials to get preferred posting and promotion; embezzlement of funds allocated to purchase teaching materials or to build schools. Corruption in the education sector can also mean the bypassing of criteria in the approval of school establishment and accreditation, cronyism and nepotism in procurement and teacher appointment, resulting in “ghost teachers” or the selling of information on exams.
Corruption in education and other sectors is one of the most popular topics in the Vietnamese and English language media here. Most the examples cited above are real-life examples in Vietnam at all levels of the education system. Here are some survey results from a recent article entitled Fighting corruption in education sector an uphill battle:
- About 60% of parents ask for support for their children’s admission to better schools and 33% of teachers admit helping their acquaintances children to get enrolled in them.
- As many as 70% of parents believe that paying extra fees to help their children study at a good school is normal because their acquaintances do the same.
- About 50% of parents think that paying extra fees to be admitted to better schools is reasonable.
- From 80 to 85% of parents believe regular teaching at school is not sufficient and that their children need other pathways
Another example, not limited to education and common knowledge to those who live and work in Vietnam, was documented in an article entitled University degrees cannot help graduates get good jobs. A recent graduate with an excellent academic record retured to her home village and applied to teach in a school there. While she waited for a reply, one of her friends, who graduated from the Quy Nhon University of Education with average grades, got a job as a high school teacher in the same province. The deciding factor was the “under the table” money she paid to secure the position.
There are also students-for-hire services that allow university students to hire someone to cover their classes for between VND20,000-50,000 (US$1.02-2.56) per period.
Marie Ottosson, Deputy Head of Mission & Head of Development Cooperation Section of the Swedish Embassy, noted that education and training are the largest items in Vietnan’s national budget (15 to 20%), but weak accounting and monitoring systems provided opportunities for corruption.