How Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes are Driving the Cause of Education

conditional cash transfer programmes for education

In June 2017, the United Nations bestowed upon Kanyashree Scheme the highest Public Service Award. You must be wondering what the Kanyashree Scheme is all about? It is a conditional cash transfer scheme which was introduced by the West Bengal Government to improve the life and status of girls in the state. The aim of the scheme was to help those girls who are unable to pursue higher education because of financial constraints.

The scheme has so far helped over 60 lakh girls to pursue their educational dreams. Pertaining to this achievement, August 14 is celebrated as Kanyashree Day in the state of West Bengal. Now, the Government is also planning to set-up a Kanyashree University in the Nadia district to take the cause further. But where did the idea come from? And what do you mean by conditional cash transfer schemes? Are there more such schemes in the world? And what are the benefits of such schemes? In this blog, we are going to address all of these questions.

Historical Background

In the 1990s, the Latin American Countries went through a major macroeconomic crisis. This led to a decline in the demand for social services like healthcare and education among the financially weaker sections of society. The governments of these countries, thus, came up with the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programmes to shift their focus on the demand side for the delivery of certain public services. Until then, the focus was on the supply-side delivery of these services.

This shift not only helped in increasing the consumption of merit goods but also helped in curbing the deprivations in human development. Over the past 3 decades, the schemes have proven to be immensely helpful in promoting socio-economic development in various Asian, African and Latin American Countries.

What are Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes?

Conditional Cash Transfer schemes are innovative programmes that offer cash transfers to poor families in exchange for them adopting some good social reforms. For instance, certain CCT programmes require families to send their children to school and increase their spending on healthcare. According to a study published on Gender Action Portal, The CCTs have been instrumental in reducing the gender gap in the education sector and have led to win-win scenarios for girls. Furthermore, the study also found that the programmes have also delayed marriages, thus reducing the problem of child marriage.

The Bolsa Familia Model

Brazil has changed the way we look at social policies. Over a decade ago, the Latin American Country presented to the world a powerful model- The Bolsa Família Program which has become an active agent that drives the social and economic transformation of the nation. The program is helping over 50 million individuals from low-income families to get access to basic education and healthcare.

Under the scheme, poor families receive an average of $70 as direct transfers in exchange for sending their children to school and taking them for regular health check-ups. The program is helping the Brazilian government in achieving the dual aims of eradication of poverty and getting marginal sections to invest in the future of their children.

The scheme has encouraged more than 20 countries including Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa and Chile to adopt similar models to promote education. The World Bank has applauded this effort of Brazil and said that Bolsa Familia has been changing the lives of millions.

How Can Incentive Based Models Help Promote the Cause of Education?

So far, the incentive-based CCT programmes have proved to be instrumental in improving the number of enrolments and maintaining regular attendance in schools all over the globe. For instance, Turkey has been running a CCT programme for education since 2003. Millions of families have benefitted from this programme. Starting in 2017, the Turkey government has even extended these benefits to the refugee children in the country. Under the scheme, the families receive a cash payment after every two months if the child manages to maintain at least 80% attendance in school in the preceding two months.

It is important to note here that promoting education is not the only objective that these CCT programmes help fulfil. They also help in reducing poverty by helping people bring transformative changes in their life and move towards making smarter choices. Furthermore, CCTs help people become more self-sufficient. Thus, these schemes help in fulfilling the true aim of education, by promoting self-sufficiency and human development.

Way Forward

report from UNESCO states that even though CCTs are well-targeted and are progressive ways to encourage poor families in making smart short-term choices, they fail to contribute to the long-term objective of alleviating poverty. Additionally, these programmes only focus on enhancing attendance and not the overall quality of education. This fails the entire purpose of introducing the programmes. The emphasis should be laid on improving the quality of study material, offering teacher training programmes and establishing classroom libraries to fulfil the objectives of human development.

There is no denying the fact that Conditional Cash Transfer Education programmes have played a significant role in improving the literacy levels of students and reducing the drop-out rates in schools. Furthermore, they have helped in the social upliftment of financially weaker sections by encouraging them to make smart social decisions. They have helped marginal sections improve their standard of living by investing in education and healthcare. They have also been significant in limiting transgenerational illiteracy and poverty. Now, the need is to take these programmes a notch higher by focusing on enhancing the quality of social change that they bring about.

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