This interview was conducted by Javier Toro.
Muriel Poisson is responsible for the project on ethics and corruption in education at UNESCO's International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP). She is also co-author of Corrupt Schools, Corrupt Universities: What to do? and runs the online resource platform ETICO.
This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.
Some of the corruption in education is no different from what one finds in other public sectors. Diversion of funds for private purposes, for example, is a malpractice one finds in education, but also in other public sectors such as water or roads. Nor is the payment of bribes to gain admission to school or to get a good grade specific to the education sector: one finds it in the health sector, where bribes are paid to gain access to a good doctor or surgeon in the hospital, or in the business sector, to gain access to an economic market. Corruption problems in public procurement, such as in the construction of new schools, are also similar to those one finds in other important public procurement markets. There are, however, forms of corruption which are quite specific to the education sector, and which relate in particular to all academic matters, such as the selection of students, the organisation of examinations, the promotion of students to higher levels of schooling, and which can generate a host of malpractices that are specific to the education sector. Here one can cite the example of individual courses offered to students by their teachers, which in some cases are sources of corruption.
But in any case, when we are asked whether corruption in the education sector should be considered as a specific case within the public sector, our answer is yes, for two main reasons. The first reason is that the education sector is generally the most important of all public sectors financially and because it involves a large number of people. If we look at the figures for Latin America, we see that education is the first or second largest state budget after the military. Therefore, it is a sector that concentrates a lot of resources and where a lot of civil servants work. Consequently, if there are major corruption problems in education, they can spread on a large scale and therefore have a significant impact on the entire public sector. The second reason why we think it is important to focus specifically on the issue of corruption in the education sector —which is very important to us— is that education plays a crucial role in our society, which is to transmit ethical values and promote civic behaviour to the new generations. Thus, if a teacher is responsible for promoting ethical and citizenship values, but, for example, is absent because he/she has another job not related to teaching during his/her teaching hours, then inevitably the transmission of those values cannot be done in a satisfactory way.
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