The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Insufficient resources and inadequate public expenditure management often prevent governments in low-income countries from providing quality basic education free of charge. User payments by parents are an alternative means of financing basic education. This paper assesses how user payments affect educational opportunities and quality of education for children of poor families in low-income countries. Conditions are identified under which user payments can or cannot improve educational outcomes. User payments, whether taking the form of compulsory benefit taxation or voluntary user fees, are a temporary solution and second-best compared with free-access, publicly financed quality education that is consistent with macroeconomic stability.