General education (primary and secondary) is free and the state covers higher education fees. Basic education is compulsory. The government covers the distribution of textbooks and the provision of school uniforms and learning tools. Likewise, living in secondary school or vocational training dormitories is free. Although education is free, parental voluntary contributions are common practices used to refurbish classrooms and buy cleaning materials at the beginning of the school year. In Early Childhood Development centers, parental contributions cover learning materials, supplies and a share of meal costs. Most parents’ contributions are directly managed by parents and are not captured in school accounts.
The Mongolian government provides funds to primary and secondary schools through budgets that have 3 components: a normative amount based on a “per student” allocation in which the amount per student varies according to grade and location of the school; a fixed budget to cover utility costs; and targeted social assistance to support low-income children.
Since the implementation of the Integrated Budget Law of 2011, local governments have executed between 59% and 75% of the total education expenditure under a special purpose transfer allocation of the education budget. In 2018, this transfer represented 64% of the budget. Although local governments execute a significant part of the education budget, two departments of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports (MECSS) prepare and manage the recurrent and investment budgets for primary and secondary education.
In 2017, wages, salaries and bonuses accounted for 53% of total recurrent education spending, followed by office and building expenses (11.2% in 2018), current transfers (9.6%), standard costs such as medicines, meals, and clothing and bedding (6.7%), services by others (6.6%), and social insurance (6.2%). Expenditure on classroom learning materials represents less than 1% of recurrent spending on education.
Private schools represent a large fraction of early childhood (ECD) providers and Higher Education Institutions. In 2017, 38% of kindergartens in the country were privately owned and in 2015, private centers represented 83% of Higher Education Institutions, and private schools account for 17.2% of primary and secondary schools.
Since 2006 there is a school lunch program for children in first and second grade to reduce absenteeism and school dropout in primary school in rural and peripheral areas. The program assigns US$ 0.11 (300 MNT) per day per student and was expected to cost US$ 8.3million (MNT 22.5billion) or 2.35% of the total planned expenditure for 2011-2015.
The Asian Development Bank has supported the education budget with a total of US$ 126.4million in loans, grants, and technical assistance.
Teachers are entitled to receive additional benefits or assistance when deployed in remote areas. Legal and economic encouragement mechanism contribute to the supply of teachers in rural areas. The government provides textbooks for children from social vulnerable groups free of charge. In 2015, the government expected to provide 1.8million of textbooks to primary, secondary, and technical and vocational vulnerable students in schools. The total investment was expected to be of US$ 3.6m (MNT 9.9billion) or 1.03% of the total expected education expenditure for 2011-2015.
In 2017, a project financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) planned to construct or expand five schools and 12 kindergartens in low-income and poorly served districts of Ulaanbaatar: Bayanzurkh and Songinokhairkhan: the main destinations of internal rural migrants. The project has the support of the Ministry of Education and targets about 11,000 primary and secondary students and 4,500 pre-primary students. The project includes activities that promote education among indigenous people, for instance, by improving textbooks and other teaching and learning materials in Kazakh language, developing standards and gender and ethnic diversity sensitive criteria and by providing tailored training program for managers and teachers.
The government also provides training loans and grants covering tuition fees for children of herders, very poor families, orphans, persons with disabilities, and children of families with 3 or more children attending university at the same time. In the period 2011-2015 the government expected to spend US$ 76.6million (MNT 207billion) or 21% of the expected education expenditure on grants and loans to benefit 46,204 students per year (4.05% of the total school aged population).
This social protection cash transfer program aims to alleviate poverty, with a transfer of US$ 7.7 (MNT 20,000) per month to children 0 to 17 years old. When the program began in 2004, beneficiaries were poor families with 3 or more children and had conditions including school enrollment. Currently, the program is quasi universal.
The Human Development Fund (HDF), a fund accumulated from mineral resource taxes, funds the program. In 2017, the cost of the program was of US$ 108 million or 1% of GDP and by the end of 2015, nearly 1.03 million children or 32.5% of population had received the benefit.