Devpro Resource Centre

Costs and benefits

Conducting effective cost analysis

© UNICEF/NYHQ2004-0999/Pirozzi
A girl counts during class at the Musical Boarding School in the Georgian city of Kutaisi, where many of the city’s abandoned children are placed.

Context and challenge: Optimizing allocation of scarce resources to create CFS policies

Policymakers across the globe are increasingly aware that safe, gender-sensitive, rights-based education environments reap enormous benefits for children and the societies in which they live.

Yet, for countries considering implementing child-friendly school policies, the decision often comes down to a pragmatic cost-benefit analysis: What kind of added value will these schools provide? How much will achieving this value cost? The answers may determine the feasibility and scope of child-friendly policies – especially for countries with limited budgets.

How can national policymakers determine the best way to allocate resources? How can they design and implement CFS policies that are both affordable and sustainable, while ensuring that critical needs in their country are met?

An effective costing process is key to achieving this balance.

Action: Creating effective costing models for child-friendly schools

Costing first requires identifying desired child-friendly characteristics. These can be divided into such categories as safety, security and well-being; curriculum content and teaching style; location, design, infrastructure and services; and community attributes.

Once these characteristics have been identified and grouped, policymakers should set local and national standards. Setting standards is not aimed at establishing a rigid blueprint for implementation, but rather at providing a quantifiable basis for estimating the cost of making schools within a specific education system child-friendly.

When estimating costs for establishing child-friendly schools, it is critical that data be collected on the current state of the main variables. For example, how many schools require certain elements, such as larger classrooms? What is the estimated unit cost for each element?

When there are standard ways of determining unit costs, monetary values can be readily assigned to variables. When unit costs cannot be so easily determined – such as in the case of setting up a vibrant parent-teacher association – the use of proxies may be necessary.

Once the necessary data sets and unit costs have been developed, projections that reflect a future CFS scenario should be formulated. As thoroughly and accurately as possible, all probabilities must be factored into cost projections for making schools child-friendly over a given time period.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-2688/Pirozzi
A child’s counting lessons in a school in Azmalan Village, Niger.

Child-friendly schools cannot, of course, be implemented instantaneously. These schools are dynamic, adaptable entities that must change over time to meet the evolving needs of their students. As such, both data and costs are subject to change as enrolment, staffing, training, learning and currency values vary.

A key tool for creating accurate projections is the simulation model, which is used to understand the behaviour of an education system when certain variables and conditions, such as CFS elements, change in value. Using this type of model, a country can implement policies that are affordable in the short term, while aiming for higher quality standards in the future.

In 2001, UNESCO created the Education Policy and Strategy Simulation Model (EPSSim), which now includes a UNICEF-supported module for costing child-friendly schools. As a generic model, EPSSim can be adapted to the specific needs of a country’s education system, thereby enhancing policy formulation and programme design.

EPSSim accounts for both formal and non-formal schooling, covers pre-primary through higher education, and includes costing of critical demand-side interventions such as HIV/AIDS programmes and teacher training. It is gender-disaggregated, distinguishes between public and private coverage, and has clear categories of inputs and interventions. In addition, EPSSim can be used to estimate the year-to-year needs for a country’s classrooms, teachers, staff, learning materials and facilities. Its CFS module is divided into four categories:

  • Safety, security and well-being of learners and teachers.
  • Schools as a community and schools within the community.
  • Child-friendly curriculum (content, teaching, learning methods).
  • Infrastructure and design (facilities, equipment, resources).

Child-friendly elements such as protective school spaces, health care, gender-sensitive curricula, safe water, school feeding, counselling, emergency preparedness training, flexible furniture, new latrines and playgrounds are all accounted for.

Once the country’s data is input and its policy options and targets are set, the model projects both capital and recurrent costs and calculates resource gaps, thereby helping ministries of education determine how to best allocate funds, make necessary adjustments and design long-term strategies. The model facilitates informed, evidence-based policy dialogue and cross-sector negotiation.

Challenges and opportunities: Policymakers confront funding gaps revealed by EPSSim and embrace opportunities to fulfil prioritized short-term needs while planning for long-term goals

EPSSim has been applied in countries including El Salvador, Mali, the Niger, Nigeria and Mongolia. In Nigeria, where it was used to optimize scarce resources, the country was able to weigh compelling needs such as classroom construction, teachers’ salaries, and HIV/AIDS programmes. The preliminary results of the Nigerian EPSSim revealed that achieving the country’s education policy goals would create a prospective funding gap. This is motivating policymakers to review resource management, governance and accountability, and to promote public-private partnerships.
Going forward, countries across the globe can utilize EPSSim to best allocate resources for child-friendly education systems. Accurately predicting costs will ensure that the benefits of child-friendly schools continue long into the future, securing a high-yield investment for children and their societies.

6 February 2010



A focus on

Child-Friendly Schools Manual, Chapter 7, 'Costs and benefits,' 2009 | PDF English

To learn more

UNICEF, Child-Friendly Schools Manual, 2009 | PDF English

UNICEF, Global Capacity Development Programme on Child-Friendly Schools | website

UNICEF, Resources on Child-Friendly Schools | website

UNICEF, 'Quality education and child-friendly schools,' Actions for Children Issue 5, March 2009 | PDF English | French | Spanish

Education Policy and Strategy Simulation model (EPSSIM) | website

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