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The findings > Donor Contributions to Education for All
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Full report : Fullversion (.pdf)
 
Funding Agency Contributions to Education for All
 
First Draft

Clare Bentall, Edwina Peart, Roy Carr-Hill and Aidan Cox
 
Overseas Development Institute
Portland House
Stag Place
London
SW1E 5DP

http://www.oneworld.org/odi/
 
 
 
 The Declaration and Framework of the World Conference on Education for All (henceforth 'Jomtien') focused attention on basic education. Agencies were asked to consider ways to assist with basic education through budgetary support; the provision of technical co-operation, revitalised partnerships and a supportive policy context.
 
 This study examines what has happened to funding agency contributions to EFA since Jomtien, focusing on financial contributions to basic education, as well as policy and practice. It is based on the responses to a survey of funding agencies, supplemented by data from the Development Assistance Committee of OECD, as well as a review of literature.
 
 Agencies vary in their definitions of basic education. In part this variation simply reflects a lack of agreement, but can also be related to their own perceived expertise, their foreign policy goals and their concerns about their status within the agency community. It is also a consequence of the inclusive nature of the consensus reached at Jomtien. Whilst agreement across agencies is neither feasible nor necessary and agreement between agencies and partner countries can be on a bilateral basis, this does pose problems for reporting and comparison, both nationally and internationally.
 
 The data that has been received from is described and analysed in Chapter 5; supplemented by data from the Development Assistance Committee. The context is that the overall volume of bilateral aid commitment has dropped in absolute terms during the 1990s (although the high level at the beginning of the 1990s is partly due to exceptional commitments at the time of the Gulf War). Aid Commitments to education as a proportion of overall aid have remained steady at around 15%. For those countries providing disbursements data, proportions of overall aid to education have increased over the decade. For multilaterals, aid to education has varied throughout the decade, although overall, it tends to remain less than 10%. The total absolute volume of bilateral aid commitment to education has remained roughly the same throughout the decade. Multilateral commitments to education rose from $1000m in 1990, to nearly $2000m in 1994, falling back to $1,300m in 1998.
 
 Bilateral aid commitments to Basic Education (as a percentage of commitments to all education), have increased from a very low level at the beginning of decade to an average of 25% in the latter part of the decade. For those countries providing disbursement data, there has been a similarly dramatic increase. Multilateral aid commitments to basic education (as a proportion of their commitment to the education sector) have been high throughout the 1990s at between 75% and 100%, although disbursements have remained between 30% and 50%. The total value of bilateral aid earmarked for basic education has increased to around $500m at the end of the decade and disbursements (for those countries providing it) have increased from almost zero in 1990 to $170m in 1998. Among multilaterals, aid commitments to basic education have increased from $550m to an average of $1500m in the second half of the decade.
 
 Perhaps the main message is the difficulty of collating data not only for this survey but also for the national and international reporting systems that already exist. In part this has been exacerbated by the recent emphasis on joint funding and sector programmes, but there appears also to be a generic problem of accountability that was remarked upon at the beginning of the decade; the situation does not seen to have improved since then.
 
 The Jomtien Conference called for targeting of countries and of groups within countries. Based on what agencies have sent us there is a clear commitment to human rights and poverty reduction. Within that overall framework, there does appear to be a focus on basic education (and especially primary education). This has paralleled a focus on Africa and, within that region, a focus on the most highly indebted countries, although different agencies do this in different ways. Some other agencies focus on countries "in transition", others have preferred to concentrate their aid on a small number of countries. However, there has also been the issue of education programmes specifically for marginalised groups. The impact of this targeting on the overall pattern of aid and upon countries in greatest need is less clear; and the implied conditionality may be unhelpful.
 
 Since Jomtien, there has also been an implicit debate over the relative priority as between quantitative expansion to ensure access and efforts to improve quality. On the whole, where formal education has been firmly established for some time, the emphasis tends to be on quality and relevance in order to stop parents becoming disillusioned and keeping their children away from school and to avoid disenchantment with education on the whole. Where formal schooling has not been established for such a long time, quality and relevance are indeed essential to attract people but, in addition non formal solutions are also promoted. Increasingly the solution are seen to be context specific so that decentralisation is the key.
 
 Adult education was highlighted as an area of neglect in the Declaration. From the documentation, we have received, although most of the agencies claim to be involved, the actual level of activity is quite low. Moreover the impression given is that any involvement is reactive rather than part of a longer term strategy.
 
 Language was another issue raised explicitly in the Jomtien Declaration as having an important effect on access and retention. However apart from the clear position of UNESCO in favour of the use of mother tongue as the vehicle for as long as possible, very few have a stated policy. Partly this appears to reflect a view that languages policy is a political issue on which it is not appropriate for agencies to intervene.
 
 Conventional delivery systems, such as projects and programmes, are seen to have failed and often not to have been adopted by the host government when funding stopped. Instead the emphasis has shifted to policy dialogue and partnership to ensure that aid is used in accordance with host governments policy priorities. Combined with the necessity to take a longer term view of financial sustainability, this has led to the progressive adoption/promotion of 'Sector Wide Approaches' by some agencies. However, others are less sure, either because of restricted staff or because of difficulties of identifying their own agency contributions or because the situation in the countries which they aid is not appropriate. From the partner governments point of view, basket funding has to be handled by a financial system creaking under the strain of managing the current inadequate budget. Decentralisation simply adds to the complexity of administration. From the agency side, the problem of accountability to their own tax payer is ever present and the more intensive policy dialogue required imposes strains on existing agency staff.
 
 The profile of monitoring and evaluations has been raised over the last decade. Firstly there have been increasing attempts to introduce assessment and testing procedures into schools in developing countries for monitoring purposes although, in practice, agencies have resorted to baseline surveys; secondly there have been increasing professionalisation in the organisation of evaluation at the agency level, although the timelines still leaves a lot to be desired.
 
 There appears to have been a conclusive move away from scholarships in the North and, to a lesser but still substantial extent, away from counterpart training via long term TA/TC. The majority of agencies now emphasise institutional capacity building, strengthening etc., although exactly what this entails is not always clear. In practice, many focus on strengthening the (financial) management and planning systems. There is only limited evidence of successful capacity building throughout the system.
 
 Overall the picture is mixed: a greater emphasis on Basic Education but within declining commitments overall; clarification of aims and policies but also some divergence; and continuing difficulty in accountability.
 
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