28.11.2011 - Education Sector

GMR News release: More and better aid needed to get all children into school

Paris, 28 November - Global aid spending on basic education reached $5.6 billion in 2009 – but is still far too low to get all children into school. The world’s poorest countries only receive around US$3 billion – far from the US$16 billion that UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report estimates is needed to achieve internationally agreed education targets by 2015.

“Governments in some of the world’s poorest countries are making tremendous efforts to step up action on education goals, but they need support,” says Pauline Rose, Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report. “Donors cannot become complacent about their responsibility to help meet the 2015 target”.

Increases in aid to education have had clear benefits, with the number of children out of school falling from over 105 million in 1999 to 67 million in 2009. Gender gaps in enrolment have also narrowed. Education has been at the forefront of global efforts to improve the effectiveness of aid spending. Many governments in developing countries have strengthened their national education systems. Donors have helped support rapid progress in education in countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and Cambodia. In Ethiopia, for example, international aid was instrumental in reducing the number of children out of school from 6.5 million in 1999 to 2.2 million in 2009.

There are some worrying trends in aid to education overall, however, with donors under pressure from the financial crisis.  There is also concern that agreed goals on how aid is spent will be watered down at the high-level meeting on aid effectiveness next week in Busan, South Korea.

The share of official development assistance going to education, about 12 percent, has remained the same over the last decade. Post-secondary education continues to receive a disproportionately large share of education aid – about 40% - and most of this never reaches developing countries, as it pays for students to attend institutions in rich countries.

“It is crucial that donors continue to support basic education to help reach the millions of children who are still missing out on education,” says Pauline Rose. “Expanding tertiary education, while important, cannot be to the detriment of providing children with solid foundations in literacy and numeracy, the keys to further learning and development.”

“Division of labour” among education donors is leaving some countries high and dry. The principle that each donor country specialize in particular countries and sectors has the potential to improve aid effectiveness, but in practice it’s not helping education. Due to changes in national priorities, some donors, such as the Netherlands, are pulling out of education altogether. This trend has resulted in education aid being cut by half to Burkina Faso  and by a third to Nicaragua. Both countries that still have huge education needs.

“In an era of financial austerity, it’s understandable that donor countries want to make sure their aid efforts are hitting their targets,” states Pauline Rose. “But there is a danger that donors will focus only on short-term, easily measurable results, ignoring the need to make quality education available to every child and young person – including the most marginalized.”

<- Back to: Education For All Global Monitoring Report
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