By Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report
The 2,000 aid policy makers gathering at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, could offer renewed hope for the 67 million children around the world who are still not in school. Delegates will discuss how to improve aid spending given the urgency of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and in the light of the financial crisis. However much their discussion will be couched in technical jargon, the meeting has real implications for people’s lives.
Over the past decade, both national governments and aid donors have increased the amount of money they spend on development priorities. In discussions with policymakers, two views are often expressed. The first is that education has benefited disproportionately from aid increases. This is not true. As the EFA Global Monitoring Report team’s Policy Paper prepared for the Busan meeting shows, education’s share has remained static at around 12% of aid that can be allocated to sectors.
Second, assumptions are made that the focus of the Millennium Development Goals on basic education has resulted in a shift in spending to this level. This is also not true. In fact, the share of education aid going to basic education has remained around 40% over the last decade – equivalent to US$5.6 billion in 2009. This is vastly insufficient to ensure all children are able to go to school, as the EFA Global Monitoring Report team shows in a policy paper on aid trends. And the financial crisis that is hitting rich countries is posing a real threat even to these aid levels.
In the light of these threats, the draft Busan outcome document indicates a shift from “aid effectiveness” language towards euphemisms of “new partnerships” united by “shared principles” and “common goals.” These new partnerships would bring national governments and the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) club of aid donors together with the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and private philanthropists.
But will these “new partnerships” make a difference for the millions of children out of school? The evidence in our Policy Paper prepared for Busan suggests not.
First, on the BRICs: From the limited information that is available, it appears that education does not feature significantly in their priorities, which are dominated by infrastructure development and technical assistance. To take one example, estimates of India’s development finance support to other developing countries suggest around US$950 million was committed annually in 2008-2010. Just 2% of this was allocated to education, compared with 25% for energy projects and 15% for transport infrastructure projects. India’s commitment of around US$15 million to education development finance is less than half the amount provided by Luxembourg, the smallest DAC donor to education. To the extent that these “emerging donors” fund education projects, their support also seems to be directed at higher education rather than at basic schooling, where the greatest need is.
Second, on the private sector: To the extent that we know what private philanthropists are contributing, they appear to favour the health sector. One widely cited estimate found that private U.S. foundations gave only around 4% of their grants to developing countries to education, compared with 55% to health. It is not only a question of how much they give, but also what they are willing to fund. As I noted in my blog post calling for G20 leaders to support education, Bill Gates’ application of market principles to education could have adverse consequences for efforts to close inequality gaps.
New sources of funding for education and other development outcomes are certainly welcome. But our evidence shows that they will not contribute significantly towards the US$16 billion required to get all children into school.
To the extent that new partners will make a contribution, they need to be transparent about their funding, and to work in ways that support national planning priorities including for education, along the lines of the principles established in the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. While these principles may sound “dull,” a reinforcement of them at Busan is the best route to ensuring that aid is spent in ways that can make the biggest difference to the lives of marginalized children and young people in the world’s poorest countries.
This is the first of three blog posts from the EFA Global Monitoring Report team turning the spotlight on education aid on the occasion of the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.