If governments and donors make concerted efforts to meet the promises they made in 2000, basic education for all could be achieved by 2015, according to analysis in a new policy paper released by the Education for All Global Monitoring Report team.
The report team estimates that poor countries need an extra $26 billion of external financing per year to achieve good quality basic education with measures to target the marginalized by 2015, up from $16 billion in 2010. I will be going to Dakar next week to attend the Global Meeting on Education after 2015, where proposals for new education goals post-2015 will be discussed, which I expect to include universal lower secondary education. The report team has calculated that such a move would extend the annual finance gap to $38 billion.
With fewer than 1,000 days left until the 2015 deadline of the Education for All goals, the global community needs to make a final push to bridge the financing gap, which is one of the biggest obstacles to education in the world’s poorest countries. It might seem impossible to close the gap of US$26 billion for basic education – by which we mean pre-primary education, primary education and adult literacy. But our analysis shows that by targeting government and donor resources at education, and basic education in particular, the gap can be filled.
Governments in low income countries could raise an additional US$7.5 billion just by spending the recommended 20% of the national budget on education, and allocating 50% of these resources towards basic education.
If donors were to increase the share of their aid that goes to education from 9% to 20% by 2015, and allocate half of this funding to basic education, this would raise a further US$4 billion to help fill the funding gap.
Currently around one-quarter of total direct aid to education never even leaves donor countries. This money is spent on scholarships and imputed student costs for students in developing countries to study in donor countries. Allocating a proportion of these funds to basic education in the poorest countries would contribute US$2.4 billion
These contributions make a combined total of US$14 billion and would go a long way to filling the financing gap, reducing it to US$12 billion.
Governments in poor countries could raise more money by broadening their tax base –for example, by reducing tax avoidance. If they were to increase the share of gross domestic product that is available for government spending, and allocate a share to basic education, this would contribute an additional US$7.3 billion, leaving a remaining financing gap of US$5 billion.
European donors committed to allocating 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) to aid, but most have not reached this target, and some are far off or even going backwards. If those making this commitment were to keep their promise, it would add US$1.3 billion to the resources available for basic education.
These reforms would collectively reduce the financing gap for basic education in the poorest countries from US$26 billion to just US$3 billion. This remaining gap could easily be filled if, for instance, the United States were to increase its aid commitment to 0.7% of gross national income and target spending at basic education. The gap could also be filled if philanthropic organizations gave as much to basic education as they have given annually to the health sector, on average, over 2005-2010.
If these targets are too ambitious to achieve before the deadline of the existing goals, they should certainly be feasible after 2015.
Extending goals to include lower secondary education would leave a larger gap to fill, but there is no reason why a lack of finance should hold back progress after 2015. To ensure that it does not, the EFA Global Monitoring Report proposes setting a new education goal specifically related to finance:
By 2030, ensure that no country is prevented from achieving education goals by a lack of resources:
1. by maximizing government revenue and ensuring that government spending covers education needs, targeting the marginalized when necessary;
2. by maximizing aid, and targeting it at countries and groups who need it most;
3. by maximizing resources from the private sector, and targeting it at countries and groups who need it most.
If governments and donors, guided by this goal, prioritized basic and lower secondary education after 2015, they could reduce the annual financing gap to US$7.6 billion.
Other sources of education financing, including the group of emerging economies known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), private corporations and foundations, and the proposed International Financial Transaction Tax, also have a larger role to play in funding education in the future.
The global community must renew its promise that no country will be left behind in education due to lack of resources. Further delays will have grave human consequences, especially for the world’s most vulnerable children.