Development partnerships in education have taken many forms, including our very own EFA Global Monitoring Report. Partnerships will be even more necessary if the sustainable development agenda is to be successfully implemented. It is for this reason that the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) made them the focus of the 2015 edition of its flagship Development Cooperation Report, which was launched this week. This blog summarizes the chapter in the report which focused on the EFA Fast Track Initiative (FTI) and its successor, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a partnership that reflected the aspirations of the international community for a partnership approach to achieving Education for All.
Slow beginnings: The FTI was established in 2002 to catalyze increased contributions to basic education by both donors and governments. However, throughout the 2000s, it was plagued by criticisms for slow disbursement rates; a focus on primary education at the expense of other EFA goals; and the exclusion of some of the countries with the greatest need, either because they were fragile and conflict-affected or because they had not been able to come up with a solid plan. At the same time, the financing was not sufficient. Many of these conclusions were noted in the mid-term evaluation in 2010.
Reassessment: In 2011, the FTI was transformed into the GPE, with several reforms straight out of the rule book of a good partnership, including stronger leadership and more inclusive governance. By 2012, the GPE had become the fourth largest source of external financing for basic education in low and lower middle income countries. A change in procedures also meant that by the end of 2013 more than 40% of GPE disbursements were going to fragile and conflict affected countries, as the 2015 GMR showed.
Results: Despite improvements in its governance arrangements and operational procedures, the question remains open whether the promise of a catalytic effect in financing education has been realized. The report of the independent evaluation of the GPE is expected later this year. However, some of the evidence is clear.
On the domestic financing side, low-income country governments have allocated up to 1% or more of GDP to education since 1999. And yet, this has been mainly driven by increased domestic resource mobilization rather by an increased share of education in the overall budget.
On the development co-operation side, official development assistance to basic education more than doubled in real terms between 2002 and 2010, which might suggest success. Yet the share of education in total development co-operation portfolios actually continued to fall over the same period – and since 2010, support to basic education has declined.
The ultimate goal of universal primary completion was not achieved. The 2015 GMR showed that one in six children did not complete a full cycle of primary education. And while there was progress in getting children to school after 2000, most of that was achieved before the partnership even began disbursing. More than a dozen years after the partnership was set up, lack of data and the complexity of attributing results to interventions make it still difficult to establish whether it has made a palpable difference to education outcomes in its partner countries.
Learning for the future: The establishment of the FTI and the GPE was in line with the spirit of the Dakar Framework and the principles of aid effectiveness. However, experience shows that it can take considerable time for such efforts to take shape and bear fruit.
By now, the partnership has created a strong momentum and the 2015 milestone provides a great opportunity to build on its lessons. At the launch of the Development Co-operation Report, both OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría and DAC Chair Erik Solheim argued that strong partnerships for the SDGs should not mean reinventing the wheel and should build on what is already in place. It is clear that the partnership after 2015 will need more funds and better evidence of how funds have been used in order to deliver improved education outcomes. The ongoing preparation of the GPE Strategic Plan 2016-2020 but also the International Commission on the Financing of Global Education Opportunities are critical steps.
To read the full chapter this blog was taken from, please go to OECD Development Co-operation Report 2015, Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action