A new GEM Report policy paper, Aid to education is stagnating and not going to countries most in need, shows that the amount of aid allocated to education has been falling for six years in a row. Donors are turning away from education when we need them most. Total amounts to the sector are now 4% lower than they were in 2010, while total development aid increased by 24%. The transport sector, for instance, not so long ago receiving just two-thirds what education did, now receives the same as or more.
Faced with hugely ambitious education targets in the global goal for education known as SDG 4, and aware that we previously calculated the need for aid to increase at least six times if we’re to achieve them, stagnating aid to the sector right now is putting our commitments at risk.
Many countries, and particularly the poorest, rely upon aid, and may even have been expecting an increase in aid given the renewed energy behind the SDG agenda, and emphasis on education as a driver of sustainability and development. Unfortunately, thus far, the change in priorities, and a shift to more effective spending if new money can’t be found, has not happened. The share of aid to basic education in low income countries fell sharply in 2015, based on the most recent figures. These countries – heavily reliant upon aid – now receive 23% of aid to basic education, compared to 29% in 2014.
In addition, while overall aid to basic education – primary education, basic life skills for youth and adults, and early childhood education –increased by 8% in one year, it is still 6% lower than in 2010. In a worrying sign, the two largest donors to basic education – the USA and the UK – reduced their allocations by 11% and 9% respectively in the last year.
Need should be the driver of aid and nothing else, and yet sub-Saharan Africa, which is currently home to over half of the world’s out-of-school children, received in 2015 almost half the share of aid to basic education it had received in 2002. This amounts to 26% of total aid to basic education, only just more than the 22% going to Northern Africa and Western Asia, which house 9% of out-of-school children.
The new policy paper provides calculations at the country level to show that donors are not allocating resources effectively. For example, Burkina Faso, with a 49% out-of-school rate at the primary level, received just $17 million, while Zimbabwe, with just 2% of primary-school age out of school, received $31 million.
By contrast, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), whose disbursements now account for 12% of aid to basic and secondary education in its partner countries, allocated 77% of its disbursements to sub-Saharan Africa, and 60% to countries affected by fragility and conflict. As a key donor of education aid, these allocation decisions are positive. We would all do well to support their replenishment campaign now underway as best we can.
Last, but by no means least, education still only receives a tiny amount – 2.7% – of all humanitarian aid going to conflict and fragile-states. This is a historic high, and 55% more than the year before, but it still leaves half of the requests the education sector made for assistance unanswered.
This news on international aid to education is not the news we want. That said, there are three potential turning points we can all rally around to reverse this move away from education:
- The GPE Replenishment campaign this year is seeking to raise $3.1 billion for the period 2018-20, aiming to disburse $2 billion annually by 2020, or four times more than the level currently disbursed.
- An International Finance Facility for Education proposed by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity could leverage around $10 billion in additional financing per year by 2020 for development banks to expand their education portfolio and target lower middle income countries.
- The Education Cannot Wait fund established in 2016 aims to raise $3.85 billion by 2020, which would transform the delivery of education in emergencies.