A new GEM Report policy paper released today shows that total aid to education reached its highest ever levels in 2018, the latest available year. However, it estimates that global aid is likely to decline by up to US$2 billion from 2018 to 2022 as a result of recession caused by COVID-19, entailing a 12% drop in international support for education.
This means that without new measures, aid to education would only reach 2018 levels in 2024, which poses a serious threat to the recovery of education from the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic.
The lost learning as a result of COVID-19 means aid to education will be more important than ever before. The paper, COVID-19 is a serious threat to aid to education recovery, calls for donors to provide flexible funding so that support to the sector can be realigned and help countries get back on track.
Prior to the pandemic
Aid to education in 2018 reached a record US$15.6 billion, an increase of 9% from the previous year. From one year to the next, aid rose by 6% for basic education, 7% for secondary education and 12% for post-secondary education, providing each with the highest amount of aid ever recorded.
Despite these increases, more effective aid to the sector was required: Only US$7.4 billion, or 47% of aid to education, went to basic and secondary education in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the two sub-sectors and two country groups perceived as most in need.
The effect of COVID-19 on aid to education
In assessing the impact of COVID-19, the GEM Report estimates that the pandemic is likely to have a more damaging impact than the financial crisis of 2007-8 as the recession affecting the top ten bilateral donors for education is expected to be more than twice as severe. For instance, the United Kingdom’s GDP is expected to fall by 10.2% in 2020 which could lead to a drop of US$100 million in its aid to education.
An estimated US$8 trillion has been committed to pandemic responses by governments so far, helping secure their health systems and economies. But prospects for aid are linked to the impact of the crisis on donor budgets. Previous financial crises have impacted the allocation of aid for several years after the crises were over. The paper calls on donors not to underestimate the ricochet effect this pandemic could have on social services for years to come.