SDG 4 includes neither a target nor a global indicator on the level of education financing. Yet, if countries are to achieve the goal of ‘inclusive and equitable’ education by 2030, they need to spend their budgets, however large or small, in ways that actively pursue inclusion and equity objectives.
A new paper, How committed? Unlocking financing for equity in education, produced by the GEM Report in time for International Day of Education presents a new way of assessing progress towards equitable financing for education. It maps policies and programmes from 78 countries around the world in a new layer of country-specific information featured on the GEM Report’s Profiles Enhancing Education Reviews (PEER) website.
These new profiles discuss four categories of financing policies in each country that can support equity objectives depending on how comprehensive they are, how targeted their coverage is and how much money they allocate. These policies cover:
- Overall funding from central to local government
- Targeted funding to schools
- Targeted funding to students and families
- Social protection funding to students and families.
Analysis of the profile in our new paper finds that around 1 in 5 countries demonstrate a strong level of commitment to equity in education through these different mechanisms. Nearly half of Latin American countries in the sample were found to redistribute resources to promote equity in education. Yet, some countries, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, have no financing policies to promote equity.
Sophisticated overall funding mechanisms require well-developed information systems and reliable, detailed data to distinguish between the poor and the very poor areas or schools. As a result, more than half of low- and middle-income countries’ overall financing mechanisms do not take local governments’ and schools’ relative disadvantage into account.
Analysis of policies and programmes transferring funds to schools found that they are often donor supported in poorer countries but are not sustained or fragmented.
Most countries target students’ needs but programmes are small scale and fragmented. Scholarships tend to be awarded on the basis of academic performance, which usually exacerbates inequality, although some are starting to take socio-economic status into account.
Our analysis found that capacity for directly targeting students’ needs tends to be much stronger among social protection ministries. About 20% of countries with social protection programmes cover at least 15% of the school-aged population, for example. These programmes need to be better integrated in education ministries’ plans to fully exploit their potential.
Monitoring finance for equity in education must involve both quantitative data and qualitative judgement.
Designing better equitable policies in the future requires three-way effort to support countries
- A Joint Learning Network for Equity in Education is needed to support countries to put the issue at the heart of their agenda.
- Regional organisations need to engage and help provide fora where these issues can be discussed between peers.
- Governments must engage in the process, helping provide up to date and accurate information.