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Education funding

Find out why there is a global gap in education funding and how this threatens the goal of all girls and boys getting a quality primary and secondary education. Developing countries do not have enough resources. Aid from international donors is dropping and is not targeted to where it will have most impact.

A summary of funding issues

A good education system needs investment. This investment benefits not just individuals but also supports countries to make progress in areas like improving health, creating a sustainable economy and protecting the environment.

But many developing countries, despite their efforts, simply do not have sufficient resources to provide all girls and boys a full cycle - 13 years - of quality education from pre-primary through to secondary school.

At the same time, aid from international donors is dropping and is not targeted to where it will have most impact.

The funding gap

Almost 90% of the cost of education in developing countries with low and lower-middle incomes is met by the countries themselves. That still leaves a funding gap that needs to be plugged by donors.

The Global Partnership for Education has calculated that, in total, $39 billion a year is needed to provide quality pre-primary, primary and secondary education to all children by 2030.

But funding from donors is inconsistent and uncoordinated. And donor aid is going down. Despite slow but steady increases in aid for basic education from 2002 to 2010, since 2010 it has fallen every year.

This is not simply due to smaller aid budgets. Since 2008 donor investments in health have risen by 58% while investments in education - which is vital to support awareness of health issues - dropped by 19%. So the resources exist but are being invested in basic education.

The top five multilateral contributors to basic education also reduced their share of total aid to basic education from 2005 to 2015.

Example: In 2011, the World Bank’s International Development lending to basic education was at nearly the same level as in 2002 in absolute terms.

Funding doesn’t go where it is most needed

The lack of financing is worst in the poorest countries and in fragile or conflict states where education funding has always been inadequate and education remains a low priority.

The sharpest decline in donor aid for basic education has been in sub-Saharan Africa, home to over half of the world’s out-of-school children, where donor contributions to at least 12 African countries have been cut by $10 million or more since 2010, according to the UNECSO Global Education Monitoring report 2013/14.

Example: Despite making significant progress by getting more than three million children into school since 2000, total donor aid to Ethiopia has declined from over $200 million in 2007 to less than US$50 million between 2008 and 2013. More than three million children, the hardest to reach, remain out of school.

Multilateral institutions could also do better and target to those countries with the largest numbers of out-of-school children and populations who are hardest to reach.

Example: In 2011, the World Bank provided 20% - the smallest share - of its total aid to basic education to low-income countries. More than 70% of funding went to countries with less than 20% of the out-of-school population

More funding is needed for education in emergencies

Record numbers of attacks on schools, natural disasters, wars and the largest refugee crisis since World War II have increased the funding needs for education in emergencies by 21% between 2010 and 2015.

But at the same time funding for education in emergencies has almost halved - down by 41% - since 2010. In 2015 less than 2% of humanitarian aid to help people who in crisis situations went to education.

There’s now an annual gap in humanitarian funds of nearly $8.5 billion.

The Education Cannot Wait fund

The Education Cannot Wait fund is the first global fund to prioritise education in humanitarian action.

The fund - launched in May 2016 - will provide a mechanism through which governments, humanitarian organisations and others can collaborate to rapidly meet the educational needs of millions of children and young people in emergencies.

It aims to raise almost $4 billion to provide with quality education to more than 13.6 million children and youth over the five years from its 2016 launch - and then to reach 75 million children in crisis situations by 2030.

The Education Commission

The Education Commission - a distinguished group of global leaders, academics, business leaders and economists - unveiled The Learning Generation report in September 2016 after a year of research, consultations and analysis.

It said bold action and radical funding could see every child in the world getting a quality primary and secondary education by 2030 - and avoid a looming global education catastrophe.

The commission said its proposed measures will increase the number of qualified high school graduates in low and middle-income countries from 400 million to 850 million by 2030 and to 1.2 billion by 2040. The numbers in the lowest-income countries will rise from just eight million to 80 million.

It proposed a staged plan that includes:

  • Every country to see education as an investment in the future and raise spending in low-income countries from 3% of national income today to 5% of national income.
  • Mobilising the combined resources of the international institutions. No country committed to reforming and investing should be denied the chance to deliver universal education due to lack of funds.
  • A "Financing Compact" between developing countries, donors and multilateral institutions - under which overall aid will rise to $35 a year per child by 2030, significantly less than $1 a week.
  • Act
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