April 13, 2018

Many aid donors talk up pre-primary education but fail to deliver the funding

A preschool teacher reads to young children in a classroom in Laos

Photo credit: GPE / Stephan Bachenheimer

After a Theirworld report revealed that just 1% of aid for children under five goes to education, we look at what donors say on the subject - and what they actually do.

If a child is going to get the best start in life and do well at school, it's crucial that first of all they get a couple of years of free, quality pre-primary education.

Pretty obvious, right? You would think so - especially after every country in the world set a target that all girls and boys should have access to pre-primary education by the year 2030.

But the actions aren't exactly matching the words. While international donors talk a good game when it comes to pre-primary education, many are falling short on delivering the funding.

A report published this week by Theirworld reveals that pre-primary education gets just 1% of all aid going to children under the age of five. That's putting millions of children at a huge disadvantage before they even start primary school.  

Report

Donor Scorecard: Just Beginning

Addressing inequality in donor funding for Early Childhood Development

Ben Hewitt, Theirworld Director of Campaigns, said: "This is a major blind spot in development spending and efforts to tackle inequality. Most often children missing out on preschool are the poorest and most marginalised."

The report includes scorecards looking at the top 25 donors - countries and global organisations. 

It lists what percentage of each donor's Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to early childhood development (ECD). Theirworld also ranks donors according to how much of their aid for ECD goes specifically to education. 

The results show that several major donors - including the United States, Australia and Sweden - give absolutely NOTHING to education.

Starting with those who give the least to education, we look below at what some of those donors have said about the importance of pre-primary education - and see if what they do matches what they say.

Australia

What it says...

"Children are unprepared for school - as evidenced by late entry, early dropout and poor performance on early grade learning assessments... This points to the need to invest in quality approaches to child care and pre-school education, to improve school readiness and educational performance."

Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - strategy for Australia’s aid investments in education 2015–2020 (September 2015).

What it does...

1.2% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

0% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Sweden

What it says...

“Sweden will work for equitable and inclusive education of good quality at all levels for all girls and boys, women and men, from early childhood education and throughout their lives.”

Government of Sweden - policy framework for Swedish development cooperation and humanitarian assistance (December 2016).

What it does...

1.9% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

0% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

United States of America

What it says...

"USAID is aware of the current and emerging research on the benefits of pre-primary education and other forms of early development priorities (e.g. nutrition, sanitation). In collaboration with other donors and partners, the agency is compiling a learning agenda around these issues, to stay abreast of the latest research, and to understand the implications for strategy, policy and practice in global education."

US Agency for International Development - report to Congress on pre-primary education (October 2017).

What it does...

5.8% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

0% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Netherlands

What it says...

Theirworld reviewed the publicly available material from the previous year but was unable to identify any commitments which highlight the importance of investing in pre-primary education. We then directly approached the agency but were unable to get a relevant quote.

What it does...

6.2% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

0% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

United Kingdom

What it says...

"We will build on our current engagement in pre-primary education, in recognition of its role in preparing children for the classroom and securing foundation skills. Our support will be research-led, helping countries to identify cost-effective, scalable approaches and sharing lessons learned from UK experience.”

Department for International Development - DFID Education Policy: Get Children Learning (February 2018).

What it does...

3.9% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

0.02% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Denmark

What it says…

Denmark supplied information only about specific pre-primary projects in different countries. It did not give an overview of its policy or stance.

What it does…

0.7% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

0.8% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

UNICEF

What it says…

“UNICEF identified access to pre-primary education as a critical and promising intervention to ‘level the playing field’ for all children, regardless of their social or economic circumstances.”

UNICEF report: Early Moments Matter for Every Child (September 2017).

What it does…

35.1% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

0.9% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Japan

What it says...

Theirworld reviewed the publicly available material from the previous year but was unable to identify any commitments which highlight the importance of investing in pre-primary education. We then directly approached the agency but were unable to get a relevant quote.

What it does...

0.7% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

1.1% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

European institutions

What they say...

“Ensuring access to quality education for all is a prerequisite for youth employability and long-lasting development. The EU and its member states will support inclusive lifelong learning and equitable quality education, particularly during early childhood and primary years.”

Joint Statement by the European Council and the representatives of the governments of the member states meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission (June 2017).

What they do...

1.2% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

1.4% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

France

What it says...

Theirworld reviewed the publicly available material from the previous year but was unable to identify any commitments which highlight the importance of investing in pre-primary education. We then directly approached the agency but were unable to get a relevant quote.

What it does...

0.7% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

1.6% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Norway

What it says...

“The ability to benefit from lifelong learning depends on pupils acquiring good literacy and numeracy skills at an early stage. The government will therefore give particular priority to efforts to improve the quality of early learning, amongst other things by contributing to the provision of early and well-coordinated childcare and educational opportunities through partners such as UNICEF and various civil society organisations.”

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Education for Development (June 2014). There were no publicly available materials from the past year.

What it does...

0.7% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

3.4% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Germany

What it says...

“The chances of improved access to education and successful learning outcomes could be increased, in particular, through early childhood education but there are not enough programmes at that level.”

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development - BMZ Education Strategy: Creating equitable opportunities for quality education (July 2015). There were no publicly available materials from the past year.

What it does...

0.6% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

3.7% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Italy

What it says...

“We believe that achieving SDG4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and therefore guaranteeing quality education for all is conducive to a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. Pre-primary education is naturally at the basis of this ambitious goal…”

Diego A. Cimino, Secretary of Legation - email in response to Theirworld sending report “Bright and Early: how financing pre-primary education gives every child a fair start in life”. (November 2017).

What it does...

0.5% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

5.1% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

Canada

What it says...

"Evidence shows that when girls are given early access to education, and supported in their studies, they are more likely to graduate, improving their future earning potential. Benefits for the communities in which they live are also undeniable."

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Global Affairs Canada - Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (October 2017).

What it does...

5.5% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

5.1% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

United Arab Emirates

What it says...

Theirworld reviewed the publicly available material from the previous year but was unable to identify any commitments which highlight the importance of investing in pre-primary education. We then directly approached the agency but were unable to get a relevant quote.

What it does...

1.2% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

9% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

World Bank

What it says...

"Opportunities for early learning are still not available to most children… And it’s mostly the privileged who have access. This must change. Every country should invest in future generations, not only because it’s simply the right thing to do, but also because failing to do so is a recipe for poverty, inequality and instability."

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the World Government Summit in Dubai (February 2017)

What it does...

3.2% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

9.2% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

South Korea

What it says...

Theirworld reviewed the publicly available material from the previous year but was unable to identify any commitments which highlight the importance of investing in pre-primary education. We then directly approached the agency but were unable to get a relevant quote.

What it does...

2% of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) goes to Early Childhood Development (ECD). 

10.8% of its aid to ECD goes to education.

What some other key organisations are saying about investing in pre-primary education...

UNESCO

"UNESCO entirely shares your views about the need for increased investments in pre-primary education to support children’s school readiness and to boost later learning."

Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education on behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO. Letter in response to Theirworld sending our report Bright and Early: how financing pre-primary education gives every child a fair start in life”. (August 2017).

Education Commission

"As evidence on the critical importance of the early years of life to a child’s future educational success is shaping investment choices across developed economies, similar investment must be made in developing economies ... the Commission goes further than the Sustainable Development Goal by including full public financing for two years of pre-primary education in all countries."

The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity - The Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world (September 2016).

Global Partnership for Education

"Investing in pre-primary education is a priority for GPE and essential to achieve GPE’s goals of improving learning and equity and enhancing the efficiency of education systems."

GPE Secretariat - blog: "GPE partner countries strive to give the youngest children the best chance" (February 2017).

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#5for5: The smartest investment

The first 5 years of a child’s life are the most critical to their future development. And yet pre-primary is so neglected, it receives less than 1% of education aid globally. Think world leaders can do better? Send them a message today:

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