An open letter to the new CEO of the Global Partnership for Education

An open letter to Alice Albright, new Chief Executive of the Global Partnership for Education, from Pauline Rose, Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report

global_partnership_for_education_taglineDear Ms Albright,

I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you in your new role heading the Global Partnership for Education, a vital part of the Education for All architecture. I’m sure your skills and experience will be invaluable in leading the GPE and its team of committed education experts. Like Carol Bellamy, we are thrilled that someone with your leadership qualities and solid management experience will be helping to make sure that all children — whatever their circumstances — get a good quality education.

The annual Education for All Global Monitoring Report undertakes independent analysis of progress towards the six EFA goals, and is published by UNESCO. Each year it has a particular focus – our 2013 Report will present evidence on the links between education and broader development outcomes to highlight the central role of education in the post-2015 development framework. It will also be addressing the importance of equitable learning in achieving these outcomes. The EFA Global Monitoring Report team is ready to support you in providing data and policy analysis on topical education issues.

I would like to take the liberty of offering three pieces of advice to help GPE ensure that no country is prevented from achieving the EFA goals due to lack of resources. These points seem particularly timely given discussions on education financing at the World Economic Forum this week, and our own analysis showing how little the private sector is contributing to education.

1.     Renew the focus on mobilizing resources for education, targeting those who need support most

We need $16 billion per year to achieve Education for All, but currently commitments fall far short of this. Analysis in our 2012 Report shows that donors are contributing just $1.9 billion to basic education in poor countries, and some are even reducing their spending. With less than three years until the EFA deadline, donors need an urgent reminder of the need to fulfill their commitment to ensure countries have the resources needed for all children to be in school and learning.

The private sector could also play a bigger role in helping to fill the funding gap, but as our new Policy Paper shows, it is only contributing $683 million annually, equivalent to just 5% of aid. Private sector champions can help lead by example, as you know well from your experience with Bill Gates and his support for GAVI (which funds vaccinations in developing countries). The education sector needs a business leader of his status to champion education’s power to boost development and reduce poverty.

The small contributions made by the private sector are often short-term, but education is a long-term endeavour. They also often do not reflect Education for All objectives, including strengthening government systems to ensure free primary schooling. Pearson International, to take one example, invests in low-fee private schools, making its contributions more akin to business interests and less about Education for All objectives. Banco Santander, the largest corporate contributor to education, channels 80% of its funds towards higher education and scholarships. While these funds are obviously beneficial, they will do little to help countries still struggling to get children into primary school.

In addition, business interests can get in the way of effective contributions to education of those who need support most. Contributions from the IT sector, for example, are often being directed towards emerging markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China and Mexico rather than poor countries.

2.     Encourage private foundations and corporations to disburse the funds they pledge through the GPE

One way to ensure that aid money supports Education for All goals would be to ensure that funds are channeled through the GPE, since this is a primary mechanism for ensuring funds are used to support country education plans.

But none of the money pledged by the private sector at the Global Partnership for Education replenishment meeting in 2011 is actually being channeled through the Partnership, so that it is not clear if it is “new” money. By contrast, as you know from your experience with GAVI, almost one-quarter of spending in 2011 to the alliance was provided by private corporations and foundations, equivalent to over $250 million in actual contributions.

Given that the private sector has a seat on the board of GPE, I hope that it can use this position to support the GPE in its objectives of mobilising funding education, capable of disbursing resources quickly, and spending it effectively to achieve the desired aims of strengthening government education systems.

3. Advocate for greater transparency around private sector contributions

To keep track of spending and ensure funds are used for the intended purposes, it is vital that private organizations and foundations provide an annual breakdown of pledges and disbursements. Pledges made at the Global Partnership for Education replenishment meeting in 2011 were not identified by organization – for the simple reason that those making the commitments did not want this made public. But why should the way in which the private sector supports health differ from its support to education – especially given that some organizations supporting health also support education?

We hope that you can bring your experience from your role as GAVI’s chief financial and investment officer to the GPE, ensuring that those pledging to education via the partnership are as transparent about how much they are giving – and for what purpose – as they have been with GAVI.

I wish you every success in your new role.


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