Boy looking at destroyed wall
Palestinian boy walking by his school’s damaged wall during break time at Tuni public school in the Beitlahia area of northern Gaza strip

Shrinking aid flows risk putting Education for All out of reach

By Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report

New aid figures released this week by the OECD make for sombre reading. Globally, aid has fallen since 2010, with poor countries hardest hit. This is worrying news for children worldwide as it further jeopardises the Education for All goals, which are already in danger of not being met by 2015. If funds for education become scarcer, access to education will continue to stagnate and the quality of schools will decline, denying the most vulnerable children in the world’s poorest countries the opportunity to learn. Given that 250 million primary-school aged children are not learning even the basics, this downward trend in aid needs to be reversed urgently.

The new OECD figures show that total aid stagnated in 2010, and has fallen since then – by 2% in 2011 and by a further 4% in 2012. As we showed in the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, aid to education generally follows the same pattern as overall aid flows. When aid to development stagnated in 2010, it led to a stagnation of aid to education too. Subsequent declines in aid mean that the prospects for children and adolescents who are out of school do not look good.

Boy looking at destroyed wall
Palestinian boy walking by his school’s damaged wall during break time at Tuni public school in the Beitlahia area of northern Gaza strip
(c) UNESCO/ Eman Mohammed

It is also of concern that bilateral aid to less developed countries has declined severely, falling by 12.8% in 2012. As we showed in the latest EFA Global Monitoring Report, poor countries rely heavily on aid to keep their education systems afloat. In nine sub-Saharan African countries, we estimate that aid accounts for a quarter of the education budget, contributing to faster education progress. In a context of economic downturn, reducing aid to these countries now will only mean one thing: fewer children in school and learning.

The EFA Global Monitoring Report has recently calculated that the finance gap for education has grown by $10 billion over the past three years. Our analysis showed that this increase is primarily because aid donors have not kept their promises. The total finance gap for basic education now stands at $26 billion a year. With just 1,000 days to go until the 2015 deadline for the EFA goals, the news that aid is falling leaves little hope of bridging this substantial gap.

In 2000, EFA partner countries promised that no country committed to the EFA goals would be left behind due to lack of resources. The failure to deliver on that promise is partly due to a lack of specific funding targets within the eighth Millennium Development Goal on a global partnership, and within the Education for All framework. For the sake of the education of the world’s children, we cannot afford to make the same mistake again. It is vital that a new education finance goal forms part of a comprehensive set of post-2015 education goals that also emphasize equity and measurability.

It is hardly surprising that countries suffering the most from the current economic hardship, such as Greece, have cut aid the most. But in such a climate, it is heartening that nine countries have increased their development aid, and that a new donor has joined the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee – Iceland. It is essential that donors do their utmost to maintain the levels of aid given to education in poor countries.


1 comment

  1. Difficult economic times like these expectedly take a toll on aid. But they also force reflection on the methods of providing aid. What are those methods? How cost effective is each method? Do they establish locally sustainable practices? Are we leveraging technology?

    Along with the tough questions, let me offer just one concept for a low cost aid delivery mechanism. The idea is to leverage the huge body of educator talent in the world through a system of cloud-based teacher tools. Once the system is built, the online system libraries of resources including curriculum and assessments would be populated by volunteer educators with easy to understand and directly usable materials for inexperienced teachers. Add in collaboration, sharing, and peer support tools for encouraging peer interaction, fostering professionalism and adopting best practices for a complete system.

    With a system like this in place, global education aid could be provided at low cost with minimal on-site professional development using just an Internet connection, PC and printer. This small footprint of technology allows tapping into the huge, organized library of material and the prospect of support from teacher volunteers around the world.

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