The importance of investments and capacity building for education is recognized in the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration. The Addis Agenda further stresses the role of the global partnership to support country-driven priorities and strategies, and emphasizes the importance of international development cooperation and partnerships in the education sector in particular.
Official development assistance for education received by developing countries from bilateral and multilateral donors has plateaued since 2009 at about $11 billion to $13 billion per year in constant 2016 dollars, after having doubled in the early 2000s. The share allocated to least developed countries (LDCs) fell from a peak of 47 per cent in 2004 to 34 per cent in 2016.
Children’s education is often interrupted during humanitarian emergencies. Humanitarian aid dedicated to education can contribute to a safe school environment and a sense of normalcy during crises. In 2014, the education sector received US$188 million in humanitarian aid. This is less than 1.5 per cent of the amount of development aid disbursed for education that year, and thus makes up only a small share of the external financing countries receive for education.
In 2015, out of a total of US$10.6 billion in humanitarian aid, the education sector received US$198 million. This is less than 1.9 per cent of total funding, despite a target set by the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative for education to receive at least 4 per cent of humanitarian aid. Education is at a double disadvantage because it not only receives the smallest share in humanitarian appeals, but what it does receive is consistently less than the average compared with requests: in 2015 the sector received 31 per cent of its requests for humanitarian aid, compared with an average of 55 per cent across all sectors.
There are several global mechanisms that support education. In 2017, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) (established in 2002) disbursed $497 million, with $351 million going to LDCs and other low-income countries. In 2018, pledges worth $2.3 billion were made to replenish the fund for 2018–2020. However, this was below the replenishment target of $3.1 billion, which could jeopardize GPE plans to expand its activities to more partner countries.
Inspired by the success of innovative mechanisms to mobilize additional international resources for the health sector, momentum has grown around developing new mechanisms to mobilize additional financial resources for education, to complement earlier efforts. Education Cannot Wait was established in 2016 to support education in crisis settings. It pools funds for Governments, non-governmental organizations and donors, and aims to improve collaboration and coordination between humanitarian and development actors, and encourage national ownership of programmes, addressing both immediate and long-term needs.
To address the needs of lower-middle income countries, the International Commission for the Financing of Global Education Opportunity proposed an International Finance Facility for Education. The facility, whose scope and institutional set-up will be negotiated in the coming months, would invite donors to provide guarantees (or other forms of contingent commitments) that would encourage multilateral development banks to expand lending for education and provide grants to blend with education loans to lower financing costs.
One of the challenges of a debt-funded education system is that returns on education materialize only over the long term. Investment in education does not generally generate fiscal income to repay the debt, at least in the near term. This implies that the mechanism could be difficult for some countries, especially given the recent rise in debt burdens. In this respect, the level of concessionality is important.
Another overarching issue these mechanisms will have to address is how to support gender equality in education. Involving stakeholders can help ensure that plans include and adequately fund strategies and policies that advance gender equality. In addition, to avoid duplication and fragmentation, donors should coordinate across different funding mechanisms.