25 April 2008
In spite of promises to support basic education, aid commitments are stagnating and remain far short of what is required to achieve universal primary education, according to a recent analysis by the Education for All Global Monitoring Report team.Several trends are reason for concern. First, while aid to basic education increased in 2006 over the previous year, it remained below its 2004 level.
Second, aid to basic education has only increased at the same rate as total aid, reflecting the fact that most donors have not assigned a higher priority to basic education in their overall aid package.
Third, figures released this month by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) show that total official development assistance dropped by 8.4% in 2007, probably resulting in a further reduction in aid to basic education.
“We are encouraged that aid to basic education increased in 2006 over 2005 but still concerned because there has been a general slowdown in how much donors are committing to education. This could carry serious consequences for educational progress in low-income countries,” said Koďchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO. “These countries need enough aid and predictable aid to support the rapid expansion of their education systems.”
In total, aid to basic education amounted to US$5.0 billion in 2006, up from US$3.7 billion in 2005 but below US$5.3 billion committed in 2004. Bilateral aid to basic education increased from US$2.7 billion in 2005 to US$3.9 billion in 2006. Commitments from multilateral agencies to basic education remained constant at US$1.1 billion.
The rise in aid to basic education in 2006 was mainly driven by increased contributions from two bilateral donors, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Together their combined aid to basic education increased by US$1.3 billion.
More donors, however, must come on board to assure more sustained growth in aid to basic education. Some large donors to education – notably Germany and France – use half of their total aid to education to subsidize the cost of foreigners studying in their universities.
Other donors are more in line with the commitment to extend basic education but the volume of their aid is insufficient. The United States allocates three-quarters of its aid to education to the basic level but, overall, education only accounts for 2% of the country’s total official development assistance.
The 2008 EFA Global Monitoring Report estimates that roughly $11 billion a year is needed to achieve education for all in low-income countries. Yet aid to basic education will reach only US$6 billion by 2010 even if the promises of the Gleneagles G-8 summit in 2005 are met and if basic education is given the same priority as at present in aid portfolios.
The Report argues that if bilateral donors allocated at least 10% of their sector aid to basic education this could lead to a total allocation of US$10 billion in 2010.
In 2006 only two bilateral donors allocated more than 10% of their aid to basic education (Netherlands and New Zealand).
“Donors are not on track to meet the commitments they made at the 2005 G-8 summit in Gleneagles,” says Kevin Watkins, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report. “We face a huge impending shortfall that will put the achievement of human development goals out of reach if donors don’t come through with their commitments.”
The Education for All Global Monitoring Report is prepared by an independent team and published yearly by UNESCO and Oxford University Press.