Latest aid figures show support to education falls again - UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report

The amount of aid allocated to education has fallen for six years in a row.

This is according to a recent policy paper published by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report. The paper, titled Aid to Education is Stagnating and Not Going to Countries Most in Need, states that total aid to education stands at US $12 billion—4 percent lower than in 2010. Meanwhile, total development aid has increased by 24 percent over the same period. The analysis is based on newly released data from the OECD Development Assistance Committee .

Despite widespread acknowledgement from the international community that education is a vital human right and plays a key role in human, social and economic development, the paper shows that donors are shifting their priorities away from education to other sectors. In the run up to GPE’s next replenishment conference, expected early next year, it highlights an urgent need to increase global education financing to ensure SDG4, the new international education development goal, can be met.

The analysis shows that many countries, and particularly the poorest, rely upon aid, yet the share of aid to basic education in low-income countries fell sharply from 29 percent in 2014 to 23 percent in 2015. Any decrease in aid to education puts the significant gains made over the past decade at risk, and jeopardizes the futures of an entire generation of children and youth who should be in school and learning.

In addition, this trend risks the provision of well-trained, motivated and supported teachers, an essential link to delivering a quality education to all children. While student-teacher ratios have improved  in recent years, many countries continue to have an average of 40 or more students per teacher, inadequate teacher training, and limited teaching resources. Increased donor financing to support developing country governments to invest in teachers and effective teaching is therefore hugely important for the provision of quality education for all.

The paper also highlights inconsistencies in aid provision where need should be the ultimate driver and nothing else, yet sub-Saharan Africa, which is currently home to over half of the world’s out-of-school children, received in 2015 almost half the share of aid to basic education it had received in 2002. This amounts to 26 percent of total aid to basic education, only just more than the 22 percent going to Northern Africa and Western Asia, which house nine percent of out-of-school children. Similarly, the paper shows that Burkina Faso, with a 49 percent out-of-school rate at the primary level, received just $17 million, while Zimbabwe, with just two percent of primary-school age out of school, received $31 million. Again, the facts prove that current aid allocation and education financing structures are not reaching those most in need.

Last, but by no means least, the paper shows that education received $303 million of humanitarian aid in 2016, a historic high, and 55 percent more than the year before. But still, this is only a tiny amount – 2.7 percent – of all humanitarian aid. and still leaves half of the requests the education sector made for assistance unanswered.

Attempts to reverse these trends will require political will, commitment and coordinated action by educations many players including governments, donors, teachers, parents, students and civil society, strengthening mechanisms to deliver effective aid without wasteful replication, and rallying around three global education funding mechanisms:


  1. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Replenishment campaign this year is seeking to raise $3.1 billion for the period 2018-20, aiming to disburse $2 billion annually by 2020, or four times more than the level currently disbursed.
  2. An International Finance Facility for Education proposed by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, a reference to which was included in the G20 Leaders’ Declaration at their summit in Hamburg in July 2017, could leverage around $10 billion in additional financing per year by 2020 for development banks to expand their education portfolio and target lower middle-income countries.
  3. The Education Cannot Wait fund established in 2016 aims to raise $3.85 billion by 2020, which would transform the delivery of education in emergencies.


While these three financing mechanisms may make a considerable contribution to development aid, concerns about dwindling development aid and about whether and how the International Financing Facility for Education would reduce the debt burden of poor countries have been expressed. Therefore an increase in domestic investment in education is paramount if the annual education financing gap is to be bridged.


Manos Antoninis


Manos joined the Report team in August 2011 from Oxford Policy Management, a development policy consultancy. He has worked as a monitoring and evaluation expert in education sector projects including: a public expenditure tracking and service delivery survey of secondary education provision in Bangladesh; the evaluation of a basic education project in the western provinces of China; the mid-term evaluation of the Education For All Fast Track Initiative; the annual reporting of progress in the implementation of the Second Primary Education Development Project in Bangladesh; a basic education capacity building programme in six states in Nigeria; the evaluation of an in-service, cluster-based teacher training programme in Pakistan; and the country study of the Out of School Children Global Initiative in Indonesia. He holds a BA in International Economics from the Athens University of Economics and Business and an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Oxford. His DPhil was a study of technical education and the labour market in Egypt, completed at the Centre for the Study of African Economies of the University of Oxford.


Yuki Murakami

Research Officer

Yuki Murakami joined the Global Education Monitoring Report team in August 2016 to work on education finance issues. Previously, she was a health economist at the OECD analysing health expenditure trends and financing mechanisms using the System of Health Accounts in both OECD and non-OECD countries. She was also at the World Bank for the Latin America and the Caribbean Region where she analysed the affordability of tertiary education and the costs and benefits of skilled labour migration and served in a project to improve youth employment. She holds two Masters degrees in health economics from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Texas. She was presented with a “Symbols of Tomorrow” award in Japan in 2013 for her work on global health policy by the All Japan Hospital Association of Japan and Japan Hospital Association.

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