Funding the future

In the lead up the Global Partnership’s replenishment conference global civil society has published an action plan aimed at helping to close the global education funding gap and delivering new resources to the Global Partnership for Education.

The case for increased investment in basic education is unassailable.

Education reduces poverty, creates more sustainable livelihoods, improves long-term health benefits and makes men and women more equal.

A lack of funding holds educational progress back

In spite of this, there are huge shortfalls in financing for education, which is leading to a crisis in education in low- and middle-income countries.

Across the developing world, 57 million children are still out of primary school,  and an estimated 130 million children in school fail to acquire basic reading and numeracy skills, while another 120 million drop out within three years of starting.

Insufficient funding is one of the main obstacles to solving these problems.

Urgent need to reduce declining donor funding for education

In 2000, the global community committed to ensure that no country seriously dedicated to achieving education for all should be held back due to a lack of resources. This promise has not been kept, and is in danger of slipping further away as more and more donors reduce their aid to education.

Worryingly, aid to “basic” education in low-income countries – which was already far too low – is reducing faster than in other areas. Between 2010 and 2011, aid to basic education fell 6.3 %, from $6.2 billion to $5.8 billion, considerably more than the 3% reduction in total aid over the same period.

Furthermore, only a tiny fraction of this aid is being spent in low-income countries ($1.9 billion). In total, cuts made over the 2010 to 2011 period to the lowest income countries could have sent 1.1 million more children to school.

A critical opportunity

But this year the global community has a critical opportunity to reverse overall trends in financing for basic education, and to reaffirm commitments to financing education in the world’s poorest countries.

On June 26, 2014, developing country governments, donor governments, civil society, the teaching profession, foundations and the private sector will come together at the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) Replenishment Conference in Brussels. This offers a unique moment for the global community to reaffirm their collective commitments to education, and publicly affirm pledges to fund the Global Partnership for Education’s work between 2015 and 2018.

Last week, the Global Campaign for Education along with other civil society partners launched ‘Fund the Future: An action plan for funding the Global Partnership for Education’ (PDF).

The action plan sets argues for increases in education funding in general and for additional financing for the Global Partnership during its next operating period (2015 – 2018), including the importance of setting an ambitious replenishment target.

Moving beyond business as usual

The Global Partnership for Education has estimated that a minimum of US$3.2 billion is necessary from the international community during the replenishment period 2015 to 2018, just to maintain the status quo (i.e. to maintain the existing financing levels, which are below existing developing country demand). Given the increasing demand from developing countries, it is clear that a higher target will be necessary to meet future needs.
This will require donors to raise their ambition levels above ‘business-as-usual’. The Global Partnership estimates that raising funding above current levels to a more “ambitious” level could support a rise to 92% global student enrolment by 2018.

This would mean that 18.4 million children have a chance to get a quality basic education.

Civil society urges partners to adopt a target of at least US$4 billion

Given current demand and the pre-existing financing gaps, a civil society partnership which includes all of the Global Campaign for Education’s members along with the Global Poverty Project and the Open Society Foundation has calculated that donors need to collectively commit to at least $4 billion over 4 years. This is just $1 billion per year, and far below the overall finance gaps.

Without it, millions of children will never see the inside of a classroom, or will drop out before they even learn the basics.

Time to tackle the crisis in education financing

The current gaps in education financing have a direct and devastating impact on lives, depriving millions of girls and boys of quality education. This is not the time for donors and others to shy away from making bold financial commitments in support of education in the coming years.

The members of the Global Campaign for Education, and our civil society allies, call on all GPE partners to seize the opportunity of the June 2014 GPE Replenishment Conference to tackle the crisis in education financing, and make concrete pledges and commitments.

The first step in that process is for the board of the Global Partnership for Education to commit to a minimum of $4 billion in funds for the next operating period of the Global Partnership.

Find out more about civil society’s efforts in support of education funding and the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education at Fund the Future.

This article was originally published on the Global Partnership for Education blog