Getting domestic education financing measurement right

Students in class at the Monze Primary School, Zambia. May 2017 Credit: GPE/Alexandra Humme

Students in class at the Monze Primary School, Zambia. May 2017

CREDIT: GPE/Alexandra Humme

Delivering high-quality education to young people across the globe calls for the mobilization of considerable resources: teaching and non-teaching staff, schools and classrooms, books and other educational materials. Public education systems across GPE countries are under considerable financial pressure, particularly in light of the large and growing proportion of youth of school age.

Committing sufficient resources to finance education systems is essential to the achievement of equitable learning outcomes. This is why GPE prioritizes incentivizing and supporting its developing country partners (DCPs) to increase domestic public expenditures on education, in parallel with promoting effective and transparent global and local dialogue around increased, efficient and equitable domestic financing for education.

Measuring domestic financing

But equally important is to collect and consolidate financial data to understand how much is allocated and spent on education. Accurate and up-to-date data on education financing is a prerequisite for effective policy planning and monitoring.

Education policymakers need to understand what resources are available to them (from both domestic and external resources), and how much they will need to spend in the future in order to deliver on national plan targets.

In addition, measuring domestic financing for education at country level is a good way to gauge in real-time the extent to which governments are making investments in education for their citizens.

Despite the importance of data on education financing, the global education community as well as national planners face significant data gaps, as many low-income countries lack sustainable systems to collect, disseminate and analyze data on education financing. Many countries cannot report on public expenditures on education in a reliable and timely manner.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is currently the most widely used source for internationally comparable education sector and financing data. UIS publishes annually 18 indicators related to education financing. However, the regularity with which developing countries report to UIS varies, and domestic financing data for many DCPs is not consistently available, and often published with a two to three-year time lag.

GPE Indicator

In recognition of the importance of timely availability of data, the GPE Board mandated the Secretariat to develop an indicator for measuring the proportion of DCPs that have secured sustainable levels of domestic financing for education at, or above, 20% of the national budget. This indicator is core to GPE's corporate monitoring and evaluation framework and it informs indicator 10 of our Results Framework.

In short, Indicator 10 calculates the share of education expenditures in total public (government) expenditure (excluding debt service):

Indicator 10 (%) =
Public expenditure on education Total public expenditure (excluding debt service)
  • Public expenditures on education (numerator) is the sum of (i) expenditure on education by all national ministries and departments, (ii) expenditure on education as sub-federal level (i.e. by states and/or local governments); and (iii) employer's contribution to non-salary social benefits (if not charged directly to the education ministry's budget).
  • Total public expenditure (denominator) includes all expenditures recorded in current and development budgets, excluding the debt service. Importantly, to ensure that the indicator reflects the priority that is given to education by governments within the resources over which it has allocative control, the denominator (including recurrent and capital expenditure) excludes debt service.

The GPE indicator looks at actual rather than budgeted expenditures; when actual expenditure data is not (yet) available, the Secretariat draws on budget data adjusted by an execution rate calculated from the most recently available historical data.

It is worth noting that GPE's data collection approach is somewhat different to that historically employed by the UIS. The Secretariat methodology relies solely on figures contained in publicly available budget documents, while the UIS works directly with countries to compile education expenditure data through an annual survey.

Collaborating with UIS

The 2016 and 2017 data collection exercise led by the Secretariat yielded substantial domestic financing information for 49 GPE partner countries and states, and highlighted opportunities for strengthened partnership between GPE and UIS. In support of global efforts to address education financing data gaps, the Secretariat conducted a study to compare both UIS and GPE indicator methodologies to assess the feasibility of greater collaboration between the two organizations. The study showed that the two organizations' methods for calculating the perimeter of education expenditures (the numerator of Indicator 10) are broadly aligned, and proposed a path forward to more effectively work together in support of generating more robust data on domestic financing.

A key outcome of this process was an agreement signed between the UIS and GPE in May 2017, which allows for the integration of data collection for Indicator 10 into UIS processes. The two methodologies are complementary: while the GPE approach allows for rapid data collection and processing, the UIS system has in-built quality control measures that allow for country-level validation prior to the release of information. As such, the harmonized GPE-UIS efforts are expected to significantly improve the timeliness, quality and coverage of data on government expenditure on education.

Making use of the data

Moving forward, the Secretariat will use this financing data to provide technical support to DCPs; tailoring its capacity building efforts to advocate for greater levels of financing, improved efficiency in education spending, and better information and reporting systems.

This data may also promote collaboration and strengthen dialogue between ministries in charge of education and ministries of finance, and foster greater transparency to enable civil society organizations to engage in budget negotiations.

Indicator 10 data will also be used to inform a more robust process for DCP pledges on domestic financing during GPE's upcoming replenishment. Since pledges will be based on the (standardized) data collected, this will improve the reliability and comparability of data, as well as allow for consistent and transparent monitoring on progress towards meeting domestic financing objectives. Pledges will be monitored as part of GPE's annual Results Report, in parallel to reporting on Indicator 10.

If you are interested in obtaining the dataset, the study comparing UIS and GPE indicators, or the methodology, please contact the SPP Technical team at


Chief Technical Officer, Global Partnership for Education
Karen Mundy is the Chief Technical Officer at the Global Partnership for Education, where she directs the Strategy, Policy and Performance team. Dr. Mundy is a globally recognized leader and specialist in...
Senior Education Specialist, Global Partnership for Education
Raphaelle Martínez Lattanzio is a Senior Education Specialist in charge of systems, finance and efficiency of the Strategy, Policy and Performance team of the GPE Secretariat. She joined GPE in November 2013...

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