How do donors support global education? Findings from a deep dive on education aid

The DONOR Tracker is a free, independent and publicly available one-stop knowledge platform on all major OECD DAC donors who collectively provide 90% of official development assistance.

The DONOR Tracker is a free, independent and publicly available one-stop knowledge platform on all major OECD DAC donors who collectively provide 90% of official development assistance.

World leaders, international organizations, and advocacy groups rallied around global education at the “Financing the Future: Education 2030” event on the margins of the UN General Assembly last month, calling for a major lift in funding educational opportunity from domestic and donor governments.

Presidents Sall (Senegal) and Macron (France) used the opportunity to announce that they would host the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference next February in Dakar, Senegal.  But to help reach the US$3.1 billion GPE is seeking from donors through 2020, an important first step is to explore how much donors currently invest in global education.

The Donor Tracker, a free and independent website, offers comprehensive information on 14 major OECD donor countries that together contribute 90% of official development assistance (ODA) globally.

The website offers quick and easy access to quantitative and qualitative information on donors’ funding trends, strategic priorities, and decision-making, while also identifying potential opportunities to advocate for more and better funding for development.

The Donor Tracker also produces ‘Deep Dives’ on the funding and priorities of those 14 donors in key SDG sectors: most recently, a new Deep Dive on education. Each donor’s page provides key information for advocates, policymakers, and others, including:

  • Total spending on education, both overall and as a percentage of total ODA
  • Funding trends over time, as well as an outlook on future funding
  • A breakdown of funding by education sub-sectors, geographic focus, and by the income group of countries receiving assistance
  • Contributions through multilateral organizations
  •  Contributions to education in emergency situations, including as a percentage of overall humanitarian assistance
  • Stated priorities and approaches
  • Decision-making processes, including relevant government actors driving policy formulation, funding decisions, and implementation

Looking across the entire donor country community, some interesting trends emerge.

  1. Funding for education has declined in recent years
  2. The best way to see how much country donors prioritize education is to look at their bilateral funding, because it’s an area of development finance over which they have the most control. Funding for education among country donors in the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) has declined significantly overall since its 2010 peak, from US$8.1 billion to US$7.6 billion, or 6% (Figure 1).

    Bilateral funding for education, DAC country total
  3. Most funding goes to post-secondary education
  4. Donor country investments focus on post-secondary education: on average, 42% of donor countries’ education ODA was allocated to this sector in 2015 (Figure 2), driven in large part by spending on scholarships and other costs for students from developing countries studying in donor countries (73% of total post-secondary funding). In contrast, OECD donor countries allocated only 26% of their bilateral education ODA in 2015 to basic education (which includes: primary education, early childhood education, and basic life skills for youth and adults). In fact, the US$2.3 billion that OECD donors spent on scholarships and student costs within their borders in 2015 was larger than the US$2 billion they spent on basic education.

    OECD donor country average by sub-sector of education
  5. Middle-income countries receive the most education funding
  6. Low-income countries are much more likely to have lower rates of students finishing primary school than middle-income countries, which is a useful determinant of need when it comes to education funding. But low-income countries account for only 30% of education funding from OECD countries, compared with 52% for middle-income countries (Figure 3).  

    OECD DAC average by recipient income group

Mobilizing more support for global education requires that advocates understand how donor countries currently fund this sector. It also requires an understanding of donors’ current appetite for increasing funding in this area. It’s the aim of the Donor Tracker to fill this gap. Better information will hopefully support those advocating for more and better global education finance to ensure that every child on earth has a quality education by 2030.

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The DONOR Tracker is a free, independent and publicly available one-stop knowledge platform on all major OECD DAC donors who collectively provide 90% of official development assistance. By establishing a shared, comprehensive, and high-quality knowledge base on donor investments, policies, and decision-making, the Donor Tracker seeks to advance and support progress in global development by providing advocates with easy access to high-quality quantitative and qualitative strategic information to support their work. 

Author(s)

Associate Consultant, SEEK Development
Chris Kardish is an Associate Consultant at SEEK Development. He led the Donor Tracker’s expansion into the education sector and plays a significant editorial role in other Donor Tracker content. He has also...
Project Manager, SEEK Development
Raimund Zühr is a Project Manager at SEEK Development. He has extensive experience in strategy consulting, having developed and implemented engagement strategies for a wide range of international clients. He...
Sabine Campe is Partner at SEEK Development. She combines long experience in management consulting with deep expertise in global development. Key areas of her work are strategy and organizational...

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