Making a case for increased education financing: CSOs call on leaders to ‘show us the money’

Preschool students gather outside at the Bartolome de las Casas preschool in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Credit: GPE/Carolina Valenzuela

Preschool students gather outside at the Bartolome de las Casas preschool in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

CREDIT: GPE/Carolina Valenzuela

The right to education is the global civil rights struggle of our time.

Education is a human right, a crucial means for tackling gender inequality and achieving the sustainable development agenda. The global commitment to education has increased significantly with the Sustainable Development Goals – within which governments committed to ensuring that every child’s right to an inclusive, quality, equitable education is fully met, from pre-primary through to tertiary.

The SDGs have also committed to leave no one behind and focus on those most excluded, particularly women and girls. It is no secret that if we fail to make significant progress on education outcomes, we will fail to meet any of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet 264 million children and young people today are still not able to access education. Half a billion children are in school but not learning and over 750 million adults lack even basic literacy.

The Education Commission report found that in low and middle-income countries, only half of primary school aged children (337 million out of 611 million) are on track to reach even “low” learning levels. Without action, the learning crisis will significantly slow progress towards ending extreme poverty.

A new compact with developing countries

In 2014 developing country governments made remarkable commitments of $26 billion at the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) replenishment event –ten times more than the donors– but many of these pledges were lacking in credible detail.

That’s why today we’re launching the Compact on Domestic Financing of Education- to support developing country governments to meet their commitments on education.

Through the compact, civil society organizations (CSOs) are calling on governments to increase their overall spend on education – through domestic resource mobilization, and prioritization of the education sector – to 20% of the national budget, or 6% of GDP. This increase in financing is necessary to achieve education for all, but more money alone will not be enough. The Compact calls for budget to be spent sensitively, with a greater attention to equity, inclusion and quality, so that no child is excluded from education.

For Plan International, this focus is critical to ensure education systems are gender responsive and promote gender equality. Strategies and approaches that promote gender equality, girls’ education and equity more broadly require not just increased but targeted funding.

The Compact also outlines that pledges are a commitment by a government to their citizens, and as such should be announced domestically, approved at the highest level, be credible, and be open to public scrutiny. In addition, the Compact calls for pledges to be made early, ahead of GPE’s Financing Conference in Dakar on February 2, 2018.

We believe these considerations, combined with more targeted asks from developing country governments, can and will lead to more interest and positive responses from donors. Finally, the Compact calls on developing country governments to add to the call for global tax reforms, acknowledging that they stand to gain enormously from fairer tax rules.

GPE’s replenishment event: a milestone for mutual accountability

So why the big push now? The GPE Financing Conference in February 2018 presents a real opportunity to push through tangible commitments on domestic financing for education. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate GPE’s value as a partnership between developing and donor countries, where domestic financing from developing countries and donor funds work together for systemic improvements.

Public education systems across GPE countries are currently under considerable financial pressure, particularly in light of the large and growing proportion of youth of school age.

Failure to #FundEducation and make significant progress on education outcomes will mean children and young people, particularly girls, will continue to be shut out of opportunity, prosperity and reaching their full potential.

Education is also a crucial means for promoting human rights and tackling gender inequality. Girls are more than 1.5 times more likely than boys to remain completely excluded from primary education, and are less likely than boys to attend school in emergencies. Girls are also subject to gender-based violence in and around schools – meaning schools are not safe spaces for them.

School is a space in which young people can learn about positive gender norms; where girls can and should be able to exercise their agency; and where young people should be able to learn the skills they will need to support them in their future lives – however they decide to live them. All of these education outcomes need resources in order to be successful.

Domestic financing is essential in addressing the existing learning and financing crises, and remains the most critical element in the delivery of national education targets. It will continue to be the main driver for expanding access to quality education, but aid will still have a large part to play, not least as a catalyst for change.

Make your voice heard

Civil society are getting behind the GPE Financing Conference, which includes a robust domestic financing pledging process and methodology that will also help in getting domestic education financing measurement right. Quality financing is the only way to end the learning and funding crisis. Civil society organizations like Plan International are stepping up. Now it’s your turn.

So what can you do? Make your voice heard and call on your leaders to show an ambitious and bold commitment to finance quality education for all. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said recently:

“The Global Partnership for Education’s Financing Conference is the first opportunity to turn political commitment into tangible support.”

Author(s)

Ms Albrectsen has been CEO of child rights organization Plan International since September 2015. Before joining Plan International, Ms. Albrectsen served as the UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy...

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