UNESCO examines the financial shortfall for reaching global education

Education is a priority of the new development agenda but how to finance the ambitious new targets of the Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG4) remains a challenge. During the 2016 Global Action Week for Education (GAWE), UNESCO hosted a panel debate to examine this challenge, but also to explore opportunities.

The panel debate, on the 25 April, entitled Financing for SDG4-Education 2030: Leaving no one behind – what will it take to narrow inequity gaps? was organized by UNESCO and the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) to raise awareness around the importance of financing for education.

Without an additional USD 39 billion in education funding each year, the poorest countries will not be able to meet even the first education target set by the Sustainable Development Agenda of ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

In a video message marking the launch of GAWE, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “Failing to make adequate investments in education puts the fulfilment of the entire global agenda at risk.”

Alice Albright, the CEO of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), further stressed that to achieve this goal required “a stronger focus on the most marginalized”.

Education and poverty reduction

Education is key to the eradication of poverty which is the central ambition of the new development agenda. According to the data presented by one of the panelists, Romilly Greenhill of the Overseas Development Institute, by 2030, the world’s poorest people - the majority living in sub-Saharan Africa, and those in fragile states - are likely to be left further behind unless we match the new ambitions with new development finance. Recognizing education’s strong impact on poverty reduction in terms of personal and social returns, to meet the scale of investment required we must expand the tax capacity of poorest countries and ensure increased development aid for education.

Manos Antoninis of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) pointed out that Low Income Countries (LICs) were receiving just 22% of aid for education. However, with Sustainable Development Goal target 4.5 focusing on equity, there is a new indicator on the share of aid going towards the poorest countries.

Short-term aid vs long-term financing needs

To devise innovative models for financing, Ambassador Tarald Brautaset, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ focal point for the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, said that we must break the cycle of donors insisting on seeing immediate short-term results.

GCE’s representative, David Archer, agreed that education, more than any other question, needs long-term financing and pointed to the need for expanding the tax base.

Furthermore, the way in which funds are invested has a greater impact on results than simply increasing funds, according to Mr Andreas Schleicher from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Mr Fuad Omar, Deputy-Permanent Delegate from Ethiopia, and Ms Teopista Birungi, Uganda National Teachers’ Union founder, both stressed the key importance of investing in human resource development for attaining a high quality of education.

In conclusion, Jordan Naidoo, UNESCO’s Director of the Education 2030 Support and Coordination Division summarized that “Financing needs to be increased both domestically and externally. But it must focus on equity,” adding that it is not just a question of more funds but better use of it.

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