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Education and

Development Strategy

Key message

Education is a prerequisite to achieving international development objectives, underpinning all of the global goals


Each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals includes a target directly grounded by quality learning and education. Health, climate change, poverty alleviation, gender equality, mental health and other outcomes are intimately linked to equitable and inclusive quality education. Simply put, education must be central to any international development or sector strategy to achieve maximum impact.
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Key challenges
  • Pre-pandemic, it was estimated that education finance needed to increase drastically to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. It was estimated that to advance learning levels in lower-income countries to approach those in higher-income countries, spending on education needed to more than double between 2015 and 2030, from approximately US$1.25 trillion per year to nearly US$3 trillion
    (International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, 2016).
  • International aid for education needs to increase if lower-income countries are to reach the SDGs. Estimates at the introduction of the SDGs suggested, after domestic resources were maximised, international support for education to developing countries would need to increase from today’s estimated US$16 billion per year to US$89 billion per year by 2030
    (International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, 2016).
  • Projections for education show that by 2030 suboptimal education outcomes will limit progress towards the other global goals. Even before the impact of Covid-19, 258 million children were not in school and 617 million were not learning – and more than half of all young people were not on track to have basic reading and maths skills by 2030
    (International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, 2016).
  • Despite aid increases for education, global aid priorities do not align with the need. Only 47% of aid to education was spent on basic and secondary education in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the two subsectors and two country groups perceived as most in need
    (UNESCO, 2020).
  • International finance is in danger due to the global pandemic which has caused a shock greater than the 2008 financial crisis. Global aid is likely to decline by up to US$2 billion from 2018 to 2022 as a result of recession caused by Covid-19, resulting in a 12% drop in international support for education
    UNESCO, 2020  World Bank, 2020
  • Lagging support for education may result in more children being out of school than before the pandemic. If current funding trends continue, the number of out-of-school children — particularly those hardest to reach in many of the poorest countries — will continue to increase. It is estimated that 10 million children previously in school will not return afte
    (Save the Children, 2020).
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Make the case
  • Aid donors have a role to play in supporting an increase in finance for education. Aid donors need to increase aid finance for education to 15% of total official development assistance, and channel more aid multilaterally to meet the Sustainable Development Goals
    (International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, 2016).
  • Education aid was increasing before the pandemic struck. Aid to education in 2018 reached a record of US$15.6 billion, increasing 9% from the prior year. This represented the highest allocation of aid ever to go to basic education, secondary education and higher education
    (UNESCO, 2020).
  • There is a moral duty to invest in education in developing countries to reduce inequality. The average low-income country government will invest about US$1,300 on a child’s education, while the average high-income country will spend about US$110,000
    (World Bank, 2020).
  • Norway’s commitment to education at the outset of the Sustainable Development Goals is an example of how a donor country can make an impact and gain international notoriety. Norway doubled its investment in education for development, and increased aid to education in emergencies by 150% between 2013 and 2016. These contributions provided education for five times as many children as there are primary education students in Norway, supporting over 3.1 million girls and boys, providing 11 million students with learning materials, and training 140,000 teachers - and gaining the country international prais
    (NORAD, 2017).
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Key Q&As
  • We cannot focus on every development priority. Our country has selected another issue area – why should education be included?
  • Education unlocks all other development priorities. The Key topics on this website can help your government make the case for why education should be a strategic priority for official development assistance, even if your main focus is other issues, like climate change, economic growth, mental health or public health.
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Key talking points
  • In an increasingly globalised world, furthering mutual priorities and addressing global issues – ranging from income equity and economic development to public health and climate change – relies on providing access to quality education.
  • To achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for education, international aid for education needs to increase dramatically, even more following the global Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Education underpins all of the Sustainable Development Goals and is a precursor to unlocking any development agenda.
  • Development strategies must include a clear and sharp focus on supporting quality education systems to create sustainable change in any other sector.
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