Pauline Rose “Cutbacks in aid to basic education are harmful for disadvantaged children”

Access and Inclusion August 26, 2013

With just two years until the deadline for getting all children into school, renewed energy to achieve Education for All by 2015 is more crucial than ever. Yet our new policy paper reveals that international aid for education has declined for the first time since 2002 while 57 million children continue to be denied access to school.

Even though more children have entered school since 2000, our new findings confirm that progress has all but stopped. A comprehensive approach to universal primary education requires new interventions to ensure that every child enters school and stays there long enough to acquire, at a minimum, basic literacy and numeracy skills. However, almost half of children who being denied an education today are unlikely ever to make it into school. The risk of not getting into school is even greater for girls, roughly 17 million of whom are expected not to make it compared with 11 million boys. Once in school, one-quarter of children leave before completing primary education and are unlikely to achieve basic skills, a proportion that has hardly changed since 2000.

Our new paper also finds that progress in getting children into school has been uneven across regions. South and West Asia has shown considerable improvements, reducing the number of out-of-school children from 38 million to 12 million. Conversely, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to face significant challenges: the region is home to nearly 30 million out-of-school children, only 3 million fewer than in 2005. One in five primary school-age children in the region have either never been to school or left before completing their primary education. A new paper we will put out later this month will show the additional challenges children living in conflict affected countries in the region face to go to school as well.

Reading into the statistics it is plainly evident that children who face disadvantages due to poverty, gender or where they live are most likely to be denied the chance to go to school. The facts speak for themselves: Children from poor households are three times as likely to be out of school as children from wealthy households, and twice as many children in rural areas are out of school compared children in urban areas.

Our new analysis gave further worrying news: Donors are cutting back spending on education just when it is needed to enable a final push to reach the most disadvantaged children by 2015. Six of the 10 largest bilateral donors cut their aid to basic education between 2010 and 2011. The Netherlands and Japan both cut aid to basic education by nearly one-third, and Canada’s aid fell by around a quarter. The European Union also decreased its aid to basic education by nearly one-third in the same period. Despite the efforts of some key donors, such as Australia, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom, whose aid increased, total aid to basic education declined by 7% between 2010 and 2011. Donors are also failing to channel aid to those who are most in need. Of the US$5.8 billion in aid to basic education in 2011, only US$1.9 billion was allocated to poor countries.

Children urgently need new sources of financing, such as from the private sector, to help fill the annual US$26 billion financing gap for achieving universal primary education. However, the private sector cannot compensate for the funds that should come from donors who have pledged that no country should be thwarted from achieving Education for All by 2015. Education for all children can be achieved, but not by a few key players: it will require strong commitments and action from everyone.