2020: An unusual and record-setting year for GPE

Despite the challenges we faced throughout the year, 2020 has been a particularly rich and pivotal year for GPE. From the COVID-19 emergency response to a new brand, a new strategy and the launch of our financing campaign, revisit our main accomplishments.

December 16, 2020 by GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
Students from the Zanaki Primary School, a public primary school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank
Students from the Zanaki Primary School, a public primary school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Credit: Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank

The year 2020 has been unlike any other in our lifetime: a devastating health crisis turned into an economic crisis leading to the biggest global education emergency the world has ever faced.

In this unprecedented year, when the coronavirus pandemic shut 1.6 billion children out of school and widened the learning gap between rich and poor, the Global Partnership for Education worked in innovative ways to shore up education for the world’s most marginalized children.

As countries around the world began closing their schools in March, GPE gave UNICEF a $8.8 million grant to help governments kick-start planning for remote learning, communicate important health messages and help children struggling with mental health issues.

And that was only the beginning.

The largest COVID-19 education response

In April, GPE created what would become the world’s largest COVID-19 emergency education fund, mobilizing more than US$500 million to keep children learning.

The fund made 66 grants for a total of $467 million targeted at people and places most in need — girls, children with disabilities, poor children — and sustaining learning for as many as 355 million children.

Everyday scenes: Michell Huamán studies listening to a webinar during the pandemic in Lima, Peru, a city strongly impacted by COVID19. Credit: Victor Idrogo / Banco Mundial
Everyday scenes: Michell Huamán studies listening to a webinar during the pandemic in Lima, Peru, a city strongly impacted by COVID19.
Credit: Victor Idrogo / Banco Mundial

The grants are helping governments create educational radio and television programs, distribute radios to poor children and deliver textbooks to those with no connectivity, with a major focus on ensuring that children with disabilities are not left behind and on mitigating barriers to remote learning for girls.

Teachers are being trained in distance learning and provided with cell phone data so they can use technology like WhatsApp to stay connected with students. The grants are also ensuring schools can install water and sanitation facilities so they can reopen safely, and helping to build resilient education systems to withstand future shocks.

Because combatting the fallout from a global pandemic requires a coordinated approach, GPE joined UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition for COVID-19 Response and advocated for cross-sector collaboration and for transforming education systems to make them more efficient and resilient to crisis.

Building school sanitation and hygiene facilities, for example, protects against the coronavirus and other diseases, allows children to get an education safely and contributes to the health of their families and communities.

GPE also gave UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank a $25 million grant for a joint initiative to ensure regional and global efficiencies and knowledge sharing in response to the pandemic.

GPE participated in Save Our Future, a campaign led by the Education Commission and the World Bank that brought together multilateral and international agencies and civil society to formulate a common narrative in response to COVID-19 and protect education.

Students from the Primary wing of Adarsha Saula Yubak Higher Secondary School, Bhainsipati in Lalitpur, Nepal. Credit: GPE/NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati
Students from the Primary wing of Adarsha Saula Yubak Higher Secondary School, Bhainsipati in Lalitpur, Nepal.
Credit: GPE/NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati

Keeping the fire lit on other education fronts

The pandemic wasn’t the world’s only education emergency this year. GPE approved 12 accelerated funding requests totaling US$138 million to respond to crises such as armed conflict and terrorism in Burkina Faso and cyclones in Mozambique.

GPE’s Education Out Loud fund, which supports civil society efforts to advocate for education policy that meets the needs of marginalized children, made 54 grants totaling US$13.5 million to a diverse range of partners to strengthen education advocacy.

GPE also doubled down on its focus on educating girls, which pays dividends not only for them but for their families and communities. GPE highlighted how educating girls is the key to achieving gender equality overall and advocated for developed countries to make girls’ education a central part of foreign policy.

With an estimated 20 million more secondary school girls projected to never return when schools reopen after COVID-19 closures, GPE urged governments to ensure that they do, including by removing barriers that girls face.

The GPE Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX), which helps partner countries strengthen education by sharing expertise, innovation and knowledge, created four regional hubs for countries to surface policy challenges and exchange information. In late November, KIX launched a COVID-19 observatory in Africa to track how 41 countries’ responses to COVID-19 in primary and secondary education can inform policies and best practices.

KIX also funded 12 projects totaling US$24 million to scale proven innovations in over 40 countries and, with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, created a guide for education ministries to address challenges in measuring education quality, reach and impact.

Strengthening GPE for the work ahead

This year, GPE welcomed 8 new partner countries from the Pacific region: Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

GPE continued to mobilize new funding from partners and welcomed Switzerland's increased 2020 contribution along with $40 million for the COVID-19 fund from Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

2020 is a record year for GPE, with US$1.5 billion in grants approved to 69 partner countries to help them strengthen their education systems and improve learning and access to school. And disbursements are set to hit nearly $1 billion by the end of this month, another record.

In October, GPE was excited to launch its fourth financing campaign, “Raise Your Hand,” co-hosted by the governments of the United Kingdom and Kenya. GPE is calling on world leaders to raise their hands and pledge at least $5 billion over the next five years to help transform education in up to 87 countries, which are home to more than 1 billion children.

This investment will help ensure that 175 million children can learn and enroll 88 million more children in school. In the longer term, it could add $164 billion to developing country economies, lift 18 million people out of poverty and protect two million girls from early marriage.

The campaign will raise the funds necessary to implement GPE’s ambitious new strategy, GPE 2025, over the next five years. The goal of the strategy is to accelerate access to school, learning outcomes and gender equality through equitable, inclusive and resilient education systems.

The strategy aims to build on progress that GPE has helped its partner countries achieve. As its Results Report 2020 shows, 3 of 4 children completed primary school in 2019, with nearly 3 of 4 countries achieving gender parity in school completion rates, and 7 of 10 increasing education's share of the national budget or maintaining it at 20% or more.

Finally, GPE launched a new brand and visual identity that reflects the partnership’s bold aspirations, and a new slogan — “transforming education” — to symbolize progress toward our vision: a quality education for every child.

As 2021 comes around, GPE and all of our partners will be hard at work to make this vision a reality.

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