5 reasons for $5+ billion: Interview with Bambang Susantono

In this series, GPE asks changemakers five questions on the power of education. GPE's financing campaign seeks to raise at least $5 billion over five years to transform education for up to 1 billion children in 90 countries and territories.

March 01, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
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3 minutes read
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5 reasons for $5+ billion - Interview with Bambang Susantono

Bambang Susantono is Vice President for Knowledge Management at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

1. ADB has a strong footprint in Asia and the Pacific in supporting education. How important is ADB’s continued finance for education in developing countries?

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has a long track record of collaborating with developing countries in Asia and the Pacific to improve access to education and enhance its quality and relevance. In the past 5 decades, ADB has provided over $15 billion in loans and grants to its members.

Despite impressive progress in school enrollments and improvements in gender parity, growing empirical evidence points to shortfalls in student learning outcomes. We must do more to expand the pool of students in post-secondary education, including girls and disadvantaged children.

ADB is very aware that with most countries in the region reaching middle income status, their economies rely on knowledge and innovation-led growth. Investing in human capital development with strong foundations in universal K-12 education is critical to sustainable development and inclusive growth.

2. ADB’s Strategy 2030 incorporates education in Operational Priority 1, together with health and social protection. Given the current conditions, would there be greater attention to health compared to education?

Strategy 2030 is centered on cross-sector collaboration. Education, health and social protection are grouped under a single operational priority to amplify development impact by improving synergies. We have initiatives including skills development for elderly care in the People’s Republic of China and for health workforce in Vietnam.

We support a leading university in Indonesia to become a center of excellence as a teaching hospital. Skills for the care economy, which have so far been mostly family-based and informal, will gain more traction. To enhance the enabling and cross-sectoral role of education, we are also piloting the concept of build-for-skills in Mongolia to blend training with infrastructure projects.

3. ADB recently published COVID-19 and Education in Asia and the Pacific – A Guidance Note. Could you tell us about it?

The note outlines a roadmap for the recovery of education from the massive disruptions caused by COVID-19, both as an immediate measure, and for long-term rejuvenation.

The note calls for critical policy reforms such as revamping teacher professional development, and concrete actions to improve quality, relevance, and inclusion in education systems. Framed as the three Rs—Response, Recovery, and Rejuvenation—the note argues for using advanced technologies to improve the delivery of education and help students navigate their careers. New-generation, adaptive learning technologies have the potential to scale up learning outcomes and education equity.

4. Can you tell us something about ADB support to education in the coming period?

ADB’s annual commitments to education are projected to double to $2 billion by 2023, from $1 billion in 2020. Technical and vocational education and training remains important even as allocations to tertiary education grow, to support higher-level skills including innovation, entrepreneurship, and cross-sectoral collaboration.

We adapt our operations to suit the context and needs of our partner countries. This ranges from offering technical assistance to promote blockchain technologies for digital credentials in Indonesia, to supporting last mile schools in the Philippines that lack access to connectivity or devices.

5. Do you think global initiatives such as GPE are important? What is the role of international financing to education in the current times?

GPE, being the largest global fund dedicated to transforming education in lower-income countries, is crucial to augmenting much-needed resources to education. ADB’s support to education reforms in Nepal and Bangladesh has been extended in tandem with GPE grants.

ADB will administer the $15 million GPE grant to the Pacific Islands. This amplifies our regional technical assistance program where combined funding from GPE, New Zealand, South Korea and ADB now totals $20 million to support the implementation of the Pacific Regional Education Framework.

In Armenia, ADB is coordinating the GPE grant of $560,000 for 2021-2024. As governments grapple with the health and economic costs of the COVID-19 recovery, it is vital to protect and increase education budgets to ensure learning continuity, particularly for vulnerable groups. This will require more funding and more targeted spending.

VP Bambang Susantono raises his hand to support the GPE financing campaign
VP Bambang Susantono raises his hand to support the GPE financing campaign
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