Helen Dabu is the Secretary-General of the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE).
Laura Giannecchini is the Institutional Development Coordinator, Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE).
Both are former members of the GPE Board of Directors, representing Civil Society Organizations in GPE partner countries.
1. The overarching theme for this year’s Global Action Week for Education (GAWE) was education financing. What is the role of regional and national coalitions, such as ASPBAE and CLADE, in securing increased public financing for education?
Helen Dabu: ASPBAE and CLADE, together with GCE and other regional and national education campaign coalitions, play a critical role engaging governments, especially from developing countries, to protect and progressively increase education budgets – this is a collective call we made with GCE and GPE on the occasion of GAWE 2021, especially in light of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic to education financing.
As CSOs involved in regional and national level education policy and financing processes, we support transparent and accountable education systems that will contribute in the realization of the right to education and the implementation of SDG4/Education 2030 Agenda.
Laura Giannecchini: By adopting the Education 2030 Agenda, governments agreed to reach the international benchmark of 20% of the national budget and 6% of GDP for education.
One of the main ways to increase the education budget is by adopting tax justice mechanisms. So, national coalitions are also campaigning and advocating for the adoption of progressive taxation - such as in Argentina and Bolivia, which approved the taxation of wealthy individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regional coalitions are fostering this kind of cross-regional learning, as well as influencing regional spaces and other governments to follow their peers.
2. What will the global community lose if education financing is left behind in the COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery?
Helen Dabu: Leaving education and its financing out of pandemic responses and recovery will be devastating to countries and will result in deep, sweeping, and long-lasting inequalities. We have always asserted that financing education will enable early and long-term recovery from the pandemic.
Building people and societal resilience in any crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, means financing stronger public education systems.
Laura Giannecchini: Education is a human right that enables the realization of other rights. Governments, as guarantors of this right, must do their utmost to fulfill it, even in adverse situations.
Guaranteeing adequate education financing, in addition to being a legal, ethical and moral commitment, means: avoiding the exacerbation of the already unacceptable educational and social inequalities; accelerating the post-pandemic economic recovery; guaranteeing the improvement of health and living conditions of the current and next generations; and having people better prepared for future crises.
3. Revenues and tax bases in the Asia-Pacific region remain low, and few countries implement formula-based targeting for equity. How has COVID-19 exacerbated this situation, including longstanding inequalities in girls’ education and digital access for children and youth?
Helen Dabu: Children, youth, and adults from marginalized and excluded groups have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This further exposed equity, inclusion and gender issues in education with the poor, those in remote and rural areas, children with disabilities, out of school children and youth, marginalized adult learners, women and girls, refugees and those in fragile contexts were left with little to no means of accessing education and learning especially when education delivery was shifted online.
In Asia-Pacific alone, about 1.88 billion people or nearly half of the population lack access to the internet. Tax systems in the Asia Pacific region need to progressively transform to generate revenues that will finance public education systems that are inclusive, gender transformative, resilient and sustainable.