Shrinking fiscal space, declining remittances and household income and a possible decrease in aid due to the crisis, could hit education budgets hard, especially if trade-offs benefit other sectors such as health, social protection or economic recovery.
Since 2004, education giving has been lagging behind other ODA sectors and stagnating. Compounding this, historically, ODA funds earmarked for education have been volatile and unpredictable at the country level, with countries like Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger seeing aid fluctuate by as much as 50% up or down from one year to the next.
Meanwhile, the deep global recession may also hit foundations’ revenue streams, including those active in developing countries, given that their most common sources of income are endowments or individual donations.
Rigorous evidence should become the guiding compass for investing limited resources
Today we know a lot about cost-effective approaches that can boost schooling and learning. Raising awareness on the benefits of education among local communities and families, providing incentives that help students return to school, and targeting instruction to students’ learning levels can ensure children go to school and learn well.
However, decision makers in government, non-profits and schools do not always have the time or skills to explore how findings from existing studies could apply to their own local realities.
By working closely with “evidence brokers” – EdTech Hub, The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) to cite only a few– donors and philanthropic actors can help decision makers understand how the global evidence may offer solutions to their specific needs, and be tailored to work through their own, local systems.
In this regard, the appetite for education research shown by private foundations in recent years and through the COVID-19 crisis is a welcomed move.
Education has been losing ground as the gateway to gender equality
Although data on girls’ learning loss and dropout rates stemming from COVID-19 school closures remains limited, we know that girls are likely to be disproportionately affected.
With higher burdens of unpaid care and domestic work, and lower access to technology, girls may have fewer opportunities to engage in remote learning. They also face an increased risk of pregnancy and early marriage, reducing their chances to return to school as they reopen.
Against this backdrop, recent data on development aid and private philanthropy show education has been losing ground as a critical entry point to support gender equality.
Between 2010 and 2018, total ODA for gender equality almost doubled, increasing from USD23 billion to USD44 billion (Figure 1). In the same period, the share of gender-targeted funds channelled through education fell from 16% to 10.5%.
Similarly, the education sector attracted only 5% of philanthropic giving for gender equality over 2013-15, a very low share compared to gender-targeted funds channelled through health and reproductive health sectors (which attracted 73% of funding over the same period).