Funding the future: Delivering on the promise of education by prioritizing, protecting and increasing domestic budgets

Domestic financing for education is crucial for building robust and resilient education systems. Kenya has implemented key programs to ensure a quality education for all demonstrating the priority it places on education. President Kenyatta calls on other world leaders to do the same.

June 22, 2021 by Ruth Kagia, Office of the President, Kenya
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5 minutes read
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Second grade students at the Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County. Kenya. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Second grade students at the Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County. Kenya.
GPE/Kelley Lynch

“If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for 10 years, plant a tree. If for 100 years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests”. 7th Century BC Chinese philosopher Guan Zhong

Domestic budgets remain the principal source of education financing, contributing the majority of total financing requirements of the sector. Resources required to train teachers and pay their salaries, construct and maintain school facilities, provide adequate learning materials, and cover management and administrative costs of the education system, are primarily funded through government budgets.

The transformative power of education has been convincingly demonstrated in development literature. Education plays a crucial role in securing a wide range of economic and social benefits, including raising incomes, improving the health of children, improving family planning, and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.

For girls, it means better access to employment opportunities, delaying marriage, making families more prosperous, and increasing the health of the next generation of children.

As Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen would argue, education enlarges the space for individuals to acquire “freedoms” - political and social freedoms, freedom of expanded opportunity, and economic freedom, including protection from poverty.

Education as a stepping stone to a better future

Education, and the associated expansion of human capital, have been the key contributing factors to rapid and sustained socioeconomic growth of most countries across the world. This is best exemplified by the phenomenal growth of the “East Asia Tigers” between the early 1960s and 1990s, and, more recently, by the success of Nordic countries such as Finland, which have put a premium on education quality and equity.

The emerging success of a few African countries is equally attributable to the blend of sound economic policies with large investments in education and training.

While questions linger on relative emphasis on education levels (primary, secondary, tertiary), the most effective financing and governance policies (private or public, boarding or day), there is near global consensus on what is needed for education to deliver on its promise.

It needs to be built on strong foundations of at least 12 years of schooling plus one year of pre-primary, as a basis for further learning, training and employment. It needs to be equitable and of high quality, ensuring that every child has an opportunity to go to school, remain in school and master fundamental cognitive skills, attitudes and values that are relevant to the 21st century and which place them on a path of social and economic success.

Providing such high quality and equitable education requires governments to allocate adequate resources towards education, prioritize education in their development strategy, and correspondingly ensure effective administration and management of how these critical resources are spent. As has been famously said “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.

A differentiating factor between countries that are successful and those that have stagnated is their commitment to education.

Those that have reaped significant gains from their education and training investments have invested an adequate share of their national budget on education and ensured efficient and equitable utilization of those resources. Global benchmarks suggest that countries should work towards ensuring that 20% of public resources are committed to education.

Kenya’s investments in education have led to progress

Right from its inception as an independent nation, Kenya has given high priority to education. A political rallying call at independence was to eliminate poverty, ignorance and disease. Families, communities and the government have taken extraordinary measures to secure education for their children.

This has led to major advances in education, with a recent World Bank assessment indicating that Kenya’s education achievement is one of the highest in Africa.

Milestone achievements include system-wide government-led reforms on quality assurance and improved infrastructure; introduction of free primary education in 2003; free day secondary education in 2008, which abolished tuition fees for day students and provides a subsidy for students in boarding schools; and the implementation of a 100% transition policy to ensure all students transition from primary to secondary school, a feat that required a substantial increase in resources.

To further improve education quality, the government is implementing a digital learning program to equip all children with practical 21st century skills, and has launched a massive overhaul of the school curriculum to replace it with a new competency-based curriculum, which emphasizes what children can do rather than only what they should know.

None of these achievements would have been possible without strong political commitment to education backed by a large budgetary allocation to the sector.

A summit to reiterate the importance of education on the world’s stage

It is against this background that both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, co-hosts of the Global Education Summit in July, are spearheading a two-pronged GPE financing campaign that calls for governments to commit to prioritize, protect and increase domestic funding for education and at the same time galvanizing support from development partners to pledge at least $5 billion to GPE for the 2021-2025 period.

GPE support to Kenya has demonstrated the value of partnerships in education by complementing government efforts and helping to increase the overall value and impact of the government’s investments.

The invaluable support from GPE has helped to catalyze fiscal and other reforms to improve educational delivery and promote effectiveness, with lasting benefits at system level; implement reforms to improve access with a focus on girls and disadvantaged groups; sharpen focus on education quality through the provision of learning materials and teacher training; and develop effective responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Given the tremendous promise of education and concerns about the destructive impact of Covid-19 on education, H.E. President Kenyatta is calling on leaders of GPE partner countries to prioritize, protect and increase their education expenditure in national budgets, to implement policies that ensure financing reaches the most vulnerable, leaving no child behind, and to ensure the efficient use of resources.

Equally, we are calling upon leaders from GPE donor countries to increase their support to education to ensure that every child gets an education that gives them a fighting chance to realize their full potential. In so doing we ensure a more secure future and shared prosperity for all of us.

Let us raise our hand in support of GPE!

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Financing, Financing 2025
Sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya

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I agree 100 percent education is the key to success, I noticed there is program of education for girls, plus talking about gender equality, I raise my hand to that but also boys too need education. The example is me ,I did not finish my studies now Iam suffering and struggling to survive ,I’m from Morocco life is tough , what attracted me much the example of Kenya improving the system of education , hope Morocco and others weak countries support education , the only tools

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