The Global Partnership for Education recently published the Guidelines for the Monitoring of National Education Budgets. The guidelines were developed to equip local education stakeholders with foundational knowledge on budget processes, and to enable members of local education groups (LEGs) to better engage in policy dialogue about government spending on education monitoring.
The guidelines provide practical suggestions for different stakeholders on how to advocate for and monitor budget development and expenditure management processes within the education sector, structured around the stages of the budget cycle.
The initial chapters of the guidelines offer key technical background, covering broad financial concepts such as expenditure and revenue, and progressing into more specialized topics such as budget structures and classification systems.
These guidelines were developed through a consultative process involving representatives from GPE partner developing countries, development partners, education finance experts, civil society organizations and research organizations. In addition, a peer review group was established, representing a cross-section of education stakeholders and members of the partnership.
Principles for education financing
In alignment with Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4, the guidelines are driven by the following principles, which are fundamental to achieving SDG 4:
- Increase public funding for education: this is the share of the national budget allocated to education (the internationally recommended benchmarks are 15 to 20% of public expenditure and 4 to 6% of gross domestic product allocated to education).
- Improve data: improve the availability, monitoring, transparency and use of financing data, disaggregated by education subsectors, including data on the scale and nature of household costs of education.
- Prioritize those most in need: allocation and use of education resources should be prioritized to focus on increasing equity and inclusion, and support the most marginalized populations, including girls and children affected by conflict.
- Increase efficiency and accountability: existing resources should be used more efficiently through improved governance and accountability.
Why policy dialogue on education financing matters
In light of the principles outlined above, it is important that all education stakeholders are involved in education sector policy dialogue and monitoring. This can be achieved through various coordination mechanisms. It is also important that stakeholders participate effectively in both sectoral and national budget processes. The guidelines provide a comprehensive overview of relevant mechanisms for engagement at all levels, demonstrating how education stakeholders can influence policy dialogue and monitoring at each stage of the budget cycle.
The four stages of budget development are:
- Budget formulation: This stage is a strategic engagement point in policy dialogue for education sector stakeholders. They can advocate for taking sector policy priorities into account as the ministry of finance determines the budget ceiling for the ministry(ies) of education.
- Budget approval: During this stage, education stakeholders can help raise the profile of the education sector with legislatures. Political support for the sector is important to secure approval of a sector budget that keeps resources for key expenditures for policy priorities intact.
- Budget execution: Policy dialogue and monitoring activities that explore the discrepancies between budget allocation and execution can reveal inefficiencies, blockages, leakages, or weak capacities in the system. Education stakeholders have an important role to play in analyzing the factors that influence how much is actually spent versus how much was budgeted (execution rates), as well as in discussing the efficiency, equity and quality of sector spending.
- Budget evaluation: Thorough evaluation of the budget after execution provides important inputs for future planning. This stage provides a valuable opportunity for the education stakeholders to generate and access information on the efficiency and effectiveness of public expenditure on education sector priorities.
These guidelines draw on examples and practices from partner countries in order to illustrate their use at each stage of the budget cycle.
We hope the guidelines will be helpful to education stakeholders in partner countries and will support them in helping their countries develop financially sustainable education sector plans (ESPs), increase national budget allocations, and improve the quality of education expenditure.
We would like to thank the many professionals who provided invaluable input during the conception and development of Guidelines for the Monitoring of National Education Budgets. The GPE Secretariat welcomes feedback on them and examples of their use—please write to firstname.lastname@example.org, specifying National Education Budget Monitoring Guidelines in the subject.