President Kenyatta calls on GPE partner countries to prioritize education financing

Since domestic financing represents more than two-thirds of resources to education in GPE partner countries, here’s how strong commitments from them, by 2025, would put all children on the path to learning and obtaining 21st century and green skills for the economies of tomorrow.

May 19, 2021 by Victoria Egbetayo, GPE Secretariat, Margaret Irving, GPE Secretariat, and Jennifer Bowser Gerst, GPE Secretariat
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5 minutes read
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A boy writes on the blackboard in Burundi. Credit: UNICEF Burundi
A boy writes on the blackboard in Burundi.
Credit: UNICEF Burundi

Domestic financing is front and center of GPE’s Raise Your Hand Financing Campaign co-hosted by PM Johnson of the UK and President Kenyatta of Kenya. It’s also an important part of GPE 2025 and the new operating model, which together aim to drive a context-specific and holistic approach to domestic financing with a focus on volume, equity and efficiency.

Domestic financing constitutes the lion's share of resources to education in GPE partner countries: more than two-thirds of education resources from domestic public expenditure.

The pandemic has strained economies and budgets, risking decades of progress on learning and gender equality. But strong domestic financing commitments across GPE partner countries by 2025 would put children on the path to learning and obtaining 21st century and green skills for the economies of tomorrow.

A call to protect public education expenditure

Last week, following the school visits hosted by Boris Johnson, Uhuru Kenyatta and Julia Gillard, ahead of the Global Education Summit on July 28-29, President Kenyatta launched a clarion call to Heads of State from GPE partner countries.

He asked them to join him in endorsing a political statement to prioritize, protect and increase domestic financing towards the 20% global benchmark, to set policies that ensure financing reaches the most vulnerable, leaving no child behind, and to ensure the efficient use of resources.

It was a reminder that the GPE Financing Campaign is not only about securing $5 billion in donor pledges but also in ensuring sustainable domestic financing to enable partner countries to transform their education systems.

Complementing the political drive by President Kenyatta, GPE is reaching out to ministers of education to make a commitment on behalf of their government, demonstrating how their country will either maintain education expenditure at pre-COVID levels or work to increase expenditure towards the 20% global benchmark through 2025.

GPE also encourages policy commitments from ministries of education on more equitable and efficient spending, while urging them to liaise with ministers of finance and other relevant ministries to set their commitments.

GPE youth leaders and other youth activists have also forced attention to the issue. Under their leadership through the Raise Your Hand Futures Festival, they have attracted the attention of the G7 towards women and girls’ empowerment.

However, without sustainable sources of domestic financing, these commitments will not begin to close the estimated $200 billion annual financing gap to reach SDG4. The first test of global leaders’ resolve to stay on track will be at the Global Education Summit.

Education must be at the center of the COVID-19 recovery

Bold and ambitious leadership is needed from GPE partner countries, which face a likely reduction of household spending on education (a major contributor), mounting debt, decreasing revenues, and a possible drop in external aid to education of up to $2 billion by 2022.

This not only threatens domestic financing, but places even greater responsibilities on governments to ensure that financing for education remains adequate. With the risks gravely evident, global solidarity is needed to ensure education financing is protected, increased and improved for long term impact.

GPE’s 2025 operating model takes a holistic approach to domestic financing, mobilizing adequate resources (volume) while placing greater emphasis on the transformative role that efficient and equitable spending could have on access and learning.

The World Bank estimates up to one-third of education spending is lost to inefficiencies – such as low levels of learning, high repetition rates, waste in procurement, and poor education workforce management. Even though service delivery to remote sites or disadvantaged students is more costly, the wealthiest households capture on average twice as much government education funding as the poorest households.

Undeniably, equity and efficiency of spending are closely linked. Inadequate financing for students from poorer families may result in high dropout and repetition rates, due to insufficient support to achieve learning outcomes, perceptions about the low quality of learning, and a disproportionately high burden on households to fund school attendance.

In the long term, a lower skilled and lower paid workforce puts stress on social security systems and could yield future losses in domestic revenue for countries, including from losses in individual productivity.

What you can do: Strengthening equity, efficiency and building accountability for domestic spending

Commitments from ministers of education, backed by strong political support in the form of Heads of States’ endorsing the joint political statement, are just a starting point. Civil society, local education groups, parliamentarians and development partners have long been advocating for improving the effectiveness of domestic financing and ensuring impact.

You too can drive support to these efforts and take action by drawing on GPE’s Advocacy Messaging toolkit and social media pack to help mobilize strong political commitments to domestic financing. A second step is to see how GPE partner countries align with the 20% benchmark.

A third and related step is to begin discussing policy commitments - where and how governments could strengthen equity and efficiency, including data systems to better guide decisions on funding.

This includes considering the enabling conditions needed for resources to be used strategically to address inequities, leakages and waste, as well as ways to increase accountability and transparency.

GPE’s letter to ministers referenced examples of better management of the teacher workforce, improvements in timeliness and accessibility of data for mutual accountability, national recovery stimulus spending targeted to education, as well cross sector imperatives, including restoring/expanding school health and nutrition programs to leave no child behind.

GPE is also encouraging commitments to strengthen the working relationship between ministries of finance and education. Following are illustrative examples of policy formulation for such commitments, by no means exhaustive:

  • Improved teacher management and accountability: leveraging technology to provide more up-to-date monitoring of teacher registration, re-directing any leakages in payroll towards professional supports, performance and retention-focused incentives (e.g. female teachers in rural areas).
  • Allocating funding according to need: using an allocation formula that distributes resources to most disadvantaged schools, regions and learners. Committing to a regional per-student spending formula, which factors in proficiency and poverty levels, expanding use of gender-focused expenditure analysis tools to direct sector allocations.
  • Incentivizing school enrollment and retention: cash transfers and cross-sector supports such as school health and nutrition (feeding) programs have been found to drive and support girls’ education.

Financial commitments supported by relevant policy commitments will be a central feature of the Global Education Summit in July. And an opportunity to collectively demonstrate that GPE partner countries continue to prioritize investments in education at the highest political levels.

But the Global Education Summit is not the end point on advocacy for domestic financing. We will continue to advocate and work with our partners to see improvements in the volume, equity and efficiency of spending. And strengthen education spending scrutiny and accountability by civil society and national parliamentarians.

Read more on GPE’s domestic financing approach.

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