Yesterday, representatives from multilateral organizations, civil society, philanthropic foundations and the private sector gathered in Brussels for the Global Education Meeting (GEM) – a conference, convened by UNESCO, that focuses on the most pressing issues facing education today. For the first time since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG 4) in 2015, policy makers and education experts came together to take stock of the progress made towards achieving this goal, and the challenges that remain. Their discussions couldn’t come at a more critical time.
A learning crisis that needs to be fixed
The world today is facing a learning crisis, with more than 260 million children, adolescents and youth not in school, and 617 million (six out of ten) not being able to read a simple sentence or perform basic maths.
Yet education remains critically underfunded across the world. If we are to achieve SDG 4, low- and lower-middle-income countries will need to close an annual funding gap of US$39 billion. It is therefore urgent to explore current trends in education financing, and to identify challenges and opportunities to invest in quality, equitable education.
Investment is key
This is exactly what we did in one GEM workshop, which focused on how to bridge the funding gap to achieve SDG 4. The workshop brought together representatives of the Global Partnership for Education and the OECD, as well as UNESCO colleagues and representatives from a wide range of countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, France, Kenya, Mongolia and Norway. Representatives from civil society and private foundations also participated in the workshop.
We discussed three key issues:
- How to increase domestic resources for education without adding to the burden of poor households
- How to increase international resources for education and improve aid delivery mechanisms
- How to allocate and use resources for education more effectively to ensure equity.
The workshop opened with an overview of current trends in education financing, including the latest data on aid to education, and domestic resource mobilization and spending. We also explored which funding policies lead to better quality and equity in education. Participants recommended policy solutions to ensure that funding to achieve SDG 4 not only increases dramatically but is effectively allocated and targeted to reach countries and populations with the greatest needs.