2010 is supposed to be the ‘Year of Education’. The Global Campaign for Education and the 1-Goal Campaign are lobbying soccer supporters around the world to sign a petition pressuring government leaders to provide a good quality education to all children and adults by 2015. Stars and international leaders have already committed themselves to joining an event on the eve of the World Cup in South Africa in June to bring attention to the shameful fact that more than 70 million children worldwide still do not have the chance even to go to primary school. Time is running out. If we are going to achieve the target of ensuring that every child completes primary school by 2015, we need to provide places for those children THIS YEAR.
The board of the “Fast Track Initiative” (FTI) met in Paris last week to agree urgent measures to put this important global education initiative back on track. As readers of previous CGD education blogs will be aware, the FTI has come under serious criticism over the past year for failing to deliver the scaled up support that had been promised. Under the leadership of a new, no-nonsense chair – Carol Bellamy – the board has begun to put in place the reforms that are needed. The board agreed to simplify the financing arrangements by creating a single fund that will be open to all low income countries – including conflict countries and fragile states. They also agreed to increase the number of developing countries and civil society representatives on the board to correct the current imbalance towards donors and multilateral agencies. Finally, a decision was taken to reduce the dominance of the World Bank in the FTI by opening up the financial management responsibilities to other agencies where local circumstances dictate.
These are all important reforms and will go some way to addressing the concerns raised by the recent independent evaluation of the FTI. However, these changes alone will not be sufficient to secure the step change increase in education finances that we need. UNESCO estimates that the total financing gap for the education sector is about $16 billion per year – around 10 – 15% of total ODA – or about 0.1% of the cost of the global bank bailout. The FTI alone will clearly not be able to deliver this scale of support.
I have argued in a recent CGD essay for a major transformation of the whole international aid architecture for education. The paper explores the options for global education and makes some ambitious proposals for real and lasting change in the sector. We need to see a stronger and more independent FTI – with the financial management arrangements brought into line with those for the Global Fund to deliver finances more effectively. We also need to see all bilateral donors and multilateral agencies honor their promises to scale up their support for education and to deliver their support in a more predictable and more streamlined fashion. Finally, we need an injection of innovation super-fuel into the education sector to stimulate creativity and find new ways of dealing with the challenge of providing a high quality education to millions of poor and marginalized families that have been denied this chance for generations. More money alone will not be sufficient. We need to find ways of delivering that finance more effectively to secure lasting results.