Transforming education with equal funding. global issues

Credit: UNICEF/UN0658410/But
  • Opinion: by Robert Jenkins (New York)
  • Inter press service

The results of our latest study, however, show that we still need to overcome obstacles to fair funding for education; in too many countries, the poorest children often benefit the least from public education funding.

To transform every child’s education, governments must address all three aspects of education funding: adequacy, effectiveness and equity. Our analysis, covering 102 countries, zeroed in on the challenge of equality in education.

It is important to address multiple dimensions of equity, as vulnerable children may simultaneously face disadvantages related to poverty, disability, gender, location, and more.

However, our study focuses on the poorest children, who are often the most affected by the many barriers to quality education and learning.

Unfortunately, children from the poorest households often benefit the least from public education spending. On average, the poorest students receive only 16 percent of public education funding, while the richest students receive 28 percent.

In 1 in 10 countries, students in the richest 20 percent of households receive four or more times more in public education spending than the poorest.

In Guinea, Mali and Chad, the richest students benefit from more than six times more public education spending than the poorest students.

Moreover, despite repeated commitments to fair funding, including the 2015 Incheon Declaration adopted at the World Education Forum, 2021. The Paris Declaration of the World Education Meeting and recently the 2022 promises have been too slow.

Evidence from 46 countries shows that public education spending has become more unequal in 4 out of 10 countries. The data speaks for itself. the poorest students are not receiving their fair share of public education funding, and we must step up efforts to address these disparities.

Fair spending on education is critical and can reverse the effects of the global learning crisis before an entire generation loses its future. Our analysis shows that if public education spending stagnates, a one percentage point increase in the allocation of public education resources to the poorest 20 percent is associated with a 2.6 to 4.7 percentage point reduction in the education poverty rate, which equates to up to 35 million elementary school children. : school-aged children who can be lifted out of learning poverty.

How can we address the challenge of equity and ensure funding for education reaches the poorest? One way is that government funding prioritizes lower levels of education.

This funding principle refers to “progressive universalism”, whereby the allocation of resources initially prioritizes lower levels of education, where poor and marginalized children tend to be overrepresented. These first few years of learning lay the groundwork for children to acquire basic foundational skills. Then, when coverage at lower levels is nearly universal, resource allocation is gradually increased to higher levels, with a continued focus on the poorest and most marginalized.

Finally, it is important to note that there are problems with inequality not only in domestic education funding, but also in international aid to education.

For example, official development assistance (ODA) for education to least developed countries (LDCs) has never exceeded 30 percent over the past decade, far short of the 50 percent target set by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

Moreover, applications for education in emergencies often receive only 10-30 percent of the amount needed, with significant differences between countries and regions. On average, the education sector receives less than 3 percent of humanitarian aid.

The global community must come together to ensure that children in the poorest countries and in emergency situations have access to fair funding for education.

To respond to the challenge of equity in education, we call on governments and key stakeholders to take the following key actions:

  • Most importantly, unlock pro-equity public funding for education through a wider coverage and scope of decentralized allocations, resources to schools, disadvantaged students (by Ministries of Education and Social Protection) and enhanced monitoring of resource allocation.
  • Prioritize public funding for basic learning, ensuring funding for all in pre-primary and primary education and targeting the poor and marginalized at higher levels of education.
  • Monitor and ensure equitable distribution of educational assistance in development and humanitarian contexts between and within countries, including at sub-sectoral levels when applicable.
  • Invest in innovative ways of delivering education to fill existing public funding gaps through multiple and flexible channels, including quality digital learning.

We cannot hope to end the learning crisis if we invest least in the children who need it most.

We must act now to ensure that educational resources reach all learners and make progress toward the goal of inclusive and quality education for all, giving every child and youth a fair chance to succeed.

Source: UNICEF blog

UNICEF’s blog promotes children’s rights and well-being, as well as ideas on how to improve the lives of children and their families. It brings together insights and opinions from the world’s leading child rights experts and reports from UNICEF staff in more than 190 countries and territories. Opinions expressed on the UNICEF blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNICEF.

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