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UNESCO predicts sharp decline in Intl. funding for education

July 14, 2020

A new policy paper by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report shows that total aid to education reached its highest ever levels in 2018, the latest available year and it estimated that global aid is likely to decline by up to US$2 billion from 2018 to 2022 as a result of recession caused by COVID-19, entailing a 12% drop in international support for education.

A release from UNESCO notes that without new measures, aid to education would only reach 2018 levels in 2024, which poses a serious threat to the recovery of education from the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic.

“Just as aid to education seemed to have recovered its lost momentum, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to take us back several years,” cautions UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “Faced with the havoc wreaked by the pandemic, aid to education will arguably be more important than ever before. Countries will need additional funding to respond to the pandemic and education must be prioritized both in terms of aid and domestic allocations to avoid a setback to our global education goal, SDG 4.”

According to the report, aid to education in 2018 reached a record US$15.6 billion, an increase of 9% from the previous year and that from one year to the next, aid rose by 6% for basic education, 7% for secondary education and 12% for post-secondary education, providing each with the highest amount of aid ever recorded.

Despite these increases, according to the report, more effective aid to the sector was required and that only US$7.4 billion, or 47% of aid to education, went to basic and secondary education in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the two sub-sectors and two country groups perceived as most in need. 

In assessing the impact of COVID-19, the Global Report estimates that the pandemic is likely to have a more damaging impact than the financial crisis of 2007-8 as the recession affecting the top ten bilateral donors for education is expected to be more than twice as severe.

If current national spending levels on education as a percentage of GDP were maintained, according to UNESCO estimate, national funding for education would decrease by USD 296 billion in 2020, further aggravating the situation.

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