New calculations show that education goals are affordable - US$38 billion needed annually to achieve basic and lower secondary education

News and Press Release
Originally published

Paris, 14 March—New calculations by UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report reveal a US$38 billion annual financing gap to achieve basic and lower secondary education of good quality for all children in poor countries, ensuring the most marginalized are reached. A study released by the Global Monitoring Report team ahead of the 2015 deadline for Education for All goals shows that filling the finance gap for basic education and achieving new ambitious education targets post-2015 is possible if governments and donors prioritize allocating resources towards education, and specifically towards those most in need.

The new paper, ‘Making Education for All affordable by 2015 and beyond’ is released just days before a Global Meeting on education in the post-2015 development agenda (Dakar, 18 – 19 March). Consultations held in all regions ahead of the meeting reflect broad support for including the achievement of universal lower secondary education in the post-2015 development framework. According to EFA Global Monitoring Report calculations, the financing gap per year to achieve basic (pre-primary, primary and adult literacy) as well as lower secondary education for all stands at US$38 billion.

US$26 billion are needed annually to achieve basic education in poor countries. This gap has widened from US$16 billion, calculated in 2010 by the EFA Global Monitoring Report. This is primarily due to stagnating aid to basic education which currently stands at only US$3 billion per annum, denying millions of children an education.

“While US$26 billion sounds like a large gap to fill, the EFA Global Monitoring Report’s analysis shows that it is possible to raise the resources needed to get every child into school by 2015,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “In 2000, donors promised that no country would be prevented from achieving Education for All by a lack of resources. They must now step up their efforts alongside governments, and make sure finance is not the obstacle standing in the way of helping the remaining 61 million children go to school.”

The paper presents possible solutions that would help make basic education affordable by 2015. If governments and donors directed one fifth of their budgets to education and prioritized pre-primary and primary education some US$11.5 billion would be raised: US$7.5 billion from governments and $4 billion from aid donors. Currently around one quarter of donors’ direct aid to education ̶ US$2.4 billion ̶ never even leaves donor countries and is instead spent on scholarships given to students from developing countries to study in donor countries. This money could instead be sent to support children in the world’s poorest countries and help them make it to primary school.

Fulfilling commitments already made would also help fill the gap: If those donors who pledged to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income to aid kept their promise, a further US$1.3 billion a year would be made available for education.

To make the final push to 2015 and achieve the promises the world made to children, governments will need to find ways to improve their tax base. Doing so could further reduce the financing gap by US$7.3 billion before the deadline.

Combined, these changes would reduce the annual gap for basic education from US$26 billion to just US$3.4 billion. This gap could be filled if, for instance, the United States were to commit and achieve the target of 0.7% of gross national income to which European donors have committed. The study also suggests that if philanthropic organizations gave the same amount to basic education as they currently give to health, this would also fill the gap.

The study suggests possible funding mechanisms to cover the cost of extending EFA goals to lower secondary education after 2015. Even if governments and donors prioritized getting children and adolescents into school in their education budgets, a financing gap of US$7.6 billion would remain. A number of possible options are outlined to fill this gap. If just 5% of the proposed International Financial Transaction Tax on a G20-wide basis were allocated to education, US$2.4 billion would be raised. Alternatively, the entire gap could be filled if all 23 OECD Development Assistance Committee donors committed to allocating 0.7% of their gross national income to new goals after 2015.

The private sector and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) currently give less than US$200 million a year to basic education in poor countries, but they have huge potential for financing more ambitious goals after 2015. For example, if China, the largest of the BRICS, were to apply the target of allocating 0.7% of gross national income to aid and channeled 20% of this to education, the gap in basic and lower secondary education funding would be filled.

Ultimately, for education progress to be sustainable, national governments need to be able to fund their education systems. Even now, they provide around half of the overall resources needed. Their contributions could be further enhanced by expanding their tax base, or managing revenues from natural resources more effectively, and devoting a share of those revenues to education.

Pauline Rose, Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report said: “The key lesson for goal-setting after 2015 is that we cannot take for granted that resources will be available to meet international commitments. Our key recommendation for those setting goals post-2015 is that they must include a new time-bound, measurable financing target to hold governments and donors and other funders to account for their promises of ensuring that no country is prevented from providing everyone with a good quality education due to a lack of resources.”


For more information, please contact Kate Redman on or +33 671 78 6234