An obsession with instant profits and short-term thinking lies behind the current financial crisis, which is deepening by the day. The obvious solution would seem to lie in strategic investments that contribute to long term growth and stability. And the evidence is overwhelming that there is no sounder long term investment - for individuals or for countries - than education.
Next week could be a major turning point for education around the world. Ministers and activists will gather in Copenhagen for the first meeting of the Global Partnership for Education. This partnership seeks to support low income countries that have credible plans to achieve education for all – by raising over $2.5 billion and harmonising the efforts of all donor agencies.
If it is to work effectively the meeting has to deliver on the ten principles of quality aid that have been defined in the report that I have recently authored for the Global Campaign for Education “Fund the Future: Education Rights Now”.
- Paying a fair share for basic education. It is time for donors to match developing country commitments. Both should target an allocation of 10% of their budget for basic education.
- Making aid real - untying aid and ensuring technical assistance is country-led. Don’t tie aid to scholarships or to the purchase of goods and services from the donor country.
- Harmonising aid behind government plans. No more fragmented projects – use the Global Partnership as the best means to harmonise aid to education.
- Using the most aligned aid modalities. The Global Partnership must commit to sector budget support which reduces transaction costs and delays in disbursements.
- Delivering predictable aid to basic education and focusing on teachers. Make commitments for at least 3 years, preferably to 2015
- Ensuring country ownership and civil society engagement. Do more to increase the accountability of governments to their own citizens and national parliaments.
- Focusing on Education For All and on education rights. Recognise the inter-dependencies within the 6 EFA goals and the indivisibility of education rights.
- Addressing strategic issues in domestic financing of education. Be proactive in making the case for education with Ministries of Finance and the IMF. Promote progressive macro-economic policies and an expanding domestic tax base.
- Delivering on promises. Making pledges is easy – but make sure that these are delivered in practice.
- Building a true Global Partnership for Education. Work together to create a stronger, more independent, more equal, more truly global and more ambitious partnership
At present education budgets are often the first victims of the financial crisis. If the Ministers and activists meeting in Copenhagen commit to the principles above then we could see a transformation in the financing of education - and delivering on education rights could become part of the solution to the financial crisis.