The complex equation of education financing

Latest issue of IIEP Newsletter (January-April 2011)

The imperative of financing education... in the light of recent global events

Editorial, by Khalil Mahshi, IIEP's Director

When the economic crisis began to broaden in 2009, it was feared that international development assistance to education might fall. Now, two years later, some donor countries have indeed been unable to maintain their levels of development aid in general, while others have decided to move away from supporting education internationally. The latter is a cause for real concern. Early on, IIEP pleaded for increased investment in education as crucial to economic recovery measures, and to protect the poor and most vulnerable (see IIEP Newsletter, No. 2, May-August 2009: ‘Education and Economic Crisis’). Given recent developments in the Arab countries, as well as the conclusions of UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011 on armed conflict and education (published in March), this plea bears repetition: the international community should now consider the importance of education in mitigating conflict and overcoming fragility.

The current unrest in the Arab countries is a reminder that the ‘vacuum of hope’ – created by unemployment, poverty, marginalization, exclusion, disregard for human rights, and conflict – must be urgently addressed. Governments cannot go on simply promising their citizens better services and quality of life. They need to make them a reality.

The young people who led the recent protests are demanding more jobs. The World Bank estimates that countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region need to create some 100 million new jobs by 2020 to overcome unemployment. With today’s global knowledge-based economy, it will be hard to create so many without increasing opportunities for quality education for all, as well as job-related training programmes for young people.

The protestors were also demanding more rights and privileges (greater participation and democratization, more efficient and transparent governance, constitutional rule, and social equity). These can be achieved with formal and non-formal education programmes focusing on life skills and the development of responsible citizenship, as well as institutional capacity development programmes to improve management and strengthen governance systems.

If donors relax their commitment to education and to achieving EFA, most developing countries will be unable to meet these immense challenges. And, with hopes once again frustrated, non-violent movements and protests could turn into violence and armed conflict.

IIEP’s work on the financing of education and the development of employable skills through secondary and post-secondary education and training, can provide much-needed input for policy dialogue among UNESCO Member States and development partners. We would like to think that it could also be a starting point for a ‘virtuous circle’ to recover economic and governance stability. In addition, the IIEP approach to sector planning – which focuses on the participation of stakeholders at all levels down to the school and community – will continue to encourage empowerment, democratization, and conflict mitigation.

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