Gordon Brown’s blueprint for reform of global education may soon become reality

As reported on Left Foot Forward

With almost 70 million children of primary school age not in school, a figure set to rise by 2015 and not fall to zero as promised in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), urgent action is required,Gordon Brown said this week.

In his new report, “Delivering on the promise, building opportunity: the case for a Global Fund for Education” (pdf), the former prime minister offers a blueprint for the reform of key international institutions so they deliver more effective support for education in developing countries.

Part of the solution is more money. Brown’s report draws on UNESCO research showing the annual financing gap for achieving universal basic education is $13 billion (£8.3bn), compared to current aid levels of just $3bn (£1.9bn).

Not all of this would come from governments, however, with the report highlighting the recent creation of a Global Business Coalition for Education, and notes that US corporations currently give $8bn (£5bn) a year to global health causes but only $500m (£320m) to global education.

But the flagship recommendation is the creation of a new, independent Global Fund for Education. While the current major education fund, housed within the World Bank, has presided over an impressive fall in out-of-school numbers of 40 million over the past decade, progress has now stagnated or even gone into reverse.

This fund, recently renamed the Global Partnership for Education, has been unable to attract significant support from donors and has been criticised in some quarters for being slow and inflexible – and what is more, many countries with the largest numbers of out-of-school kids, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, are not eligible for grants.

A new Global Fund for Education would attract funding from non-traditional sources, make grants to NGOs and private companies working in remote areas (and not only governments or international agencies), and finally deliver resources commensurate with the size of the global education challenge.

The health sector again provides a template, following the huge successes of GAVI and the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.

This report sees Brown at his best: forensically focused on policy detail and driven by a deep passion for improving the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, and with Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd publicly backing the idea, the proposals contained in the report may soon become reality.

One thought on “Gordon Brown’s blueprint for reform of global education may soon become reality

  1. Bob Prouty, Head of the Global Partnership for Education Secretariat says:

    Over the past decade, high-level advocates for improving support to education programs in developing countries have been few and far between. But throughout that period, Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has had a consistent message: Education is one of the best development investments possible.

    In 2002, Mr. Brown was one of those pushing for creation of the Fast Track Initiative (recently renamed the Global Partnership for Education). His government provided generous support to its trust funds and, more importantly, intellectual support to the design of an approach that exemplified aid effectiveness, well before aid effectiveness was an international buzzword.

    Mr. Brown’s latest report on education, published this week, continues this impressive record of advocacy. The report calls for a massive increase in international funding to basic education. It points out the disparities between recent trends in external funding for education, and more positive trends in health. It also gives considerable attention to the Global Partnership for Education (Global Partnership)—applauding its overall model and recognizing its record of achievement, in particular in terms of bringing more children into schools and in reducing gender gaps.

    The report presents a range of ideas that thoughtful development specialists would certainly agree with, and for which the Global Partnership’s Board of Directors has already signaled its support—the need for more attention to conflict-affected states, to the most marginalized children, and to the quality of learning. These are all areas that the Global Partnership takes very seriously, and in which it has moved quickly over the past twelve months.

    In November 2011 in Copenhagen, just two months ago, the Global Partnership hosted an extremely successful launch to our 2011-2014 replenishment. 60 governments, CSOs, International Organisations, the teaching profession, private foundations and private companies made concrete pledges, both financial and policy. This was unprecedented. Developing country partners committed over $5bn in additional funding to basic education over the coming three years; donor partners committed an initial $1.5bn with strong indications that the Global Partnership will achieve it”s target of $2.5bn to the Global Partnership Fund; CSOs, the private sector and foundations committed over $1bn. Six major donors committed to increasing their bilateral support to basic education. The pledges strongly supported achieving tangible outcomes in terms of the quality of education as well as improving access to education. By any standards the Copenhagen replenishment was a significant success.

    In terms of learning quality, the Global Partnership pledged two months ago to reduce by half the number of illiterate children in 20 partner countries over the coming five years. Next month, a consortium of Global Partnership partners, including DFID and USAID, will help many countries from sub-Saharan Africa make an initial down payment on this promise by developing action plans to transform the way reading is taught, with clear results targets. This work will focus on the children who have been the most marginalized in the past, including girls. In terms of conflict-affected states, the Global Partnership has made rapid progress. Four additional conflict-affected countries were approved for funding just last year, including Afghanistan whose Minister of Education is now a member of our Board of Directors.

    The Brown report deals at some length with a range of process and governance issues, including a number of suggestions for the appropriate role of the World Bank within the Partnership. This is a question that will be reviewed by the Global Partnership’s Board at its next annual meeting. Mr. Brown’s inputs will be very helpful to this review. The Brown report also claims that funding availability from the Global Partnership to partner countries has often been delayed. We disagree and contend that funds continue to be available to partner countries in a timely manner. The average time elapsed between approval and funding availability is less than six months, one of the best records among all global programs.

    The Global Partnership agrees with Mr. Brown that the international community can and should still do much more to fund education, for the compelling reasons he cites. The answer to turning this situation around does, as he suggests, mean much more attention to a wider range of potential partners, including the private sector. The Global Partnership is working assiduously to put more emphasis on a greatly strengthened capacity within the Partnership. It is by demonstrating real learning outcomes for all children, and by an uncompromising focus on value for money, that the funding increases Mr. Brown so rightly calls for can best be achieved.

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