Italy’s ODA to the education sector is increasing; education is a focus of Italy’s G7 presidency in 2017

Italy spent US$206 million on education ODA in 2015, according to OECD data, making it the 10th‑largest donor country to education. Education accounted for 4% of Italy’s total ODA in 2015, below the average of 8% spent by members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Nonetheless, education is articulated as a priority in Italy’s strategic document for development policy. The triannual Programming Guidelines for Italian Development Cooperation 2016-2018 list education as one of eight prioritiesAdditionally, education is a focus of Italy’s G7 presidency in 2017; it is considered a key area for promoting social sustainability and reducing inequalities. The G7 Accountability Working Group has for the first time decided to make education the focus of its Progress Report. The report is expected to be published in the fall of 2017. 

Since 2012, Italy’s ODA to education has increased significantly, albeit from a low level: Spending grew from US$138 million in 2012 to US$206 million in 2015.This follows sharp decreases in overall ODA (including  to education) between 2008 and 2012, due to the austerity policy implemented in response to the economic and financial crisis. The recent increase in education ODA is mostly driven by bilateral funding, which grew by more than 60% between 2014 and 2015. Increases were driven primarily by funding for one project on advanced technical and managerial training (see further details below). Looking forward, ODA to education is expected to continue to increase. Italy is overhauling its development cooperation system, and plans to increase funding through its new development agency, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), from €292 million in 2016 to €532 million in 2018.  This will be committed amongst other sectors to education.

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Italy provides almost half of its education ODA as bilateral funding: 48%, or US$98 million in 2015. Post-secondary education accounted for more than a third of bilateral education ODA in 2015 (35%). Most of this comprises funding for advanced technical and managerial training. Funding to this area sharply increased in 2015 due to a US$22 million contribution to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics. The Centre supports scientists in developing countries through capacity building in Africa as well as educational and research opportunities in Europe. Moreover, US$8 million was spent in 2015 on tuition costs and higher education scholarships for students from developing countries studying in Italy. The second largest share of bilateral education ODA (31%) is allocated to general education, with a focus on funding for education facilities and training in partner countries. Other funding priorities are basic education (20%), especially primary education, and vocational training (14%).

Funding to education does not fully align with the priorities outlined in the triannual Programming Guidelines for Italian Development Cooperation 2016-2018. Funding is channeled primarily to post‑secondary education and education facilities abroad, while the guidelines focus on basic education and technical vocational education and training (TVET). An objective outlined in the guidelines is to foster social inclusion and women’s empowerment through education; inclusive education is central to Italy’s international strategy and action plan on the rights of persons with disabilities. A further objective outlined in the guidelines is to support processes of democratization, and to specifically support education in emergency and conflict situations.

Italy’s bilateral support for education has a regional focus on Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa received 39% of all funding between 2013 and 2015, making it by far the largest recipient region. Funding is dispersed across many countries, with Ethiopia (US$4 million), Mozambique (US$3 million), and Democratic Republic of Congo (US$3 million) being the largest recipients. 24% of Italy’s bilateral education ODA flows into Asia (including the Middle East); India (US$4 million) is the largest recipient country in the region. An equal share of Italy’s bilateral education ODA goes to low-income countries (LICs, US$28 million, 41%) and to middle-income countries (MICs, US$27 million, 40%). The focus on LICs is stronger in some sub-sectors: 64% of funding for primary education between 2013 and 2015 went to LICs (US$7 million).

Civil society organizations play an important role in delivering Italy’s education programs: In 2015, almost half of Italy’s bilateral education ODA was channeled through CSOs (49%). This is much higher than for Italy’s total bilateral ODA across all sectors, where only 11% is dispersed through civil society. It is also far higher than the 13% average amongst DAC donors.

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Italy provides over half of its ODA to education through multilateral organizations (52%, US$108 million in 2015). However, most of this funding is made up of binding contributions to the European Union (US$73 million) and of core contributions to the World Bank’s International Development Association (US$21 million).In addition, Italy supports the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), providing US$45 million to GPE since it became a donor in 2005 (as of March 2017). This makes it the 15th-largest donor to GPE. It contributed €1.5 million to GPE in 2015 (less than 1% of its education ODA), and more than doubled its contribution in 2016 to €4 million, as reported by GPE. This has raised Italy’s commitment for GPE’s 2015-2018 pledging period to €10 million. It is likely that the government will continue to contribute to GPE for its upcoming 2018-2020 replenishment period. The Guidelines for Italian Development Cooperation 2016-2018 specifically mention Italy’s support for GPE, with the aim of strengthening cohesion between Italy’s multilateral and bilateral investments in education, particularly in fragile states, education for girls, and teacher training. Italy reports GPE contributions as bilateral ODA to the OECD.

DGCS defines education priorities; AICS leads implementation

The Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) is in charge of defining the strategic direction of Italy’s education policy. The DGCS’s office for programming of development cooperation, its geographic offices, and the unit for multilateral cooperation are relevant actors for defining Italy’s bilateral and multilateral education policy. The development agency AICS, which was set up in January 2016, is in charge of program implementation. AICS’s office on ’Human Development’ is responsible for education.