Formerly a focus area, education has not been a priority for the Netherlands since 2012
The Netherlands is the 12th-largest donor country to education, spending US$187 million on education ODA in 2015, according to OECD data. However, to get a full picture of a donor’s cross‑border flows of education assistance, it is important to exclude scholarships and other costs of students from developing countries studying in donor countries. These costs are reported as ODA by some donors, but are not spent on development programs abroad. In 2015, the Netherlands reported 18% of all its education ODA (US$33 million) as costs for students from developing countries studying in the Netherlands.
Education is not a priority of the Dutch development funding portfolio: In 2015, the Netherlands spent 4% of its total ODA on education, ranking 25th among donors within the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). On average, OECD DAC donors spent 8% of their ODA on education in 2015.
Education, although not a development priority, is viewed as a cross-cutting theme of the four stated priorities outlined in the 2013 development cooperation strategy paper, ‘A World to Gain: A New Agenda for Aid, Trade and Investment’. The four priorities are: 1) Security and the rule of law, 2) Water, 3) Food security, and 4) Sexual and Reproductive health and rights (SRHR, including HIV/AIDS). Prior to 2012, the Netherlands was a leading international supporter of global education, specifically to basic education. According to government data, the Netherlands contributed a total of €3.5 billion to basic education between 1999 and 2009 and was a top donor in the sector during this period. The government announced in 2012 that it would cut ODA to €750 million below the 0.7% of GNI target for the 2014-2016 period, and keep ODA at a level €1 billion below the 0.7% target from 2017 onwards. The strategy paper outlines that these cuts will, amongst other things, be achieved by reducing the development budget for education in low- and middle-income countries. Scholarships with a quota to ensure participation of women have been protected from these cuts. This shift in priorities has been motivated by progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): The strategy paper notes progress has been made on education goals, while goals on maternal and child health and sexual and reproductive health have fallen behind. However, when the new Dutch government is formed, following the March 2017 election, the development priorities might change. Four parties are currently taking part in coalition talks: the liberals (VVD), democrats (D66) and two Christian parties (CDA, Christian Union). Only the Christian Union mentions education in the development section of its election manifesto.
Overall, education ODA has declined in recent years, from US$254 million in 2013 to US$187 million in 2015. The decline is mainly driven by a decrease in bilateral education funding, particularly for primary education, which declined by US$60 million between 2013 and 2015. Given that education is currently not a development priority, no future funding increases for education are expected. However, this might change depending on the priorities of the new government, which is yet to be formed as of August 2017.
The Netherlands provides approximately half of its education ODA as bilateral funding: 52%, or US$98 million, in 2015. Most of this goes to post-secondary education, which accounted for 89% of bilateral education ODA in 2015.
Geographically, bilateral education funding focuses on Asia (17% of bilateral education ODA between 2013 and 2015) and sub-Saharan Africa (8%). The proportion going to sub-Saharan Africa is below the average that other OECD donor countries allocate to the region (25%). However, this is because 73% of Dutch bilateral education ODA between 2013 and 2015 was not allocated to specific countries. When excluding these funds, Asia accounted for 63% and sub-Saharan Africa 29% of bilateral education ODA. The three largest recipient countries were Indonesia (6% of bilateral education ODA), Pakistan (6%), and Bangladesh (4%).
In terms of income-group categories, Dutch bilateral education ODA focuses on middle-income countries (15%) and low-income countries (10%). When excluding the funding that is not allocated to specific countries, the majority of education funding distributed to lower-middle income countries (53%) and to low-income countries (42%), both above the DAC averages of 30%.
The majority (90%) of bilateral education funding is allocated through universities, colleges and research institutes.
In addition to its bilateral support, the Netherlands contributed US$89 million in 2015 in core contributions to multilateral organizations with a focus on education (or 48% of overall education ODA). Most of this funding was channeled in the form of core contributions through the World Bank (47%) and the European Union (31%). Furthermore, the Netherlands has been a strong supporter of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). It contributed US$645 million since GPE’s inception in 2002, making it the second largest donor. However, it did not make a pledge for the 2015-2018 period. The last contribution of the Netherlands was in 2014 with US$37.4 million, according to GPE data.
In addition, the Netherlands supports the international initiative ‘Education Cannot Wait’, committing €7 million in 2016. Education Cannot Wait is a special fund launched in 2016 that aims to improve access to education services in humanitarian emergencies and crises. However, overall, spending on education within Dutch humanitarian assistance is rather low. In 2015, the Netherlands allocated 0.1% of its humanitarian assistance to education (US$0.7 million), according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). The global average share of humanitarian assistance spent on education was 2% in 2015, according to UNOCHA, half of the minimum 4% target established by the UN Global Education First Initiative (GEFI). In addition, at the 2016 Syria Conference, the Netherlands pledged €125 million (US$138 million), of €50 million (US$55 million) was earmarked to support education and employment for refugees.
The MFA’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation drives global development policy, no specific education department
The responsibility for development cooperation lies with the Netherland’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (MFTDC), part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Further, within the MFA, the Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) is responsible for designing and coordinating the implementation of development policy. As education is not a priority in itself, there is no specific department within the ministry that focuses on education.