Canada - Education

Canada’s focuses on education as a powerful tool for the empowerment of women and girls

Canada spent US$345 million of its official development assistance (ODA) on education in 2020, making it the seventh-largest donor to this sector that year and accounting for almost 7% of Canada’s ODA, below the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 10%. Since 2017, Canada’s funding for education has seen a 30% increase, and this trend will likely continue since, during the election campaign in 2019, the Liberal Party (which won a minority mandate) promised to spend no less than 10% of the country’s development budget on education, with an emphasis on displaced and refugee children.

Canada primarily funds education projects through bilateral channels and earmarked funding through multilaterals (funding designated for a particular purpose and reported to the OECD as bilateral funding). Overall, bilateral funding accounted for 87% of Canada’s ODA for education. Roughly half of this was earmarked funding, which has increased significantly from just US$40 million in 2018 to US$152 million in 2020. Primary education received the largest share (24%) of bilateral funding, followed by upper secondary education (14%), teacher training (14%), education policy and administrative management (11%), and vocational training (10%).

Disbursements of core funding to multilaterals accounted for the other 13% of Canada’s education ODA. Top recipients included the International Development Association of the World Bank (IDA; 8% of education ODA, or US$29 million). Canada is a founding member of the IDA. Canada disbursed 3% (US$11 million) of its multilateral funding for education to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In 2020, Canada committed up to CA$75 million (US$56 million) to UNRWA in support of basic education, health, and social services for Palestinian refugees.

Education is a central tenet of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), falling under its action area on ‘human dignity’. Given the feminist tilt of its development policy, Canada prioritizes the education of girls and women. In the Mandate Letter written to the Minister for International Development in late 2021, the Prime Minister specifically mentions education as a pathway to the empowerment of women and girls. This is presented against the backdrop of COVID-19, which has undermined both education and gender equality around the world.

GAC’s Minister of International Development leads on policy development, with support from the Deputy Minister of International Development

With guidance from the Prime Minister’s Office, Global Affairs Canada’s (GAC) Minister of International Development takes the overall lead on development policy for education. The Deputy Minister of International Development manages GAC’s development policy units and budget allocation. Within GAC, there are several relevant offices for education development policy. The directorate for Global Issues and Development, led by an Assistant Deputy Minister, is key to education policy and funding and has several offices that work on education. Two important divisions are:

  • The Social Development Division, which provides strategic advice on education policy and other issues related to social development, including through the Education, Child Protection, and Gender Equality unit.
  • The International Humanitarian Assistance Division, which is involved in efforts at the nexus between humanitarian assistance and education.

In addition, the Strategic Policy Directorate within GAC provides cross-agency strategic policy advice on development issues related to education. The four geographic branches (Americas; Asia Pacific; Europe, Middle East, and the Maghreb; and sub-Saharan Africa, meaning the countries of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, according to the African Union’s designation) manage country programs and develop strategic plans with support for issues from the Global Issues and Development Branch.