Canada is the 8th-largest education donor; funding is likely to remain relatively flat in the near future

Canada is the eighth-largest donor country to education, spending US$274 million on official development assistance (ODA) to education in 2016 (latest year for which complete data is available). However, relative to its overall development funding portfolio, Canada only ranks 17th among the 29 donor countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), with 7% of Canada’s total ODA allocated to education in 2016. This is slightly below the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 8%.

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

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

Education is a central tenet of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), falling under its action area on ‘human dignity’ (in addition to health and nutrition, and humanitarian action). Canada emphasizes the nexus of humanitarian action and education: At the G7 summit in 2018, Canada’s leadership efforts mobilized CAD3.8 billion (US$2.9 billion) for women and girls’ education in crisis and conflict situations, including a CAD400 million (US$308 million) commitment over three years from Canada itself. 

Bilateral education ODA focuses on general education and basic education for poorest countries

Canada’s bilateral ODA to education went down by 5% between 2016 and 2017 (latest year for which bilateral data is available), to US$206 million. Most of this went to general education, which accounted for 43% (US$88 million) of bilateral education ODA – primarily for strengthening education policy and administration, education facilities, and teacher training in partner countries. Basic education was the second-largest sector for Canada’s bilateral ODA to education in 2017 (31%, or US$64 million). This reflects Canada’s focus on girls’ education and equitable access.

Canada emphasizes the nexus of humanitarian action and education.

In 2016 (latest year for which sectoral multilateral data is available), Canada spent US$58 million, or 21%, of its total education ODA as core contributions to multilateral organizations. The vast majority (60%) went to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). In addition, Canada is the 10th-largest donor to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), having contributed US$216 million (as of April 2019) since 2007. For the 2018 to 2020 funding period, Canada committed CAD180 million (US$147 million) to GPE. Canada reports GPE contributions to the OECD as bilateral ODA.

Canada has stepped up its support for multilateral initiatives on education in humanitarian crises, in line with its policy orientation. In 2016, Canada committed US$15 million over two years to the initiative ‘Education Cannot Wait’ (ECW), a special fund which aims to improve access to education services in humanitarian emergencies and crises. It committed an additional CAD50 million (US$39 million) to the fund in late 2018, making it the second-largest donor. Canada’s involvement in education in crises is likely to increase due to its ECW commitment and other pledges to gender-responsive education in humanitarian contexts.

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

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


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

With guidance from the Prime Minister’s Office, GAC’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie has the overall lead on development policy, including 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 relevant for 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 Maghreb; and sub-Saharan Africa) manage country programs and develop strategic plans with support for issues from the Global Issues and Development Branch.

Further readings