Issue Deep Dive: US/Education

Last updated: January 10, 2023

ODA Spending

ODA In Context

The US was the third largest DAC donor to education in 2020.

The US’ spending on education represented around 4% of its total ODA in 2020 (relative to the DAC average of 10%). This places the US at 26th among DAC donors in relative terms.

President Biden’s FY2023 IAB request included US$693 million for basic education: This marks a 2% increase from the US$682 million requested in FY2022 and is part of a trend to reverse declining education ODA levels from 2016. The figure for FY2022 included US$125 million for GPE and US$18 million for ECW. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, which supports education in low-income, food-deficit countries, is funded at US$265 million in FY2023, a US$28 million increase over FY2022.

ODA Breakdown

Bilateral Spending

In 2020, the vast majority (90%, or US$1.3 billion) of US education ODA was channeled bilaterally or as earmarked funding through multilateral organizations (which the OECD considers bilateral funding). The US slightly decreased its bilateral funding to education from US$1.4 billion in 2019.

Most of the 2020 funding was allocated to programs for ‘basic education’ (80% of bilateral education ODA, or US$1 billion, down by 4% from US$1.1 billion in 2019), making the US the largest donor to this area by far. Within basic education, the US prioritizes ‘primary education’ (US$756 million, or 59% of bilateral education ODA in 2020), in line with USAID’s new strategy for the sub-sector. ‘School feeding’ has become a funding focus within basic education. After many years of not being funded, ‘school feeding’ received 18% of bilateral education ODA (US$298 million) in 2018, falling to 7% (US$99 million) in 2019, before bouncing back up to 16% (US$201 million) in 2020. The US also spent US$114 million (9% of bilateral education ODA) on ‘higher education.’ Of the US$1.3 billion in bilateral ODA to education, the US spent US$236 million as earmarked funding through multilaterals.

Multilateral Spending and Commitments

Only 10% (US$140 million) of overall education ODA was disbursed as core contributions to multilaterals. Of this, most of the funding went primarily to the World Bank’s IDA (7% of total education ODA). Additionally, the US is a consistent supporter of the GPE, having contributed US$676 million between 2009 and 2022. At the Global Education Summit in July 2021, which was a call from GPE to mobilize US$5 billion in funding toward children’s education in the world’s lowest-income countries, the US made a three-year pledge of US$305 million, accounting for 8% of total pledges. The US is also a founding donor to ECW, an international initiative launched in 2016 that aims to improve access to education services in humanitarian emergencies and crises. The US has committed a total of US$95 million to the fund since its founding in 2016.

The table below summarizes the US’ more recent commitments to multilaterals working on agricultural development. Some of these commitments are considered core funding to multilaterals while others will be earmarked (bilateral) funding from the US.

Funding and Policy Outlook

New USAID strategy on basic education for 2019 – 2023 focuses on improving learning outcomes and expanding access to basic education for all: The new strategy recognizes the potential for investments in international education to pave the way for greater economic growth, improved health outcomes, sustained democratic governance, and more peaceful and resilient societies. As part of the new education policy, USAID has announced its plans to expand funding to private and religious schools in LICs, citing the need to provide access to education for children who are unable to attend public schools.

The US has prioritized girls’ access to education: Under the current administration, the focus is on breaking down gender-related barriers to education so that girls, women, and gender and sexual minorities have equal access to quality and inclusive education. There is a particular emphasis on also reversing the widening gap in equitable education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Goals for breaking down these barriers are set by USAID endorsement of the G7’s ‘Declaration on Girls’ Education’ and the SDG 4, which sets benchmarks for improved girls’ education in LICs and LMICs.

Key bodies

Adam Jennison

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