EU - Education

ODA to education peaked in 2017 but has declined since then

The European Union institutions (EUI; including the European Commission and the European Investment Bank, EIB) spent US$1.1 billion of its ODA on education in 2019, making the EUI among the largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors to this sector. This represents 6% of EUI’s total ODA (DAC average: 10%). Education ODA provided by the EUI rose in 2015 due to increased funding provided to tackle “root causes of migration”. Funding continued to increase, peaking in 2017, but has declined since.

In 2019, the EUI channeled the majority (94%) of its education ODA bilaterally. This bilateral funding focused mainly on general education (51%), post-secondary education (19%), and vocational training (14%). This bilateral funding includes both bilateral ODA (US$864 million or 81% of education ODA in 2019) and funding earmarked for specific purposes and channeled through multilaterals (US$131 million or 12% in 2019). 

Through its earmarked funding, EUI supports multilateral initiatives that contribute to education. The EU supports the ‘Education Cannot Wait’ (ECW), an initiative dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises) and has committed US$33 million since the inception of the fund. In April 2019, the EU announced that it would also financially support the ‘International Finance Facility for Education’ (IFFEd), a new innovative education financing mechanism proposed to generate new resources for education in lower-middle-income countries. The EUI provided initial funding of €6.5 million (US$7 million) to IFFEd. The EUI also pledged €338 million (US$439.5 million) for the 2018-2020 replenishment period of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a multi-stakeholder funding platform dedicated to strengthening education systems on low- and middle-income countries. In addition to bilateral funding, 6% of the EUI’s education ODA (US$66 million) was channeled as core contributions to multilateral institutions, all of which went to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA).  

The EU’s priorities for education are outlined in the European Consensus on Development. Education is included in the framework for action ‘People – human development and dignity’ and is listed as a central element for tackling poverty and inequalities. In 2008, the EU called upon member states to devote 10% of their ODA to education by 2024 and 15% by 2023. The European Commission has also committed to spending 10% of its own ODA via the Neighborhood, Development, International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI – Global Europe) on education during the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework.

The EU’s priorities within education include early childhood and primary education with special attention given to the educational development of girls and women. Education is seen as a tool to promote youth employment, mitigate migration, and support post-conflict stabilization. In recent years, the EU has increased its focus on education in emergencies and fragile contexts. The share of humanitarian funding dedicated to education increased from less than 1% in 2015 to 10% in 2019, according to information from the European Commission.

DG INTPA’s Directorate G ‘Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace’ leads on education ODA policy 

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA; formerly the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation or DG DEVCO) leads on developing the EU’s policies and thematic programs around education. Within DG INTPA, education is covered in Directorate G, ‘Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace’, and at the technical level in Unit G.3, ‘Youth, Education and Culture’. The Directorate-General European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) oversees the humanitarian budget directed to education. Directorate A, ‘Emergency Management and rescEU’, covers education in emergencies. In the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF), the Global Public Goods and Challenges program allocated €1.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) for Human Development. Funding for education – alongside other issues such as health and social protection – comes out of this budget.