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). 

While the EU’s ODA to education had been declining since 2017, International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen has made education her core priority since taking office in late 2019. She has set a target for 10% of the EU’s ODA via the Neighborhood, Development, International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI – Global Europe) to go to education during the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework. This is half of the target for 20% of EU ODA to go to human development (which includes education, as well as health and social protection). 

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). Counting the latest pledge of €25 million (US$28 million) In September of 2021, the EU has committed aa total of nearly €53 million (US$60 million) in total to the fund since its inception in 2016.  In April of 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. At the Global Education Summit in July of 2021, the EU and its member states as ‘Team Europe’ committed a total pledge of €1.7 billion (US$1.9 billion )   from 2021-2027 to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a multi-stakeholder funding platform dedicated to strengthening education systems in low- and middle-income countries. The EU’s pledge represents a 32% annual increase from the previous 2014-2020 EU long-term budget during which the EU contributed €68 million (US$76 million) per year for a total of €475 million (US$532 million). 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.

In a Commission communication from November 2021, the Commission said the EU will continue to target 10% of its annual humanitarian budget to child protection and education in emergencies, in particular access to education for girls in humanitarian contexts .

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.