FLN Profile: Canada

Last updated: February 23, 2024


ODA for education

In 2021, Canada provided US$323 million in ODA to the education sector, according to the OECD. This makes it the eighth-largest donor country to education in that year in absolute terms. However, this amount only represented 5% of Canada’s total ODA that year, meaning that its share of funding to the education sector was below the DAC average of 9%.

The US$323 million in ODA provided by Canada included funding channeled both bilaterally as well as multilaterally.

Of this funding, the vast majority (85%, or US$275 million) of Canada’s education ODA was channeled bilaterally or as earmarked funding through multilaterals. This includes funding channeled to multilateral organizations like the GPE and ECW.

14% (US$45 million) of Canada’s overall education ODA was disbursed as core contributions to multilaterals including to the International Development Association of the World Bank and the UNRWA.

ODA funding benefitting the FLN sector

Using a keyword search methodology based on OECD data, it was estimated that in 2021, of the US$274 million that Canada channeled bilaterally to the education sector, 23% or US$63 million was channeled to the primary education sub-sector.

By analyzing FLN programs within the primary education sub-sector using the keyword search methodology, results found that 8% (US$21 million) of Canada’s total bilateral funding to the education sector targeted programs with FLN outcomes.

This makes Canada the third-largest donor to FLN in primary education in 2021 when comparing absolute funding levels against other OECD DAC donor countries.

Canada’s bilateral funding to FLN has fluctuated between 2017 and 2021, both in absolute and relative terms. Within that period, funding was highest in 2020, in both absolute terms and relative terms, at US$45 million or 13% of Canada’s bilateral ODA to education.

In addition to bilateral support, Canada’s funding to multilaterals is also likely to benefit FLN. Canada provides substantial financial support to two multilateral organizations in education: GPE and ECW, both of which have a strong thematic focus on basic education and foundational learning outcomes. Canada has provided CAD300 million ( US$224 million to GPE for 2021-2025 and US$38 million to ECW in 2018. Some of this funding is expected to benefit FLN-related programs.

Funding channels

In 2021, 90% of Canada’s bilateral funding to FLN was channeled in the form of contributions to specific-purpose programs and funds managed by implementing partners, 10% was channeled as project-type interventions, meaning specific projects agreed upon with partner countries.

Financing type

All financing to FLN was channeled in the form of grants.

Key recipients

Using the keyword search methodology developed to assess donor financing for FLN based on OECD DAC data, it was estimated that the majority of Canada’s bilateral funding was provided to regions rather than to individual countries. These included countries in Africa (US$11 million), followed by countries in Asia (US$4 million), and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (US$3 million).

The keyword search methodology provides insights into FLN projects that have been carried out by Canada. These included reading programs in Ghana and Kenya, programs for improving girls' basic education outcomes in Somalia, and projects for supporting government capacity building in the education sector in Mali, among others.

Policy Priorities

Education sector

Canada is one of the top ten OECD DAC donors to the education sector. Since 2017, Canada’s funding for education has seen a moderate increase, and this trend will likely continue since, during the election campaign in 2019, the Canadian Liberal Party (which won a minority mandate) promised to spend at least 10% of the country’s development budget on education.

Education is a central tenet of Canada’s 2017 Feminist International Assistance Policy, falling under its action area on ‘human dignity’. In the past years, education has been reconfirmed as a key priority in securing Canada’s development objective of promoting women's and girls’ rights in partner countries.

This focus was made evident through the 2019 Charlevoix declaration that Canada adopted along with other G7 member countries, in which inclusive and quality education was recognized as “fundamental to achieving the empowerment and economic equality of girls and women.”

Education was also prioritized in the 2021 Mandate Letter, drafted against the backdrop of COVID-19, in which the Canadian Prime Minister highlighted education as a pathway to the empowerment of women and girls.

In the education sector, Canada focuses on supporting inclusive, equitable, and quality education in alignment with the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. Given the feminist orientation of its development policy, Canada prioritizes the education of girls and children affected by socio-economic marginalization.

FLN intervention areas

Although Canada does not make an explicit mention of FLN within the FIAP, interventions in FLN-relevant areas are likely to be carried under Canada’s work in furthering ‘quality basic education’ in partner countries. This stance is apparent in Canada’s sectoral objective of ensuring that children, particularly girls “get a full 10-year cycle of quality basic education”.

Under this sub-sector of quality basic education, Canada carries out several programs that could be classified under FLN-relevant interventions due to their contributions to facilitating FLN outcomes. These include:

  • Building the capacity of government education officials;
  • Supporting new and existing teacher training institutes to create a professionally accredited cadre of teachers;
  • Improving the development and distribution of learning materials and curricula; and
  • Working to end school-related gender-based violence and harmful practices which keep girls out of school, such as conjugal slavery.

In addition to measures outlined in the FIAP, it is also worth evaluating Canada’s multilateral projects in education to get a full picture of Canada’s potential interventions in FLN.

Although the Charlevoix Declaration does not explicitly mention the term FLN, one of the key objectives of the declaration is to “increase access to at least 12 years of safe and quality education that promotes gender equality”. Several interventions under this objective have a strong overlap with FLN-relevant outcomes, including:

  • Ensuring children gain at least 12 years of quality education from their early years through to secondary school;
  • Ensuring that girls learn basic literacy and numeracy skills in order to progress through education; and
  • Supporting capacity-building efforts through the education sector for teacher training and retention of teachers.

Overall, despite the lack of an explicit reference to FLN within Canada’s development policy or its multilateral declarations in education, efforts in the FLN sector are likely to be carried under the broader umbrella of quality or basic education interventions.


Although interventions in FLN are likely to be covered under Canada’s work in furthering basic and quality education, the lack of explicit mentions of FLN within education-relevant strategies suggest that FLN is not prioritized within Canada’s development efforts in education. Current political and policy trends, including the precedence of the country’s feminist foreign policy, suggest that Canada is likely to continue placing a stronger thematic focus on girls’ education that may supersede FLN and other policy priorities.


With guidance from the Prime Minister’s Office, GAC's 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; and
  • 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. Four geographic branches covering the Americas; Asia Pacific; Europe, Middle East, and the Maghreb; and SSA manage country programs and develop strategic plans with support for issues from the Global Issues and Development Branch.

The 'Codebook for Donor Profile Data' presents the methodology and data sources used in each section of our Donor Profiles.

Expert insights into the most pressing issues in global development.

At Donor Tracker, we prefer not to call it aid.

Explore other deep-dives