FLN Profile: Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

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As there is no publicly available data on annual funding to FLN in GPE, the only information available is in the form of aggregated funding categories in the OECD CRS data and the GPE Results Report. As the OECD CRS data reported by GPE provides limited information on the project level, it is not possible to identify FLN projects within the larger (sub)categories such as Education or Primary Education based on this dataset using the estimation strategy applied for bilateral donors. The opportunities for an estimate based on GPE data are limited due to the aggregation categories used in the Results Reports (which are not aligned with the definition of FLN) and the fact that GPE does not currently publish raw data on its funding which would allow for targeted estimates.

Since both datasets could not lead to a final FLN estimation, the only information currently available is the one shared in the GPE 2021 Results Report on GPE’s funding in regard to ‘Learning’ based on GPE’s 2016-2020 Strategy, and in its 2022 Results Report on GPE’s priority area ‘Learning’ based on the GPE 2025 Strategic Plan (2021-2025). In the funding focus ‘Learning’ from 2016 to 2020, it can be assumed that FLN-related funding is included in several of these thematic activities, but the share is unclear. A majority of grants in ‘Learning’ went to ‘standards, curriculum, and learning materials’ (US$272 million) and ‘teacher development’ (US$270 million), with a total of 145 grants. It is hard to identify the proportion of grants associated with foundational reading and mathematics skills, leading to a likely overestimation.

As for the priority area ‘Learning’ in the 2025 Strategic Plan, it consists of 12% of the 80 active implementation grants{title="The term “implementation grant" refers to: regular education sector program implementation grant (ESPIG), combined ESPIG and Multiplier grants, Multiplier, regular accelerated funding, and additional financing."} (US$2.6 billion) at some point in fiscal year 2022, totaling US$312 million. There are also US$ 200 million grants for regular accelerated funding, which also include thematic areas related to learning. The proportion of grant funding allocated to ‘Learning’ varies across regions, ranging from 8.4% in South Asia to 13.5% in Sub-Saharan. As additional skills (e.g., socio-emotional learning, ICT skills) are covered in ‘Learning’, the share of FLN funding within ‘Learning’ is not trackable with publicly available data.

GPE has self-identified 29 grants which support FLN, out of 95 grants active at some point in FY 2022 (July 2021-June 2022) in support of primary education. Within these, 9 grants were approved in 2020. As the current analysis for other donors takes FLN disbursement in 2020, the 9 grants approved in 2020 cannot be comparable with the disbursement value in other profiles.

Funding sources

GPE receives financial contributions from donors and allocates grants to partners. From 2003 to 2022, 31 donors have contributed US$8.5 billion to the GPE fund, with the European Commission (25%), the UK (20%), and France (9%) as the top three donors for the 2021-2025 period.

Funding type

GPE has approved US$7.9 billion cumulative implementation grants between 2003 and 2022, 73% of which went to low-income countries and the rest went to lower- and upper-middle-income countries. US$5.9 billion in implementation grants were utilized between 2002 and 2022.

There are different types of grants to support education in GPE’s partner countries and globally. Each type of grant has a maximum funding limit. They include:

Country grants

  • System capacity grants: Up to US$5 million to support capacity strengthening;
  • Program development grants: US$200 thousand (up to US$400 thousand in exceptional cases) for the design of an education program that supports the country implementing its priority reform;
  • System transformation grants: Up to US$163 million to finance priority programs that can help unlock bottlenecks and achieve system transformation;
  • Accelerated funding: Flexible support when a crisis emerges or escalates;
  • GPE Multiplier]: Up to US$50 million. Every US$1 from the GPE Multiplier request US$3 mobilized in partner countries;
  • Debt2Ed: Borrowing into new investments to unlock supplemental grant finance from the GPE Multiplier; and
  • Girls' Education Accelerator: Some countries will be able to access grants specifically focused on girls’ education during the process of applying for a system transformation grant or a Multiplier grant.

Other grants

  • Advocacy and social accountability grants - Education Out Loud: Up to US$56 million; and
  • Knowledge and innovation grants: With a budget of over US$75 million, the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange covers 6 thematic areas: early childhood care and education, learning assessment systems, gender equality, strengthening data systems, equity and inclusion, and teaching and learning.

Key recipients

Within the US$7.9 billion cumulative implementation grants between 2003 and 2022, 53% of the funds were provided to partner countries affected by fragility and conflict.

In terms of geographic focus, Sub-Saharan Africa has been the largest recipient of implementation grants over the last 20 years, receiving 74.1% of the total cumulative grants. South Asia is the second-largest recipient, receiving 11% of the total grants since 2002. The top five recipient countries of the cumulative implementation grants over the last 20 years include Ethiopia (US$557 million), Mozambique (US$400 million), Kenya (US$343 million), Madagascar (US$291 million), and Nigeria (US$273 million).

Under ‘Learning’ priority area, Sub-Saharan Africa (US$256 million) was also the largest recipient at some point in fiscal year 2022, allocating 77% of the total funding in “Learning’. The remaining funding under ‘Learning’ went to East Asia and Pacific (US$19 million), Europe and Central Asia (US$2 million), Latin America and Caribbean (US$8 million), Middle East and North Africa (US$14 million), and South Asia (US$31 million).

Although FLN funding data is not trackable, GPE monitors recipient countries’ data on their FLN-related improvement. In the GPE 2025 Results Framework, GPE tracks partner countries’ baseline value (2020) and their targets value (2025) of the proportion of children achieving minimum reading and mathematics proficiency (SDG Indicator 4.1.1) and considers globally agreed SDG4 targets compiled by UIS for GPE 2025 (2020-2025) to monitor improvement. According to the GPE Results Report 2022, less than one-third of the partner countries have the 2020 baseline value based on the UIS data, with an overall value of 35% in early grades and a value of less than 30% by end of primary education in 2020. Several partner countries have set up national targets for the proportion of children reaching minimum reading and mathematics proficiency by the end of GPE 2025. Considering all partner countries with available data, the collective target for the proportion at the end of primary school is approximately 45 percent. The improvement targets differ a lot among countries – some countries (including Honduras, Tonga, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Vietnam) set up ambitious targets and some countries (including Kyrgyz Republic and Madagascar) set up comparatively moderate targets.

Policy Priorities

Education sector

GPE is a multi-stakeholder partnership and a funding platform hosted by the World Bank Group. As a partnership, it brings together partner countries, donors, international organizations, civil society (including youth and teacher organizations), the private sector, and private foundations to determine how to best support education system transformation in countries most in need. As a fund, it mobilizes and delivers educational funding at the country level to ensure quality education for all girls and boys, especially those who are marginalized by poverty, displacement, or disability.

Since its inception (updated as of March 2023), GPE has approved a cumulative 313 implementation grants with a total value of US$7.9 billion and has grown from partnering with 7 low-income countries in 2002 to more than 80 countries (low-income and lower- and upper-middle income) in 2022.

GPE aims to achieve quality education for all children, mainly by supporting partner countries in transforming education systems. To that end, the GPE 2025 Strategic Plan defines eight priority areas:

  • Access: Expanding access to education for the most marginalized children in all partner countries;
  • Learning: Improving learning outcomes by equipping children with the foundational skills needed in the 21st century;
  • Gender equality: Committing to gender equality in educational opportunities;
  • Inclusion: Enhancing educational accessibility and equity by involving all children including refugees and internally displaced people free of discrimination;
  • Early learning: Improving equitable access, quality, and learning in the early years (at least one year of quality pre-primary education) through technical and financial support in partner countries;
  • Quality teaching: Empowering teachers to ensure education quality;
  • Volume, equity, and efficiency of domestic financing: Comparing domestic educational funding to internationally recognized benchmarks and developing the capacity to monitor the use of domestic funding with transparency and accountability; and
  • Strong organizational capacity: Building and strengthening government capacity for establishing efficient, effective, and resilient education systems.

FLN is explicitly mentioned under the priority area ‘Learning’. The GPE Results Framework 2025 allows GPE to track the progress in the above eight priority areas through a set of indicators, some of which are SDG Indicators. GPE monitors FLN data of its partner countries through Indicator 6 (under priority area ‘Learning’) in the GPE Results Framework 2025: ‘the proportion of children achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics’. This indicator assesses the learning progress of GPE’s partner countries using SDG Indicators 4.1.1a (in grades 2/3), and 4.1.1b (at the end of primary education) and 4.1.1c (end of lower secondary education) data from the UIS.

GPE’s role in FLN

GPE, as one of the key multilateral organizations providing funding for primary education (though as noted, the proportion of FLN projects within that funding is not currently trackable), acts as a broker to support partner countries in their education system transformation at the country level. Guided by the defined priority areas, GPE aims to achieve its vision of quality education for every child by building equitable, inclusive, and resilient education systems in the partner countries that are best fit for the 21st century.

GPE’s mission is to mobilize partnerships and investments to transform education systems in partner countries, guided by four effective partnership principles in the GPE 2025 Strategic Plan. These include 1) increasing decentralized mutual accountability, 2) driving national government ownership and strengthening its capacity, 3) rebalancing the country-level model to focus on implementation and sector policy dialogue, and 4) reducing GPE processes and transaction costs.

Driven by partnership principles, GPE 2025 Strategic Plan suggests key activities on an operational level to achieve this mission. These include:

  • Compact: Supporting a country-level partnership compact developed by local education groups describing specific reform priorities within sector policies and plans, driving partner countries’ ownership;
  • System capacity grant: Strengthening national governments’ capacity for system transformation with system capacity grants;
  • System transformation grant: Contributing to partner countries by responding appropriately to in-country context;
  • Strategic capabilities: Mobilizing strategic capabilities to reinforce partner countries’ capacity;
  • Increased domestic finance: Encouraging domestic financing at the country level for sustainable improvement;
  • Advocacy: Bringing collective perspectives from all partners and raising key issues and impediments that prevent all children from attending equitable and quality education;
  • Monitoring, evaluating, and learning: Supporting the development and use of data for evidence-based decision-making.
  • The Girls’ Education Accelerator: Supporting gender equality in eligible partner countries where girls’ education is identified as a key challenge;
  • Innovative finance mechanisms: Mobilizing and attracting additional funding for education systems. These approaches include the GPE Multiplier, incentives for debt forgiveness operations (Debt2Ed), matching funds to incentivize contributions from the business community and private foundations (GPE Match), the Frontloaded Multiplier (SmartEd) and the Enhanced Convening;
  • Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX): Contributing to strengthening knowledge and skills in GPE partner countries; and
  • Education Out Loud: support civil society participation in decision-making to shape education policy to better respond to community needs.

GPE prioritizes learning, especially the improvement of foundational learning skills. Although there has been a trend to cover more foundational learning skills beyond FLN, especially in the GPE 2020 Strategic Plan (2016-2020) to the 2025 Strategic Plan, GPE still mentions that academic success often occurs when 21st-century skills 21CS are integrated with the development of core subjects (e.g., reading and mathematics). Beyond that, GPE takes a partnership approach, and supports its partner countries’ particular ambitions when it comes to improving learning outcomes.. Just recently, GPE endorsed the Commitment to Action on Foundational Learning, launched at the Transforming Education Summit in 2022. In addition, a majority of partnership compacts thus far approved under the new GPE operating model are prioritizing foundational learning.

‘Learning’ and FLN

The skills that are associated with FLN (e.g., reading, mathematics) are mostly found in the priority area ‘Learning’ in the GPE 2025 Strategic Plan and as the main goal of the 2020 Strategic Plan. In the GPE 2020 Strategic Plan, the priority goal was ‘improved and equitable learning outcomes’. The achievement of this goal was measured by Indicator 1 - ‘trends in learning outcomes in partner countries’ and Indicator 15 - ‘the proportion of partner countries with a learning assessment system within the basic education cycle that meets quality standards’ (Indicators in 2020 Results Framework). Indicator 1 was assessed based on data from 141 learning assessments (90 national, 42 regional, and 9 international assessments). Out of the countries with available data, 27 countries had at least two data points for comparison in 2020, adding additional detail to the findings. Within the available assessments, 64 evaluated mathematics, while 77 measured reading skills. Moreover, the improvement in the proportion of partner countries with a learning assessment system within the basic education cycle meeting quality standards (Indicator 15) suggests that GPE also made efforts to monitor and advance the availability of the learning data so that the impact in ‘Learning’ can be better measured and tracked.

In the 2025 Strategic Plan, FLN are explicitly captured in the priority area ‘Learning’ in which GPE focuses on four key components: 1) early learning, 2) foundational literacy and numeracy, 3) socio-emotional learning, and 4) the wider range of skills necessary to prepare students for the 21st century such as ICT skills. Due to GPE’s unique partnership role, the prioritization among the four components depends on the focus of education transformation in partner countries – GPE itself does not prioritize between them.

The above shows a strategic shift GPE made from the 2020 (2016 -2020) to the 2025 (2021-2025) Strategic Plans in including what it refers to as "skills necessary to prepare students for the 21st century". The GPE 2025 Strategic Plan emphasizes that GPE supports activities beyond FLN, including early childhood learning and 21CS, as a reflection of partner countries’ educational priorities. This results in part from a 2020 review which, among other things, reviewed the education sector plans of 15 selected countries in Africa and Asia and found that all of them mentioned 21CS in their educational vision, mission or policy priorities. In the definition used by GPE in this review, 21CS include creativity and innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, communication, collaboration, information or ICT literacy, citizenship, and personal and social responsibility.

Regardless of the shift, as the aforementioned review (‘21st century skills: what potential role for the Global Partnership for Education’) made clear, GPE believes that incorporating 21CS does not require an "either-or" decision since the majority of successful examples of 21CS integration are found where they are integrated with core subjects (e.g., reading and mathematics), especially in low-income country contexts.

FLN thematic focus areas

FLN-related key actions in GPE include not only direct interventions at the country level through system transformation, but also involve knowledge sharing. GPE is active in the following areas:

  • System transformation: GPE supports diagnostics to define the priority reform goal and the advancement of learning assessments to ensure the quality of learning data. It also supports capacity building to improve learning outcomes (e.g., reading and mathematics), teaching quality, and accessibility of learning materials.
  • Learning data: GPE monitors the percentage of children (in partner countries) with minimum literacy and numeracy proficiency across different ages using UIS data as part of its partnership with UIS and UNESCO and encourages partner countries to collect and report learning data (e.g., reading and mathematics skills) throughout the GPE operating model. To start, countries perform an enabling factors assessment, including on availability and use of learning data. Thereafter the country with support from GPE can identify and propose data and evidence as a priority area, using eligible GPE funds. GPE also offers financial incentives, called top-ups, through the system transformation grants to support progress where challenges are required, notably in enabling factor areas of high priority. It also tracks trends in learning outcomes using available international, regional, and national learning assessments. GPE 2025 Results Framework tracks the availability of key education data in partner countries and whether those countries report the data to the UIS (Indicator 8i).
  • Knowledge sharing (KIX- Knowledge and Innovation Exchange): KIX, under GPE, delivers evidence-based solutions to national policymakers so they may use them to directly inform policy discourse and planning processes, and develops partner countries' capacity to produce, integrate, and scale knowledge and innovation.

The GPE 2022 Results Report contained a case study example of GPE’s FLN interventions. It focuses on a program implemented in Benin, to address a situation where only four out of ten primary school students (in grade 2) reached minimum reading proficiency in 2019 (according to UIS data). Supported by GPE and the World Bank, Benin conducted a curriculum reform to improve foundational learning. The interventions include 1) providing training on explicit pedagogy and scaffolding methods to develop lessons plans, teacher guides, training modules and coaching systems, 2) producing decodable textbooks and teacher guides with well-structured lesson plans, and 3) providing regular teacher support using learning assessments for formative feedback. With these interventions, the project aims to improve the country’s proportion of students (in grade 2) achieving minimum national reading proficiency by six percentage points from 2019 to 2023.

Impact and Outlook

Impact of support to FLN from 2016 to 2020

The GPE 2021 Results Report has shown GPE’s efforts in improving learning in partner countries. GPE tracks progress against GPE 2025 goals and objectives using indicators grouped in 18 measurement areas which are further disaggregated into sub-indicators. The indicator associated with FLN is Indicator 6 (under priority area ‘Learning’) in the GPE Results Framework 2025: ‘the proportion of children achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics’.

Overall, in terms of GPE’s support to improve ‘Learning’ (in which FLN was mentioned), estimates from GPE’s 2022 Results Report show that:

  • At baseline in 2020 above a third of pupils in GPE partner countries achieved minimum proficiency in early grade reading and in mathematics;
  • Overall, a quarter of pupils in partner countries met minimum proficiency standards at the end of primary in either reading or mathematics in 2020;
  • Completion rate of children at the primary level was 75%, while for lower secondary it was 55%; and
  • GPE invested US$328 million in activities to improve learning in FY2022.

Expected development of support for FLN in 2025

When assessing the rate of learning progress, GPE partner countries have committed to accelerate progress by 2025; the collective target value is about 45% for reading and mathematics at the end of primary. This is based on national SDG 4 targets submitted by countries to UIS reflected in GPE’s Indicator 6 (under priority area ‘Learning’) (the proportion of children achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics’) in its 2025 Results Framework.

At the Global Education Summit in London, donors pledged $4 billion towards GPE’s financing campaign, which is a significant step towards a fully funded GPE. In its 2021 Results Report, GPE suggested that a successful replenishment for 2021 to 2025 would accelerate the achievement of SDG4. With this replenishment and partner countries' commitment to making learning a priority, GPE predicted that it would be possible to accelerate the improvement in the proportion of children in school achieving minimum reading proficiency by 7 percentage points instead of the 5 percentage points estimated based on the progress previously achieved on GPE’ s learning outcomes indicator in the 2020 Results Framework. Based on the available documents, it can be expected that the allocation of GPE’s support would continue to be needed with a focus on the poorest and most marginalized children, particularly in countries with educational bottlenecks.


The GPE Board sets the policies and strategies of the partnership (meeting in person twice a year), and serves as a global leader, advocate and convenor for education. The Board of Directors is comprised of 20 constituencies representing all the partners of the partnership. A Board member and an alternate Board member represent each constituency. There are 6 seats (12 members) from the partner countries constituency, divided on a geographical basis, including three seats for Africa, 6 seats (12 members) from the donor constituency, 3 seats (6 members) from the multilateral agencies and regional banks constituency, 3 seats (6 members) from the civil society organizations constituency, including teachers, and 2 seats (4 members) from the private sector and private foundations constituency. The Chair of the Board of Directors is President Jakaya Kikwete. Dr. Susan Liautaud is the Vice Chair.

Committees assist the Board to fulfill its functions in a strategic, transparent and efficient way. There are three committees including Executive Committee, Finance and Risk Committee, and the Performance, Impact and Learning Committee. Marie Soulié is the Chair of the Performance, Impact and Learning Committee, which plays a monitoring role in GPE’s performance, impact and learning with data- and evidence-based methods (e.g., the Results Reports).

Country-driven model: GPE believes that governments alone have the capacity and scope to truly transform their education systems, leading all partners toward the shared goal of quality education for all girls and boys. To support governments in this effort, a partnership compact draws on existing policy frameworks, sector plans, evidence and forums in each country to act as a blueprint that describes how partners will work together to accomplish a systemwide reform, from policy intent to delivery. The compact defines mutual accountability among stakeholders and is agreed by partners in the country’s local education group, under the leadership of the ministry of education.

Key strategy and policy documents referenced

GPE 2025 Strategic Plan

  • Released in 2021, this is the key strategy document that guides GPE’s strategies from 2021 to 2025. It followed the GPE 2020 Strategic Plan and is supported by the GPE 2021 Results Report.

GPE 2025 Results Framework

  • Based on GPE 2025 Strategic Plan, GPE 2025 Results Framework is designed with a set of indicators to allow GPE to track the progress of its 2025 strategies.

GPE 2022 Results Report

  • Released in December 2022, this is the first Results Report based on the GPE 2025 Results Framework.

GPE 2021 Results Report

  • Released in 2021, this is the report of the key result for the GPE 2020 strategies (2016-2020). This is the final Results Report on the GPE 2020 Strategic Plan (released in 2016).

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