FLN Profile: Japan
Last updated: March 1, 2023
In 2020, Japan provided US$750 million in ODA to the education sector. This made Japan the fifth-largest donor country to education in that year in absolute terms among DAC countries. However, this funding only represented 4% of Japan’s total ODA that year, meaning that its share of funding to the education sector was below the average of 10% spent by DAC donor countries.
The US$750 million in ODA provided by Japan included bilateral and multilateral funding. Bilateral funding accounted for 85% of Japan's ODA for education, above the DAC average of 70%, including earmarked funding through multilaterals. In 2020, 46%, or US$295 million of Japan's bilateral education ODA in 2020 went toward programs for postsecondary education.
According to OECD data, Japan allocated US$80 million to ‘basic education’, accounting for 13% of its total education in 2020.
Within ‘basic education’, 79% of Japan’s ODA funding went to primary education (US$63 million) in 2020. The World Bank’s International Development Association received 77% of Japan’s multilateral funding to the education sector in 2020. Other multilateral recipients in the education sector included the ADB, GPE, and the ADF.
According to ‘The Joy of Learning,’ a summary report of JICA’s education support written in 2021, JICA spent JPY56.4 billion (US$528 million) on basic education between FY2015 and FY2019, covering 32% of Japan’s total disbursement in education in that period.
It is not feasible to estimate ODA funding benefiting the FLN sector using the keyword analysis method that was implemented in other donor countries for Japan. This is due to the fact that a majority of project descriptions reported by Japan provide no information at the project level. In 2020, 74% of projects in ‘basic education’ only showed ‘TC aggregated activity’ as the project description. As there is no additional publicly available data at the project level, the estimation of Japan’s funding in FLN-related activities is currently not possible with CRS data.
Within the education sector, 81% of the financing flow is composed of ODA grants and 19% ODA loans.
According to The Joy of Learning framework, Japan’s funding in basic education (primary and early childhood learning) was mainly in Asia (38%) and the Middle East (35%) from FY2015 to FY2019, followed by Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean. As the FLN definition used here focuses on primary school age, a further investigation of top recipients in ‘primary education’ in the CRS was conducted. In 2020, the top recipients of Japan’s ODA disbursement in primary education were the Syrian Arab Republic (US$15 million), Benin (US$7 million), and Myanmar (US$5 million).
Japan is one of the largest DAC donors to the education sector, but funding has been declining. In 2020, despite an increase in total ODA from previous years, budget cuts decreased Japan’s contribution to the education sector. In relative terms, the percentage of Japan’s ODA to the education sector relative to total ODA (4%) was below the DAC average of 10% in 2020. However, Japan still ranked fifth among DAC countries in bilateral ODA to education in absolute terms, at US$750 million.
In Japan’s SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles, released in 2016, the promotion of quality education is listed as the first of eight priority areas. Japan has committed to supporting education in order to achieve SDG 4 – “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
The country also underlined its efforts in quality education at the G7 Summit in 2016, and in female education and training in its G20 Human Capital Investment Initiative for Sustainable Development in 2019.
MOFA's Development Cooperation Charter, published in 2015, suggests that the efforts on education are considered part of efforts in poverty eradication, stating that Japan aims “to provide assistance to realize ‘quality growth’ and poverty eradication through such growth.” The MOFA’s 2015 Development Cooperation Charter is Japan's guiding development assistance policy document. A revision of the Charter is currently underway and will be published in 2023.
Japan emphasizes the importance of leveraging its strengths in development cooperation in the education sector. “The strength of Japan's basic education lies in its quality and high enrollment rate." More specifically, the strengths mentioned include high teacher quality, incorporating a balance between holistic education and solid academic competence, mental and physical health, parental and community engagement, quality learning materials and classes (especially in math and science), and teacher development training.
In the JICA’s Global Agenda for Education in 2021, JICA mentioned that utilizing these strengths aims “not only to realize human security but also to build a foundation for self-reliant, high-quality growth.” Based on these strengths, JICA has been supporting:
- Teacher training, mainly in mathematics and science;
- Teaching material development; and
- Community collaboration.
Guided by SDG 4 and considering the strengths identified in its domestic education system, JICA sets up four clusters in its Global Agenda for Education as a framework to develop projects. These include:
- Improving learning through the development of textbooks and learning materials;
- Educational improvement through community-wide collaboration;
- Improving education for leaving no one behind; and
- Strengthening leading universities.
FLN support is the key component of the ‘Cluster for learning improvement through the development of quality textbooks and learning materials’ in JICA’s Global Agenda for Education. To set up this cluster, JICA considers Japan’s strengths and its prioritized areas in its overall development plan in basic education. Within basic education, JICA prioritizes SDG 4.1 "All girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education for all." More specifically, in this cluster, JICA prioritizes tackling the 'learning crisis,' and advancing cooperation to ensure all children acquire basic reading and math skills.
Within this cluster, JICA mainly focuses on two areas including science and mathematics, as well as socio-emotional skills. JICA considers science and mathematics to be the areas in which Japan has extensive experience and resources to share with recipient governments and development partners. Socio-emotional skills are also considered important, including self-affirmation, grit, cooperativeness, and leadership. Japan’s efforts related to these skills as part of its development cooperation programs aim to further students’ talents and abilities in lifelong learning.
Beyond the above cluster, JICA also works on FLN within ‘Cluster for community-wide collaboration’ and ‘Cluster for no one left behind’. Within these clusters, JICA provides remedial classes for children and focuses on basic learning for out-of-school children, especially for those in vulnerable situations.
At an operational level, JICA provides practical interventions incorporating the strengths of Japanese basic education as mentioned above. These interventions include:
- Building teacher capacity;
- Advancing learning materials; and
- Providing professional development for teachers.
In terms of geographic focus, JICA promotes this cluster in countries with a history of cooperation with Japan, such as El Salvador and countries in Southeast Asia, and is expanding cooperation to encompass additional partner countries. JICA frequently invites government officials and teachers from cooperation countries as trainees to develop highly specialized education administrators and instructors. This cluster also aims to establish a network for mutual learning and expand potential partner countries.
Beyond these direct interventions at the on-site level, JICA applies specific approaches aimed at ensuring a comprehensive impact on education development for its partnerships. These approaches include providing a policy advisor, supplying DPLs, building educational facilities, and delivering grant funding for instructional materials. By doing so, JICA aims to link the policy and on-site implementation to country-specific contexts.
According to the Position Paper on Education Cooperation released in 2015, FLN-related interventions, particularly ‘numeracy-related support,’ from 2000-2015 produced two discernable outcomes in basic education. These included training 850,000 teachers in 42 countries in mathematics and science and providing support to a mathematics and science collaboration network with 27 African countries.
Two FLN-related program examples include:
- Assistance for Primary Education in Myanmar
- Since 2011, Myanmar has conducted a comprehensive education reform with assistance from MOFA. The project includes developing textbooks and providing teacher training in math and language. By 2021, 5.4 million school children and 250,000 teachers were expected to have benefited from the project.
- Project for the Improvement of Mathematics Teaching in Primary and Secondary Education in EI Salvador
- From 2015-2019, the JICA supported the revision of mathematics textbooks and guides and provided in-service teacher training and teacher training courses. Japan also implemented similar mathematics projects in other countries including Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and envisions expanding such a program to the wider Latin American region.
Japan has not released its budget plan for 2023, and no recent position paper concerning education cooperation has been released. Thus, it is hard to predict Japan’s education funding trends in the coming years.
However, JICA has expressed interest in keeping FLN, especially mathematics, as a core component within Japan’s development cooperation in basic education. This focus is due to Japan’s long-term strategy of utilizing its strengths in its education-related development agenda. According to its Global Agenda for Education, by 2030, Japan aims to achieve “academic performance in mathematics improve in certain representative projects of the ‘Cluster for improving learning through the development of textbooks and learning materials,' and the ‘Cluster for educational improvement through community-wide collaboration.’"
MOFA sets up Japan’s overall development policy in the Development Cooperation Charter, including its priorities in education. Within MOFA, the International Cooperation Bureau, led by Director-General Kazuya Endo, leads policy design and ODA budget development. The Bureau's Global Issues Cooperation Division, led by Director Koichiro Matsumoto, is responsible for multilateral cooperation and some sector policies, including education.
JICA implements the education development program in more than 100 countries and focuses on building mutual trust with partner countries. It leverages Japan’s strengths in its domestic education and works with partner countries from the school level to policy formulation discourse. To create a knowledge network for education development, JICA sends experts and international volunteers to partner countries and welcomes government representatives, experts, and international trainees in return.
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