Italy’s funding for global education is increasing
Italy spent US$229 million on global education in 2016, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), making it the 10th‑largest donor country to education (latest year for which complete data is available). Education accounted for 4% of Italy’s total official development assistance (ODA) in 2016, well below the average of 8% spent by members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Since 2012, Italy’s ODA to education has increased significantly, albeit from a low level: Spending grew by 64%, from US$140 million in 2012 to US$229 million in 2016.
Nonetheless, education is articulated as a priority in Italy’s strategic document for development policy. The triannual Programming Guidelines for Italian Development Cooperation 2017-2019 lists education as a key priority. The primary focus is on early schooling and childhood development, as well as technical vocational education and training (TVET), with a central objective of education being the support of democratization and peace-building processes. Additionally, education was a focus of Italy’s G7 presidency in 2017, considered a key area for promoting social sustainability and reducing inequalities. The G7 Accountability Working Group had education as the focus of its progress report in October 2017, 'The G7 Taormina Progress Report: Investing in Education for Mutual Prosperity, Peace and Development'.
Italy provides over half of its ODA to education through multilateral organizations (57%, US$131 million in 2016). Most of this funding is made up of binding contributions to the European Union (US$97 million, or 74% of education ODA) and of core contributions to the World Bank’s International Development Association (US$20 million, or 15%). In addition, Italy supports the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), providing US$47 million to GPE since it became a donor in 2005 (as of December 2017). This makes it the 13th-largest donor to GPE. Italy more than doubled its contribution from €1.5 million (US$1.7 million) in 2015 to €4 million (US$4.4 million) in 2016, as reported by GPE, raising Italy’s commitment for GPE’s 2015-2018 pledging period to €10 million (US$11 million). In February 2018, Italy pledged €12 million (US$15.6 million) for the 2018-2020 pledging period. The Programming Guidelines specifically mention Italy’s support for GPE, identifying it as the principle financing mechanism for activities to attain the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). Italy reports GPE contributions as bilateral ODA to the OECD.
Italy’s bilateral support for education is almost half of its total funding for education ODA: 43%, or US$98 million in 2016, remaining stable from 2015. Looking forward, ODA to education is expected to continue to grow, given the recent establishment of the development agency, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS). AICS’ budget is set to grow from US$376 million (€340 million) in 2016 to US$569 million (€514 million) per year between 2018 and 2020. This will be committed, amongst other sectors, to education.
The largest share of bilateral education ODA (36%) is allocated to ‘ general education’, a category consisting of investments around system strengthening. Most of Italy’s spending in this area funds education facilities and training in partner countries. Post-secondary education accounted for a quarter of bilateral education ODA in 2016 (27%). Most of this comprises funding for advanced technical and managerial training. Funding to this area sharply increased in 2015, due to a US$22 million contribution to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics. The Centre supports scientists in partner countries through capacity building in Africa, as well as educational and research opportunities in Europe. Moreover, US$7 million was spent in 2016 on tuition costs and higher education scholarships for students from developing countries studying in Italy. Other funding priorities are basic education (24%), especially primary education, and vocational training (12%).
Italy’s bilateral support for education has a regional focus on Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa received 39% of all funding between 2014 and 2016 (US$33 million per year on average), making it by far the largest recipient region. Funding is disbursed across many countries, with Ethiopia (US$5 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (US$4 million), and Mozambique (US$3 million) being the largest recipients in the region. Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Asia follow, each receiving 13% of bilateral funding for education. India (US$5 million) is the largest recipient country in these regions. A rather equal share of Italy’s bilateral education ODA goes to low-income countries (LICs, US$33 million, 39% of total education ODA) and to middle-income countries (MICs, US$33 million, 38%).
Civil society organizations (CSOs) play an important role in delivering Italy’s education programs: In 2016, 55% of Italy’s bilateral education ODA was channeled through CSOs. This is much higher than for Italy’s total bilateral ODA across all sectors, where only 8% is disbursed through civil society.
DGCS defines education priorities; AICS leads implementation
The Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) is in charge of defining the strategic direction of Italy’s education policy. The DGCS’s office for programming of development cooperation, its geographic offices, and the unit for multilateral cooperation are relevant actors for defining Italy’s bilateral and multilateral education policy. The development agency AICS, which was set up in January 2016, is in charge of program implementation. AICS’s office on 'Human Development' is responsible for education.