Formerly a focus area, education has not been a priority for the Netherlands since 2012
Education is not a priority of the Dutch development funding portfolio: In 2015, the Netherlands spent 3% of its total ODA on education, ranking 27th among donors within the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in relative terms. On average, OECD DAC donors spent 8% of their ODA on education in 2015 (the latest year for which full data is available). In absolute amount, the Netherlands is the 12th-largest donor country to education, spending US$187 million on education ODA in 2015
However, to get a full picture of a donor’s cross‑border flows of education assistance, it is important to exclude scholarships and other costs of students from developing countries studying in donor countries. These costs are reported as ODA by some donors but are not spent on development programs abroad. In 2015, the Netherlands reported 18% of all its education ODA (US$33 million) as costs for students from developing countries studying in the Netherlands.
Overall, education ODA has declined in recent years, from US$255 million in 2013 to US$187 million in 2015.
Education, although not a development priority, is viewed as a cross-cutting theme of the four traditional development priorities: 1) security and the rule of law, 2) water, 3) food security, and 4) sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR, including HIV/AIDS). Prior to 2012, when the Netherlands announced cuts in the development budget for education in order to give more focus to SRHR, the Netherlands was a leading international supporter of global education, specifically to basic education. According to government data, the Netherlands contributed a total of €3.5 billion to basic education between 1999 and 2009 and was a top donor in the sector during this period.
Overall, education ODA has declined in recent years, from US$255 million in 2013 to US$187 million in 2015. The decline is mainly driven by a decrease in bilateral education funding, particularly for primary education: funding went from US$79 million in 2012 to US$4 million in 2016.
The current 2018 education budget stands at €35 million (US$39 million), of which €3 million (US$3.3 million) is earmarked for research and the rest for the international program post-secondary education.
Geographically, bilateral education funding focuses on Asia (10% of bilateral education ODA between 2014 and 2016), the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (8%), and sub-Saharan Africa (4%). The proportion going to sub-Saharan Africa is below the average that other OECD donor countries allocate to the region (29%). However, this is because 76% of Dutch bilateral education ODA between 2014 and 2016 was not allocated to specific countries. When excluding these funds, Asia accounted for 41%, MENA for 34%, and sub-Saharan Africa for 19% of bilateral education ODA. The three largest recipient countries were Indonesia (5%), Lebanon (5%), and Pakistan (4%).
In terms of income-group categories, Dutch bilateral education ODA focuses on lower-middle-income countries (12%) and low-income countries (4%). When excluding the funding that is not allocated to specific countries, the majority of education funding is distributed to lower-middle income countries (54%) and to low-income countries (19%). The majority (68%) of bilateral education funding is allocated through universities, colleges, and research institutes.
In addition to its bilateral support, the Netherlands contributed US$89 million in 2015 (latest year for which full data is available) in core contributions to multilateral organizations with a focus on education (or 48% of overall education ODA). Most of this funding was channeled in the form of core contributions through the International Development Association (48%) and the European Union (32%). In the past, the Netherlands had been a strong supporter of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). It contributed US$645 million since GPE’s inception in 2002 but ceased its contributions to the Fund between 2015 and 2018. The Netherlands’ last contribution goes back to 2014, with US$37 million. In January 2018, the Netherlands announced their return to the GPE as a donor. The country’s pledge for 2018 to 2020 is still to be determined by the new government.
Aside from that, the Netherlands supports the international initiative ‘Education Cannot Wait’, committing €7 million (US$8 million) in 2016. Education Cannot Wait is a special fund launched in 2016 that aims to improve access to education services in humanitarian emergencies and crises. However, overall, spending on education within Dutch humanitarian assistance is rather low. In 2016, the Netherlands allocated 1.1.% of its humanitarian assistance to education (US$1.7 million), according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). The global target established by the UN Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) is 4%. The global average share of humanitarian assistance spent on education was 2.7% in 2016, according to OCHA.
The coalition agreement of the current government states that education for refugee children will be given a priority and that scholarships will be doubled using funds from the development cooperation budget, particularly for the new focus countries Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.
The MFA’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation drives global development policy; there is no specific department focusing on education
The responsibility for development cooperation lies with the Netherland’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (MFTDC), part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Further, within the MFA, the Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) is responsible for designing and coordinating the implementation of development policy. As education is not a priority in itself, there is no specific department within the ministry that focuses on education.