Netherlands - Education

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Formerly a major focus area, emphasis on education has decreased since 2012; higher education is the Netherlands’ priority

In 2019, the Netherlands spent just 4% of its total ODA on education, putting it last in 29th-place among donors within the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in terms of spending on education relative to overall official development assistance (ODA; DAC average: 10%). In absolute terms, the Netherlands is the 12th-largest donor country to education, spending US$197 million in 2019. Funding has declined by US$557 million since its peak of US$754 million in 2007, driven by major cuts in bilateral ODA to education. Budget documents suggest funding for education will continue to decline: The 2020 budget set education ODA at €109 million (US$122 million) — divided between the international post-secondary program and vocational training education, and contributions to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) — and the 2021 budget, €70 million (US$78 million).

Bilateral funding, excluding earmarked funding through multilaterals, accounted for 42% (US$83 million) of the Netherlands’ ODA for education in 2019. The largest share of this was directed towards higher education (72% or US$71 million). The second-largest share went to primary education (14% or US$13 million). 6% (US$6 million) was allocated to vocational training.

Earmarked funding through mulitlaterals (reported to the OECD as bilateral funding) accounted for 8% (US$16 million) of the Netherlands’ ODA to education in 2019. The Netherlands is a strong supporter of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE; considered earmarked funding). It pledged US$114 million to GPE for 2018-2022. On International Women’s Day in March 2021, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag — an advocate of education — announced that the Netherlands allocated an additional €50 million (US$56 million) for GPE to ensure that more children, particularly girls, have access to education. In September of 2020, Minister Kaag announced that the Netherlands would contribute €6 million (US$7 million) in support of Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) COVID-19 education in emergency response at ECW’s High-Level Steering Group meeting. The 2021 budget also includes funding for the Innovative Financing Facility for Education (IFFEd) by providing a guarantee of €223 million (US$250 million), of which 15% is deposited in cash. The Netherlands’ core multilateral contributions for education made up the other half of its funding in 2019.

Education receives ample support in Dutch Parliament. The coalition agreement of the outgoing Rutte III government stated that education for refugee children should be prioritized and that scholarships would be doubled using funds from the development cooperation budget, particularly for the new focus countries Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. According to the 2018 policy document: ‘Investing in Global Prospects: For the World, For the Netherlands’ (also referred to as the ‘BHOS policy’), the Netherlands was to invest €60 million (US$67 million) annually in new programs supporting general and vocational education, employment and income equality for young people and women in the West African Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

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 Netherlands’ 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, there is no specific department within the ministry that focuses on education.