Norway - Education

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Education remains a top focus of Norway’s development policy, particularly for girls  

According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Norway’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to education reached US$358 million in 2020, making Norway the sixth-largest donor country to global education. This represents 9% of Norway’s total ODA, slightly below the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 10%, making the country the 12th-largest donor to global education in relative terms.  

The successive governments of former Prime Minister (PM) Erna Solberg have made education Norway’s top development policy priority since 2013. This focus was reiterated in Norway’s April 2017 white paper on development priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ‘Common responsibility for the common future – the SDGs and Norwegian development policy.’ In line with this political priority, funding to education has grown significantly. OECD data confirms this trajectory, with funding doubling between 2013 and 2017, then remaining at high levels (US$358 million in 2020). The increase was driven by greater spending on primary education. This is in line with Norway’s focus on achieving universal primary education as a fundamental human right and key driver of development.  

A vast share of Norway’s education funding is disbursed bilaterally (92% in 2020, or US$328 million). However, much of Norway’s funding reported as bilateral is in fact earmarked to multilateral organizations: in 2020, 58% of Norway’s total ODA to global education (US$358 million) went through multilaterals. Key partners included the International Development Association (IDA), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Norway pledged NOK3.7 billion (US$435 million, according to the GPE’s conversation rate) to the GPE for 2021-2025. Annual contributions from 2021 on will increase by NOK50 million (US$6 million, according to GPE’s conversion rate) compared to the previous 2018-2020 pledge. 

Norway’s budget for education, research, and professional cooperation ODA stands at NOK2.5 billion (US$262 million) for 2022. In 2020, education programs suffered cuts (around NOK165 million, or US$18 million) to offset increased needs in health that emerged because of the COVID-19 crisis. Among others, payment to the GPE was postponed until 2021. In addition, the government has proposed to increase the flexibility of the education budget to allow funds to be reallocated so that funds budgeted for education can be used to finance health-related measures that promote the right to education. 

In its 2013-2014 ‘Education for Development’ strategy, the Norwegian government emphasizes primary education, system-level improvements, facilities, and teacher training as focus areas. The strategy was published in June 2014 and is the most recent MFA strategy covering Norway’s education priorities. Even though the new Government (as of fall 2021) has reallocated some of the funding towards education to climate, energy, and food security, the minister has stated that education is still a priority in Norwegian development policy. The government has made it clear that they are prioritizing girls’ education, in particular. An investment in girls' education gives a good return both in terms of improving health, as well as combating child labour, conjugal slavery, and human trafficking.  

Norway is one of few countries globally which regards education as an explicit component of its humanitarian assistance policy and it shows international leadership in this area. It is one of five founding donors to the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) initiative, a special fund launched in 2016 that aims to improve access to education services in humanitarian emergencies and crises (for more details on funding for education in emergencies, see our Donor Tracker’s insights piece: ‘Decades of neglect: Donor financing for education in emergencies.’ Norway has pledged US$57 million to ECW for the period of 2021 to 2025 and is the fifth-largest donor overall, with a total contribution of US$83 million. The government is committed to prioritizing education in crisis and conflict settings, as well as promoting closer coordination between humanitarian and development efforts in education. According to the government, Norway spends more than 8% of its humanitarian assistance budget on education.  

Norway is also an international leader in global education, with a particular focus on girls’ education. Former PM Solberg co-initiated the ‘International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity’ and hosted the ‘Oslo Summit on Education for Development’ in 2015. The Commission aims to set the course on how to promote and find innovative financing solutions for education to achieve the SDGs.  

Norway’s bilateral investments in 2020 were largely focused on ‘primary education’ (67% of bilateral education ODA in 2020). Other funding priorities include ‘education policy and administrative management’ (12%), and ‘vocational training’ (7%). 

In 2019, the government published a white paper on ‘Digital transformation and development policy,’ a part of which covers education. This largely focuses on access the development of and increased access to digital tools for education.  

Norad leads on education policy development  

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is responsible for Norway’s global education portfolio and sets strategic priorities. Traditionally, the Department for Global Education and Health with Norad (Norway’s development agency) advises the MFA on development assistance for education, carries out evaluation processes, and manages funds allocated from the MFA. Norad’s Department for Global Health in Education also plays a key role in evaluating progress around Norway’s education priorities.