Norway - Education
At a glance
Education is 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 ODA to education reached US$463 million in 2016 (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral OECD data is available), making Norway the sixth-largest donor country to global education. This represents 9% of Norway’s total ODA, above the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 8%. Almost all of it was disbursed bilaterally (93%). Bilateral funding to education decreased between 2016 and 2018, falling from US$431 million to US$374 million.
Much of Norway’s funding reported as bilateral is in fact earmarked to multilateral organizations: in 2018, 60% of the US$374 million mentioned above went through multilaterals. Key partners included the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Global Partnerships for Education (GPE), the World Bank, and Education Cannot Wait (ECW, see below). In 2018, Norway committed NOK2.1 billion (US$276 million according to GPE’s conversion rate) to the GPE for 2018 to 2020, a NOK600 million increase compared to its previous 2015-2017 pledge. As of June 2020, Norway was the third-largest donor to the GPE, having contributed US$708 million since 2002 (11% of total funding).
The successive governments of 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. According to the government, and in line with PM Solberg’s pledge, the education ODA budget doubled between 2013 and 2017, to reach NOK3.4 billion in 2017 (US$411 million, or 13% of total ODA).
OECD data confirms this trajectory. Education ODA, as reported to the OECD DAC, increased by 78% between 2013 and 2016, going from US$260 million to US$463 million in the time period. The increase was driven by greater spending on primary education, which grew from US$133 million in 2013 to US$282 million in 2016. This is in line with Norway’s focus on achieving universal primary education as a fundamental human right and a key driver of development.
Norway’s budget for education, research, and professional cooperation ODA originally stood at NOK3.7 billion (US$451 million) for 2020; however, the government announced in May 2020 that it was reshuffling some of these funds to finance increased needs in health that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In general, the government has aimed to redirect funds from initiatives for which activities and progress have slowed because of the pandemic. This has resulted in a total of NOK165 million (US$20 million) in cuts to funding for education. This includes a funding cut of NOK50 million (US$6 million) for the Norhed program, and of NOK14 million (U$2 million) for the Norpart program. The government is also planning to postpone a payment to the GPE until next year. In addition, the government has proposed to increase the flexibility of the education budget to allow funds to be reallocated 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 but is still an accurate statement of the current government’s priorities. The strategy outlines three overarching goals: 1) ensuring all children have the same opportunities to complete schooling, 2) ensuring all people acquire basic skills, and 3) ensuring that as many kids as possible acquire skills that contribute to transitioning into the labor market. Around these three main goals, the strategy outlines specific prioritized actions, including:
- Working toward free, high-quality primary education for all, including for girls and marginalized populations, such as those with disabilities;
- Ensuring literacy and other basic skills;
- Working to ensure that girls start and complete secondary education;
- Working to provide safe and secure school facilities;
- Ensuring continuity of education during humanitarian crises, including increasing funding for education as a component of humanitarian assistance;
- Helping improve national education systems and teacher training;
- Building up opportunities for high-quality vocational training.
In addition, 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 ECW initiative, a special fund launched in 2016 that aims to improve access to education services in humanitarian emergencies and crises. Norway has pledged a total of US$80 million to ECW for 2017 to 2020, making it the second-largest contributor. From 2021 to 2025, it has set aside NOK500 million (around US$57 million) for ECW. In its 2018 humanitarian strategy, the government committed to continue to give priority to education in situations of crisis and conflict, as well as to promote closer coordination between humanitarian and development efforts in education. According to the government, Norway now spends more than 8% of its humanitarian assistance budget on education.
Norway also assumes international leadership in bringing global education in general, and particularly girls’ education, higher on the development agenda: 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 in order to achieve the SDGs.
Norway’s bilateral investments focus on ‘basic education ’ (68% of bilateral education ODA in 2018), which mostly consists of support for primary education. Other funding priorities include ‘general education ’ (18% in 2018), which primarily consists of support for system strengthening, facilities, and training. Funding to both basic education and general education has grown exponentially between 2014 and 2018, with respective increases of 70% and 42%.
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 to the development of and 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.