Focus is on education systems strengthening and gender equality
Sweden spent US$204 million on global education in 2015, making it the 11th-largest donor country to the sector, according to OECD data (latest year for which complete data is available). Education is not a top priority of its development portfolio: in 2015, it represented 3% of Sweden’s total official development assistance (ODA), half of the average of 8% spent by countries in the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) on education.
In its 2016 ‘Aid Policy Framework’, the Swedish Government outlines overall objectives and priorities of its development cooperation. ‘Education and Research’ is one of eight priorities, as a precondition to human development, poverty reduction, and gender equality. However, education does not have its own dedicated development strategy. The education portfolio is governed by the broader ‘Sustainable Social Development Strategy’ of the Swedish development agency Sida, which runs from 2014 to 2017. A new strategy is currently under development, expected to be operational at the end of 2018. The previous strategy outlines the priorities of Sweden’s global education policy. Particular focus lies on:
- Increasing the number of children and youth who complete education of high quality that is free of cost
- Improving literacy among boys and girls in primary school
- Strengthening education systems with a focus on primary, secondary, and vocational training
- Improving access to education for girls and children with disabilities
Sida’s 2016 annual report concluded that the current education portfolio lacks a clear strategic focus on young people as a target group, and especially girls and boys between 10 to 14 years old. It suggests making this particular group of beneficiaries a focus of future development efforts, and a topic to highlight more clearly when in dialogue with major donors and partners. In parallel, the focus on gender equality in education (including primary, secondary, and vocational education) will continue to be a priority for the Swedish government. However, future trends on education policy and funding allocations for global education will only become clearer once the strategy is published.
Sweden provides a little less than half of its education ODA as bilateral funding: 44%, or US$89 million in 2015, which is lower than the DAC average of 72. Between 2015 and 2016, funding went up by 35%, reaching US$120 million. This was driven by increased funding for primary education (from US$18 million to US$41 million), and for education policy and administrative management (from US$23 million to US$44 million). In line with Sweden’s education policy priorities outlined above, the largest share went to general education in 2016 (40%, or US$48 million), which comprises programs aimed at strengthening partner countries educational systems and capacities. Most of the general education funding was allocated to supporting partner countries’ education policy and administrative management (37% of bilateral education ODA).
The second-largest sector of bilateral education ODA was basic education (US$43 million in 2016, or 36% of bilateral education ODA, driven by high funding for primary education). Another focus area was post-secondary education. Out of this, 73% (US$20 million) consisted of scholarships for students from developing countries studying in Sweden. This is in line with the strong emphasis on research cooperation driven by the Swedish government. Research cooperation programs are governed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)’s ‘Strategy for Research Cooperation and Research in Development Cooperation’ (2015 to 2021). Under these programs, parts of the funding for scholarships for students from developing countries studying in Sweden is provided. Programs for research cooperation carried out by the Swedish government follow a so-called ‘sandwich model’: master and PhD students come to Swedish universities, while Sida provides support to build the capacity of the students’ home universities in developing countries.
In line with its overall ODA, Sweden focuses its bilateral education ODA on low-income countries: they received 42% of bilateral education ODA between 2014 and 2016, well above the DAC average of 37%. Geographically, Sweden focuses its bilateral funding on Asia (27% of bilateral education ODA between 2014 and 2016; DAC average: 21%) followed by sub-Saharan Africa (18%; DAC average 29%). The three largest recipient countries in that time period were Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Tanzania.
Sweden focuses on strengthening educational systems
In 2015, Sweden channeled US$115 million (56% of its overall education ODA) as core contributions to multilateral organizations (latest year for which complete data is available), a 31% increase from 2014. This increase is largely due to advanced payments to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the near East (UNRWA): In January 2015, Sweden pledged SEK715 million (US$89 million) to the organization for 2015 and 2016, US$44 million of which was disbursed in 2015. Other large recipients include the World Bank (US$33 million) and the European Union (US$20 million). On top of this, Sweden provides significant amounts of funding to multilateral organizations through funding earmarked for specific topics or countries, which is reported as bilateral ODA. In 2015, this represented US$37 million, bringing education ODA channeled through multilateral organizations to US$151 million, or 74% of Sweden’s education ODA.
Sweden has supported the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) since 2005. It has contributed US$348 million (as of December 2017) to the organization, making it GPE’s seventh largest donor. Sweden has committed SEK1.1 billion (US$141.5 million) to GPE for the pledging period from 2018 to 2020.
On top of funding for development projects, Sweden provides funding for education programs in humanitarian crises and emergencies. In 2016, education projects accounted for 1.8% of Sweden’s total humanitarian assistance, or US$4.4 million, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This share grew to 2.4% in 2017. This is below the minimum 4% target established by the UN Global Education First Initiative (GEFI). Humanitarian funding is governed by the ‘Strategy on Humanitarian Assistance for 2017 to 2020’, which does not mention education. As of March 2018, Sweden does not participate in the ‘Education Cannot Wait’ initiative, a special fund launched in 2016 that aims to improve access to education services in humanitarian emergencies and crises.
MFA guides overall strategy for global education ODA, Sida manages implementation
The Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), oversees development policy and financing and decides on core funding allocations to multilateral organizations. Sida manages bilateral funding and disbursements to specific multilateral organizations for education, including GPE, under the ‘socially sustainable development’ thematic funding line. Within Sida, the unit for Global Social Development in the Department for International Organizations and Policy Support (INTEM) holds primary responsibility for Sida’s overall global education policy. For country-specific programming, the respective regional departments take the lead.