Sweden - Education


Focus is on education systems strengthening and gender equality

According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Sweden spent US$250 million on global education in 2020, making it the ninth-largest Development Assistance Committee (DAC)  donor country to the sector. Education is not a top priority of Sweden’s development portfolio: at 4%, its funding to the sector relative to the size of its total ODA was considerably lower than other DAC donors’ (DAC average: 10%). This places Sweden 27th among DAC donors in relative terms.  

In 2020, 42% (US$106 million) of Sweden’s education ODA was disbursed as core contributions to multilateral organizations, mostly comprised of assessed contributions through EU Institutions, contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Sweden provides significant allocations to multilateral organizations as earmarked funding for specific topics or countries, which is reported as bilateral ODA. This includes, for example, funding to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which Sweden has supported since 2005. In 2021, Sweden pledged SEK1.2 billion (US$142 million) to GPE for the period 2021-2024, bringing its total contribution to US$482 million (as of June 2022). This makes Sweden the GPE’s eighth-largest donor. In 2020, earmarked funding to the education sector amounted to US$53 million. This brings Sweden’s education ODA channeled to or through multilateral organizations to US$159 million, or 64% of Sweden’s total education ODA.  

In total, 58% of Sweden’s ODA to education in 2020 was channeled bilaterally (including the US$53 million in earmarked funding to multilaterals, reported as bilateral ODA under OECD DAC reporting rules). Basic education attracted the largest share (50% or US$72 million) of bilateral funding. The second-largest funding area was general education (26% or US$37 million), which comprises of programs aimed at strengthening partner countries’ educational systems and capacities. This funding was entirely allocated to supporting partner countries’ education policy and administrative management. Post-secondary education received 20% (US$29 million), making it the third-largest funding area in this sector.   

Under its 2016 ‘Policy framework for Swedish development cooperation and humanitarian assistance’, Sweden highlights ‘Education and Research’ as one of eight priorities. The education portfolio is governed by the broader ‘Sustainable Social Development Strategy’ of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); the strategy was renewed in July 2018. Under the overarching goal of “Improved, equitable, inclusive and gender-equality education and quality lifelong learning,” Sweden’s activities focus on:  

  1. Enhanced and sustainable quality systems for education and learning, from early childhood and throughout life; 
  2. Improved opportunities for learning and knowledge acquisition, especially for girls and women; 
  3. Increased knowledge about sex and relationships, including sexual rights, and enhanced work in and out of schools to combat gender-based violence; 
  4. Improved access to clean water, and safe and sustainable sanitation and hygiene in schools;  
  5. Increased knowledge and integration of sustainable development in education and learning. 

These priorities highlight synergies between the different social sectors, particularly with health and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). They also reflect Sweden’s strong engagement in gender equality and women’s empowerment. In its 2020 portfolio overview, Sida highlighted education as a critical human right, while emphasizing the need to pay closer attention to the importance of education in conflict, post-conflict situations, and humanitarian crises.  

Countries in which education is a priority of Swedish bilateral cooperation

  • Afghanistan
  • South Sudan
  • Tanzania

MFA guides overall strategy for global education ODA, Sida manages the implementation 

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs oversees development policy and financing and decides on some core funding allocations to multilateral organizations. Sida manages bilateral funding and disbursements to specific multilateral organizations for education, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and GPE, under the ‘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 global education portfolio. For country-specific programming, the respective regional departments take the lead.