Sweden - Education

17 - Sweden education - total bilateral/multilateral

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18 - Education ranking absolute - Sweden

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19 - Education ranking relative - Sweden

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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$196 million on global education in 2016 (latest year for which bilateral and multilateral data is available), making it the 12th-largest donor country to the sector. Education is not a top priority of Sweden’s development portfolio: In 2016, it represented just 4% of Sweden’s total ODA, half of the average of 8% among members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

In 2016, 37% of funding was disbursed as core contributions to multilateral organizations, mainly through the European Union and the World Bank. In addition to this, Sweden provides significant amounts of funding to multilateral organizations as earmarked funding for specific topics or countries, which is reported as bilateral ODA. In 2016, earmarked funding represented US$61 million, bringing education ODA channeled through multilateral organizations to US$134 million, or 68% of Sweden’s total education ODA. This includes, for example, funding to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which Sweden has supported since 2005. In total, it has contributed US$413 million (as of December 2019) to the organization, making Sweden the GPE’s sixth largest donor. In 2018, Sweden committed SEK1.1 billion (US$142 million) to GPE for the 2018 to 2020 period. In addition, Sweden is the largest donor of unearmarked funding for UNESCO’s educational support.

The remainder (63%) of Sweden’s ODA in 2016 provided bilaterally. Since then, between 2017 and 2018, bilateral ODA to education has increased significantly, reaching US$164 million (from US$114 million in 2017). This was largely driven by strong increases in funding for basic education (+83% between 2017 and 2018).

Under its 2016 ‘Aid Policy Framework’, 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, 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;
  2. Improved opportunities for learning and knowledge acquisition, especially for girls and women;
  3. Increase 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, and more 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 2019 portfolio overview, Sida highlights education as a critical human right, including through enhanced efforts to the importance of education in conflict, post-conflict situations, and in humanitarian crises.

    In line with Sweden’s education policy priorities, the largest share went to basic education in 2018 (49% or US$79 million), driven by high funding for primary education. Funding to this almost doubled between 2017 and 2018 (from US$39 million to US$74 million). The second largest funded area was ‘general education ’ (25%, US$41 million), which comprises programs aimed at strengthening partner countries’ educational systems and capacities. This funding was entirely allocated to supporting partner countries’ education policy and administrative management. The remaining funding went to post-secondary education (20%, US$33 million) and vocational training (5%, US$9 million).


    Countries in which education is a priority of Swedish bilateral cooperation

    • Afghanistan
    • Cambodia
    • South Sudan
    • Tanzania

    MFA guides overall strategy for global education ODA, Sida manages 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 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.