2021 has seen a decrease in both the absolute ODA for education and the percentage of total ODA allocated to education from 2020 to 2021. ODA for education stood at US$12.1 billion in 2021 - a 4% decrease compared to US$12.6 billion in 2020. The percentage of total ODA allocated to education also dropped from 6.7% to 6%.

Included in this total ODA to education is some funding that remains in donor countries to pay for scholarships and other ‘imputed student costs' associated with students from low- and middle-income countries studying in OECD countries. In 2020, both of these together amounted to US$3.9 billion. To get a more accurate picture of a donor’s cross-border flows of education, these costs must be subtracted from the totals below.

Top donors

Who are the top donors to education?

In 2021, top donors were Germany, France, the US, the UK, and Japan.

These numbers include scholarships and other costs of students from ODA -recipient countries studying in donor-countries, which are high in Germany (US$2 billion in 2021) and France (US$927 million in 2020). When excluding these costs, Germany still remains the largest donor, followed by the US, France, the UK, and Japan.

The picture changes when looking at the share of donors’ total funding going towards education: In relative terms, the top DAC donors are Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Portugal, and Austria – including in-country education costs.

Note to avoid double-counting, the EU Institutions are not included as a donor in the ranking of total education ODA.

The Donor Tracker team, along with many DAC donor countries, no longer uses the term "foreign aid". In the modern world, "foreign aid" is monodirectional and insufficient to describe the complex nature of global development work, which, when done right, involves the establishment of profound economic and cultural ties between partners.

We strongly prefer the term Official Development Assistance (ODA) and utilize specific terms such as grant funding, loans, private sector investment, etc., which provide a clearer picture of what is concretely occurring. “Foreign aid” will be referenced for accuracy when referring to specific policies that use the term. Read more in this Donor Tracker Insight.

Country Specific Deep Dives

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Our Education Experts

Sheba George

Sheba George

Senior Consultant

Benjamin Overton

Benjamin Overton

Project Manager

Qi Liu

Qi Liu