Educational Economics 2021 – The World


COVID-19: Two-thirds of poorer countries cut their education budgets at a time when they can least afford

Education budgets do not adapt proportionately to the challenges posed by COVID-19, especially in poor countries. Despite additional funding needs, two-thirds of low- and lower-income countries have actually cut their public education budgets since the pandemic, according to the new World Bank – UNESCO report, Education Finance Watch (EFW).

Compared with, EFW shows that only a third of the upper middle- and high-income countries have reduced their budgets. These cuts have so far been relatively small, but there is a danger that they will grow as the pandemic continues to take its economic toll and fiscal positions worsen. These different trends imply a significant widening of already large expenditure disparities between low- and high-income countries.

According to the new report, before the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2018-19, high-income countries spent the equivalent of $ 8,501 per child or young person’s education compared to $ 48 in low-income countries. COVID-19 expands this huge difference in education per capita. Inhabitant between rich and poor countries further.

EFW Stresses that the education funding challenge is not only about mobilizing resources, but also about improving the efficiency of funding. Unfortunately, recent increases in public education spending have been associated with relatively small improvements in education outcomes. Although access to education has improved, the learning poverty rate – the proportion of 10-year-olds who could not read a short, age-related text – was 53 percent in low-income and middle-income countries before COVID-19 compared to only 9 percent for high-income countries. COVID-19-related school closures are likely to increase this share by 53 percent to as much as 63 percent.

This is a critical moment when countries need to recover the learning losses generated by the pandemic, invest in remedial education and use this window of opportunity to build more efficient, equitable and resilient systems. The learning poverty crisis that existed before COVID-19 is becoming even more serious, and we are also concerned about the unequal impact. Countries and the international development community must invest more and invest better in education systems and strengthen the link between spending and learning and other human capital outcomes. – Mamta Murthi, Vice President of the World Bank for Human Development

EFW notes that global spending on education has risen over the last ten years, but the signs are that the pandemic may interrupt this upward trend. Since 2010, funding for education has grown fastest in low- and middle-income countries, where the differences between the funding needed to achieve the internationally agreed 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the current allocations are greatest. The deterioration of public finances over the medium term suggests that without a concerted effort to prioritize education, the prospects for mobilizing the necessary resources for education will deteriorate.

Support for education has increased by 21% over the last 10 years. Payments had risen rapidly in the 2000s and fell between 2010 and 2014 in the wake of the great financial crisis. Since 2014, however, education support has increased by 30% and reached its highest registered level of DKK 15.9 billion. $ 2019. However, fiscal constraints, other sectoral needs, and changes in student mobility patterns suggest that external support for education may decline at a time when it is most needed.

External funding is the key to supporting the educational opportunities of the world’s poorest. Yet donor countries are likely – and some have already begun – to shift their budgets away from aid to domestic priorities. Health and other emergencies also compete for funds. Overall, we predict a challenging environment for countries that depend on education aid, estimating that it could fall by DKK 2 billion. $ From its peak in 2020 and does not return to the 2018 level for another six years. – Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Deputy Director – General for Education

That EFW is a collaborative effort between the World Bank and UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report team. It is produced annually after the primary release of expenditure data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics. That EFW aims to gather the best available data on all sources of education funding and to monitor efforts to improve information on levels and use of educational resources. However, good quality and timely information on government, household and development assistance expenditure is not readily available in all countries. This hinders planning and monitoring at a time when countries cannot afford missteps.

Follow the World Bank at: @WBG_Education

Download the full report: Education Finance Watch (EFW)

Follow the GEM report at: @GEMReport

World Bank media contacts:


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