Australia’s commitment to global education reflects tighter aid budget

Anti-poverty advocacy organisation, RESULTS International (Australia), last night witnessed deep cuts to the country’s aid budget and is disappointed that almost half the support for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has been cut.

Representing the Government, Senator Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs announced a $140 million four-year commitment to the GPE at its replenishment conference in Brussels. In 2011, Australia committed $270 million making it the fourth largest donor to the GPE.

RESULTS CEO Maree Nutt said: “In the context of the budget cuts, this pledge could be interpreted as significant. However, it might also be interpreted as not in line with Minister Bishop’s commitment to keep education as a ‘central pillar’ of the Australian aid program.”

Donor commitments of US$2.1 billion are being seen by the GPE as the start of a 4-year replenishment period to secure a total of $3.5 billion from donor countries. In contrast, developing country partner Governments pledged to increase their own education budgets by $26 billion representing an increase of 25 per cent.

The Global Partnership for Education, which provides funding for 66 of the poorest countries in the world, has had significant impact in our region. For example, enrolment rates in Laos have increased from 75 per cent to 95 per cent over recent years and in Timor Leste the ratio of pupils to teachers in primary schools decreased by 40 per cent.

“There is no doubt that Australia’s $140 million commitment to the GPE will have significant impact for some of the 58 million children who currently remain out of school,” said Ms Nutt.

“However, when helping to build strong economies in our region, we must remember that no country has achieved economic growth without at least 40 per cent literacy and girls in particular will achieve a 20 per cent increase in income for every year of schooling completed beyond third grade.”

Closing the conference, Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education Julia Gillard committed to reaching the full US$3.5 billion target to enable 29 million children to receive a basic education from 2015-2018.

At the GPE conference, RESULTS affiliates in Australia, Canada, UK and USA jointly pledged their own support to the goals of the Global Partnership for Education, committing to double their own resources allocated to basic education advocacy, and to work with partners in developed and developing countries alike to improve oversight and accountability on education.