Oslo Summit: Financing Education in Developing Countries

July 9, 2015


(L-R) President Paul Kagame Rwanda; Minister Anies Rasyid Baswedan, Indonesia; Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education; Julia Gillard, Chair of the Board of Driectors of the Global Partnership for Education, Executive Director Mark Dybul, Global Fund;  Keith Hansen, World Bank Group Vice President for Human Development.

Photo: Norway MFA/Espen Røst.

  • World leaders gather in Oslo to discuss the investments needed to bridge massive education gaps in developing countries
  • New high-level commission will focus on how to finance girls’ education, education quality, and education in emergencies.
  • The World Bank Group, which has invested over $4 billion in education this year, joins forces with Norway to meet demand for innovative financing solutions in education.

OSLO, July 9, 2015—This week, at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Sohlberg urged the international education community to adopt new and smarter ways to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Norway’s support for global education has been expanding, including a new partnership with the World Bank Group on results-based financing.

Speaking of a lack of political support to invest in quality education for all children, Sohlberg said, “For the first time in history, we are in the unique position to provide education opportunities for all, if only we pull together.” Her main message at the Summit was simple: No education, no development. 

New Commission on the Financing of Global Education Opportunities

At Incheon, Korea in May 2015, country delegations showed support for the draft education goal: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. PM Sohlberg hoped that the Oslo Summit would be a springboard for further action.

Sohlberg also announced the formation of a high-level commission to be set up by UN Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown. Newly committed as part of the Oslo Declaration issued on July 7, 2015, the commission will focus on how to finance girls’ education, education quality, and education in emergencies. It will submit its report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September 2016.

This is an important step forward as the world prepares to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals in September this year. One estimate places the external financing gap for education at $22 billion a year. Even as the bulk of the resources for education continue to come from domestic resources, development aid continues to play a critical strategic role in this pivotal sector.

High-level panel offered diverse perspectives on investment in education

According to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, his country’s sustained successes in education have rested on partnership, and on mobilizing all possible resources, including in communities. Kagame was part of the Summit’s opening panel on investment in education, moderated by the BBC’s Mishal Husain. 

Indonesian Education Minister Anies Baswedan pointed to the need to bring down the high cost of education, particularly with regard to state-of-the-art techniques, teaching materials, curriculum, and assessment. Indonesia’s budget share for education is 30 percent, yet not enough, the minister said.

Gordon Brown called for more resources for children during humanitarian emergencies, speaking of the plight of a million child refugees from Syria, most of whom had no access to education. He also spoke of the need to raise domestic resources for education, including by mobilizing taxes and withdrawing energy subsidies that benefited the rich. He noted that new donors had much to contribute, including China and the Arab States.

The efficiency of education spending was one of several issues raised by Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education. If spending was efficient, the world would not have such low learning outcomes, Gillard said. She also spoke of the need to attract more philanthropic funding for education.

Mark Dybul of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and Keith Hansen, World Bank Group Vice President for Human Development, both addressed the need for greater cross-sectoral work between education and health, highlighting the links between nutrition, education, and family health.

The World Bank Group, which is the largest development funding partner of education, has invested over $ 4 billion in education this year alone, plus $680 million in nutrition, Hansen said, pointing to the connection between the right nutrition in early childhood and a child’s cognitive development.

World Bank Group and Norway partner on Results-Based Financing in Education

Hansen also reported that significant progress had already been made towards the World Bank Group’s recent commitment to double its share of results-based financing for education to $5 billion over the next 5 years. This approach releases financing upon the achievement of pre-agreed results.

Two results-based financing loans totaling $550 million have been approved in the past two months—one to enhance the effectiveness of elementary school teachers in Bihar, India, and the second to support another Indian state, Madhya Pradesh, in its higher education reforms.

Hansen said that results-based financing has achieved significant results in countries such as Jamaica, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. In Pakistan’s Sindh province, for example, about 17,000 teachers have been recruited through a merit- and need-based system set up using this innovative approach.

Norway, which is a generous supporter for results-based financing in health, has also become the first donor to the World Bank Group’s new Results in Education for All Children (REACH) Trust Fund, followed by USAID. Other donor countries and agencies also expressed interest in the new fund at Oslo.

The bottom line, according to Hansen, is that money goes where results are. “How do you get new donors interested in education? You show them results,” he concluded.