Investing in a Just World: Decolonising Education Financing Now!


The Global Action Week for Education (GAWE) is the flagship initiative that the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) carries out annually. GAWE aims to mobilise joint action around specific issues that affect the right to education and raise awareness among all actors involved in its defense and realisation.

This year, Decolonising Education Financing was chosen by the GCE World Assembly as GAWE's central theme. This topic could not be more pertinent, especially since one of the functional areas in the follow-up to the Transforming Education Summit (TES) is precisely education financing, which seeks to improve the coordination of global actors by mobilising greater levels and more diversified sources of equitable and efficient financing to education, including on an inter-ministerial level.

All states are responsible for ensuring the right to education for all, but in doing so, they must provide adequate and sustainable public funding.  This key obligation is enshrined in several binding human rights instruments and stressed by the 2030 Education Agenda, which includes the call for all governments to allocate the maximum amount of available resources to education. Holding governments to account for the upper end of the financing benchmarks outlined by international law and political frameworks requires continued advocacy to ensure that education remains a budget priority and that education budgets align with the 4S scheme: share, size, sensitivity, and scrutiny[1].

The lack of education financing is due to multiple factors and has worsened due to various causes such as the prevalence of regressive tax systems, debt distress and crisis in particular but not only for low and lower middle-income countries, privatisation and weak international cooperation to low-income countries and those affected by protracted and new crises. Behind those causes remains the idea that education is not a right that must be ensured. In fact, the estimation of the annual financing gap to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 in low and lower middle-income countries is $148 billion[2], but this estimation may vary according to different sources, so the gap could be even worse.

Education financing has been a GCE advocacy priority since its foundation. GCE continues to work with a myriad of partners on all continents to advance the realisation of this state central obligation. GAWE, on this occasion, is an appropriate vehicle to reinforce the importance of this obligation, and thus call governments to account, especially the ones that do not give it sufficient priority.

GCE supports global funds to finance education, including the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW), and exercises critical oversight of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and private actors engaged in international governance of education. These actions are complemented by other important initiatives on capacity building and communications and by the implementation of a long-time campaign on education financing (the One Billion Voices Campaign), in response to the mandate received from the GCE World Assembly.

GCE acknowledges that SDG 4 cannot be realised by 2030 without a significant and well-targeted increase in financing, particularly in those countries furthest from achieving quality education for all at all levels.  Likewise, it is not enough to increase education financing if it is not directed as a priority to those already left behind or at greater risk of being left behind, including rural communities, people with disabilities, minority ethnic groups, youth, women, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and refugees. This mission requires different approaches to government action, considering that a substantial improvement in financing requires, first, allocating public money to education systems with qualified, well-trained and well-paid teachers.

The limited progress in education financing requires greater efforts to overcome the colonial relations that continue to weigh on developing countries related to public financing.

Unfortunately, the colonial legacy continues to misrepresent the nature of financial problems. This has led to the belief that the scarcity of resources is attributable to the lack of people's capacity to solve their national problems, for which international aid is frequently proposed as a panacea to domestic budgeting. Thus, hiding the business ambitions and political dominance behind it.

GCE insists that international aid and cooperation are not adequately called upon to define the contents of public policy in developing countries. One of the main challenges of our time is strengthening national budgets, which is necessary to transform the finance agenda by adopting a global compact. This ensures that the transformative finance agenda (which includes action on tax, debt, austerity, public sector wage bills, and international aid and development assistance) frames national and global debates on financing in the coming years.

GCE renews its commitment to building inclusive, egalitarian, culturally responsive free education and calls on its members and partners to join this year's Global Action Week for Education.



[1] The GCE’s “Financing Matters.  A Toolkit on domestic financing for Education” provides a comprehensive explanation of the 4S scheme, including the sensitivity of the education budget.


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The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is a civil society movement that aims to end exclusion in education. Education is a basic human right, and our mission is to make sure that governments act now to deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality, public education.