Global aid for basic education is declining. India, one of five countries with highest number of out-of-school children, has seen some of the largest cuts in global aid. According to the UNESCO's Education For All (EFA) and Global Monitoring Report (GMR), aid to the basic education in India fell by $278 million between 2010-2012.
Basic education – which enables children to acquire foundational skills and core knowledge – now receives the same amount of aid as it did in 2008. As funds diminish, and with just one year before the deadline for achieving the global Education for All goals, 57 million children and 69 million adolescents are still out of school. "Global aid to education is seriously declining: it fell by just over 6% between 2010 and 2011, and a further 3% in 2012," the report said.
However, educationists believe overall expenditure on education in India has increased. But to change education system on the ground requires aid. Former Vice chancellor of IP university, Prof D K Bandyopadhyay says right when the country is implementing Right to Education (RTE), a cut in aid will spell doom.
"Many states are struggling to implement RTE in the absence of adequate funds. For proper implementation of RTE Act such aid is very helpful. Aid is very critical to get every child to school,'' Bandyopadhyay said.
Senior officials in the ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) agree, but add: "With decline in aid, the government will have to ensure it will not affect ongoing projects. Sufficient funds will be provided for schemes that benefit from such aid," said an official.
Concerned by continuing drop in funds for education, Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, said, "Increasing external support for education is an ethical and development imperative. We know the difference that well-targeted aid can make in helping countries to put quality education first."
"This worrying fall in aid is in the context of a US$26 billion annual finance gap for education. Unless this negative trend is reversed, the likelihood of reaching the global education goals is put at great risk - all the more so if new education targets are set for 2030," said Aaron Benavot, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report.
Julia Gillard, board chair of the Global Partnership for Education, affirmed that "Education is a long-term investment – not an expense. We owe it to the children of the world – particularly the poorest and most marginalised – that both international donors and developing country governments step up and commit more funding to education."
UNESCO has asked donors to help raise a much-needed $3.5 billion for education in the poorest countries.