A recent UNESCO report has revealed that a $97 billion funding shortfall is standing in the way of countries reaching their 2030 national education targets. The study, titled “Can countries afford their national SDG4 benchmarks?” was prepared by the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and presented during the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The research centers on Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which seeks to ensure inclusive, equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The findings make it clear that a substantial increase in funds is required for countries to achieve their educational objectives. The report emphasizes the need for new strategies to boost the effectiveness of funding in addition to mobilizing additional resources. Sub-Saharan Africa faces the largest financing gap, requiring $70 billion per year to meet its education targets. This region faces significant challenges, with 20% of primary school-aged children and nearly 60% of upper secondary school-aged youth not enrolled in school. Fulfilling aid commitments and prioritizing basic education in the poorest countries could fill approximately one third of the financial gap, according to the study.
Another critical finding from the report is the need to increase the number of teachers worldwide, especially in low-income and lower-middle-income countries. By 2030, the number of pre-primary teachers must triple in low-income countries and double in lower-middle-income countries. Similarly, low-income countries need to increase the number of primary school teachers by nearly 50%. The report also highlights the need to address learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the pre-existing learning crisis.
Currently, only half of children and adolescents complete their education with minimum proficiency in reading, leaving them ill-prepared for the future. The study further notes that two-thirds of low and lower-middle-income countries reduced their public education spending in the first year following the onset of the pandemic in 2020. It is crucial that governments and international organizations address this funding gap and implement effective strategies to ensure that education remains a priority in the face of ongoing challenges.