Nations cutting financial aid to education, says UNESCO

Painting a grim picture that governments in the West are cutting financial support to education, a UN body has appreciated Turkey for hosting and educating migrant population.

UNESCO in its latest Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report), released on Tuesday questioned the global commitment to achieving the UN approved global education goal in the wake of governments cutting allocations.

The report said the aid to education has stagnated, growing by only 1% per year since 2009. Further donors have not kept their promise made to the UN to keep 0.7% of their gross national income for foreign aid.

The U.K. has decreased its aid to education by 29%, of which a whopping 60% was a drop in allocation to basic education. It was second largest donor to total basic education in 2016. But fell to fourth place in 2017.

Similarly, in 2017, US sanctioned an aid of $13.2 billion which was down by 2% compared to 2016.

Germany top donor

Germany has been on top of the donor list to promote education, disbursing $2 billion in 2017, followed by the United States with $1.5 billion and France with $1.3 billion.

France increased its funding by a sum of $207 million in 2017 as compared to previous year.

But most of Germany's and France's education aid is directed at scholarships and imputed costs for students from developing countries to lure them to study in their educational institutions.

If these items were excluded, the remaining aid to education witnesses a decrease, by 5% or $534 million as compared in the year 2016. The aid to secondary education has also decreased by 2% and aid to basic education by 8% between 2016 and 2017, a statement issued by UNESCO said.

Broken promises

With the share of education falling from a peak of 10.7 % to 7.1% in 2017, the UN report stated that education has become less of a priority for development partners.

Of the top 10 developed countries that form part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], the U.K. is the only country reserving 0.7% of its gross national income to foreign aid.

Manos Antoninis, director of the GEM Report warned that the trends were alarming.

Governments in low income countries spend, on an average 16% of their budgets on education, far more than richer countriesWith no action from donors to support them, it is less likely that they will be able to sustain such ambitious education goal, he said.

There has been big talk about big ambitions ever since 2015, when our new education agenda was set, and yet donors are shifting money around, tinkering with different ways to spend a fixed sum, but not giving more, he remarked.

Role of Turkey

Praising efforts of Turkey for hosting a huge migrant population especially from Syria, the UNESCO report estimated that 80,000 additional teachers were required to teach all Syrian migrant children.

The report also noted that fewer countries are identifying refugee status in school censuses explicitly and Turkey was an exception, where 93% of Syrian refugees live outside camps.

As of 2018, Turkey hosts 1 million refugee children of school starting age.

The government supplemented its education management information system in public schools with a parallel system for foreign students which monitors temporary education centers. After a policy was introduced to include these centers in the national education system, the primary net enrolment ratio of Syrian students increased from 25% in 2014 to 83% in 2017, the report explained.

However, it added, that the secondary net enrolment rate of Syrian refugees rose much less, from 16% to 22%.

Role of philanthropists, NGOs,

The report identifies the role of philanthropists, non-government organizations [NGOs] and faith-based organizations which established informal schools, staffed by volunteer teachers offering instruction in Arabic by using the modified Syrian curriculum. But said that they were largely unregulated, operating outside the national system with limited quality assurance and standardization of certification.

It said that the Turkish government mandated all centers to offer 15 hours of Turkish language instruction per week to prepare students for Turkish schools.

The project received Euros 300 million funding as part of the EU's Euros 3 billion facility for refugees in Turkey used for meeting costs of school construction, teaching Turkish and Arabic language courses, providing free school transport and education materials.

Absorbing refugees in national education system

Turkey, which hosts the world's largest number of refugees, has committed to include all Syrian refugees in its national education system by 2020 and has already included them in its social protection system, ensuring they benefit from a conditional cash transfer program that was previously available only to nationals, the GEM Report said.

Turkey, along with Chad and Iran, is also shouldering substantial costs to ensure that Sudanese, Afghan, Syrian and other refugees attend school alongside nationals.

To make it easy for migrants to avail education opportunities, the report noted that the Turkish government has relaxed documentation requirements for Syrians wishing to enroll in tertiary education.

It also said that a new regulation by Turkey has removed restrictions requiring Syrian children to produce a Turkish residency permit prior to enrolment.

Moreover, the report said that Turkey has allowed nearly 600,000 Syrian refugees to work in 2016.

The national employment agency is working with several international organizations to overcome the administrative obstacles for making jobs accessible to Syrian refugees and to develop vocational training program, the report added.

Source: Anadolu Agency