RESULTS Education Research Gets Results!

October 5, 2010
by Sarah Beardmore

In 2008, as the new Education for All campaign manager for RESULTS Educational Fund, I was shocked to see that the World Bank had provided only $44 million for primary education in all of sub-Saharan Africa out of the $10 to $12 billion available that year. Our advocacy campaign puts a good deal of focus on the World Bank, one of the most important donors to basic education, so we turned to their education portfolio to see what was going on.

We found several issues with the Bank’s education financing and our findings culminated in a report released in June 2010 entitled “World Bank Education Financing: Less or More for the Poor in IDA16?” The report found that education lending had gone up for most other regions while it had decreased in sub-Saharan Africa — the region that arguably needs education aid the most. In addition, two middle income countries (India and Pakistan) had received almost half of Bank education money in the last decade, while a roster of over 30 countries (many of them in Africa) with strong education plans were no longer receiving Bank funding for basic education. While the analysis and evidence was strong, and the findings endorsed by staff at the World Bank, we did not know whether the report would result in real policy change — more money, better allocated.

After several months of outreach to Bank executive directors and staff, aid officials, and staff at the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, we heard that the Bank would make an announcement during the UN MDG Summit on education. At an event co-organized by the Global Campaign for Education and the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI) featuring Queen Rania of Jordan and Gordon Brown, senior managing director of the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took the podium. The big announcement: The Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) will increase grants and zero interest loans for basic education by an additional $750 million over the next five years to 2015. This represents about a 40 percent increase in their basic education lending over the past five years for the poorest countries.

While this is certainly the outcome of a great many efforts by RESULTS affiliates in Canada, the U.K., and Australia, by people inside and outside the World Bank and FTI, RESULTS policy research was the major impetus for these problems to be defined and then resolved. There was no indication that we were getting anywhere — and that is often the case in advocacy! — yet we continued to leverage the information we had to spark action by the Bank’s decision-makers. The result is that an additional 1 million children will be afforded the opportunity to go to school over the next 5 years. And that is good progress — but now we will be working to get them in school and learning in the next 3 years, not 5, and then another million children after that, until Education for All is reality.

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