Three Suggested Changes to Strengthen The GPE

June 7, 2012
by Tony Baker, Education for All Campaign Manager

June 7, 2012

Today marks the first of a two-day Global Partnership for Education (GPE, formerly Education for All – Fast Track Initiative) Board of Directors’ meeting in Berlin and welcomed reforms will be discussed, and RESULTS has suggested three ways to strengthen the GPE, outlined below.

One out of every 10 children of primary school age worldwide is not in school. In sub-Saharan developing countries, one out of four children isn’t receiving a basic education. Of those completing primary education in developing countries, many are proving unable to demonstrate basic reading and math skills. And because education directly correlates to health decisions, skilled labor, and economic progress, the lack of accessible, quality basic education binds individuals, communities, and nations to the cycle of poverty.

Despite knowing the impact that education has on development as a whole, it remains a low priority for much of the international aid community — last year education sector grants and loans comprised a meager four percent of total World Bank lending.

RESULTS and many of its partners are calling for the following three priority changes:

  • A strengthened and independent Secretariat:  The GPE is currently hosted within the World Bank.  While this arrangement greatly facilitated the GPE’s establishment, it currently presents certain complications for both parties.  Secretariat staff is on the Bank’s payroll and are contractually accountable to it, effectively putting the management of the GPE into the hands of a sole partner and creating conflicts of interest.  At the country level, this has led to the misconception of the GPE as a World Bank initiative.  Meanwhile, Secretariat operations consume the Bank’s financial and human resources.  It would be best for both the GPE and the World Bank for the GPE Secretariat to become a separate, independent international organization.
  • Institutionalized civil society participation:  While the GPE operates on a model based on national ownership in which the inputs of civil society are essential, civil society organizations are often only consulted during the last minute of education sector plan finalization.  Rather, GPE grant flows need to be conditioned on the meaningful participation of civil society at every stage of plan development, grant application, and progress assessment.
  • Flexible approaches to reach the most marginalized:  While the mission of the GPE is to ensure a quality education for all, it is having difficulty reaching some of those in the most urgent need of its assistance, particularly those in conflict-affected and fragile states (CAFS).  The GPE allocation per out-of-school child in CAFS has actually been half of that in non-CAFS.  The GPE needs to be willing to endorse credible national education plans, even when there is a need for ongoing revision.  In contexts in which government capacity for planning and implementation is weakest, the GPE should channel funds through unified plans implemented by NGOs with the national government acting as part of the governing body.

These recommendations and more can be found in a recent report supported by RESULTS and written by the Global Campaign for Education and Oxfam International, entitled “A More Ambitious, Effective Global Partnership for Education: Three Priorities for the Next Phase of Reform.”

In the days ahead, the GPE Board of Directors must act on these issues so as to continue to create a more impactful development mechanism for education worldwide.

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