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Reality of Aid 2000
Basic Education Facts

Statistics quoted in The Reality of Aid 2000 reveal deteriorating quality and coverage for basic education: 40% of children in developing countries grow up without completing four years of primary school, the minimum needed to have a chance of acquiring basic literacy and numeracy.

Despite the donor goal of universal primary education, OXFAM argues that if current trends continue an estimated 75 million children will still be out of school in the year 2015 – most of them girls, and most of them in Africa.

In India and Pakistan, the median grade completed among 15 to 19 year olds from the bottom 40 percent of households is zero, while Indian children from the richest 20 percent complete on average 10 years of schooling.

At the beginning of the 1990s, out of a total of 75 million children registered in the primary schools in Latin America, 22 million had to repeat the year. Of the nine million children who entered first grade each year, around four million failed to pass the grade.

Of the 226 formal mainstream teacher training schools in Guatemala, only 26 were training teachers for rural areas and bilingual teaching. It is estimated that in 1998 1.9 million Guatemalans over the age of 15 (32% of the population) were still illiterate. Of every ten illiterate people, eight live in rural areas, six are indigenous people and six are women.

In Ghana, a nation-wide assessment in 1996 revealed that less than 2% of children in state primary schools could pass a basic math exam, while nearly 50% of children in private school passed the test.

Participation is crucial. Communities in Soroti, Uganda, for example, saw the recent introduction of free primary education as something dictated from high: "The government spoke as in the book of Genesis: ‘Let there be light, and there was light’; but there were no teachers or books or furniture for some many children.

"The need for increased targeted ODA commitments to basic education: Internationally, the OECD Development Assistance Committee reports that slightly more than 1% of bilateral aid (reflecting some under-reporting) and 5% of World Bank finance is allocated to basic education, and only a third of all education aid is allocated to countries where less than half of children are in primary school.

For Canada, 2.9% of ODA or $74 million was allocated to basic education in 1997/98. OXFAM International sets a target of 8% of donor ODA for basic education to meet the international target of universal primary education for all by 2015. This target would have implied increased disbursements of $193.5 million for Canadian ODA in 1997/98.
Improved donor practices for sectoral approaches to education by:

  • bringing donors’ budgetary cycles into line with partner governments (as with UN agencies in Ethiopia);
  • reducing the pressure on staff to produce visible results quickly (as Norway has recently done);
  • streamlining and harmonize the reporting requirements they impose;
  • increasing the transparency and consistency of their own reporting;
  • reducing dependence on expatriate technical assistance; and
  • increasing the capacity and decision-making power of resident delegations


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