Innovating for education financing


© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0199/Shehzad NooraniChildren return to school for the first time since the earthquake in the remote village of Jacquot Merlin, Haiti. While investments in education can take longer to realize the results, the long term benefits are enormous.

By Pi James

The global economic downturn, escalating conflicts and widespread disasters threaten to reverse advances made in the last decade in increasing enrolment and reducing the gender gap in schools around the world.

Kevin Watkins director of UNESCO’s Education For All Global Monitoring Report (GMR), and Daniel Altman, president of North Yard Economics, a not-for-profit consulting firm serving governments and non-governmental organizations in developing countries, spoke with UNICEF podcast moderator Amy Costello about the importance of finding new ways to invest in education for all.

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Global public good

Economist Daniel Altman argues that we need to view education as a “global public good”.

“When we improve the level of education in developing countries it benefits people all around the world,” Mr. Altman explains, “Countries with higher education rates tend to be less likely to engage in conflict, (and) less likely to have public health problems.”

Mr. Watkins agrees, stressing the need for the education community, including UN agencies, to make a better, stronger case for investing in education.

“The messages feel tired. We’re not good at communicating. We’re not dynamic. We haven’t really identified innovative financing approaches at a global level that can make a difference and we haven’t built these public private partnerships that have done so much to transform health,” Mr Watkins says.

“Absolutely stunning” returns

Mr. Altman contends that while education investments can take a lot longer to see results than investments in health or other areas, “the benefits are huge”.

According to Mr. Altman, if the education sector received donor and government support similar to that of the health sector, “the returns to that kind of investment would be absolutely stunning”.

Mr. Watkins sees the renewed engagement of international donors as vital to minimizing the effects of the downtown.

“We are facing, in many of the world’s poorest countries, a dramatic deterioration in the budget position of governments…In the face of that sort of budget squeeze, it’s really imperative that we see international donors stepping up to the plate,” Mr. Watkins says.

For more information:

EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010
Innovative Financing Mechanisms for Education, by Daniel Altman
Power in Numbers UNITAID, Innovative Financing, and the Quest for Massive Good, by Daniel Altman, written with UN Special Adviser Philippe Douste-Blazy

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