Meld. St. 25 (2013-2014)

Education for Development

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1 Introduction

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

The way to development is via knowledge generation, information and skills. Education lays the groundwork for individuals’ and societies’ development and is essential for development and growth. A renewed global effort to achieve good quality, relevant education for all will give a significant boost to the work to fight poverty, create jobs, foster business development, improve health and nutrition, and promote gender equality, peace and democracy. It is high time that we renew our efforts in the field of education, and Norway intends to be a driving force and contribute actively to this work.

Today, 10 % of the world’s children still do not go to school. These children are among the most vulnerable; many have had to flee from their homes or are living in crisis-affected areas. A considerable proportion have disabilities. Moreover, in many countries, girls do not have equal educational opportunities.

There are also major geographical disparities. In sub-Saharan Africa, an average of one in four children of primary school age1 do not go to school, although there are considerable differences within the region. The situation is particularly serious for the poorest children and in rural communities. It has been estimated that 250 million of the 650 million children of primary school age are not learning basic literacy and numeracy skills.2 Learning starts at birth. Nutrition, care, and social and cognitive stimulation during the first years of life are of great importance for a child’s ability to learn. Poor quality education and learning outcomes are a problem at all levels.

In addition, far too many children do not continue their education after they have completed primary school. More than 70 million young people do not go to school and are in need of various education services, from opportunities to learn basic literacy/numeracy skills and practical skills for the world of work, to upper secondary and higher education. Many adults also lack basic skills: 16 % of the world’s adults – some 744 million people – are illiterate. Two-thirds of them are women.3

Although the percentage of children attending school has increased from 82 % in 1991 to around 90 % in 2011,4 much remains to be done. The funding gap for achieving the goal of primary education for all by 2015 is estimated at USD 26 billion.5 However, funding is not the only challenge. UNESCO estimates that 10 % of the money spent on primary education globally (USD 129 billion) is wasted on education services that fail to achieve adequate learning outcomes. UNESCO has also pointed out that good teachers are the key to improving this situation, and has called on all the world’s governments to intensify their efforts to train more and better teachers.6

Despite these challenges, the political will to give priority to education has dwindled in the international community. Development assistance targeted at education is declining, and the gap between needs and funding is increasing.

Unfortunately, there has also been a marked tendency to give less priority to education in Norway’s international development cooperation. The percentage of Norwegian aid channelled to education fell from 13.3 % in 2005 to 7.2 % in 2013. This Government wishes to reverse this trend.

Table 1.1 Norwegian aid for education (2001-13)1














Total spent on education, NOK million



1 086

1 293

1 662

1 720

1 576

1 541

1 759

1 601

1 517

1 623

1 690

Percentage of total Norwegian aid spent on education














1 The figures for aid spent on education do not include core funding to multilateral organisations. They are calculated on the basis of the total aid budget, minus administrative costs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation), FK Norway and Norfund (Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries). Nor do the underlying totals include core funding to multilateral organisations. This is in line with the OECD’s guidelines for aid statistics and established reporting practice in UD and Norad.

Global aid for education is an important catalyst, but the developing countries themselves must assume the main responsibility for financing their education sectors. National responsibility and ownership are essential if countries are to build up robust education systems and achieve economic growth and development. A number of low- and middle-income countries have given greater priority to education over the last decade and have increased their education budgets. This is a positive development, and opens up opportunities for constructive partnerships with donor countries.

The UN Millennium Declaration of 2000 sets out two main education targets: that ‘children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling and that girls and boys will have equal access to all levels of education’. The Education for All goals of 2000 were drawn up with a view to achieving primary education for all and a substantial reduction in illiteracy.7 The deadline for both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Education for All goals is 2015, and much work remains to be done. Norway will therefore contribute to a new international effort to ensure relevant education for all, and intends to lead the way in helping to ensure that ambitious goals are set for education in the post-2015 agenda.

Meanwhile, education will once again be given high priority in our own foreign and development policy. We will help to create results through knowledge-based and innovative approaches that build on experience and expertise. Norway’s efforts will make a difference.

We will take a comprehensive approach, and be a driving force in many fields. Our bilateral efforts will be focused on areas where Norway has particular expertise and where this is in demand. We will enter into new partnerships; we will also further develop existing networks and build on the experience we have gained from education and other fields in our foreign and development policy. Norway’s aid budget for education is relatively small in relation to the global education budget. In Norway alone we spend NOK 150 billion a year on education. However we believe that if we focus on areas where we have particular expertise, we can sow seeds that will yield significant results.

The outcomes of our efforts must, as far as possible, be measurable. We want to achieve results both in our role as a driving force in the efforts to achieve the MDGs, and, in the longer term, as an active partner in the work of implementing new development goals for 2030.

As is the case in all our development cooperation, we will have zero tolerance for financial irregularities. Nevertheless, we will take innovative approaches and be willing to take risks in working with our partners.

This white paper first explains why the Government wishes to intensify Norway’s efforts in the field of education. It then presents what our priorities will be. The overall objective is to reach those who are in greatest need. Particular importance is attached to strengthening the right of girls to receive an education. This is followed by an account of approaches and methodology, and of where and how we will concentrate our efforts. The Government wants Norway to be a driving force in the international arena, and will therefore play an active role in multilateral organisations and global partnerships. We will also engage in bilateral cooperation and efforts through various foundations, NGOs and the Norwegian business sector.

It is, however, necessary to set limits for what we aim to achieve, as this is a huge field.

This white paper does not describe Norway’s extensive higher education and research cooperation with many different countries and institutions in full, but this is referred to where it is of direct relevance. Nor does it discuss our education and research cooperation with the EU or our efforts in the EEA. The main focus is on the contribution Norway can make to improve education in developing countries and areas affected by crisis or conflict.

This white paper is to set the direction for Norway’s efforts in this field, and will be followed up in the annual budget proposals and action plans, and in new programmes and further studies as necessary.

1.1 Financing

The measures described in this white paper will be financed within the Ministry’s existing budgetary framework.



In Norway, ‘basic education’ refers to compulsory 10-year schooling for children aged 6–16. Other countries may define ‘basic education’ differently. In Norway, the education system has four levels: primary school (years 1-7); lower secondary school (years 8–10); upper secondary school (years 11–13); and higher education. The structure of the education system will vary from country to country, and these terms may thus be used differently.


UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2013/4. Based on data from 2011, these are the most recent figures available.


GMR 2013/14.


GMR 2013/4.


GMR 2013/4.


GMR 2013/4.


Established during the World Conference on Education for All, and revised at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000. Consists of six goals and a framework for action.

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