The Global Education Crisis

We continue to face an education crisis. Year after year children leave primary school without being able to read, write or do basic mathematics and many do not access education at all.

Across the world, countries have made incredible progress in getting children into school. In low and middle income countries, 80 and 92 percent of children espectively are now enrolled in primary school1. The corresponding figures for lower secondary are 65 and 85 percent2. However, much remains to be done: 61 million primary school aged children, 10 percent of all children in low and lower middle income countries, are still out of school3.

Furthermore, this expansion in access has not been accompanied by similar improvements in learning. Millions of children who complete several years of schooling still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. Poor and vulnerable children, particularly girls, learn the least of all.

These are crippling findings that not only limit the life chances of those children and the prosperity of their families, but of their wider communities and nations. It shouldn’t be like this.

A thriving non-state sector can play an important role in stemming and indeed reversing the learning crisis.

In this context, the non-state sector has grown and evolved rapidly, as parents have looked for alternative schooling options for their children - in many developing countries, close to one third of all children are enrolled in schools managed by non-state actors.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Non-state schooling is not a panacea, but it should be a welcomed part of the solution to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Even with an increase in domestic public expenditure on education, UNESCO conservatively estimates that the financing gap for delivering quality universal education through to junior secondary levels by 2030 in low income countries will be $10.6 billion on average, between 2015 and 2030 – over four times the level currently provided by official donors.

This gap continues to widen as education’s share of official development assistance has fallen from 13 percent to 10 percent since 2002. The role of non-state education is critical because it can provide capacity where the state system hits constraints and because the sector is well placed to innovate to raise standards, increase access, and reduce costs.

Partnership Across Sectors

Governments, civil society, the non-state sector and donors need to engage in constructive and innovative forms of partnership.

The SDGs call for transformative partnerships between governments, the non-state sector and civil society. Put simply, we need to leverage the massive resources and regulatory frameworks of government with the efficiency and entrepreneurial energy of the private sector to better prepare children for success in school and beyond.

The private sector, when regulated and funded effectively, can bring innovation, expertise and talent into the education system, and provides a more diverse range of schooling options.

Strengthening the Non-State Sector

We need to build a more cohesive and transparent non-state sector; to harness and leverage the efficiency and entrepreneurial energy of the non-state sector to better prepare children for success in school and beyond.

There is a growing body of evidence on the effectiveness of the non-state sector; but the sector can and should be more transparent about its standards and outcomes. The sector is young, diverse and fragmented – with the majority of schools, whether in Lagos, Punjab province or Hyderabad, managed by individual proprietors. 

Non-state schools and school networks need support. Those serving low-income segments of the population face numerous constraints, including: lacking access to finance; negotiating complex regulatory environments; and challenges to enhancing the quality of education.

This is where GSF can help. GSF supports and represents non-state schools and school networks in low- and middle-income countries, so they are better able to deliver quality education to children from low income families. 

We aim to build and strengthen the non-state sector through increased collaboration among schools and school networks, targeted expertise, influencing policy narrative, and building greater transparency. For more information on our work see the About us page.