Over eight weeks, RESULTS affiliates in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and the U.S. delve deeper into 8 key reasons to invest in the Global Partnership for Education. This week’s post is by Camilla Ryberg at RESULTS Australia

Click here to read the full RESULTS report Greater Impact Through Partnership: 8 Reasons to Invest in the Global Partnership for Education Now More Than Ever.

What difference can the Global Partnership for Education make – Lao PDR

This week I had the pleasure of meeting Hon Lytou Bouapao, the Vice Minister of Education of Lao PDR. He spoke frankly and enthusiastically of the difference the support by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is making in his country.

Lao PDR joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2009 and its children has benefited significantly as a result. For instance, the percentage of out-of-school children decreased from 11.5%  in 2009 to 4.1% in 2012.  The primary completion rate rose from 78% in 2009 to 95% in 2012, with the rate for girls rising from 74% to 93% over the same period. (Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics)

With challenges such as  a large disperse rural population encompassing many different languages and ethnic groups, an unwillingness by many parents to send girls to school and few qualified teachers, it is clear that a locally-specific and flexible approach to education is imperative.

GPE’s current project in Lao PDR reflects this need by focusing on community-based school construction, non-formal education, community-based school readiness programs, and a mobile teacher training program. The innovative School Meals Program that combines local food production, community trainings, and school interventions in health, sanitation, and hygiene was piloted by the Ministry of Education and Sports in 66 schools in 2012. It’s success has resulted in plans to expand it to nine districts in five provinces.

Not surprisingly Mr Bouapao and his government colleagues in Lao PDR are currently preparing another grant application.

Demand from citizens

The demand for education support is not just coming from high level ministers and governments. During a recent trip to Pakistan, the Global Partnership for Education CEO Alice Albright attended an event in Islamabad titled “Girls of Pakistan for Education”, where hundreds of Pakistani girls and young women called on their government to support their education.  According to estimates by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics there are more than 3 million girls of primary school age who don’t go to school in Pakistan, and 3.4 million adolescent girls who don’t go to secondary school.

As citizens of low-income countries are becoming increasingly aware of their right to an education, they will continue to put pressure on their governments to deliver. When governments do not have sufficient funds implement their education plans, it makes sense they turn to the Global Partnership for Education for support.

Funds are urgently needed

With the proven effectiveness of GPE’s approach, it is no wonder that demand for the Global Partnership is on the rise. In 2013 alone, low-income country partners requested over US$1 billion from the Global Partnership for Education to support their national education plans. GPE anticipates that by the end of 2014, it will have provided over US$4 billion since its establishment in 2002 to support education in nearly 60 countries.

However, even this significant amount seems like a drop in the ocean if considering all anticipated program implementation grants over the 2013-2014 period. If GPE was to approve them all, a staggering US$585 million in additional funds may be required beyond existing inflows.

The Global Partnership is growing

Due in part to the Global Partnership for Education’s support, countries such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and post-conflict Afghanistan are now rolling out their first national education plans.

But not only has existing demand for GPE support exhausted the GPE Fund but the Global Partnership will likely grow over the 2015-2018 period. Having multiplied from 7 developing country partners in 2002 to 59 in 2014, the Global Partnership for Education today remains open to a total of 68 eligible countries.

Issues such as an increasing youth population, growing economic inequalities, and the impact of climate change will put increased pressure on low-income country governments. The currently high demand for GPE support will likely only increase.

In the Indo-Pacific region we have several eligible countries such as Tuvalu, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu which are not yet partners but who are likely to apply for GPE support in the near future.

As demand increases donor partners need to step up support

As we saw in last week’s blog post Reason #7, global support to basic education is drastically declining. It is now time for donors to step up to reverse this trend.

Australia saw brutal cuts to our foreign aid budget last week. However, we can still afford to pledge generously to the Global Partnership for Education for the period 2015-2018. Indeed, we can’t afford not to.

Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US are front-running proponents of global education and leaders in the development community writ large — a successful GPE replenishment and the education progress it promises depends on their ambitious commitment. In addition to the critically important bilateral support these countries will provide from now until 2018, the governments of Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US must seize the GPE Pledging Conference as an opportunity to provide the Global Partnership for Education the resources it needs to build strong, sustainable national education systems, end the learning crisis burdening much of the developing world, unlock education’s transformative powers, and deliver prosperity and stability to the world’s poorest populations in a post- 2015 world.