8 EU Support for education |
|European Court of Auditors Special Report: "EU Development Assistance for Basic Education in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia"
|Legal base||Article 287 TFEU;
|Basis of consideration||EM of 8 March 2011
|Previous Committee Report||None; but see (32551) 6736/1: HC 428-xxi (2010-11), chapter 8 (23 March 2011); (32542) 6957/11: HC 428-xx (2010-11), chapter 4 (16 March 2011) and (32105)15240/10: HC 428-viii (2010-11), chapter 11 (17 November 2010)
|To be discussed in Council||To be determined
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
8.1 The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by 189
nations and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during
the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000 are:
- Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
- Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
- Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
- Goal 5: Improve maternal health
- Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
- Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
They are due to be achieved by 2015. The eight MDGs
are broken down into 21 quantifiable targets that are measured
by 60 indicators; in the case of Goal 2, thus:
|Target 3: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
||6. Net enrolment ratio in primary education
7. Proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach grade 5b
8. Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) carries out
audits, through which it assesses the collection and spending
of EU funds. It examines whether financial operations have been
properly recorded and disclosed, legally and regularly executed.
It also, via its Special Reports, carries out audits designed
to assess how well EU funds have been managed so as to ensure
economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
ECA Special Report No 12/2010: EU Development
Assistance for Basic Education in Sub-Saharan Africa and South
8.2 This Court of Auditors Special Report looks at
the European Commission's management of programmes in the area
of basic education and offers a set of recommendations that address
two main conclusions, that:
programmes achieved some of the expected improvements in basic
education in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, but less than
the Commission's programming and implementation
of programmes were of inconsistent quality.
8.3 The Report explains how EU development assistance
in the area of basic education is funded from the Development
Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the European Development Fund
(EDF)), using various channels including General Budget Support,
pooled funding and projects, and both state and also non-state
actors/civil society organisations (both advocates and service
providers). The Commission also contributes to the Education for
All-Fast Track Initiative
from the EDF and DCI.
8.4 The Report concludes that 45% of the results
indicators contained in the financing agreements for education
programmes (both sector budget support and pooled funding) fully
achieved their targets, whilst a further 30% were making progress.
The Report also found that most audited projects delivered most
of the activities and results foreseen. However, their impact
was found to be limited due to their smaller scale compared with
the sector programmes.
8.5 The ECA found that the Commission's analysis
of the education sectors in preparation of its 2007-2013 Country
Strategy Papers was generally comprehensive. The ECA also found
that there was evidence of progress against the MDGs. In particular,
there was evidence of increased enrolment rates as well as increases
in gender parity in most countries. However, the ECA judged that
there was insufficient progress in increasing quality, with few
of the intended improvements being achieved.
8.6 The Report further found that, while Commission
interventions contributed to enabling the beneficiary countries
to achieve some of the intended improvements, significant inequalities
persisted within particular regions and social groups. The Report
also noted a lack of indicators measuring quality and learning
outcomes to assess programmes was also criticised, while at the
same time acknowledging that measurement of learning outcomes
is not widespread and that the Commission, along with other donors,
has to rely on proxy indicators based on data from often unreliable
and untimely national Education Management Information Systems.
8.7 The Report also found that using General Budget
Support, in some countries, reduced the focus on achieving concrete
targets and indicators and resulted in less sector dialogue.
8.8 EU delegations in country were found to engage
actively in donor and partner country coordination.
The Government's view
8.9 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 14 March 2011,
the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for
International Development (Mr Stephen O'Brien) describes the report
as "a constructive contribution to the ongoing processes
of improving the effectiveness and results of EU support to basic
education in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia."
8.10 He agrees with the finding that there is evidence
of real progress in enrolments and gender parity in most countries
supported, but insufficient progress in increasing the quality
of education or measuring learning outcomes. He notes that the
Commission is taking action on this, with its recent Staff Working
Paper "More and Better Education in Developing Countries",
which provides guidance for policy dialogue on improving quality
to all its country delegations, and working with Member States
to address data issues.
8.11 On the question of the Commission and other
donors having to rely on proxy indicators based on potentially
unreliable data from developing countries' national Education
Management Information Systems in measuring learning outcomes,
the Minister says that his officials are working on ways of improving
national Education Management Information Systems, and with the
World Bank on benchmarking improving education systems. He says
that this work will be shared with the international community
and that he will continue his efforts to strengthen government
information systems through the EU Education Experts Group of
donors, and at country level, through local education donor groups.
8.12 The Minister also agrees that the use of General
Budget Support to support education has not always delivered concrete
results for education, saying that he will encourage the increased
use of Sector Budget Support in countries where education is a
focal sector; also encourage greater availability of professional
education advice for General Budget Support programmes; and support
continued collaboration between Member States on policy dialogue
at country level.
8.13 More generally, the Minister says:
"The UK is continuing to press for a much clearer
focus on results and value for money across all the EU's development
programmes and we will argue strongly for this in negotiations
over the next long term EU budget (2014-2020)."
8.14 Finally, the Minister says that the Report will
be discussed in Council in the coming weeks, and that he expects
Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions in May or June 2011.
8.15 The findings are essentially positive but
with room for improvement and highlight the present lack of hard
evidence on outcomes and, thus, effectiveness and value for money.
8.16 It is encouraging that the Commission and
Member States are clearly alive to and wrestling with the difficulties
and complexities involved. Witness, for example, the recent Commission
Green Paper: The future of EU Budget Support to Third Countries
(15240/10), which gathered views from Member States and a
wide range of other stakeholders and will lead on to a Communication
in the Spring, setting out the main parameters for the Commission's
future budget support;
and (among those stakeholders) the Court of Auditors Special Report
No 11/2010, which examined the Commission's management of General
Budget Support through the EDF in African, Caribbean and Pacific
(ACP) countries and through the DCI in Latin American and Asian
8.17 This further Report is thus part of a wider
picture that is of growing importance, as 2015 draws nearer, with
the backdrop of last September's MDG Review Summit (the outcome
of which was debated in European Committee B)
and the prospect of a number of forthcoming MDG-related meetings
(e.g., the LDC-IV conference in May, which we considered at our
8.18 Accordingly, as well as clearing this European
Court of Auditors Special Report from scrutiny, we are also drawing
it to the attention of the International Development Committee.
34 See http://eca.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eca_main_pages/home
for full details of the ECA's work. Back
In 2002, the World Bank together with development partners launched
the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative (FTI) to help low-income
countries meet MDG of universal primary education by 2015. All
low-income countries which demonstrate serious commitment to achieve
universal primary completion can join FTI. See http://www.educationfasttrack.org/
for full information. Back
See headnote: (32105)15240/10: HC 428-viii (2010-11), chapter
11 (17 November 2010). Back
See headnote: (32542) 6957/11: HC 428-xx (2010-11), chapter 4
(16 March 2011). Back
See Gen Co Deb 18 October 2010, cols 3-20: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmgeneral/euro/101018/101018s01.htm.
See headnote: (32551) 6736/10. HC 428-xxi (2010-11), chapter 8
(23 March 2011). Back