Audition report: EU Development Assistance for Basic Education

EU EU assistance achieved some of the expected improvements in basic education in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, but less than intended, according to a special report published today by the European Court of Auditors.

Through the Education for All movement and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the EU and the international donor community at large have committed themselves to support developing countries to achieve a multitude of objectives, including ensuring primary education for all children, eliminating gender inequalities and improving education quality. The Court’s audit assessed whether EU development assistance in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has helped achieve these three objectives and to what extent shortcomings in the European Commission’s management can explain the shortcomings in the results observed.

The Court concludes that, overall, significant progress has been made, although only 45 % of the targets in the audited financing agreements were fully achieved. For the goal of ensuring primary education for all children (MDG 2), only some of the intended improvements were achieved and progress has in general been too slow to ensure that targets for 2015 will be met. Most of the countries examined have registered progress in enrolment since 2000 but completion of the full cycle of primary education remains an issue for all of them. For the objective of eliminating gender inequalities in education (part of MDG 3), the EU’s interventions contributed to enabling the beneficiary countries to achieve some of the intended improvements. But significant inequalities persist within particular regions and social groups. For the third priority goal, improving education quality, few of the intended improvements were achieved.

The Court concludes that the Commission’s management did not consistently ensure appropriate programming and implementation of aid. Where sector budget support was used this choice generally conformed with the Commission guidelines. The increasing use of general budget support in sub-Saharan Africa has much reduced the extent to which detailed targets and indicators are set for basic education and sector dialogue is less intensive. The Court finds that the advantages of the measures for mitigating fiduciary risks such as those used in pooled funding were not fully considered by the Commission. Generally the indicators used were found to have an appropriate focus on the MDGs, although insufficient attention is paid to indicators for education quality. However, the national education management information systems that the Commission relies on do not consistently provide sufficient, reliable and timely information. Coordination with other donors has generally improved although it entails compromises which sometimes affected the Commission’s own management or priorities. The Court finds that education expertise is not optimally assigned and developed in Delegations, which reduces the Commission’s ability to maintain sector dialogue. It also finds that the EU provided capacity development support although in most cases it did not work as intended.

On the basis of the above observations, the Court makes a set of recommendations with the aim of improving the Commission’s management of EU development assistance to education.

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