Education is not a cost, it’s investment for recovery

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, governments worldwide have invested US$ 11.8 trillion stimulus packages as fiscal response to save lives and mitigate economic shocks. Despite the huge disruption caused to education by the crisis, education has been largely invisible in high-stake decision making on fiscal trade-offs of stimulus packages in many countries, with a mere 0.78% (or US$ 91 billion) worldwide allocated to the education and training sector, according to UNESCO’s recent estimates. Governments have deployed different fiscal responses with different strategies and funding instruments, while most countries have excluded education from their lists of stimulus priorities.

There are also some examples of national fiscal measures that may provide promising paths, such as Republic of Korea that announced stimulus packages in several phases allocating around 5% of these supplementary funds to education in response to the evolving and emerging needs in education. Australia has taken a wide range of measures to address needs in the education and training sector, including tackling skills training and job market needs. There are much more other examples that demonstrate that education is being used as investment for recovery during the current crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic risks jeopardizing the gains of years of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal on education (SDG 4) – 2030 Education Agenda and as the world is entering into a phase of gradual recovery, time has come to increase efforts to mitigate and curtail the impact of the current crisis on education systems and to leverage education and skills development as an effective and efficient means for economic revival and sustainable development. Governments are encouraged to leverage the power of education and training as key investment for an inclusive and green transformation of the economy and building of more peaceful and sustainable societies.

This research is still underway, and UNESCO will continue monitoring education financing and sharing experiences and lessons learnt.