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Australia's assistance for education

2023-24 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
$577.7 million
2022-23 total Australian ODA [actual]
$567.8 million
2021-22 total Australian ODA [actual]
$478.8 million

Partnerships for Recovery and education

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, at its peak affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94 per cent of the world’s student population[1]. The crisis has exacerbated pre-existing education disparities by reducing learning opportunities for many of the most vulnerable. Learning losses threaten to have long-lasting human development and economic impacts.

Even before COVID-19, education quality has been a pressing concern. As many as 387 million children of primary school age do not reach the minimum proficiency level in reading[2]. Without developing basic literacy and numeracy, the benefits of simply attending school is negligible. The urgent need for quality education is highlighted by Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Exclusion from school (e.g. through lack of access, drop-out/push-out) and low student learning standards impact upon basic education completion and the transition to technical and vocational education and training, higher education and skilled work. Education inequalities reinforce income and economic inequalities in and between countries.

Formal education during childhood and adolescent years is the most effective base for learning and skills development. Many of Australia's partner countries have large and growing youth populations, and in an age where skills are increasingly important for employment, job security and a better income, improving education quality is an imperative.

Conflict robs many children of the opportunity of schooling. Estimates suggest about 3.7 million refugee children are out of school[3]. In conflict affected countries, learning and skills development is critical to help young people access available opportunities, lead productive lives and contribute to peace-building processes.

Through the Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response, Australia is investing in education as a vital part of our health security, stability, economic and humanitarian response. This has a strong emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable, especially women and girls, and creating a skilled workforce to support recovery from COVID-19.

How we are helping

Education enables development and is crucial to helping people overcome poverty. Australia and its neighbours benefit from program investments in education which support human development, economic growth and stability across the region.

Australia is playing a key role supporting Indo-Pacific partner countries to address education system disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our investments in education enable children and young people, particularly girls and children with a disability, to gain the skills they need to obtain work, go on to further study and to lead productive lives. Australia's education investments in the Indo-Pacific include:

  • supporting learning continuity during COVID-19, safely reopening schools and identifying innovative learning approaches that are a good fit for local contexts;
  • supporting teacher training, curriculum reform and improved learning assessment;
  • increasing opportunities for girls to learn;
  • supporting inclusion of children with a disability in education;
  • supporting technical education, skills development and training aligned with labour market needs;
  • supporting regional stability through increased access to education in conflict-affected areas;
  • constructing and improving education infrastructure in disadvantaged regions;
  • investing in innovative approaches and analytics together with the private sector and civil society to improve access, reach and the quality of education; and
  • strengthening the management and accountability of education policies and systems, to ensure the sustainability of our investments.

Australia Awards scholarships and fellowships support emerging leaders from developing countries to study in Australia or within their region. Australia Awards build people-to-people links, and graduates return home to contribute to economic and social development. While not part of Australia's Official Development Assistance, the New Colombo Plan, a foreign policy initiative of the Australian Government, is enabling more Australian students to study in the region and contribute to deep and lasting ties between Australia and partner countries.

How we contribute

Australia's investments in education primarily focus on supporting changes to the systems and policies that deliver better education in our region.

Australia's development investments are guided by best international practice and respond to the context in which they are delivered. Australia:

  • Invests in early childhood care and development, which delivers high returns, particularly for the poorest and most marginalised children.
  • Invests in quality improvements at all levels of the education system, because it is what students know and can do that matters for stability, poverty reduction and economic growth.
  • Prioritises equity and equality, with a particular focus on gender and disability inclusiveness, because fairer education systems are also the most effective.
  • Aligns education and skills with labour market needs, through investing in relevant and high-quality secondary and post-secondary education.
  • Supports remote learning, safe reopening of schools and COVID-resilient education systems.

Australia works in partnership with trusted organisations and experts to ensure that our development investments are based on evidence and to enable those investments to reach the greatest number of people. We select these delivery partners based on an assessment of their comparative advantage and demonstrated strength in the country/region/globally and their area of focus.

In accordance with DFAT's Private Sector Engagement Strategy, Australia's development program works with the private sector, acknowledging and encouraging their interests in better education outcomes.

We work with Australian public broadcasters to provide education programs to the Indo-Pacific, supporting continuity of learning during COVID-19 disruptions. High quality Australian TV, radio and online educational programs provide crucial assistance in complementing formal education content.

We work with the Australian Council for Educational Research and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics to capture data that tracks education progress in our partner countries. Australia has also teamed up with the United States Agency for International Development and World Vision to deliver the All Children Reading Grand Challenge for Development – a global grant competition funding technology-based innovations that seek to transform the way children learn to read.

In 2019-20, Australia's development assistance enabled: over 576,700 additional girls and boys to enrol in school; over 149,800 teachers to receive training; and over 3,500 women and men to gain recognised post-secondary qualifications.

[1] UN Secretary General Policy Brief: Education during COVID-19 and beyond

[2] Global Education Monitoring Report 2019 – Migration, displacement and education

[3] UNHCR Education

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