The latest policy paper from the GEM Report provides a stark reminder that trends in aid to education mean there is still a long journey to travel to deliver access to quality aid to ededucation for all. Aid to education has stagnated at around USD 12 billion a year, the share reaching the poorest countries in Sub Saharan Africa has been falling, and gaps between available finance and the amounts needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals may have been increasing.

Under the SDGs, aid to education should be expected to fall as goals are achieved and the numbers of children in school and learning increase. We saw rapidly accelerating school enrolment and increases in learning in the years after the Dakar World Education Forum and Jomtien. If the reason for the static and declining volume of aid to education was because of these successes, and the demographic dividend that leads to reduced demand for new school places, it would be a cause for celebration.

Alas the progress made over the last three decades is not a sufficient explanation for the declining appetite for aid to education. Better data now shows how unequally the benefits of improved access to education have been spread within countries. Completion rates are strongly associated with household income especially at secondary level. Educational infrastructure is lacking, class sizes remain large, and learning materials are lacking in quantity and quality. It is easy to agree with the GEM Report policy paper that a weakening of the appetite for aid to education is premature.