French education aid misdirected: UNESCO

26th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation says a large part of state aid allocated to helping developing countries ends up back in France.

26 November 2008

GENEVA – Millions of dollars in French state aid to boost education in developing countries actually ends up back in French universities as scholarships, UNESCO charged Tuesday.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation said that France gave EUR 1.5 billion in education aid in 2006 but only a tiny fraction was spent on primary schooling in developing countries.

"France allocates only 17 percent of its total education aid to basic education," UNESCO's annual Global Monitoring Report on access to education said, based on figures from 2006.

The vast majority of the aid budget goes to post-secondary scholarships, and most of it ends up back in France itself, said the report's director Kevin Watkins.

"The real transfer takes place between the Finance Ministry and higher education institutions in France, with very little delivery of real resources to train teachers, equip schools with teaching materials in poor countries," he told journalists.

"The current allocation of resources under French aid is clearly not optimal in terms of addressing the underlying inequalities and problems that we set out in the report."

Germany and Japan have similar aid priorities, while Britain, the Netherlands and the World Bank's International Development Association account for half of all donations for basic education, the report said.

"I think most people in France are enormously supportive of French investments in the expansion of education opportunities in some of the poorest countries in Africa. I suspect they would be rather less enthusiastic about the fact that most of their aid budget is going to higher education institutions in France," Watkins said.

"I also suspect it's the case that were an African government to adopt a similar aid priority with respect to higher and basic education in their own countries they would be very heavily criticised by the donor community, including France, Germany and Japan," said Watkins.

He did commend French President Nicolas Sarkozy's public commitment to prioritising basic education in developing countries, but added: "If that's a commitment, he needs an aid budget that delivers."

[AFP / Expatica]

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