Education budgets were cut by 65 per cent of low and lower-middle income countries after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic while only 33 per cent of high and upper-middle income countries did so, according to a report by the World Bank.
The report, compiled in collaboration with UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, said the current levels of government spending in low and lower-middle income countries fall short of those required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"In order to understand the short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education budgets, information was collected for a sample of 29 countries across all regions. The sample represents about 54 per cent of the world's school and university aged population. The information collected was then verified with World Bank country teams," the report said.
"Responding to the COVID-19 crisis requires additional spending to adapt schools for compliance with the necessary measures to control contagion and to fund programs to make up for the losses in learning students experienced while schools were closed," it added.
The sample includes three low-income countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Uganda); 14 lower-middle income countries (Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Tanzania, Ukraine, Uzbekistan); 10 upper-middle income nations (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Jordan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Turkey); and two high-income countries (Chile, Panama).
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"The following countries have education shares below 10 per cent and therefore are likely to have other main financing sources besides budget assigned by the central government: Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia," the report stated.
"It is not clear that countries that have seen a decline in their education budget will be able to cover these costs increased during the pandemic alongside the regular increases in funding needed to support growing school-age populations.
"Despite the urgent need for adequate funding to allow school systems to reopen safely, about half of the countries in the sample cut their education budgets. This scarcely bodes well for the future, when macroeconomic conditions are expected to worsen," it said.
On the other hand, households in low and lower-middle income countries tend to contribute a greater share of the total education spending than those in upper-middle and high-income countries, the report pointed out.
"While data is limited, household education spending as a share of GDP has increased in low-income countries and households still contribute significantly to the costs of education. The pandemic has resulted in a large and negative income and health shock for many households," it said.
So far, COVID-19 has infected over 11.43 crore people across the globe and claimed over 25.37 lakh lives.