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How Much Does It Cost to Achieve EFA?

Most countries cannot answer this question, and not because it is impossible to do so, but often due to a lack of capacity

Photo by Sirisak Chaiyasook

Estimating the actual cost of an entire education system is one of the most important steps in the process of planning for the achievement of the EFA goals.  In order to educate every child in a country and to provide a learning opportunity for everyone, a government must know how much and what resources are necessary. Although developing legislation is an important step, its implementation will be ineffective until priorities are established and needed resources are provided to match the intended policy and financial affordability.  

Understanding the costs of education and the costs of achieving specific goals is necessary for the government to plan and manage its education system effectively.   For example, if a government wants to expand compulsory education from six years to nine, costing should be devised to help develop several policy options from which a government can choose.  It can also answer the following, what additional resources will be necessary, what is the trade-off between one policy over another, how to establish a realistic timeline and many others. 

Also, with this information a ministry of education can appeal to national funding sources to receive increased budget allocation or to international and donor organizations to receive additional aid. Likewise=, most donors are expecting national education plans and policies to be costed in order to assess the area and level of their financial support.  

Many ministries of education are unable to produce this information due to a lack of capacity and information.  This is why the UNESCO Education Policy and Reform (EPR) Unit works with education officials in the Asia and Pacific region to help build capacity and knowledge in education plan costing.  EPR has facilitated workshops providing hands-on training on various simulation models, adapted specifically to each country’s education system.  These models produce reliable estimates of the costs of different education policy options.  Estimates can be used to make strategic policy decisions, to facilitate policy discussion, to appeal to domestic resources and international donors and can help governments to put policy into practice.  

Since 2000, EPR has conducted workshops on education plan costing for many countries in the region, including, in the past year, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam.  The feedback provided by participants shows that the training is extremely practical and useful in strategic planning. In the near future, EPR hopes to work with many more governments in this important exercise of planning and costing education reform policies.  It is hoped that better informed policy decisions will lead to positive outcomes in access to and the quality of education for all.  

For more information on this article or education planning and costing please contact Michaelle Tauson at m.tauson[at]