Navigate Up
Sign In


Overview of Australia's assistance for education

2013/14 Estimated Outcome: $978.5 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate: $1,105.8 million

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

Through the aid program, Australia’s investments in education enable children, particularly girls and children with a disability, to gain the skills they need to participate in the economy and their communities.

Australia Awards scholarships and fellowships support emerging leaders from developing countries to study in Australia or within their region, build people-to-people links and return home to contribute to economic and social development. At the same time, the New Colombo Plan, a foreign policy initiative, is enabling Australian students to study in the region.

Australia has bilateral education programs with 21 countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In 2014-15, some of those investments include:

  • constructing and improving buildings in disadvantaged regions
  • supporting teacher training and improved learning assessment
  • supporting technical education, skills development and training aligned with labour market needs
  • increasing opportunities for girls to learn
  • supporting inclusion of children with a disability in education
  • supporting regional stability through increased access to education in conflict-affected areas
  • investing in innovative approaches and research with the private sector and civil society to improve access, reach and quality of education
  • strengthening the management and accountability of education policies and systems, to ensure the sustainability of our investments.

Why we give aid

Significant progress has been made in universal primary education since 1999. Globally, the number of children out of school has fallen from 108 million to 57 million. Despite this progress, the Millennium Development Goal of achieving a full course of primary education for all is unlikely to be met by 2015.

Of those children that remain out of school, 53 per cent are girls, roughly 17.5 million are in Asia and the Pacific, and estimates suggest that one-third have a disability.

Education quality is a pressing concern. As many as 250 million children of primary school age could be failing to read or write by the time they reach grade four. Without basic literacy and numeracy, the return on years of schooling to a child is negligible.

Exclusion from school in the early years impacts upon basic education completion and the transition to technical and vocational education and training, higher education and skilled work. Education inequalities reinforce labour market inequalities in and between countries.

Formal education during the 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 42 per cent of all out-of-school children are in conflict-affected countries. In the countries where Australia is supporting education, 13 are considered fragile or conflict-affected*. Of these countries, skills development is critical to help young people gain employment and escape economic despair so that they can be productive and contribute to peace-building processes in their country.

* according to either the World Bank, OECD or ADB definitions

How we give aid

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

The aid program invests in better quality education so that young people gain the knowledge and skills they need to contribute productively to society. Our investments aim to:

  • get the foundations right, through early childhood development, which helps to ensure that children are healthy, safe and ready to learn
  • promote learning for all with a special focus on girls, disadvantaged children and those with disability, through teacher training, curriculum development and education infrastructure
  • prioritise skills for growth to enable people to be job-ready and adaptable, by improving access to quality assured technical education and training that meets the needs of the local private sector
  • innovate for better education outcomes by working with the private sector and civil society
  • enable students from our partner countries to study in Australia or in their region, enhance cross-cultural understanding through people-to-people links and build their capacity to contribute to development in their countries.

Australia works in partnership with trusted organisations and experts to ensure that our aid investments are based on evidence and to enable those investments to reach more people.

Australian aid supports the Global Partnership for Education to advocate for better education systems in 59 countries, including 13 countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

We also support the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Australian Council for Educational Research to capture data that tracks education progress in our partner countries. Complementing these partnerships, the World Bank's SABER initiative is supporting Australia’s partner countries to strengthen education system policies and institutions.

Australia has 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 could transform the way children learn to read.

Education initiatives


Australia’s investments in education are guided by the Australian Government’s development policy Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability as well as partner country agreements.

Australia has bilateral education initiatives with 21 countries throughout the Indo-Pacific. Our investments are with PNG, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Timor-Leste, Burma, Sri Lanka, Mongolia and a number of Pacific Island countries, including Samoa, Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Nauru, Tuvalu, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Niue.

In addition to support for the Global Partnership for Education the following partnerships and initiatives help to achieve our objectives in education.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

$1.5 million, 2011-2014

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) produces data and methodologies to monitor education trends at national and international levels. It delivers comparative data for countries at all stages of development to provide a global perspective on education, science and technology, culture, and communication.

The Institute serves Member States, UNESCO and the UN system, as well as a range of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, research institutes and universities.

UIS services include:

  • helping Member States to improve the quality and analysis of their data
  • monitoring progress towards international development goals
  • designing new indicators to better reflect the policy needs of developing countries
  • promoting wider use of data for policymaking.

In addition to supplying data to external partners such as the World Bank and UNICEF, its data also informs UNESCO reports such as the Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Memorandum of Understanding on the Framework Arrangement between DFAT and UIS: Core funding for development of education statistics 2014 Agreement
UNESCO Institute of Statistics Memorandum of Understanding 2012 Agreement
Report of the Director on the Activities of the Institute 2013 Strategic policy
Related links

All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development

$5 million, 2011-2015

Australia is a founding partner of All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR), with USAID and World Vision (USA and Australia).

Through this initiative the private sector, non-government organisations, civil society, academic institutions and donors from any country are invited to submit proposals that use innovation and technology to improve student reading in primary grades.

The initiative aims to improve reading outcomes for children in primary grades by promoting technology-based innovations that have the potential to improve teaching or learning methods.

In the first round of funding (2012), grants were awarded to 32 innovators to pilot their ideas. Projects are currently being implemented in 22 countries and their progress monitored to determine the capacity for technology to improve reading in low resource contexts.

In 2014, a second round of funding was launched, calling for innovations in one of three focus areas: mother tongue language of instruction, parent and community engagement, or children with disability. Round two applications have closed and grant recipients will be announced in late 2014. A series of prizes will also be awarded in 2014. The first of these, Enabling Writers, invites innovators to develop software solutions that allow writers to easily create and export decodable and leveled fiction and non-fiction readers in mother tongue languages. To learn more go to the competition website.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Memorandum of Understanding between DFAT, USAID and World Vision 2011 Memorandum of understanding
ACR Grant opportunities 2014: Request for Applications 2014 Memorandum of understanding
ACR Grant Opportunities 2012: Request for Applications 2012 Impementation
Related links

Systems Approach for Better Education Research

$7 million, 2012-2016

The World Bank’s Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) aims to help countries improve learning outcomes for all by systematically examining and strengthening the performance of their education systems and policies.

SABER does this by collecting and producing comparative data on education policies and institutions, and providing diagnostic tools for countries and education stakeholders to use when developing and implementing education policies.

The SABER initiative covers a number of key areas of education policy, referred to as 'policy domains'. Evidence-based guidance in each of these domains is produced by the SABER team, and this is publicly available so countries and other stakeholders can review the specific policy choices available to them in key areas of education policy.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
SABER Umbrella Facility Concept Note 2012 Concept note
Related links

Australian Council for Educational Research

$1.5 million, 2014-2017

DFAT is a founding partner of the Australian Council for Educational Research’s (ACER) Centre for Global Education Monitoring (GEM). The GEM Centre works to strengthen national systems’ capacity to implement and use educational assessments to drive policy change and system reform. ACER is a world leader in education research and the Centre will provide countries with an opportunity to access technical expertise to improve education assessment in our region. DFAT’s support also enables ACER to participate and represent regional interests within global discussion on education, including the design of education targets and indicators as part of the post-2015 development agenda.

ACER was established in 1930 as an independent, national educational research organisation. Over the last 30 years, ACER has developed methodologies to monitor student literacy and numeracy progress and is currently responsible for implementing Australia’s NAPLAN.

Related links

Education Research Facility

$18 million, 2009-2014

In 2009, Australia established the Education Resource Facility (ERF) to provide advisory support, short-term research and learning and development opportunities for education staff.

The ERF is a consortium of specialist organisations—GRM, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and CFBT Education Trust. The ERF provides Australia’s aid program with access to the highest quality international and regional expertise in the education sector.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Education Resource Facility Quality at Entry Report 2009 Quality at entry
Education Resource Facility Request for Tender 2008 Request for tender
Related links

Last reviewed: 17 December, 2014