NEW DELHI : International aid to India for education has fallen by more than 26%, compared with a global downturn of 2%, data from United Nations showed.

India received $464 million in 2017, as against $634 million in 2016, according to data compiled by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in a global education aid monitoring report. The 2017 number is a four-year low, which Unesco said may adversely affect inclusive education for all.

“A drop in aid to education in the country will make the task of closing the (education) gap harder. International aid is vital in tackling some of the more persistent barriers to inclusive education for all," Manos Antoninis, the key author of the monitoring report, said in an email.

Aid to secondary education fell by 80%, while for post-secondary education it rose by 20%, Unesco said without quantifying these numbers. The increase in aid to post-secondary education can be explained by the World Bank’s decision to double the funding amount.

The International Development Association (IDA) has reduced its aid to India significantly, though it remains a top donor in terms of actual numbers. IDA gave $240 million in aid in 2017, which is way below the $447 million it had offered in 2016 and is a four-year low, according to data shared exclusively with Mint.

However, the European Union and Germany have increased their contribution to India. The UK, which is also a key donor, has been slashing its international aid with India getting just $7.5 million in 2017, which is a 10-year low. “The one country whose aid seems to be declining is the UK, as it has fallen from a peak of $208 million in 2009 to $7.5 million in 2017," Unesco said.

The UK has been reducing its international aid for education. In 2017, aid to education globally was $13.2 billion, down 2% when compared with 2016, the Unesco said, questioning the commitment of global donors to achieve education for all.

Germany tops the donor scoreboard for education, disbursing $2 billion in 2017, followed by the US, which gave $1.5 billion, and France with $1.3 billion. France increased its funding by $207 million from 2016 to 2017.

The UN education agency said the number of out-of-school children in primary sections in India has declined from 17% in 2006 to 5% in 2015, while the number of out-of-school adolescents in lower secondary schools has declined from 22% to 9% during the period.

“Despite rapid improvements in India’s education sector in recent years, there is still a core of hard-to-reach populations," it said, indicating that the idea of inclusive education for all needs a hard push.

However, a human resource development ministry official said India is committed to inclusive education, and reduction in international aid will have little impact on India’s education outcome. “Both the central and state governments spend more than 3% of gross domestic product on education, and there is a clear focus on school education in terms of both financial and policy initiatives," said the official, requesting anonymity.

India has, for the last couple of years, been asserting that its gross enrolment ratio in early school stage is 98%, meaning that access to elementary education is near universal.

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