Many Paths to Universal Primary Education: Time to Replace the Indicative Framework with a Real Country-Driven Approach


The international community has repeatedly committed to making aid more effective, in part by ensuring country ownership over aid policies and strategies. This commitment to the Paris Principles was reemphasized in 2008 in Accra where donors’ practice of linking their aid to prescriptive conditions was highlighted as an important area for more accelerated reform. This policy brief examines the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative (FTI) in light of these international commitments to improving country ownership and reducing donor conditionalities. For the 72 million children not in primary school around the world, the FTI is the most important global aid mechanism to support their learning. Improving the FTI’s effectiveness is one step in improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest children.

We argue that despite sincere efforts by the FTI to engage in a country-led process, the use of a specific global framework and its associated indicators across all contexts effectively results in limiting country ownership by imposing prescriptive, donor-designed solutions. We specifically examine the FTI’s Indicative Framework (IF) and argue that it is neither a sensible nor legitimate basis for assisting in the allocation of resources to primary education in developing countries that are trying to achieve Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Instead we propose a process where technical tools are used to inform, not prescribe, country-level planning. Learning from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), we recommend that the FTI should be guided globally by a set of core principles but that accountability for its investment should emanate from country-specific benchmarks and indicators. This is an especially timely moment to reconsider the IF and other related frameworks as considerable attention is being given to potential reform of the FTI or even its evolution into a Global Fund for Education (Sperling, 2009; Oxfam, 2010).