Education for All: How Much Will It Cost?


  • Enrique Delamonica,

  • Santosh Mehrotra,

  • Jan Vandemoortele

  • We thank an anonymous referee for valuable comments. All remaining errors are our responsibility


In 1990, a target of universal access to basic education by the year 2000 was set by two global conferences. Ten years later, however, it was clear that the target had not been met. Too many countries had made insufficient progress, and although many of the reasons for this inadequate progress were country-specific, one factor stood out in virtually all countries: inadequate public finance for primary education. In 2000, the Millennium Summit set a new target date for achieving ‘education for all’ of 2015. This article updates the global and regional cost estimates for reaching that target. The estimates are based on the most recent country-by-country data on budgetary expenditure, population and enrolment trends, and unit cost. The annual additional cost of achieving ‘education for all’ in developing countries by 2015 is estimated at US$ 9.1 billion. Although this is affordable at the global level, individual countries will need considerably more resources than are currently available. However, official development assistance (ODA) has been declining, and the share of ODA allocated to basic education has changed little over the past decade. Therefore, although affordable, the target of universal basic education by 2015 is likely to be missed, just as it was in 2000, without a major change both in ODA and national budgets.