International Partnerships


Although access to education and gender parity have improved over recent decades, substantial gaps remain when it comes to ensuring everyone the right to education. In line with our commitment to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our priority in this sector is to contribute to our partner countries’ efforts to ensure equitable access to education, especially in fragile contexts or crisis situations, and better learning outcomes for all through improving the quality of education.

Our approach

Education is a basic human right and a key for the achievement of all the other sustainable development goals. For this reason, support to education is an important priority for the EU’s international partnership and development policy. Through its different funding instruments, the EU supports actions in education in approximately 100 countries (under the programming period 2014-2020), either as a focal sector or as a specific component of a larger cooperation programme. Additionally, we contribute to global initiatives, such as Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait.

Our action is driven by the European Consensus on Development, which aligns with the UN 2030 Agenda, acknowledges the central role that education will play in achieving sustainable development, and represents an important commitment to increasing access to quality education for all.

In line with our partner countries’ policies and plans for education development and the EU’s own development policies and commitments towards equity and equality, our programmes seek to reduce barriers in access to education, notably for girls and children with disabilities.

Our development programmes in the field of education promote:

  • a comprehensive approach to the sector, from early childhood to tertiary education with a focus on competencies for the future - Early childhood and primary education are the foundation for further learning and skills development.
  • the strengthening of education systems and capacities at national or regional levels. Strong systems deliver quality education and build bridges with the world of work.
  • more inclusive and equitable access to education. Everyone’s right to an education needs to be guaranteed, no matter their gender, socioeconomic situation, learning impairment, disability, geographical location, language, ethnicity etc.
  • a stronger focus on addressing the learning crisis and teacher deficit. Children need to be able to learn in a safe environment, with well-trained and motivated teachers and school leaders.
  • an increasing support in education and training in emergencies and protracted crises, with a specific focus on gender and displacement.
  • strengthened links with other sectors. Interventions in health, nutrition, and social protection have an impact on access and learning, particularly for vulnerable children, and the quality of public administration and financial management is key to the broader performance and delivery of education.

Our support

EU support at national and regional levels

We work at national and regional levels, responding to educational needs and adjusting our support to the context, and in partnership and coordination with EU member countries, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector.

At national level, EU support is aligned with our partner countries’ own sector policy priorities and plans. We actively take part in education sector coordination groups and forums for policy dialogue. Our support for education is usually composed of several programmes or projects implemented through complementary modalities, designed to support improved management of the education system, and delivery of better teaching and learning in schools.

At regional level, we finance higher education programmes, such as Erasmus+ and the Pan African Programme which provide grants to individuals and organisations in the field of education training, youth, and sports, to encourage mobility, collaboration, and partnerships.

EU Trust Funds set up to respond to specific regional situations include the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa or the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis. Jointly funded by the EU, its member countries, and other development actors, they work directly with our partner countries’ local and national authorities and civil society to support vulnerable populations.

Global education initiatives

We actively contribute to global initiatives that promote policy dialogue and help to address financing needs in the education sector, such as:

  • The Global Partnership for Education (GPE): GPE is a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that aims to strengthen education systems in developing countries. The EU alone contributes EUR 475 Million, which represents 16% of total GPE funding. Together with its member states, it provides 51% of total GPE funding. Between 2015 and 2018, GPE has supported nearly 25 million children in partner countries. (see GPE Results Brochure 2020)
  • Education Cannot Wait (ECW): The EU contributes EUR 21 million to ECW, a fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises. The EU and its member states provide around 40% of the total ECW funding. The EU is also an active member of its High-Level Steering Group. Launched in 2016, ECW has already reached to 3.4 million of the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach children and adolescents in crisis-affected countries.

Key role of education in the EU’s development cooperation:

Education will continue to be a priority in the 2021-2028 period. We are committed to increase the share of education in EU development expenditure.  

EU support to education will also be a catalyst and essential foundation for tackling the most pressing global challenges and achieving the five priorities of the geopolitical Commission:

Green Deal: Education is central to addressing the causes and the impact of climate change.

Sustainable growth and jobs: Foundational literacy, numeracy and soft skills provided at school are critical for future learning, better adaptation to 21st century skills and employability.

Digitalisation: Education can unlock the potential of digital technology.

Migration and forced displacement: Education is crucial for the well-being and future opportunities of children on the move.

Governance, peace and security: Conflict sensitive and equitable education fosters peace and stability.

There will be no economic growth, human development and equality without education. We will need 21st century graduates. They will take on jobs that do not exist yet. They will tackle crises that we cannot foresee. And they will lead their societies towards sustainable, peaceful and prosperous futures.
- Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen