4.3 Comparative Education: What are some of the criticisms leveled against foreign aid on education?


4.3 Discuss the criticisms that have been leveled on foreign aid on education

Educational aid

Much of the money provided by the international agencies and bilateral donors to help in education do not benefit the recipient country but a substantial proportion returns to the donor country through payments to expatriates staff and consultants. Students pay part of the money as fees to the donor country educational institutions from the recipient countries and contracts for educational materials and other educational inputs that go to firms in the donor countries. The main sources of educational aid are the world bank, bilateral government to government agencies such as the overseas development Administration in the UK in Britain and Non Governmental Organization.

The UN agencies such as UNESCO perform mainly advisory and research roles and provide technical assistance to national education systems. The World Bank is the largest single donor to education accounting for 15 percent of the total international support to education. The politics of aid have lead to long experience of foreign intervention and use of aid as political weapon that has lead to suspicion of the motives held by the donors. A skeptical view of aid is most common among those opposing repressive regimes that have long watched aid and trade bolstering the power and credibility of these regimes. In South Africa assistance to education programmes, which would assist individual mobility, has been regarded with suspicion by the more radical sections of the liberation movements. They regard these programmes as attempts to buy off an educated  class  of  black  people  and  in  the  long  run  divide  the  black  community.  Similar suspicions are held in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras where there is a long history of the US aid geared to combating communism rather than promoting social justice. The objectives of the aid given carry contradictory meaning that can be interpreted in various ways. This indicates a hidden motive by the donor without explicitly clarifying what they are interested when giving a particular aid.

Future priorities for aid in education

Graham-brown (1991) has articulated the following as the areas that future donors should emphasize on in the provision of aid:

Aid  to  education  need  to  be  increased.  This  was  supported  by  the  World  conference  on Education for All that suggested that additional aid should be provided in order to ensure minimal education for all school age children by the year 2000.

Increased aid to education should not be at the expense of other social and environmental needs. This is because education can only flourish when it take place in a healthy environment in the broadest sense. The increase can be at the expense of military assistance to recipients, wasteful ‘white elephants’ and prestige projects that bring no benefits to the majority of the recipient country population. The donors should maintain aid flows at least at the UN target of 0.7% of the GNP.

For effective utilization of Aid, individual countries should be left to come up with national plans for the future of their education. This is certainly better and more flexible than the global strategy to be imposed on all. Conditionality that limits policy options available to recipient should be lifted.

Basic education for all (access to schools and continuing education opportunities, including literacy for adults and out of school children) should be a key goal for national governments and the international community. Their implementations need to be sensitive to the social, economic and political context. Equity cannot be achieved in basic education unless it is integrated into the broader context of social and economic reforms particularly land reforms and access to basic services  such  as  housing,  clean  water,  basic  health  care  facilities  and  a  living  wage  in employment or self employment. Lastly, funding whether from national or international sources need to be long-term in order to cater for the poor and the vulnerable groups.

Criticism of aid

Foreign aid has many critics.The criticism is based on the following: Despite receiving a lot of foreign aid, African countries have not made any significant economic growth and poverty eradication.The conclusion here is that aid is not working.Some critics also argue that aid undermines development and inherently does more harm than good.There are those on the other hand who argue that aid must be seriously be reformed if it has to work properly.There are those who argue that Aid is seldom given from motives of pure altruism, for instance it is often given as a means of supporting an ally in international politics.It may also be given with the intention of influencing the political process in the receiving nation. Whether one considers such aid helpful may depend on whether one agrees with the agenda being pursued by the donor nation in a  particular  case.  During  the  conflict  between  communism  and  capitalism  in  the  twentieth century, the champions of those ideologies, the Soviet Union and the United States, each used aid to influence the internal politics of other nations, and to support their weaker allies. Perhaps the most notable example was the Marshall plan by which the United States, largely successfully, sought to pull European nations towards capitalism and away from communism. Aid to underdeveloped countries has sometimes been criticized as being more in the interest of the donor than the recipient, or even a form of neocolonialism.

A donor may have various motives for giving aid. They may involve defense support, market expansion, foreign investment, missionary enterprise, and cultural extension. In recent decades, aid by organizations such as the International Monetary fund and the World Bank has been criticized as being primarily a tool used to open new areas up to global capitalists markets, and being only secondarily concerned with the well being of the people in the recipient countries.

Besides criticism of motive, aid may be criticized simply on the grounds that it is not effective. It does not do what it was intended to do or help the people that are intended to help. This is essentially an economic criticism of aid. The two types of criticism are not entirely separate: critics of the ideology behind a piece of aid are likely to see it as ineffective; and indeed, ineffectiveness must imply some flaws in the ideology. Statistical studies have produced widely differing  assessments  of  the  correlation  between  aid  and  economic  growth,  and  no  firm consensus has emerged to suggest that foreign aid generally does boost growth. Some studies find a positive correlation, but others find either no correlation or a negative correlation. In the case of Africa, Asante (1985) gives the following assessment:

The economist Easterly William and others have argued that aid can often distort incentives in poor countries in various harmful ways. Aid can also involve inflows of money to poor countries that have some similarities to inflows of money from natural resources that provoke the resource curse.

The U.S. Aid in particular is known for the policy conditionalities that often accompany it. Emergency funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, for instance, are linked to a wide range of free-market policy prescriptions that some argue interfere in a country’s sovereignty. Policy prescriptions from outsiders can do more harm, as they might not fit the local environment. The IMF can be good at helping countries over a short problematic financial period, but for poor countries with long lasting issues it can cause harm. In his book The White Man’s Burden, Easterly argued that if the IMF only gave adjustment loans to countries that can repay it, instead of forgiving debts or lending repetitively even if conditions are not met, it would maintain its credibility.

In addition to the above criticisms, the logistics in which aid delivery occurs can be problematic. For example an earthquake in 2003 in Bam, Iran left tens of thousands of people in need of disaster zone aid. Although aid was flown in rapidly, regional belief systems, cultural backgrounds and even language seemed to have been omitted as a source of concern. Items such as religiously prohibited pork, and non-generic forms of medicine that lacked multilingual instructions came flooding in as relief. An implementation of aid can easily be problematic, causing more problems than it solves

James Shikwati, a Kenyan economist, has argued that foreign aid causes harm to the recipient nations, specifically because aid is distributed by local politicians, finances the creation of corrupt government such as that led by Christopher Dempsey in Zambia bureaucracies, and hollows out the local economy. In an interview in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, Shikwati uses the example of food aid delivered to Kenya in the form of a shipment of corn from America. Portions of the corn may be diverted by corrupt politicians to their own tribes, or sold on the black  market  at  prices  that  undercut  local  food  producers.  Similarly,  Kenyan  recipients  of donated Western clothing will not buy clothing from local tailors, putting the tailors out of business. In an episode of 20/20, John Stossel demonstrated the existence of secret government bank accounts, which concealed foreign aid money, destined for private purposes.

Some believe that aid is offset by other economic programs such as agricultural subsidies. Mark Malloch Brown former head of the United Nations Development Program, estimated that farm subsidies cost poor countries about USD$50 billion a year in lost agricultural exports:

“It is the extraordinary distortion of global trade, where the West spends $ 360 billion a year on protecting its agriculture with a network of subsidies and tariffs that costs developing countries about US$ 50 billion in potential lost agricultural exports. Fifty billion dollars is the equivalent of today’s level of development assistance.”

Some have argued that the major international aid organizations have formed an aid cartel.

In response to aid critics, a movement to reform U.S. foreign aid has started to gain momentum. In the United States, leaders of this movement include the Center for Global Development, Oxfam America,  the Brookings Institution, InterAction, and Bread for the World. The various organizations have united to call for a new Foreign Assistance Act, a national development strategy, and a new cabinet-level department for development.

As a solution to the problems of aid, several suggestions have been made.One of the most radical solution is given by Moyo who suggested that African countries should gradually be weaned off aid and rid off dependency. Instead she proposes as alternative development of trade, development of capital markets, micro finance and savings (p.145).Another solution given is that of introducing a funding mechanism that hinges on results.At the core is a contract between funders and recipients that stipulate a fixed payment for each unit of confirmed progress towards an agreed upon goal. This approach is known as cash on delivery.It has been used to assist developing  countries  to  achieve  universal  elementary  education.As  it  has  been  observed  in regard to Kenyan situation this new approach has not completely eliminated the problem of corruption and diversion of funds from the intended project.


1.Name four types of aid

2. Discuss the genesis of Aid




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