Universal primary education is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals and great improvements have been achieved in the past decade, yet a great deal remains to be done. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute indicate the main obstacles to greater funding from donors include: donor priorities, aid architecture, and the lack of evidence and advocacy. Additionally, Transparency International has identified corruption in the education sector as a major stumbling block to achieving Universal primary education in Africa. Furthermore, demand in the developing world for improved educational access is not as high as one would expect as governments avoid the recurrent costs involved and there is economic pressure on those parents who prefer their children making money in the short term over any long-term benefits of education. Recent studies on child labor and poverty have suggested that when poor families reach a certain economic threshold where families are able to provide for their basic needs, parents return their children to school. This has been found to be true, once the threshold has been breached, even if the potential economic value of the children's work has increased since their return to school.
But without capacity, there is no development. A study conducted by the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning indicates that stronger capacities in educational planning and management may have an important spill-over effect on the system as a whole. Sustainable capacity development requires complex interventions at the institutional, organizational and individual levels that could be based on some foundational principles:
- national leadership and ownership should be the touchstone of any intervention;
- strategies must be context relevant and context specific;
- they should embrace an integrated set of complementary interventions, though implementation may need to proceed in steps;
- partners should commit to a long-term investment in capacity development, while working towards some short-term achievements;
- outside intervention should be conditional on an impact assessment of national capacities at various levels.