The impact of the economic crisis can be seen across the developed countries in Europe and North America. These were hit the hardest by the financial system’s rapid meltdown in 2008-2009. Initially, smaller countries such as Ireland and Latvia (the most exposed to international financial markets) took the major blow. They were forced to immediately reduce their education budgets, resulting in school closures, layoffs of teachers and support staff, and a narrowing of school curricula. Today, the impact of several years of austerity policies is taking its toll on other countries, from the USA to Spain and Greece.
Beyond the immediate effects, there are longer-term impacts emerging. In the current climate of limiting budget deficits, there are proposals to tie school funding to student numbers enrolled, to link teachers' pay to performance, to subject education institutions to rigorous and unjust supervision and test-based outcomes measurement regimes.
Attacks on trade unions
These agendas often coincide with attacks on trade unions' right to collective bargaining. Teacher unions are fighting against the introduction of short-term contracts and the dismantling of teachers' right to employment and pedagogical autonomy.
The global economic crisis is indirectly affecting education funding elsewhere in the world as well. Increased pressure on national budgets has affected the ability of many of the world's poorest countries to finance education plans. Seven of the 18 lowest-income countries surveyed for the EFA Global Monitoring Report (2011) cut their education spending in 2009. These countries had 3.7 million children out of school.
The aid budgets of donor countries are also under pressure and declining. In this context, international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continue to link budgetary discipline and public austerity as conditions for their loans and other assistance.