Ensuring Education for All

Education is central to sustainable development, and to the success of initiatives that empower women and girls, improve global health, employment and economic growth, and ensure food security. Over the past 15 years, there has been substantial progress toward realizing the goal of education for all. Since 1999, the number of out-of-school children of primary age worldwide has dropped by 45 million, and primary enrollment has grown to 91%. In addition, great strides have been made towards achieving gender parity, with girls’ enrollment rising to over 90% in 52 countries.

Even with these great successes, much work remains. Currently, 263 million children and youth are out of school, including 61 million of primary school age. In countries affected by emergencies and conflicts, 37 million children are out of school; and 75 million have had their education interrupted. Many millions more drop out of school before the fifth grade or receive an education of such poor quality that they leave school without basic skills and knowledge. Children who are out of school can find themselves in terrible danger; they are easier targets of abuse, exploitation, and recruitment by armed forces and groups. Ensuring that children are both enrolled and accessing quality education requires continued interventions and a strong, ongoing commitment by the United States. 

InterAction Recognizes

  • Quality education equips people with the knowledge, skills, and self-reliance they need to increase their income and expand their economic opportunities. No country has achieved rapid economic growth without investing in education and reaching an adult literacy rate of at least 40%. Moreover, every extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10% according to a 2007 World Bank report on the role of education quality in economic growth.

  • Education is a lifesaving intervention for children affected by conflict and crisis, helping keep them safe and protecting their futures. School can provide the stability, structure, and routine that children need to cope with loss, fear, stress, and violence. Unfortunately, education remains one of the mostly poorly funded sectors in humanitarian response.

  • United States support for basic education alleviates poverty, strengthens societies, fosters stability, spurs economic growth, and enhances U.S. global leadership and influence. Education is a cost-effective way to equip millions with the tools they need to forge a path to self-sufficiency and better lives. By working with other donors and multilateral organizations like the Global Partnership for Education, the U.S. can complement bilateral programs, foster coordination, and build on the commitments of developing countries.

  • USAID’s 2011–2015 Education Strategy sought to improve early grade reading and increase access to education for children in conflict and crisis. USAID reading programs have reached more than 37 million children including 2.4 million children and youth in crisis-affected environments who would otherwise be out of school. Continuing to fully fund these programs is essential to maintaining progress and ensuring their success.

Upcoming Opportunities

  • The annual budget and appropriations cycle is an occasion to ensure adequate resources for effective, sustainable, basic education programs [Annual]: Education is a cost-effective way to equip millions with the tools they need to forge a path to self-sufficiency and better lives. The U.S. should increase resources for basic education programs, and give greater attention to best and promising practices, evidence-based program design, and monitoring and evaluation. This means focusing on effective approaches to improving learning outcomes and fostering sustainability, including capacity building.

  • Recognize that greater global attention to education will require an elevated USAID Education Office [Ongoing]: The USAID Education Office currently sits alongside 12 others in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment (E3). Absorbing additional funding and supporting new initiatives may require staff and high-level leadership at headquarters and in the field to effectively and efficiently program education funding. This includes significantly increasing the number of qualified procurement specialists, as well as the number of education specialists for monitoring and evaluation; empowering USAID mission directors to respond to country-based objectives with effective interventions; and enhancing interagency coordination.

  • Renew, strengthen, and expand USAID’s Education Strategy [Ongoing]: Alongside elevating education and increasing capacity, USAID should build upon its success and expand the ambition of its 2011–2015 Education Strategy. USAID funding should support developing country partners’ national education plans and use proven, effective interventions for improving educational access and learning outcomes—from early childhood care education and through transition into the work force. By working with countries to focus on vulnerable populations, girls, children, those with disabilities, and those living in conflict-affected and fragile states, the U.S. will support those most in need by helping them access a quality education and develop the skills they need to thrive. These goals would closely track the Sustainable Development Goals, which call on countries to “[e]nsure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

  • Complement robust, bilateral investments in education with leadership on the global stage through support of multilateral initiatives such as the Global Partnership for Education [Ongoing]: The replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education, expected through 2020, provides an exciting opportunity for the U.S. to step up its leadership on global stage. By supporting strong bilateral programs, innovative initiatives, and multilateral efforts such as an early pledge for the Global Partnership for Education, the U.S. could have a catalytic effect that spurs donors and countries to increase their financing around education, while also helping to make it a priority on the world stage.

  • Education for All Act [Ongoing]: Co-sponsored by Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and David Reichert (R-WA) during the 114th Congress, the Education for All Act passed the House of Representatives by voice vote in September 2016. Support for this important, bipartisan legislation continues as the bill seeks to ensure a continuum of education services for children in conflict and other emergencies; promote strategies for reaching the most disadvantaged children; support activities to increase the quality of education programs; and authorize the president to develop a comprehensive strategy to meet the goal of education for all. 

Additional Materials

  • Education: Opportunity Through Learning (USAID Education Strategy 2011-2015), 2011, bit.ly/2cSIdLR

  • GPE 2020 Strategic Plan, 2016, bit.ly/2cXOxxy

  • The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World, 2016, bit.ly/2dnIh1O

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