Education is one of the best investments donor countries can make in the fight to end poverty, promote democracy and reduce dependence on foreign aid. It has an incredible multiplier effect on health and economic growth among other development priorities. And yet assistance for global education is only a fraction of the 1 percent of government spending in the United States that goes to foreign assistance.
Across the developing world, millions of children will never get the chance to go to school. Millions more leave school — either dropping out or slipping through the cracks of broken systems without mastering vital life skills, such as the ability to read. But this can all change. If all children in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, the UN estimates that 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty.
Education also saves millions of lives each year. HIV infection rates drop by 50 percent among children who complete their primary education. This means if all children received basic schooling, 7 million HIV/AIDS cases could be prevented each year. Young women with a basic education are less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to get their own children immunized. An estimated 1.8 million children’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa could be saved this year if their mothers had at least a secondary education.
Access to quality education means greater prospects for economic growth and political stability. Girls’ income potential increases by 15 percent with each additional year of primary school. And one study found that each year of schooling reduces a male’s chance of engaging in violent conflict by 20 percent.
Simply put, without education, the impact of our investments in health, democracy and economic growth cannot be fully realized. The cycle of poverty — and the need for more aid dollars — will continue.
Working in “global partnership” is one of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals to help end poverty. In the last decade, successful new initiatives, such as the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, have helped catalyze global efforts by bringing development partners together, tapping new resources from corporate donors and capturing international public support.
Similarly, the Global Partnership for Education is reinvigorating support for education around an innovative development model that brings stakeholders together. In the past decade, the Partnership has evolved from a small initiative — to a truly global partnership that has put 19 million children in school in 46 countries to date. The Partnership is a good example of aid effectiveness because it mobilizes domestic resources and donor support around country-owned education plans driven by local needs.
With 67 million children still out of school, it is crucial that U.S. aid dollars have a lasting impact. The advantages of harmonizing support are clear in today’s economic climate, especially as several donor countries have been forced to reduce bilateral aid to education in some of the world’s poorest areas. Coordinating aid helps reduce the future price tag by making combined education dollars go further.
The United States has a historic opportunity to join this multilateral effort. A commitment of $375 million from the U.S. government would help the Global Partnership for Education meet its replenishment target of $2.5 billion. A successful replenishment could help put an additional 25 million children into school over the next three years, giving a new generation a fresh start at a better life.
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