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The 1990s saw a burgeoning emphasis on partnerships with and among international donors, the public and private sectors, universities, local and international NGOs, the media, and community groups. The reasons for the new partnerships are varied but include the recognition that (1) the world is becoming increasingly interdependent; (2) the pooling of resources is essential to ease financial and time constraints on governments bearing total responsibility for education; and (3) the private sector and local NGOs in particular can contribute significantly to education.

The Jomtien and Beijing conferences helped fuel the debate about the role of NGOs, causing governments and NGOs to assess their relationships with each other. Whereas in the 1980s most NGOs served as a critical voice and watchdog of the government and multilateral donors, in the 1990s they began working as partners and receiving funding from them. Such partnerships, as USAID points out, are "increasingly providing social services once assumed to be exclusive functions of the state."

Local partnerships show promise for lasting improvements for girls’ education and the larger benefits to society associated with those improvements. In Balochistan, Pakistan, for example, a local education NGO was an outgrowth of efforts that originally entailed USAID, the World Bank, and UNICEF, an informal donor partnership aimed at improving basic education. The NGO mobilizes communities to overcome constraints to girls’ education.

An international conference on girls’ education, sponsored by USAID, has inspired the private sector in Morocco to help change the enrollment imbalance between boys and girls in primary school: only 48 percent of girls are enrolled, compared with 70 percent of boys. Literacy rates for women are only slightly more than half those for men. Leaders in the banking sector developed a program of matching local branches of a major financial institution with local schools that encourages clients of the branches to join school support boards and provide managerial, organizational, and financial assistance to the schools.

In Guatemala, a foundation of the Coffee Grower’s Association administers a national scholarship program for girls in rural areas to stem high dropout rates. Parent committees in participating communities distribute the scholarships, which are funded by the ministry of education. The successful collaboration between the ministry and the private sector has led the government to increase its investment in the program, from 6,211 scholarships in 1996 to a planned 60,000 in 2000. The partnership program, originally catalyzed by USAID assistance, now functions on its own.

Table 5 depicts the types of partners—businesses, regional and grassroots NGOs, community groups, donor organizations, and governments— that frequently participate in education programs, the typical roles they play, and the benefits they receive from such assistance.

Table 5 Stakeholder Roles and Benefits ( not available)

3. Overview of U.S. International Assistance in Areas Supportive of EFA Goals

Since Jomtien, the United States has contributed funds and technical assistance aimed at the six EFA "target dimensions" for setting goals and measuring progress toward education for all.

1. Expansion of early childhood care and development

Fifteen years ago, very few donor organizations saw the importance of early childhood programs. However, scientific research and dissemination of the findings during the 1990s about development of intelligence and social behavior and the importance of a child’s early years spurred attention to early childhood care and

development. Today early childhood care and development fall within the official mandate of many of the major donors, international NGOs, and foundations.

As the World Bank observes, early childhood education "can increase the return on primary and secondary school investments. It can raise participants’ productivity and income levels and reduce public expenditures. It can also reduce social costs in such areas as school repetition, juvenile delinquency, and drug use." Girls who participate in early childhood education programs are more likely than not to enroll and continue in school.

For most of this decade, U.S. organizations have actively supported international early childhood care and development forums. The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development has provided one mechanism for such support and participation. Founded in 1984, it is an international, interagency group dedicated to improving the condition of young children at risk and keeping them on the agenda of policy makers, funding agencies, and program developers worldwide. The Consultative Group gathers and disseminates knowledge about early childhood care and development and advocates for it. It was successful in influencing the EFA platform, which considers early childhood care and development one of the four pillars of basic learning.

U.S. members of the Consultative Group have included the Academy for Educational Development, the American Health Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, Christian Children’s Fund, Education Development Center, the Ford Foundation, High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Save the Children USA, and USAID.

NGOs such as Save the Children and CARE have been the major U.S. players in international early childhood care and education in the 1990s. While not a major donor, USAID nonetheless has funded the Consultative Group, certain early childhood programs in developing countries, and a regional network for early childhood development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in various ways it has supported the work of other donors. Even before the 1990s, the United States was active in early childhood activities. In 1985, for example, USAID funded an evaluation of a community-based early childhood program in Peru that found that children who participated in the program were socially and intellectually more prepared for primary school than a comparison group of similar children who had not participated. The findings helped set the stage for the later interest and work of USAID.

Since the early 1990s, USAID and its partner organizations have advocated strongly for early childhood programs. They produced research and publications to inform policy makers and others about the advantages and outcomes of early childhood programs; they evaluated the impact of programs designed to promote learning and encourage democratic behaviors; they designed an interactive radio program to engage young children in active play and to train caregivers with low literacy levels; and they are exploring early child-rearing and instructional practices used by parents and preschool centers in rural communities in Latin America to identify behaviors and attitudes most positively associated with learning.

2. Universal access to, and completion of, primary/basic education

Years of experience helping developing world governments address their education challenges have afforded U.S. donors and partner organizations considerable information about what works in education reform programs. Enrollment and continued persistence in primary school depend on many factors. Among the most significant are availability of schools and teachers, quality of instruction and presence of textbooks and other instructional materials, and willingness of parents to enroll children, especially girls, in school.

The United States is committed to the goal of full primary enrollment. It considers a country on track if the "primary school enrollment ratio is increasing at a rate fast enough to reach full enrollment by 2015, if that rate is sustained." El Salvador and Malawi are among the USAID-assisted countries worldwide that show promising enrollment trends. Malawi’s enrollment increase, from 55 to 96 percent between 1991 and 1997, resulted in good part from the decree of the new democratic government, which came to power in 1994, espousing free primary schooling for all children. That decision nearly doubled enrollment overnight.

While Pakistan no longer receives U.S. aid, it was a recipient earlier in the 1990s. Its considerable progress in girls’ enrollment in certain areas of the country is worth noting.

Other basic education programs around the world are also having an impact on access to education. Multiple efforts in Guatemala for the past ten years by USAID and partner organizations have contributed to increased enrollment for girls. With help from CARE’s community schools programs in Africa, thousands of children, both boys and girls, are now in school. In Albania, Save the Children has set up education programs in camps and community centers for 40,000 to 60,000 Kosova refugee children.

3. Improvement in learning achievement

The measurement of learning gains is of critical importance to numerous stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, policy makers, and donors. Examinations and national assessments convey powerful messages about what knowledge and skills are important and how they should be taught. The results of tests determine decisions

El Salvador: Educational Access and Quality

For seven years, from 1991 to 1998, El Salvador concentrated much of its efforts on a comprehensive educational reform to offset the setbacks of a devastating 12-year civil conflict. The SABE project (Strengthening Achievement in Basic Education) was the main vehicle for the basic education activities, and it produced significant gains in access to basic education and quality. The Academy for Educational Development was the major implementing organization, using USAID funding.

SABE addressed the literacy and numeracy deficiencies of children in grades K-6 and introduced ideas, materials, and practices to promote child-centered learning. The project improved the quality of education through a comprehensive approach to the educational system. Project staff and their Ministry-of-Education colleagues designed interventions to improve educational services. They revised and validated curriculum and introduced children to useful knowledge about civics, health and nutrition, environmental matters, science, and social studies. They assessed learning and developed standardized tests, created educational materials, and trained in-service teachers. SABE staff and the ministry also designed interventions to improve educational administration. They strengthened the ministry’s supervisory capacity, decentralized the education system, and promoted community involvement in education.

SABE paid particular attention to the "ex-conflictive" zones, approximately 40 percent of El Salvador, to compensate for years of educational deprivation. Project staff and their El Salvadoran colleagues ensured that schools in those regions received supplemental textbooks and school supplies; teachers who lacked formal education received academic training; and programs were available to address the trauma of children exposed to war. Community members were trained to recognize or treat the symptoms of anti-social behavior.

In addition to creating fundamental changes in teacher-student classroom interactions, the SABE project leaves behind a substantial network of model schools that now serve as one of the ministry’s primary means of conducting in-service teacher training. Through the model schools programs, teachers can turn to other teachers in their own school districts for guidance and training in a decentralized technical approach that ensures that training is adapted to local realities.

about promotion to higher grades, certification granted to graduating students, and selection of students for higher levels of education. For policy makers, tests are a policy tool to improve teaching and learning. A well-designed testing system offers policy makers opportunities to concentrate on what should be learned and why, how it should be learned, and how to improve learning. As one international assessment specialist has observed, such a system can be "one of the most powerful points of leverage a policymaker has to improve the quality of education in a nation’s schools."

Malawi: Girls’ education

The focus on girls’ education in Malawi, with considerable support from the government of Malawi, multiple donors, and partner organizations, is paying off. Recent statistics indicate rising numbers and proportions of girls in school at both the primary and secondary levels. Girls’ enrollment in primary school rose from 39 percent of total students in 1992 to 48 percent in 1998. In 1991, only 52.4 percent of school-age girls were enrolled; in 2000, that proportion is expected to reach 87 percent.126

The government’s Free Primary Education decree in 1994 and an aggressive campaign by the Ministry of Education were responsible for major enrollment increases. But while access soared, quality suffered: pupil-teacher ratios rose to 77 to 1, classes often had to be held in makeshift shelters, children in the lower grades were assigned the least qualified teachers, and grade repetition increased. 127

Multilateral and bilateral donors joined the ministry to improve teacher education, support community schools, and increase textbook production. USAID pledged US $25.5 million to improve the quality and efficiency of education, with a focus on girls. This amount was in addition to a commitment of $20 million to basic education and girls’ education in a program that began in 1991. 128

Some of the improvements in access and gender equity, in particular, are a result of assistance by the Girls’ Attainment in Basic Literacy and Education (GABEL) project and the Social Mobilization Campaign, a partnership of the government of Malawi, USAID, Creative Associates International, Inc., Save the Children Federation, and local Malawian NGOs and firms.

The social mobilization campaign was a national effort to change attitudes about the importance of girls’ education. Campaign staff worked with village organizations to change behavior in villages. In addition, Malawi university theater students created and produced theater for development, also known as participatory drama or popular theater, to prompt the audience to explore ways to alleviate constraints to girls’ education—for example, offering ox carts to transport children to school or getting parents to divide household chores among sons and daughters so each has an equal chance to attend school. 129

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Testing has assumed increasing importance worldwide as education competes with other sectors for scarce public resources. USAID and its partner organizations have assisted other nations with learning assessment in a number of ways: dissemination worldwide of research findings and other publications on learning assessment; assistance for development of test item banks for primary school examinations; and training of assessment coordinators. For example, in Jamaica, where the primary school assessment coordinators were trained and assistance provided for improving mathematics teaching, the Government of Jamaica continued assessment activities when USAID assistance ended. From 1996 through 1997, the average performance of 3rd grade students on standardized math tests increased by 4 percent, thus reversing a steady ten-year decline in national indicators of education performance.

Pakistan: Access and Literacy in Balochistan

One major goal of the Primary Education Development project in Pakistan was to increase access, equity, and quality of primary education for all children, but especially for girls.

In 1989, USAID and its U.S. partner organizations—the Academy for Educational Development, Creative Associates International, Florida State University, and the Harvard Institute for International Development—began working with Pakistani counterparts in Balochistan and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) to address serious educational problems: the literacy rate among rural women was 1.8 percent in Balochistan and 3.8 percent in NWFP. Fourteen percent of girls and 70 percent of boys in Balochistan and 28 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys in NWFP were enrolled in school.

When the U.S. government suspended foreign aid to Pakistan, and USAID withdrew five years into a ten-year project, there were 2,100 new girls’ schools. Primary enrollments for girls had increased 30 percent in Balochistan and 70 percent in NWFP. Boys’ enrollments likewise increased, by 13 percent in NWFP and 9 percent in Balochistan. New donors, working with the American non-governmental partners, continued the work begun by USAID. By 1996, girls’ enrollments had more than tripled in Balochistan and more than doubled in NWFP. A recently ended effort of the Government of the Netherlands, also with the Academy for Educational Development, established 360 new schools for 15,000 rural girls aged 5-11.132

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Certain other programs stand out for their innovative approaches to teacher support, governance, and curriculum to improve quality and, therefore, learning outcomes. In Uganda, for example, four USAID partner organizations—the Academy for Educational Development, Creative Associates International, the Research Triangle Institute, and the University of Massachusetts—collaborated with the Ugandan government to decentralize support for teachers to the district level. A system of cluster schools, resource centers, and tutors, one result of the decentralization, is considered highly successful by the Ugandan and U.S. governments for having improved teaching and learning. A girls’ education program in Egypt, also with support from USAID, encourages active learning in the classroom. Children work in groups, not rows, and are encouraged to search resource materials for answers to their questions. Another program, GreenCOM, introduces environmental issues into the curriculum worldwide.

One large worldwide program is dedicated entirely to quality issues. Improving Education Quality, as the program is called, generates knowledge about classroom realities for teachers and students and helps countries monitor and evaluate educational results. Programs in Guinea, Malawi, and Uganda, for example, have dealt with textbook issues, student proficiency in mathematics and language studies, and the research capacity of teachers and community members. The American Institutes for Research, with its U.S. partners—Juarez and Associates, the Academy for Educational Development, the Education Development Center, and the University of Pittsburgh—implement the program.

Guatemala: Comprehensive Systemic Reform

Assessment was one element of Guatemala’s comprehensive approach to improving the quality of education, particularly for students in rural areas. In a ten-year program that spanned the decade, the Ministry of Education, with USAID funding and implementation assistance from the Academy for Educational Development and Juarez and Associates, addressed issues of bilingual education, girls’ education, and in-service teacher education.

The program supported research and development on alternative instructional approaches, including radio math and Spanish, achievement testing, and a new school model. The project also addressed systemwide issues through assistance to the management information system and policy development.

Two impressive results of the project were the Guatemalan government’s decisions to nearly double its funding for basic education and to expand the project. The government also issued textbooks free from gender stereotypes, free to all primary schools. Other donors improved their support for girls’ education issues.

4. Reduction of adult illiteracy rate, especially gender disparities

The World Declaration on Education for All affirmed the right of adults to have access to education: "Every person—child, youth and adult—shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs." The EFA Framework for Action further emphasized the need to improve female literacy, since 70 percent of the world’s illiterate population are women.

The United States has worked in partnership with others around the world to combat adult illiteracy. In South Africa, for example, USAID and its U.S. partners developed adult learning materials that are now being used in two provinces. They also developed unit standards for an adult education program in agriculture and small and medium enterprise development. In Mozambique, Save the Children established centers to provide basic literacy training for adults, primarily women. In Haiti, more than 1,800 women have taken Save the Children’s adult literacy classes, which include basic reading and writing, advanced reading, basic numeracy, and functional literacy. Lessons include discussions about health, education, and money management.

Nepal has conducted adult literacy programs for more than 20 years, with extensive Ministry-of-Education support, funding from international donors, and implementation assistance from U.S. organizations. One U.S.-assisted family literacy program enables mothers to keep track of their children’s illnesses, immunizations, and stages of development. Another combines literacy, health, and family planning. A third focuses on literacy, finances, and women’s empowerment. As the accompanying box demonstrates, the results of such programs are becoming evident.

5. Expansion of basic education and training in other essential skills

The foregoing discussion suggests that some assistance programs take an integrated approach—that is, they combine basic literacy and learning with raised awareness about other aspects of life, such as health and reproduction. This approach to giving people practical and life skills is becoming a more common element of basic education programs than before. It is now understood that adult literacy programs work best if they are tied to practical skills or knowledge that one needs to be a productive citizen or family member. Literacy is attained and retained better under those conditions.

U.S.-assisted programs in Latin America, Africa, and Asia have introduced practical skills into programs for both children and adults. In Mali and Egypt, for example, U.S. organizations have helped develop a life skills curriculum for the schools. In Honduras, a radio program integrated literacy and encouragement toward democracy as it informed adults about their legal rights and responsibility to vote.

6. Increased acquisition of knowledge, skills, and values for better living

Multiple learning channels are helping to meet the needs of diverse populations and to ensure that people are able to acquire knowledge throughout life. Such channels range from newspapers and educational theater to radios, computers, and community learning centers. The phrases "model of use" or "model of application" are often used to describe a combination of information and educational technologies that increase the impact of basic education systems within and outside school settings.

Nepal: Literacy Programs

Nepal’s literacy programs have helped increase the literacy rate for women and out-of-school adolescent girls. In four years, from 1991 to 1996, the literacy rate in some districts rose from 22 percent to 28 percent. In 1997, more than 100,000 women learned to read, write, and count. The most notable outcome of the literacy training, perhaps, is the world of practical skills it opened up and the improved quality of life it created for the participants.

This was not just literacy for literacy’s sake. One USAID-funded program, for example, offered micro-enterprise training and a women’s legal rights curriculum. An evaluation of the various programs noted changes in the behaviors and attitudes of the newly literate women. In some instances, they were more politically aware, had more self-confidence and mobility and participated more in groups outside their families, had greater control over their family income, and were able to envision a different future for themselves and their children.133

[Text Chart – Nepal: Literacy Programs ]

Many efforts in this regard have been underway throughout the 1990s. U.S. organizations tested the effectiveness of multichannel distance education in improving instructional quality in Haitian primary schools, assisted Lesotho and South Africa with radio English programs in the early grades, expanded Nepal’s teacher education outreach through radio programs, and provided radio math and health assistance to Bolivia. Innovative programs are underway, as the following boxes indicate, in Morocco, Ghana, and Paraguay to equip young people and adults for a global society and lifelong learning.

Morocco: Skills for a Global Economy

Morocco’s Ministry of National Education has announced a bold initiative—to introduce computers throughout the country’s education system by 2008. The ultimate goal is to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in the global economy. The urgency is great, therefore, for teacher training programs that will enable teachers to prepare students for using computers in the classroom. Furthermore, the difficulty of providing in-service training for thousands of teachers, even without the new technology imperative, points to the need for alternatives to traditional training programs. Certain innovative activities aimed at making a difference are already underway, some with assistance from USAID.

A low-cost technology project with Morocco’s teacher training institutes is creating a dynamic learning environment for teachers, trainers, inspectors, and other ministry staff. It fosters "horizontal" building of teaching capacity by linking participants in five provinces with each other via computer networks in which they exchange learning materials and information about their practices and experiences. The asynchronous—that is, non-time-dependent—approach allows the learners to send and receive information at their convenience.

The Web site will also offer the opportunity for teachers and other participants to communicate with experts abroad, exchanging ideas and instructional materials and discussing educational issues of mutual interest. School-to-school programs are likewise a distinct possibility.

The project is developing distance learning courses for pre-service and in-service professional development. It is also supporting a ministry-level plan for "master information teachers"— that is, "ambassadors of technology"—who will champion the use of learning technologies and support teachers who are uncomfortable with computers or information technology in general.

Ghana: Lifelong Learning

A project in Ghana is facing head-on the challenges of lifelong learning and non-traditional access to education and with USAID assistance is developing a creative solution to the problems. The project is establishing community learning centers to enhance basic education, train teachers, develop local businesses, strengthen municipal administration and civil society organizations, and provide health care information.

Ultimately, the centers will provide learning system services to a variety of organizations, companies, and individuals throughout the country. Community and NGO leaders, service providers in a variety of fields, educators and students, and businesses, all of whom will not only have new access to computer technologies but will receive training in their use.

The community learning centers build on the telecenter concept but emphasize the learning functions of the communication technologies. Three Ghanain NGOs house the centers to ensure broad public access and preserve the learning focus. The NGO staff have been trained in computer literacy, Internet orientation, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation graphics, Web site development, and training methodologies, to cite just some of the areas. The NGOs, in turn, offer similar training opportunities to the public.

Paraguay: Community Learning Centers

In Asunción, Paraguay, the community learning center project, also funded by USAID, developed a mind of its own. What began as a plan for municipal telecenters to automate activities, such as registering to vote, paying bills, applying for licenses and permits, and accessing information about business development and civic education, has grown to include an educational focus. Teachers take students to explore the science and geography CD-ROMS available at the centers, and some students are using the Internet to conduct research for class presentations. At one center, as many as 360 children a week use the center’s electronic capabilities to improve their reading, writing, math, and basic computer skills.

Two centers, located in primary schools, benefit students and teachers as well as the entire community. At one school, teachers, parents, and students designed their own computer training sessions and took up collections to buy educational software. They collaborate with the community to ensure that everyone who wishes it has access to the center after school hours. The second center has scheduled hours of operations to extend availability to the entire community.

4. Challenges/Areas for Continuing U.S. Assistance

As the 20th century concludes, nations and funding agencies are considering the role education should play in preparing people to be productive citizens of the next century. In doing so, they face challenges posed by those who support continuity rather than the innovations necessary to supplement existing educational systems and meet the needs of people in a fast-changing world.

Voices as diverse as UNESCO, UNICEF, Merrill Lynch, The New York Times, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the World Bank have addressed aspects of the subject of assistance. Most agree on certain "givens." There is consensus that the gap must be reduced between the privileged minority who benefit from progress and the substantial majority who suffer from it, and that educational opportunities must be broadened to ensure educational equality. They agree that, given technological and scientific advances and the increasing importance of knowledge, the creation of a "learning society" is critical. Consensus also exists that early childhood care and development and lifelong learning must be given more prominence on educational policy agendas and that new players must participate in the education process. Learning to live in a global village while maintaining individual and cultural identities will become a greater challenge.

While long agendas vie for limited educational funding, one cannot lose sight of what UNESCO points out:

The basis for a learning society is a formal education system, where each individual is introduced to the many different forms of knowledge. There is no substitute for the teacher-pupil relationship. . . .

EFA’s emphasis on universal primary education and basic learning needs, as defined in the 1990 Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs and reiterated in the 1999 revised draft framework, is well placed. In the early educational stages, therefore, emphasis must remain on the basics—literacy, numeracy, problem solving—met through programs that stress quality, teacher preparation, and assessment. With a solid educational base created in the early years, people will be prepared to continue learning as adults outside classroom walls.

For nations to be prepared for the world of 2015, however, the definition of "basic" learning and its time frame must expand. We now know that learning begins at birth, that it is intense during the preschool years, and that it must continue throughout life if individuals and nations are to be productive and technologically skilled in a global economy.

A "holistic structure of knowledge and skills" is, therefore, necessary, as Haddad has noted:

The diversified economic, social, and political demands on education leave countries with no choice but to invest in building the whole structure of knowledge and skills. With such profound changes in technology and the economy, a country forgoes the opportunity for advancement when it focuses on one level to the disadvantage of others. The workforce of the future will need a whole spectrum of knowledge and skills to deal with technology and the globalization of knowledge. It will also need to be agile and flexible, to adjust to continuous change, both economic and social. This means that countries must embrace a holistic approach to education, investing in building the whole pyramid of knowledge and skills concurrently. Each level in the structure has its own importance, and one cannot be traded for another. . . In some countries, the pyramid has been rather thin, but the way to broaden the base is not to truncate the top. A proportionate fattening of the pyramid is probably the most balanced approach.

The following section notes challenges to basic education that lie ahead and points out some of the shortcomings of the United States that must be addressed if it is to be effective in assisting others. Dwindling foreign assistance funds for education is one major concern. The section also elaborates on areas in which the United States has a deep interest and in which it welcomes opportunities to partner with other donors and organizations to address the challenges.


Educational equity means access to learning opportunities in school and outside for all people, including disenfranchised and disadvantaged populations, the most common of which are girls and women, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities. In grappling with equity challenges at home, the United States continues to learn from rich, public debate on the issues. For the past ten years, U.S. assistance programs abroad have incorporated lessons learned from those debates, which air the opinions of diverse groups.

Gender gap. At a Steering Committee meeting in Paris in October 1999, the EFA Forum Secretariat presented a new action plan for education in the 21st century. The plan includes the gender gap as one of five themes. Shortly thereafter, as the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women approached and the United Nations anticipated the special session of the General Assembly in June 2000, Beijing Plus Five, the United States sponsored Women 2000-Beijing Plus Five. The conference highlighted the fact that gender equity remains a continuing concern around the world.

The attention to the gender gap, since Jomtien, is beginning to pay off, although much remains to be accomplished. Gender gaps remain particularly large in much of sub-Saharan Africa and in many countries in Asia and the Near East. In Asia, the financial crisis of the late 1990s is expected to slow regional progress toward gender equality over the next few years.

A strong women’s movement in the United States has attracted the attention of the general population to inequities in the classroom as well as elsewhere—for example, curriculums insensitive to gender, teaching methodologies that favor boys over girls, or standardized tests with questions that put girls at a disadvantage. Drawing on lessons learned, U.S. international assistance programs have been able to introduce gender-sensitive reform elements that, in many instances, are showing success. Gender equity is decidedly a field in which the United States wishes to continue partnering with others to eliminate discriminatory educational practices.

Ethnic minorities. Indian populations of Latin America, tribal groups outside the mainstream in Africa, and political and economic immigrants within Asia are but three types of ethnic minorities disadvantaged by educational systems that discriminate because of language or nationality. Even when discrimination is not the driving force, the financial cost to a country of accommodating such additions to the educational system as diverse languages of instruction and curriculum materials can be daunting. USAID has assisted worldwide with development of curriculum and instructional materials for bilingual programs. It has helped initiate interactive radio language arts programs for children who will switch from instruction in their mother tongues in the early grades to English in later grades. The U.S. experience with multicultural populations and second-language instructional programs within its own boundaries is one that can be shared internationally.

People with disabilities. UNESCO estimates that only 2 percent of approximately 120 to 150 million children with disabilities worldwide are in school, and the World Health Organization estimates that only 5 percent receive any schooling or rehabilitation. Everyone loses when millions of children are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute to, and participate fully in, society.

In some countries, the disabled population is nearly 20 percent of the total population because of inadequate medical services, violence and conflict, and natural and other disasters. Women and girls with disabilities in particular are under-served.

With such a small proportion of children with disabilities receiving education, it is clear that there is still a long way to go before reaching the goal of an all-inclusive society with equal access to services. USAID and other donors have placed the disabilities issue on the global agenda. There are now some examples of donor agencies and international and grassroots non-profit organizations working in partnership to improve the accessibility of education for persons with disabilities. Nonetheless, vast inequities remain. The United States has made considerable strides domestically in this field, supported by legislation, and can bring some of that experience to bear on its work internationally.

Educational quality

The Declaration on Education for All emphasized learning in addition to access: "The focus of basic education must. . .be on actual learning acquisition and outcome, rather than exclusively upon enrolment. . . .It is therefore necessary to define acceptable levels of learning acquisition for educational programs and to improve and apply systems of assessing learning achievement."

The educational systems of many countries are geared to the needs of well-off, urban children at the expense of poor children, those less prepared to learn, and those in rural areas. As a result, many children do not succeed in the early grades: they repeat and eventually drop out. Improving educational quality for them, and for all children, must be on the policy agendas of all countries.

The United States has dedicated foreign assistance funds to improving educational quality over the past decade and is committed to continuing to do so. USAID and its partner organizations, working with host country governments and educators, can help governments identify constraints to educational quality. These include unrealistic expectations of early learning by poorly prepared children, outdated teaching methods, inappropriate use of tests, and poor teacher motivation often tied to poor educational management.

At the start of the decade, educational policy stressed provision of educational access to meet goals such as education for all. Often teachers with minimum qualifications were recruited to meet the demands. But as early as 1993 the shift of policy focus from access to quality of education was apparent, and this led to a concentration on improving the quality of those teaching or planing to do so. The policy decisions that Malawi and Uganda made to enroll all children in school called further attention to the need to accompany an emphasis on access with an emphasis on quality.

Furthermore, it was becoming increasingly evident that acquisition of learning included—in addition to literacy and numeracy—problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and diligent, creative work habits. As USAID has noted, personal, cultural, and social issues, and not economic change alone, are driving the rethinking of educational quality. The issues include family decisions about health, nutrition, family size, and child rearing; concerns about the natural environment; preservation of local cultures; and participation in a changing political climate.

Funding cuts

According to a Washington Post article, in the 1990s, one of America’s most prosperous decades ever, the United States "set a record for stinginess. For as long as people have kept track, never has the United States given a smaller share of its money to the world’s poorest." In 1997, the U.S. government spent approximately $7 billion on nonmilitary foreign aid. That amount was well under 1 percent of the $8.1 trillion gross national product and the lowest percentage of any donor country.

The United States has cut human development programs, which fund developing world education programs, by at least one-third since 1995, according to InterAction, "a deeper and more disproportionate cut than in any other part of the foreign aid budget." Just 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget is devoted to foreign aid, and less than half of that 1 percent goes to fight world hunger and poverty. Education assistance falls into that category. Although basic education has managed to maintain a steady level of funding since 1995 in the USAID budget owing to intense efforts by USAID and education advocacy groups, that amount, according to some government officials and the education community, is only one-third of the amount necessary to support EFA goals.

Some polls have shown that 80 percent of Americans believe that the United States has a moral obligation to support programs that directly benefit the world’s poorest people. According to InterAction, each year millions of American demonstrate this belief by volunteering and contributing to help private U.S.-based relief and development organizations like the American Red Cross, CARE, and World Vision. For every $1 that private voluntary organizations receive from the U.S. government, they raise $3 from the American public— in a critical public-private partnership that works to leverage resources and meet human needs."

But voluntary efforts are not enough to meet EFA goals. The arguments are strong, therefore, for the United States to increase its foreign assistance funding, which will benefit basic education goals. Foreign assistance helps save lives and builds peace and prosperity. More than ever before economies, cultures, and people are closely linked. Furthermore, the foreign assistance success record for education alone argues for continued aid to the developing world: literacy rates have almost doubled; primary school enrollment has increased from 48 to 77 percent; and enrollment of girls has more than doubled.

International education NGOs in the United States are committed to assisting the 1.3 billion people in the world who survive on less than US$1 a day. They advocate strongly for increasing the international affairs budget, especially the percentage of funds available for education programs, and for making human capacity-building a primary goal of U.S. foreign policy, with a special emphasis on programs that focus on girls and women.

Thinking Differently

Thomas Edison did not tinker with candles in order to make them burn better. He invented something new—the lightbulb.

"We don’t need to think MORE; we need to think DIFFERENTLY!"

— Albert Einstein

"I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."

— Wayne Gretzky, ice hockey champion

— from The Book of Knowledge

New educational models

Many in the public and private sectors in the United States are increasingly challenging educators and the general public to "think outside of the box" and consider new educational models to supplement current ones. That challenge is equally relevant to the rest of the world.

Merrill Lynch notes in a 1999 publication, The Book of Knowledge, that our knowledge-based economy demands a new view of education. What was once a four-year university course of study will become a 40-year one. Educational content, rather than learners, will be mobile. Educational programs tailored to a learner’s needs will replace or supplement standardized ones, and courses by celebrity professors at brand-name universities will be widely available on the Internet. Virtual learning communities will replace isolated learning.

 New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman comments on one aspect of the new education model: the connection between education and the Web and the ability of the Internet to break down classroom walls. Friedman notes the quick electronic progression occurring—from e-mail and e-commerce to the absorption of the Internet into all aspects of business to education. The competitive global economy will drive the education phase, as companies grapple with demands to keep improving productivity.

The growing emphasis on supplementary learning systems for learning beyond the confines of school buildings and over a lifetime demands attention at multiple levels, probably simultaneously. While much of the learning without walls will occur after primary school, the entire system from primary school on will be involved. That probably means what Haddad called a "radical systemic change" and will necessitate action on four fronts:

• A reorientation of the curriculum to allow for the best use of information technology.

• An accelerated investment in information infrastructure, including computers, connectivity, electrification, and personnel.

• A program of professional orientation and training so that teachers and administrators can learn to use the technology and integrate it into the curriculum.

• An investment in educational software development. Countries will need to invest in curriculum-related software just as they invest in instructional materials now. Some software can be used worldwide and can thus be produced as a collaborative effort.

These are many of the areas in which the United States can assist other nations. Some assistance is already underway. LearnLink, for example, a program that the Academy for Educational Development has implemented with USAID support, has forged new lines of action and created new models for Internet and computer-based learning in countries worldwide. It has established learning information centers and distance teacher training centers that are changing the way people learn beyond the traditional classroom walls.

Middle-income countries

As part of an international cooperative agenda, the United States has become engaged in a relationship, uncommon ten years ago, with certain middle-income countries. The collaboration furthers shared interests such as research and development and public-private partnerships.

Built around trade and globalization, the partnerships entail actors and aspects of education not ordinarily associated with the EFA community. These include bilateral relationships that the United States has entered into with Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Mexico, and South Africa. Some emphasize technology and mathematics rather than literacy.

The partnership with Brazil, for which the U.S. Department of Education is the lead agency for the United States, has resulted in ways for educators, researchers, policy makers, and business people to share state-of-the-art educational information and technology. USAID funds the Learning Technologies Network, a key activity under the partnership. LTNet, as it is called, encourages networking among educators to advance learning through effective use of technology; collaboration for joint research, educational activities, learning, and business ventures; and access to current resources about educational technology.

The United States encourages such bilateral partnerships to build future R&D and technological agendas and welcomes the opportunity to engage in new collaborations at the same time it continues its assistance to developing-world nations, where the vast majority of children are in need.

Countries in crisis

In the post-cold war world, more and more countries are experiencing civil or regional wars driven by nationalistic and ethnic politics. In sub-Saharan Africa, one-quarter of the countries are in conflict and another quarter are in transition from war to peace. Africa is not alone in this state of affairs, as crises in Kosovo, Bosnia, and elsewhere indicate.

Education assistance can no longer be considered a luxury that must yield to attention to other basic human needs during a crisis—food, water, health care, and shelter, for example. They must all exist in tandem. Furthermore, education assistance is important not only during times of crisis but also beforehand, to prevent crisis, and afterward, to ease a country’s transition to normalcy. In general, education assistance:

• Responds to the educational needs of refugees.

• Prevents conflict and promotes ethnic tolerance in democratic societies.

• Saves what otherwise might be a lost generation if countries in crisis put educational development of children and adults on hold.

• Constitutes an essential tool for healing the psychological wounds of children and adults who experience brutality, violence, and separation.

• Represents a useful tool for developing the skills necessary for survival and stabilization of communities during the refugee phase and reconstruction in the post-conflict phase.

Some innovative work is already underway in providing assistance to countries in crisis or at risk of it. The Global Information Networks in Education (GINIE), for example, is one such program of potential interest to others. Housed at the University of Pittsburgh, GINIE is a virtual learning community for education innovation. Through Internet-based technology, educators, researchers, practitioners, and donors working in nations in crisis and at risk to disruption gain rapid access to information and expertise. They learn from each other, inform the public, and share locally created materials for policy dialogue, professional development, and classroom exchange.

The United States views conflict avoidance and resolution, and educational assistance to countries in crisis, as areas in which it has experience it can share. It welcomes the opportunity to do so.

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