Promoting quality education for all.

Editorial: Educate girls to get bang for our foreign-aid bucks

September 10, 2011

Source: The Houston Chronicle

Around the world, 67 million kids don't go to school at all. Of those, the majority are girls. And for the U.S., that's a problem.

Long-term, it's in America's military and economic best interests to have a planet full of stable, prosperous countries. Shaky, poor nations create terrorists. Stable, prosperous nations buy iPhones and Coca-Cola.

So, what makes a country stable and prosperous? Education - particularly the education of girls, who in poor countries are far less likely to attend school than boys. Educated women make more money, are healthier, and have healthier kids. One study, for instance, found that for a girl in a poor country, each year of school past third or fourth grade increases her wages by 20 percent, and decreases by 10 percent the odds that her children will die of preventable causes.

But sadly, much of the world's girl power isn't being tapped. According to a recent report by the RESULTS Educational Fund and the Global Fund for Education, in 47 of 54 African countries, girls have less than a 50 percent chance of attending secondary school. A girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than to finish high school.

We've been impressed by the bang for the buck delivered by The Education For All - Fast Track Initiative. Launched by UNESCO in 2002, it tries to ensure that all kids (boys and girls) get reasonable educations.

To receive Fast Track Initiative money, a country must create a worthy national education plan and fund much of it itself - a requirement that not only leverages the aid grants' power, but means that the countries are literally invested in the program's success.

To date, Fast Track has supported 45 low-income countries, including Afghanistan and 24 African countries. Between 2004 and 2008, the number of kids enrolled in school in African Fast Track countries shot up by 50 percent. And in all Fast Track countries, between 2000 and 2008, the number of girls enrolled in school doubled. No wonder the G-8 has called Fast Track a model of aid effectiveness.

This year, Fast Track asks that the U.S. make a three-year, $375 million pledge. We're asking, too. The world's girl power is a terrible thing to waste.

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