Recognizing we need education for all

Globally, 59 million children of primary school age (age 5-11) do not have the opportunity for education. Half of this number can be attributed to conflict and fragile states. Thirty million of these children are girls. It is time to officially recognize literacy and education as a tool to lift communities out of poverty.

Education is reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also so much more. In addition to primary students out of school, 65 million adolescents (age 12-15) are not in attendance. Of children in school, 250 million are not learning basic skills in reading, writing, and math or are dropping out before the fourth grade. In addition, an estimated 103 million youth cannot read or write. The impact of all of this is widespread.

  • If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64% – from almost 2.9 million to just over 1 million per year;
  • One extra year of schooling can raise an individual’s earnings by as much as 10 percent. For girls, the return on a year of secondary education correlates with as high as a 25 percent increase in wages later in life;
  • As little as four years of primary schooling can boost a farmer’s productivity by nearly 9 percent;
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 1.8 million children’s lives could be saved if their mothers had at least secondary education;
  • If all mothers completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds, saving 189,000 lives;
  • Primary school education can decrease the number of HIV infections per year by as much as 700,000 worldwide;
  • Research has shown that every additional year of schooling reduces an adolescent boy’s risk of becoming involved in conflict by 20 percent.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act of 2017 (H.R. 601, S.623), previously known as the Education for All Act, is a bill that will amend U.S. foreign assistance to provide support to countries so that every child can go to school and so that the education they receive in school is high quality. This bill authorizes no new spending but works by mandating that the U.S. develop a comprehensive integrated strategy to promote basic education and increase transparency. Work will focus on marginalized populations, including girls, children with disabilities, and children who are affected by conflict, such as Syrian refugees. Also included in the strategy will be children who have been affected by domestic violence, early marriage, and gender-based violence. 

The bill passed in the House earlier this year and has now passed in the Senate. But due to changes in the Senate version, the House will need to pass it again. Thank your Senators and ask your Representatives to support this critical bill.

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