Basic education and gender equality

‘Beyond School Books’ – a podcast series on education in emergencies

Podcast #24: Innovative financing for education

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0199/Noorani
In the remote village of Jacquot Merlin, Haiti, children return to school for the first time since the January earthquake. While investments in education can take time to realize results, the long-term benefits are enormous.

By Pi James

NEW YORK, USA, 21 April 2010 – The global economic downturn, escalating conflicts and widespread disasters threaten to reverse advances made in the last decade in increasing enrolment and reducing the gender gap in schools around the world.

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Kevin Watkins, Director of UNESCO’s Education For All Global Monitoring Report (GMR), and Daniel Altman, President of North Yard Economics – a not-for-profit consulting firm serving governments and non-governmental organizations in developing countries – recently spoke with UNICEF podcast moderator Amy Costello about the importance of finding new ways to invest in education for all.

Global public good
In the podcast discussion, Mr. Altman argues that education must be viewed as a “global public good.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0994/Noorani
A girl raises her hand during a class held outdoors at Pul-e-Rangeena Government Primary School for Girls in the north-western city of Herat, Afghanistan. Without continued investment in the rebuilding of Afghanistan’s infrastructure and education systems, development will stagnate.

“When we improve the level of education in developing countries it, benefits people all around the world,” he explains. “Countries with higher education rates tend to be less likely to engage in conflict [and] less likely to have public health problems.”

Mr. Watkins agrees, stressing the need for the education community, including UN agencies, to make a better, stronger case for investing in schools.

“The messages feel tired,” he says. “We’re not good at communicating. We’re not dynamic. We haven’t really identified innovative financing approaches at a global level that can make a difference, and we haven’t built these public-private partnerships that have done so much to transform health.”

Return in investment

Mr. Altman contends that while investments in education can longer to see results than investments in health or other areas, “the benefits are huge.”

In fact, he adds, if the education sector received donor and government support similar to that of the health sector, “the returns to that kind of investment would be absolutely stunning.”

Mr. Watkins sees the renewed engagement of international donors as vital to minimizing the effects of the global economic downturn.

“We are facing, in many of the world’s poorest countries, a dramatic deterioration in the budget position of governments,” he says. “In the face of that sort of budget squeeze, it’s really imperative that we see international donors stepping up to the plate.”




Podcast #24: Innovative financing for education. Moderator Amy Costello speaks with Kevin Watkins of UNESCO and Daniel Altman of North Yard Economics about the importance of investing in education.
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