Welcome to the April installment of The Puggle, your source for the emerging issues and findings related to girls’ education that the Echidna Giving team has come across this month!
In April, the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings served as a catalyst for the education community. The Global Partnership for Education launched its Replenishment Case for Investment, which aims to reverse the trend of declining aid to education and increase its own budget to $2 billion annually by 2020. The Education Commission argued for an International Finance Facility for Education to further expand education financing. After becoming an honorary Canadian citizen, Malala promptly asked Canada to make girls’ education central to their G7 presidency.
And the World Bank offered a preview of the first ever World Development Report focused on education, which aims to “make it clear for the development community as a whole this problem of the hidden exclusion and education failing those who need the boost from education the most.” That puts a premium on ensuring that the call for more money to education is accompanied by reforms that ensure financial outlays translate into learning outcomes. Barbara Bruns and Eric Hanushek argue that a universal test of learning for 9-year-olds would be a good way to “focus first on a meaningful measure of what kids know, so we can hold ourselves accountable for progress.”
The World Development Report will also highlight how current learning deficits “are likely to be felt even more keenly as markets continue to globalize and advances in technology and automation transform the workforce.” The Center for Universal Education’s annual research and policy symposium highlighted a similar message. Its Skills for a Changing World Report looks at the breadth of skills that will be required for success in work and in life and how governments around the world are working to incorporate these skills in their schools.
March was all about women and girls, but now that International Women’s Day has passed, there’s been more talk about the disadvantages that boys face in education. Out of the U.S. context comes research suggesting that in the context of early childhood care, “boys are more sensitive to disadvantage and responsive to intervention.” (Though there is no doubt that when high quality care is available, women are also BIG winners: “government spending on early childhood care and education had the single biggest effect on boosting women’s employment, earnings and fertility rate and on decreasing gender pay gaps.”)
Looking internationally, this World Bank blog provides a useful summary of the ways in which girls are “smarter” than boys and this report from USAID talks about boys’ underachievement in reading. Despite evidence that boys underperform girls in many domains, both reports touch on the importance of ensuring education systems work for both boys and girls. The literature review from USAID points out the “notion that socially acceptable male behaviors that are often incongruent with academic achievement are also the ones that maintain male dominance in society is critical to addressing boys’ and girls’ achievement...rather than drawing attention away from the need to focus on girls’ education, it emphasizes that boys’ underperformance has not been shown to take away the benefits of male advantage in the long run...Therefore the focus on girls’ education is still justified, as girls will need both academic achievement and social empowerment to match male advantage in the post-school setting.”
We will continue to monitor news coming from the new administration regarding the future of US government funding of aid and initiatives that impact gender and girls education such as the Let Girls Learn and Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment efforts at USAID.