Students of St Dominic Bukna Secondary school take their English test YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

The Asset We Cannot Afford to Neglect

Improving education outcomes will demand national-level reforms underpinned by a relentless focus on quality, equity, and results. But, at a time of fiscal austerity in donor countries, the International Finance Facility for Education's promise to stretch donor dollars further could not be more important.

LONDON – “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” wrote Benjamin Franklin. A fervent advocate for public education, and a founder of libraries, schools, and the University of Pennsylvania, Franklin viewed education as the foundation of human progress. If he were alive today, he would be horrified by the state of education in developing countries – and he would most likely be backing the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) proposed by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, led by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In an increasingly knowledge-based global economy, quality education is more important than ever. Yet the world is facing an education crisis. Some 260 million children are not even in school. More than twice that number are in school, but learning so little that they will emerge without the basic literacy and numeracy they need to flourish. This is not only destroying the hopes of young people; it is impeding the progress of entire countries – and thus of the world.

Three years ago, world leaders committed to Sustainable Development Goal 4, which calls for the provision of inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. Yet, if current trends continue, more than 800 million children will fall short of that target. Given the importance of education for virtually every meaningful indicator of development – from child survival to maternal health and poverty reduction – this failure will spill over to other SDGs.

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