Access to safe, inclusive, quality education is a basic human right and an essential pillar of ending extreme poverty. Education plays a key role in developing important skills and resources, improving health outcomes (including nutrition and immunization) promoting gender equality, and advancing economic development, peace, and stability.
Investing in quality education is critical for developing the human capital that will end extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, “for individuals, education promotes employment, earnings, health, and poverty reduction. Globally, there is a 9% increase in hourly earnings for one extra year of schooling. For societies, it drives long-term economic growth, spurs innovation, strengthens institutions, and fosters social cohesion.”
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 aims to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. Although great strides have been made getting children into classrooms, a staggering 258 million children and youth were out of primary and secondary school before the COVID-19 pandemic. To compound the problem, many of those going to school are not acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after leaving school. The World Bank estimates that 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read proficiently by age 10.
The pandemic has exacerbated this global learning crisis even further, with more than 1.5 billion students affected by school closures. As COVID-19 has undermined hard-won gains in education and caused two-thirds of low- and middle-income countries to cut their public education budgets – further investments in education are crucial to address gaps in quality and access.
School offers a safe space for children to grow and thrive while learning the critical skills needed to advance in their communities, such as reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as basic reasoning and socio-emotional skills.
Despite the advances in access to education in recent decades, the United Nations (UN) warns that quality education is shockingly low and signals a global learning crisis for children. According to UNESCO, more than 617 million children and adolescents of primary and lower secondary school age do not achieve minimum proficiency levels in reading and math. It is estimated that 88% of all students in Sub-Saharan Africa will not be able to read proficiently by the time they complete primary and lower secondary education.
The data from UNESCO points to three root causes for this alarming situation: lack of access to school to learn foundational skills, low retention rates of students with high drop-out rates, and poor quality of classroom practices that leave millions of children unable to read, write, and do math. This learning crisis jeopardizes opportunities for youth and young adults to succeed and thrive in communities once they leave school. This level of learning poverty further translates to a reduction of quality in the labour force and shortage of skills that threaten the economic future of many countries.
A key obstacle to achieving the UN’s ambitious SDG 4 target on equitable access to quality education, is persistent disparities in education participation linked to gender and limited access to quality education in humanitarian emergencies and conflict settings.
Worldwide, girls face multiple barriers to education including distance to school, cultural norms and practices, school-related gender-based violence, and early or forced marriage. An estimated 129 million girls globally were already out of school before the pandemic and 20 million more secondary school girls could be out of school following the pandemic. Investments in girls’ education yield high returns for poverty eradication, economic growth, and sustainable development. When girls go to school, their lifetime earnings dramatically increase, national growth rates rise, child marriage rates decline, maternal and child mortality rates fall, and child stunting drops.
In humanitarian emergencies, where children and youth who do not go to school become more at risk of violence, sexual exploitation, forced labor, and permanent displacement, education is an urgent priority. in emergencies because it provides a safe space with social protections for children, fostering resilience, inclusion and tolerance, and supporting the long-term processes of recovery and peacebuilding. An estimated 128 million primary and secondary students are out of school in crisis-affected countries, including 67 million girls. As education is a key lever and catalyst for all development outcomes, we must ensure that all children have access to quality education.
Canada has a long-standing legacy of supporting global education and has continuously demonstrated leadership on protecting rights to quality education for girls, refugees, and other at-risk children around the world. This leadership is anchored in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), which articulates support for equal educational opportunities for women and girls in low- and middle-income countries as one of the most effective ways to eradicate extreme poverty.
Canada is a founding partner of both the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW). GPE and ECW are large multilateral organizations that work to ensure all children and youth have access to quality education, including during humanitarian emergencies. The government has invested millions of dollars in both organizations because of their proven and measurable impact, scalability of programs, and innovative approach to partnerships with country governments. Canada also advocated internationally for increased investment in global education at the Charlevoix G7 and has led global policy on access to education for refugees and forcibly displaced populations through the recent launch of the Together for Learning campaign.
In 2018, Canada took extraordinary steps during the G7 presidency hosted in Charlevoix, Quebec by placing women and girls’ education at the heart of the agenda.
The historic Charlevoix Declaration was affirmed by global leaders and leveraged over CAD $3.8 billion towards improving access and reducing barriers to quality education for women and girls around the world, specifically in conflict situations.
Building off of the ambitions of the Charlevoix Declaration, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a call for Canada to “lead an international campaign to ensure that all refugee and displaced children can get the education they need and deserve” in the 2019 mandate letter for the Minister of International Development Karina Gould.
In keeping with this priority, Minister Gould launched the ‘Together for Learning’ Campaign on February 8, 2021. This campaign aims to promote quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for refugees, others who have been forcibly displaced, and host community children and youth around the world.
Results Canada works alongside civil society members, non-profit organizations, policy experts, people with lived experience, teachers, and students who work in the global education space to build a strong and unified voice for maximized impact in quality education. Results Canada has been a leader on advocacy campaigns for global education, including ongoing advocacy for investments towards the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Since 2002, Canadian investments towards the GPE have contributed to seeing 160 million more children in school.
Results Canada also played an instrumental role in the advocacy surrounding the successful outcome at the Charlevoix G7 Summit. By engaging with parliamentarians, writing LTEs, and speaking out on social media, our community took meaningful actions in the lead up to the Charlevoix Declaration that leveraged CAD$3.8 billion from global leaders. Learn more by reading about Results Canada Executive Director Chris Dendys’ favourite advocacy moment which took place in the lead up to the 2018 G7 Summit.
Results Canada is a member of the Canadian International Education Policy Working Group (CIEPWG), a coalition of international development, humanitarian, and advocacy agencies working to support policies and programs to improve access to safe, inclusive, and quality education for all children and youth. We also work closely with the International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNED) to mobilize parliamentarians around the world to accelerate the political will necessary to ensure access to quality education for all.