Did you know that 57 million primary-aged children worldwide do not have the opportunity to attend school? Additionally, 69 million adolescents are not able to get a quality education. And of the many children who are fortunate enough to have some formal education, 250 million do not have basic literacy and math skills. These are alarming figures, because data shows that a good education can lead to a better life and a stronger economy.
Last July on Malala Day, the UN’s call to action for governments, donors, organizations and individuals to support education was made stronger by the voices of youth from around the world. Their message was very clear: education must be at the forefront of the public agenda for both individual nations and the international development community.
The United States is answering this call and has formally joined the UN Global Education First Initiative through its new role as a Champion Country. We pledge to serve as an advocate and leader in promoting equitable access to quality education in order to achieve national and international development goals -- particularly in crisis and conflict environments.
In support of this Initiative, the United States will promote education as a strategic investment, rather than an expense. We will also work to expand the use of educational technologies and innovation to enhance learning, workforce development, and global competencies and skills for youth and adults.
As a Champion Country, our foreign assistance, including USAID’s “Room to Learn” and contributions to the Global Partnership for Education, will help make a difference in countries that need it most. Our education diplomacy efforts already build bridges between people through innovative programs like the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative and through public-private partnerships, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), that advance the use of educational technologies.
The countdown to the Millennium Development Goals and planning for the Post-2015 Development Agenda has begun. We will continue to strive to get those 57 million primary-aged children -- 40 percent of whom reside in countries affected by conflict -- back in school by 2015. By championing the goals of the UN Global Education First Initiative, we have the opportunity to prepare more young people to be part of the 21st century workforce and more fully contribute to the peace and stability of their societies.