Plan International USA calls on the U.S. Government and the international community to maintain investments to improve policies, strategies, and programs that ensure universal access to quality education for children, particularly girls and children who are at-risk, marginalized, and vulnerable.
Plan supports the international benchmark of 20 percent minimum of national budgets, or six percent of the Gross National Product, to be allocated to education, half of which should be spent on basic education. Globally, 263 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school, including:
- 61 million children of primary school age (6-11 years);
- 60 million young adolescents of lower secondary school age (12-14 years); and
- 142 million youth of upper secondary school age (15-17 years).
More than half of all out of school children live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Girls, children with disabilities, and children from ethnic, cultural, or linguistic minority groups are often the hardest hit and are most frequently excluded from education.
Of the 25 million children who will never start school, 15 million are girls. Poverty heightens disparity in access to education: in the poorest 20 percent of households, only 64 percent of all school-aged children enroll in school, compared to 90 percent of children in the richest 20 percent of households.
The social and economic benefits of education for girls are well documented. A long-term study in Guatemala found that for each additional year a girl spent in school, the age at which she had her first child was delayed by approximately 6-10 months. A single year of primary school for a girl has been shown to increase women’s wages later in life by 10 to 20 percent, while the returns on female secondary education are between 15 and 25 percent. Increasing girls’ access to education improves their maternal health: in Burkina Faso, mothers with secondary education are twice as likely to give birth more safely in health facilities as those with no education.
While gender gaps in education are slowly narrowing – many laws, policies, and behaviors still prevent girls from benefiting equitably from education, including gender-based violence at school, failure to include girls in decision-making, and discriminatory practices like gendered division of household labor. Addressing these gender inequalities is critical because they heighten all other forms of exclusion.
Plan addresses gender inequality through four interconnected approaches:
- We contribute to changes in institutions, policies, and laws that ensure all children – and especially girls - can complete their education.
- We aim for equal access, transition, and completion of education by breaking down the barriers that prevent children from accessing and moving through different stages of education.
- Our work creates a positive learning environment that provides meaningful and relevant education, supporting children to meet their fullest potential.
- We focus on strengthening processes of citizenship and accountability so that communities and children can engage in and have real influence on their education.
Inclusive education is critical to combating discrimination and growing strong, stable families, communities, and countries. Plan calls on the U.S. Administration to continue investments in education so that girls everywhere can learn, lead, decide, and thrive.