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Plan International USA statement on the importance of inclusive, quality education

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% minimum of national budgets, or 6% 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). 
  • 142 million young people 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% of households, only 64% of all school-aged children enroll in school, compared to 90% of children in the richest 20% 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%, while the returns on female secondary education are between 15% and 25%. 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 than 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. Government to continue investments in education so that girls everywhere can learn, lead, decide and thrive.

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