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The global education crisis can seem overwhelming. Today, there are 263 million children and young people throughout the world who are not in school, and 60 million of them live in dangerous emergencies. Fast forward to 2030, and our world could be one where more than half of all children—800 million out of 1.6 billion—will lack basic secondary-level skills. Almost all of them will live in low- and middle-income countries.
What’s more, many of those children will never have the chance for an education at all; others who do attend school will drop out after only a few years. Their job prospects will be poor—their likelihood of becoming the entrepreneurs who will drive the next stage of global growth even more uncertain.
But progress is an uneven force, often giving with one hand and taking with the other. With a population of more than 188 million people, Pakistan has more out-of-school children and adolescents—some 22.6 million Pakistani youth are deprived of an education—than every country except Nigeria. Of those in school, fewer than one-third are on track to achieve primary level skills. This is 20 percent below the average for lower-middle-income countries. So while incomes in Pakistan have grown, the country’s education investments are too limited and existing resources too often do not produce the needed results.
What can these countries do to make education for all children a reality? One of the keys to expanding access to a quality education is financial innovation. A group of leaders from the private sector, government, and civil society, collectively known as the Education Commission, offers a solution: the International Finance Facility for Education, a specialized mechanism that would make donor dollars work harder—and go farther—for global education.
In operation, the facility would first be supported by guarantees from donor countries. These guarantees would allow the World Bank and regional development banks, such as the Asian and African Development Banks, to borrow more money from capital markets to then lend to lower-middle-income countries. Taking that step would effectively create a new stream of education credits for those countries. Then, to ensure that the money is an attractive option for investing in education, the facility would help lower-middle-income countries mobilize additional funds from donors to subsidize—or completely pay down—interest rates on these credits. Countries would thus be extended a credit line on favorable terms, to be paid back over several decades while they reap the economic benefits of a more skilled population.
The proposed facility is capable of bringing the international community closer to education for all. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.