By Charlene Porter
IIP Staff Writer
18 November 2011
An international partnership of government and nonprofit organizations launched a $20 million campaign November 18 to find new ways to educate the almost 800 million people in the world who are illiterate, unable to write or read a simple sentence in any language. An inability to read inhibits a person’s capability to navigate the modern world, and in large numbers, restrains the development of an entire nation.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), its Australian counterpart AusAid and the charity World Vision announced the intent of their partnership at an event in Washington. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the campaign, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, is seeking new education strategies “from those of you that have entrepreneurial new ideas, interesting new technologies that can be brought to the task and a vision for how 100 million children around the world improve their reading outcomes.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signed up his department for the campaign in the hope that it will produce new ideas on helping “every single child” in the world learn to read. Duncan expressed the goal “that enhancing the education of all people — both here in the United States and across the globe — is the path to solving our world’s economic, social and health challenges.”
Analysis of development efforts has shown that education has a “multiplier effect,” bringing greater consequential benefits, such as better health, growing economies and reduced poverty. “Every single year that a child spends in school increases his or her future productivity by 10 to 30 percent,” Duncan said.
The All Children Reading campaign will solicit proposals from all over the world that describe new paths to learning or new teaching techniques that might be applied in classrooms anywhere. The U.S. Department of Education has launched a similarly intended program known as Digital Promise, in which educators, researchers and technology companies are working to identify breakthrough technologies to enhance the educational experience for youngsters and foster enthusiasm for learning.
Shah said the international development community and governments in sub-Saharan Africa have made great progress in getting children enrolled in school over the last 10–12 years, with enrollment swelling by 37 million. Unfortunately, follow-up surveys indicate that many children are not learning when they get there.
All Children Reading also is intended to develop new ways of using mobile telephone and messaging technologies as educational tools, given the rapid adoption of these technologies in the developing world.
This literacy initiative was announced just days after President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard discussed greater cooperation between the countries on development issues. USAID and AusAID will contribute to other ongoing efforts to close the mobile phone gender gap and accelerate women’s empowerment and leadership opportunities. The partnership will improve women’s access to life-enhancing services including financial inclusion, education and health care via mobile phones, according to a November 16 statement from the White House.