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It will take 'trillions of dollars' to fix the world's education problem

Dion Rabouin
Financial Markets Reporter
Australia’s former prime minister Julia Gillard. REUTERS/Andrew Taylor

WASHINGTON—Fixing education for kids around the globe and creating sustainable conditions for them to attend school would come with a massive price tag, according to the head of the Global Partnership for Education.

During an event with policymakers and financial leaders at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, former Prime Minister of Australia and Global Partnership for Education Board Chair Julia Gillard said that if heads of state around the world are serious about taking on the issue of providing children with an environment and an opportunity to learn, “it will require trillions of dollars” of investment.

Rather than a few cosmetic changes, “we’ve got to be talking about how do we change whole education systems,” Gillard said.

“The step change that we need to make that a reality is an enormous one and no one here should be underestimating how big that step change is,” she added. “In dollars that’s measured in the trillions.”

A step change is a substantial change in policy or attitude that is sudden and results in a difference that would rise above a standard deviation.

Last year the World Bank warned of a “learning crisis” happening for millions of students, noting that many children were attending school without learning, which was “not just a wasted development opportunity, but also a great injustice to children and young people worldwide.”

The discussion was dedicated to how leaders could improve childhood education as well as combat issues that hold children back from educational attainment, such as child marriage and lack of access to healthcare.

A chart from Global Partnership for Education shows official development assistance (ODA) to education has gone down for six year in a row, but aid to other sectors like health or infrastructure has increased.

Princess Mabel van Oranje, of the Netherlands and Chair of Girls Not Brides, a collection of NGOs that works to stop child marriage, said the key was for organizations to come together outside of official governments to pool their resources.

“The organization that I am engaged with, we have a partnership of more than 1,000 NGOs working together and we can’t do it on our own,” she said. “We need to understand that what we bring to the table is different. We need to learn each other’s language but we need to respect the fact that we all have a role to play.”

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who also participated in the discussion, said that the strides made thus far were good, but had so far fallen short of what’s needed.

“One of the biggest problems for a lot of countries is quality of education and access to education,” she said. “I think the climate here is great but we need to see it in concrete steps.”

More from the IMF/World Bank meetings:

Dion Rabouin is a markets reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @DionRabouin.

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