Some recent reports indicate we are not spending enough on education and this may prove to be a costly oversight. Failure to invest in education increases costs down the road while investing in education translates to massive savings.
Education is an essential part of a healthy society which is why education is one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Education is not only a concern in the developing world. All around the globe education is the missing link required to grow support for climate action and steward pro-social change.
A well-informed electorate is also key to electing responsible and capable leaders. Better educated people are more likely to challenge the subterfuge of political hopefuls. Education also has a crucial role in providing the understanding and the skills that make up a competitive and capable workforces. This is true in the US and around the world. Even in places where there is no democracy, education can be a bulwark against poverty.
The lack of education around the world contributes to instability and contributes to resource mismanagement. In many parts of the globe, educators are under-qualified or lack the appropriate support tools. Some schools in the developing world do not even have electricity. One of the keys to global prosperity is giving young people the skills to participate in the global economy.
While most Americans accept the premise that military spending makes the US more secure, too few appreciate that education can also contribute to America’s national security. Education is a prophylactic against instability and it may be the most cost effective method we have of supporting social injustice and preventing political unrest. The world’s wealthiest economy has a vested interest in contributing to the education both at home and abroad. There are costs associated with poverty and inequality even if it is in places that are thousands of miles away.
Jeffrey Sachs has argued, what we need is a global fund for education or GFE. The first head of state to propose this idea was President George W. Bush in 2001.
Sadly the resources allocated to education by the US government are minuscule compared to the country’s annual budget which was just under $4 trillion in 2015. Money allocated to military related projects receive around $600 billion per year in the US, while education receives only one billion.
Money invested in education would go a long way towards reducing the military and humanitarian costs associated with interventions. Education would also expedite global action on climate change. We know that the cost of acting on climate change is far less than the cost of preventing it. The math is clear, longer we wait the more it costs.
UNESCO’s work is premised on the understanding that education contributes to a sustainable planet. Their Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report shows that we have fallen way behind and we need to do far more in support of education. A recent International Commission on Financing Global Education report shows that more than 1.5 billion adults will have no education beyond primary school in 2030. This report suggests that that annual global development assistance for primary and secondary education needs to increase ten times from around $4 billion to around $40 billion.
Sachs suggests that it is time for a new GFE, he further posits that wealthy nations should decrease their defense spending and reallocate those funds to global education. Citing data from the reports mentioned above Sachs says, ” it costs at least $250 in a poor country to educate a child for a year, but low-income countries can afford, on average, only around $90 per child per year. There is a gap of $160 per child for around 240 million school-aged kids in need or about $40 billion per year.”
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