TORONTO, April 30, 2012 /CNW/ - The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) could improve its development aid impact by focusing on basic education, according to a report released today by the C.D. Howe Institute. In What CIDA Should Do: The Case for Focusing Aid on Better Schools, author John Richards documents the importance of universal literacy in enabling countries to escape from extreme levels of poverty and identifies specific types of projects CIDA could fund. Over the previous decade, CIDA's budgeting has not reflected the very high rank afforded to education among the UN's Millennium Development Goals, notes Richards.
Richards, a professor at Simon Fraser University, concludes that in any country the most important goal of basic education (pre-primary to lower-secondary) is assuring that the next generation be able to read and write. With few exceptions, literacy at or above 80 percent is the necessary - if far from sufficient - condition for a country to escape extreme poverty. Furthermore, better health cannot be separated from basic education. Few countries have achieved respectable population health outcomes with female literacy below 80 percent, says Richards.
After examining factors influencing supply and demand for basic education in the context of low-income countries, Richards recommends potentially productive projects such as: (i) heightening parental demand for education by cash subsidies to low-income parents conditional on their children attending school and maintaining acceptable grades; (ii) offering young children nutritious meals to offset diet inadequacies; or (iii) enhancing the performance of a country's education system via curriculum reform, introducing systems to assess learning outcomes and improving teacher training. Where host governments are weak, CIDA should be working closely with major NGOs engaged in basic education.
For further information:
John Richards, Roger Phillips Scholar in Social Policy, or Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst , C.D. Howe Institute, 416-865-1904, email: [email protected]