U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks on the new USAID Education Policy

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Council on Foreign Relations Washington, D.C.

For Immediate Release

Thursday, November 15, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov


QUESTION: Can we start with you, Mark, and just tell us a little bit about how the U.S. government strategy, and more specifically how the USAID policy -- what's new?  I know we've had the READ Act legislation that was a year ago, September. How are you thinking about this? Why is it so important, how important is it, and all of the many things that you've got to do leading USAID?  Where does it fit in your priorities, and why is this a big deal?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well first, I think a lot of it does come out of the READ Act and the great work that Congresswoman Nita Lowey has been doing over the years to really raise the profile of international education and the role that we, the U.S. government and the American people, can play in that.  Also, I think Senator Rubio has been very strong in pushing it forward. So, we've had great champions who have really brought us to this point. A number of things are new. First off, the USG strategy on international education really takes in every aspect of the U.S. government -- it's across the administration.  USAID is designated as the lead, and Julie is designated as the senior coordinator and has a single-minded focus on making this a reality. So, that approach, that commitment, I think, is new.

But what's new out in the field, the world has changed, and the world is changing rapidly. And so, we are, in our approach, looking at that. So, what that really means is we're looking at the millions of school-aged kids who are unable to go to school, particularly in crisis and conflict-affected areas.  And so, we're looking for ways to try to reach out and help provide quality educational services in those settings.

And I'm often asked what it is that keeps me up at night -- that's what keeps me up at night. Children being born in camps, being raised in camps, being educated in camps and then, you know, someday, God willing, that the gates open and the fence comes down. Somehow, we expect them to be connected to the world around them and not vulnerable to the worst kinds of exploitative forces. So, we're trying to address that. Secondly, as part of that, part of what's new is turning to new partners, non-traditional partners in particular, to help us fill in the gaps in those kinds of settings.  And so, we'll work with whoever is able to work in those settings. It may be NGOs like Save the Children, it may be faith-based organizations -- whatever it takes to try to reach out and provide services.

And I would say, third, what is new is our country-based focus.  So, some of you, who have heard me speak before, know that my approach to foreign assistance is what we call the journey to self-reliance.  So, I believe with my whole heart that the purpose of foreign assistance must be ending its need to exist, which means that we have to go country by country identifying capacity needs, commitment shortcomings, and finding ways to help countries so that one day, they can lead themselves.  And nowhere is that more important than an education, because if you don't have quality access, inclusive access to education, there's no possible way you can get to self-reliance, and there's no possible way that any of our other investments are going to be sustainable.

So, education is an extraordinarily high priority for us because we see it as the -- sort of a key to every other area we're working on.  And it's also a high priority for us because of what's happening in the world. We have 70 million displaced people in the world. That number is growing each and every day.  We see way too many children who have been displaced, away from their home, in these fragile, conflict-ridden settings, and we have to, for our own sake -- and that's why it's in the national security strategy -- we have to, for our own strategic purposes, find ways to try to provide some meaningful access to education for these kids.  So, those are probably the main ways that this new approach is different.

QUESTION: Great.  Well, let's stick with the crisis situation, and tell me what you are seeing as things that are working in those situations.  We chatted a little bit about Somalia before, perhaps one of the toughest cases. It's a very unstable environment, insecure, fast-growing population.  What are you seeing in a place like Somalia or Bangladesh, Myanmar, any of these places where there are lots of displaced people?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, and each one is different.  So, in the case of Bangladesh right now, Cox's Bazar, 700,000 people in Cox's Bazar.  The government's official position is that we can't have schools there because they're temporary guests.  Okay, well, they still need education. So, in that kind of a setting, you'll see, what -- learning spaces -- [inaudible] and you'll see -- things that we come up with names for. Really, we're trying to provide some semblance of educational services, so that hopefully, someday, those kids are able to, God willing, return home in a meaningful, voluntary way. But in any other case, have a more regularized life -- that they're not so far behind that they can't catch up. So, that's what we see in a place like Bangladesh.

In the case of Somalia, 3 million of the 4.9 million school-aged kids are not in school. They don't have any access to education. So, what we're coming up with there -- we have a program that we've just put out as an offering.  It's a quality -- Accelerated Quality Educational Services for Somali Children and Youth. And what we're doing there is reaching out to the private sector, whether it be private schools or NGOs or whatever it might be, to offer a compressed educational opportunity to help those kids catch up, to get them to a place where they can return to a normal, public school system.

I actually saw this some years ago in Liberia.  I traveled to Liberia, and this wasn't so long after the war, and they had a whole generation, in some places, that had been left out, that did not have the ability to go to school.  And I believe it was the Clinton Foundation that was doing the work, and they had accelerated education. So, these kids were going to school seven days a week. They're, you know, working long days in an effort to compress, by as much as 50 percent or, you know, reduce down how far behind they were, so they could return to being productive, invested young people in Liberia's future.  That's the kind of thing that we're looking for in Somalia. As you pointed out, it's a terribly fragile situation. What we do know for sure is, there's no way that Somalia rises if they forget a generation of kids. We know they can't rise, so this is a way to try to address some of that.

QUESTION: When you talk about really driving towards countries standing on their own, what do you see as some countries doing very well in education, and what are they not doing well?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, and I should back up and say that we have crafted what we call a roadmap, country by country, and it has 17 objective metrics, pulled together metrics from outside sources who, oftentimes, it's the World Bank we may be turning to -- and we measure capacity and commitment along these 17 lines with host countries. Education has its own key metric; that's how important we think it is. So, we look at a number of things. There's the quality of instruction, but in terms of journey to self-reliance, it is availability of quality teachers; it is inclusivity of opportunity for young people involved.

It's also financing.  It's helping countries which either don't have a proper way to be able to collect the revenues that they can allocate towards education, or else just haven't started down that road before.  So, we help mobilize domestic resources to tie it to financing, so that they have, as we have in this country, a clear connection between our resources and outcomes. In our metrics, we don't measure outputs.  We measure outcomes in each place where we are. So again, our belief is that we have to help countries build their capacity and incentivize reform, so that someday, they can take this over.

Now, some places, that's a long, long way away, but we want to make sure that people are always thinking about leading themselves.  And an education, again -- that touches just about every aspect of a country's economy and, quite frankly, its fortunes.

MS CRAM: And if I may, a place that you're most familiar with, in Kenya -- you asked about a country that's on the right track.  Kenya is a great example of where we've been working with them and they're -- they've been working with us to take -- within the next year, they're going to take over the entire education program that USAID has been working with them on.  So that's a perfect example of where we're trying to get to.

QUESTION: [affirmative] That's great.  Could you say a little bit more about this -- the move from measuring outputs to measuring impact and how you're thinking about that?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, so when I arrived at the Agency a year and a few months ago, you know, I tried to change the focus almost immediately because I -- as a former implementing partner from my past -- so USAID does lots of monitoring and evaluation, but I never saw that they were -- my opinion -- measuring the right things. They could measure widgets produced, but they weren't looking at these issues of capacity and ability for countries to lead themselves. So that's what that is we're focusing on.

In the health sector -- and what we tried to do is we pulled together about 800 staff around the world who have helped us think this through based on their years of experience in healthcare in under 5 child mortality.  And all the experts said, "Well, that's just about the best measure there is overall for the quality of the healthcare system."

Primary school enrollment?

MS CRAM: Primary reading efficiency -- proficiency.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Reading efficient -- and that was the best indicator that the experts could help us find that would give a broad overview of the health of the education system.

I should say, we use these indicators to help guide the conversation in each country, so we present the road map with our counterparts and try to sit down and help prioritize the investments.  But we also use -- there are some metrics that we use that we don't release publicly because in some cases, they're just snapshot pieces of the overall picture. But that also helps us in program design.

And then the final piece to this that's important is the way that we're building our partnerships.  The other quirk I have in the approach at USAID, I don't like the term "public-private partnerships" because I think it's almost devoid of meaning it's been used in so many settings.  It usually means contracts or grants, and we're going to do contracts and grants. We always have. I'm really interested in co-creation, collaboration, co-design, and, yeah, co-financing.

So in each of these educational opportunities, for example, Somalia and the kids who are not enrolled in fragile state settings, we'll put out an offering, and we turn to all of you.  We say, "What are your best ideas?" In most cases with these mechanisms, the cost of participation is a two-page statement of interest, and then that helps us take a look at those who we think are -- you know, have ideas that are things we want to bring in, and then we try to sit down together literally at a white board and design innovative approaches.

So it isn't one size fits all.  One of the big differences between our approach and past approaches, it's not a global approach.  It's meant to be country by country. It's not done from here. I shape -- I don't mean to be insulting to my team, but we don't do development here in Washington.

MS CRAM: Yes, right.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Always done out in the field, obviously.  And so what we try to do is turn to bright minds who are on the ground, who know these countries well, get their ideas, and then, again, try to do some co-creation that'll produce most effective results.

QUESTION: Okay.  We're just about out of time.  Last question, I asked you what keeps you up at night.  What are you most excited about?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Every time I go to a school, I'm excited about what I see in the eyes of kids.  And I will say -- you mentioned I started off as a teacher in Kenya, and it's true.  We didn't have electricity. We had running water that we couldn't use, so we didn't really have running water.  We had one telephone in the village. We had one textbook for every dozen kids. But, my kids were absolutely desperate to learn.  They used to ask my wife to come back in on Saturdays for more classes; alien concept in the United States of America, right?


When you have kids that are desperate to learn, you can do almost anything.  And so every time I visited classrooms just in Ghana, actually with the first lady, Mrs. Trump, and we looked at not only the classrooms that they had staged for us to see.  Those of us who know me, I always walk out of those and go to the other side, the real classrooms. It didn't matter. Those kids were absolutely desperate to be there. If you've got that, that's what you can build on, and so that's why I'm excited.

Last updated: February 22, 2021

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