In FY 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have detrimental effects on learners and education systems in our partner countries, including by putting 24 million additional students at risk of dropping out of school, 10 million more girls at risk of early marriage, and 9 million additional children at risk of child labor.1 Global learning poverty, a measure of children unable to read and understand a simple passage by age 10, has also increased sharply in the wake of the most significant global shock to education and learning in a century.
The USG recognizes that it is urgent to act now and act together. In a 2021 report on the USG’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden emphasized the importance of this moment and of the role of U.S. education assistance: “Building back from the COVID-19 pandemic provides us with the opportunity to reimagine the systems that serve our students, with resourcefulness, resilience, and creativity. The United States is ready to lead this effort.”
The goals of the U.S. Government Strategy on International Basic Education remain relevant to the rapidly changing global landscape that is negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and violent conflicts. In order to address learning loss caused by the pandemic, we must focus on improving learning outcomes. We must also continue to expand access to quality basic education for all, particularly marginalized and vulnerable populations who are at increased risk of not returning to school. Together with partner country governments, civil society, and international and local stakeholders, the USG is building on our investments in foundational learning to reach the most marginalized, strengthen resilience in education systems, and equip the next generation with the skills needed for lifelong success. We are grateful for the support of Congress in pursuing these important objectives.
While much work remains, USG departments and agencies continue to deliver highly effective education assistance and are making significant progress in expanding the reach of U.S. programs. In FY 2021, we collectively reached more than 33.4 million learners in 73 countries through programs designed to improve measurable learning outcomes and expand access to high-quality education for all, an increase of 8 million learners from FY 2020.
The challenge before us is monumental, and no single intervention, policy change, investment, approach or method alone is sufficient. The USG is committed to building on our progress and working in partnership toward a world where education systems in partner countries enable all individuals to acquire the education and skills needed to reach their full potential.