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World Cup Goal: Educate Every Kid

OneWorld, News Report, Jeffrey Allen Posted: Oct 08, 2009

"It's an outrage that 35 million African children miss out on a basic primary education -- tackling that would be an incredible achievement," UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday at the global launch of the 1GOAL campaign, which aims to turn next year's World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa into a platform for action on the issue.

Brown joined soccer and entertainment stars, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other activists and leaders in calling on the world's wealthier governments to provide more funding for education worldwide, especially to support teachers, textbooks, and school infrastructure in developing countries. They're also hoping to use the World Cup platform to convince millions of parents in developing nations that they should send their kids to school.

Some 75 million children worldwide are not in school; many cannot afford the fees charged by cash-strapped governments or must work to help support their families.

Ahead of the tournament, which starts on Jun. 11, 2010 and will be played in Africa for the first time ever, the 1GOAL campaign is trying to push the issue by recruiting tens of millions of supporters on its Web site. And it's got plenty of star power to help it do just that.

"Today, there are boys and girls around the world dreaming about their futures," said Clinton at yesterday's launch. "Education is their gateway to opportunity, it lifts people out of poverty and strengthens families, communities, and countries....Let's make the World Cup an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to education for all."

Added British soccer star Rio Ferdinand: "Musicians have led influential campaigns against poverty; it's time for the football world to do our part."

Other well-known figures supporting the campaign include actress Jessica Alba, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Queen Rania of Jordan, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, actor Kevin Spacey, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and soccer stars Mia Hamm, Thierry Henry, and Michael Owen.

Education for All
While 40 million more children go to school today than in 2000, even if progress continues apace, tens of millions will still be out of school by 2015, the deadline world leaders set at the beginning of the century for getting all children into the classroom.

Perhaps even more worrisome, only 58 percent of eligible students worldwide get to attend secondary school, according to the Basic Education Coalition, an umbrella group of organizations pushing for more efforts to get kids into school.

An investment of about $11 billion more per year could ensure "education for all" by 2015, the group says, noting that developing countries spend about $40 per student per year on education. By contrast, developed countries spend 100 times that amount -- about $4,000 per student per year.

Currently, only a tiny fraction of global funding for education comes from international assistance. Local governments, families, and communities are left to pick up the vast majority of the tab.
The U.S. government provides about $0.7 billion for basic education efforts around the world each year, up from about $0.1 billion in 2000. [ Learn more about education for all from the Basic Education Coalition.]

$100B for U.S. Schools
More than $100 billion of federal stimulus funds are set to go toward improving education for U.S. kids -- the lion's share of it to stave of teacher layoffs and keep class sizes low. About $4 billion will support a so-called "Race to the Top" fund to reward states that innovate and demonstrably improve their public education systems.

But U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have largely ignored the question of which school districts get the money -- the richer ones or the poorer ones -- says Tara Kini of the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates, Inc.

In the stimulus package, Obama and Duncan have a rare opportunity to address the large funding gap between districts, notes Kini. Writing on the New America Media Web site, Kini cites experiences from her home state to demonstrate the impact of unequal funding across school districts:
"Funding among California school districts is vastly unequal, ranging from a low of $6,000 per student in one district to a high of approximately $30,000 in another.

"Wealthy suburban districts like Palo Alto have more flexibility [to] streamline programs and services. Meanwhile, students returning to Hawthorne High School in southern LA County this fall found that English Language Development classes for beginning and intermediate English Learner students, which are vital to learning, have been eliminated.

"At Mt. Eden High School in Hayward, where class size is close to 40, students sit on folding chairs or stand because there are not enough desks to go around. And as anyone who has ever taken a walk through Oakland High School and Piedmont High can tell you, unequal funding produces unequal learning opportunities and -- down the road -- unequal outcomes."

The U.S. Department of Education is scheduled to decide in November how the "Race to the Top" funds will be allocated. Kini hopes the money only goes to states taking concrete steps to close funding disparities.

"Let's hope that Obama and Duncan don't pass up this precious opportunity to lead real school funding reform," writes Kini. "They may not get another chance. And our children can't afford for this one to slip by."

As international education advocates press the case for more equity in global education funding, they're hoping the 75 million out-of-school children in developing countries will soon get their chance.

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