Why Global Education is One of America’s Biggest Returns on Investment

October 5, 2016 By Elizabeth Holtan

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Benjamin Franklin spoke those words over 258 years ago, and they still ring true today. Education is one of America’s most important global investments, not just because it’s the right thing to do— it’s also the smart thing.

In India, for example, every $1 invested in education provides a return of a whopping $53. Even modest investments in helping ensure children attend, remain, and learn in school leads to a greater and better-educated workforce— which in turn improves local, regional, and national economies.

And in Ethiopia, USAID investments have helped achieve 95 percent enrollment in primary school over just the past 15 years. What’s behind these numbers? Investing in those who teach.

One USAID program is designed to reach remote areas of Ethiopia, providing schooling in off-the-beaten-path areas that had never had access to basic education, where the nearest government school is two hours away on foot.

The key strategy of this program is to empower local teachers. USAID trains community-elected committees, which identify local candidates for the program— providing intensive training, certification, funding, and supplies for teachers and supervisors.

The U.S.-led model and teaching curriculum has now been adopted and expanded by the government of Ethiopia, reaching millions of children.

Education truly “takes a village,” and this particular program demonstrates the success that can be achieved in community-led development approaches.

Investing in girls particularly is one of the most cost-effective ways to make the world a better, safer place: education leads to improved health and economic opportunities; new markets and demands for products and services; and even more active participation as civic and political leaders.

U.S. exports to Ethiopia, for example, are up an incredible 451 percent over a decade, topping $1.7 billion in 2014.

There’s more the world can do — as of 2013, some 59 million children are still in need of a primary education, and 34 million of those boys and girls live in conflict-affected areas. Training teachers is key in improving the quality of education worldwide, continuing to create opportunities across the globe.

For more about USAID’s work in Ethiopia, click here.

Photo: USAID.