Knowledge is power. This simple statement is more resonant than ever as the world moves towards a knowledge-based economy. In spite of the tremendous importance of education in building the lives of youth around the world, only a small share of the United States’ foreign aid budget goes to education and social programs. By increasing education foreign assistance for such programs, the U.S. could bolster its contribution to global development.
Here are four facts about the current amount of U.S. foreign assistance for education:
- Since 2010, spending budgeted for foreign assistance for education has fallen by 44 percent from $1.75 billion to $1.21 billion in 2016. This stands in stark comparison to the seven percent decline in the overall foreign assistance budget and the 13 percent increase in total federal spending over the same time period.
- The U.S. spends only three percent of its total foreign assistance budget on social and educational programs, around half of which goes to basic education. By contrast, Australia spends around 25 percent of its foreign aid budget on such programs. The largest recipient of foreign assistance for education in the 2016 fiscal year is Afghanistan. Many of these programs target education for women and girls in a society where female education has traditionally received little support or even outright hostility.
- In 2016 the military budget for the U.S. was $604.5 billion and foreign assistance spending on security was $8.77 billion, respectively 500 and 7.2 times higher than spending on foreign assistance for education.
- Since 2006, 123 different countries have received foreign assistance for education from the U.S. Afghanistan received the most, $696.8 million, while Montenegro came in last with a little over $14,000. The other leading countries after Afghanistan were Ethiopia, Liberia, Kenya and Guatemala.
Increasing education foreign assistance can bolster economic growth, encourage gender equality and build local capacities. For each additional year of schooling in a country, annual GDP growth rises by 0.37 percent, allowing for greater trade opportunities. The higher the proportion of the population enrolled in secondary education, the lower the risk of war. Therefore it is key to U.S. economic and national security interests that we continue to provide foreign assistance for education.
– Jonathan Hall-Eastman