The amount spent on funding education does not align with the idea that education matters, said Priyadarshani Joshi, a research fellow with UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report team.
No one would argue that education isn’t important, “but the money doesn’t seem to add up,” Joshi told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia last Friday as she spoke about the GEM report released by the agency. United Nations in April.
Around $4.7 trillion is spent globally on education each year, with only 0.5% of that going to low-income countries, according to the 2019 edition of the GEM report.
Joshi said that for a long time, the GEM report would show how the annual funding gap needed for basic education could be “offset by about three days of military spending.”
“Education is one of the most cost-effective ways to train or empower women, to empower their communities,” said Joshi, who pointed out that women in low-income countries are disproportionately affected by insufficient funding for education.
This was confirmed during the Covid-19 pandemic, as boys and girls in developing countries did not face the same level of setbacks when schools were closed, she added.
Girls face “gendered consequences” such as lack of access to electronic devices, time-limited use and risks of early pregnancy, she said.
Although the gender gap in school enrollment and attendance has narrowed over the past two decades, illiteracy among women in developing countries remains a problem.
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While parents in countries such as Bangladesh, Jordan and Pakistan were reluctant to give girls access to smartphones, “boys had slightly better access…which may have contributed to the continuity of their learning”.
She said there was a need for “very basic things” in girls’ education, such as better textbooks, gender-sensitive training and leadership role models, which are worth “a few million and a few billion that could probably add trillions to the global economy.” .”
Teachers have also been hardest hit by school closures, as many have been forced out of their jobs or taken a pay cut.
“Teaching is a very feminized profession. So in many countries teachers have really suffered,” said Joshi, who explained how countries with a high private market share in education – like India – have seen major disruption as teachers “lose their jobs or get paid less.”
The gender gap in school enrollment and attendance has narrowed over the past two decades, but illiteracy among women in developing countries remains a problem.
About 771 million adults lacked basic literacy skills in 2020, with women accounting for 63% of all illiterate adults, according to the report.
The gender gap in adult literacy was widest in Central and South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The slow progress in increasing literacy rates means that in absolute terms the number of illiterate people has changed little,” UNESCO said.