Education in developing countries
Canada’s development assistance aims to help young people gain access to quality education and skills that provide the foundation for lifelong learning. Canada supports efforts to ensure that every child receives quality primary and secondary education, and works to reduce barriers and help narrow education gaps for women and girls.
Why focus on education in developing countries?
Education is a human right and is central to achieving many other sustainable development outcomes.
A quality basic education gives children and youth the knowledge and skills they need to face daily life challenges, and take advantage of economic and lifelong learning opportunities. It is also a key driver for reducing poverty, fostering economic growth, achieving gender equality, and social development.
These benefits are even greater when support to education is targeted toward girls. Girls who complete their primary education tend to find better jobs, marry later and have fewer children. They are also:
- half as likely to have children who suffer from malnutrition
- less likely to have children who die before the age of five
- less likely to turn to prostitution
- less prone to be victims of sexual violence or become infected with HIV
Education is particularly important to communities that are fragile or rebuilding. Education provides stability, structure and hope for the future, helping children and youth to overcome trauma caused by war, disaster, or conflict.
Having a safe learning environment also makes children and youth less vulnerable to exploitation, kidnapping, and recruitment by militant groups or organized crime.
However, around 59 million children in developing countries do not have access to basic education. The quality of education is also a key concern: 250 million children are unable to read, write or count, even after four years of schooling.
Many young people in developing countries who have not been able to complete a quality education are lacking the foundational and high level skills for work and life.
What prevents children and youth from getting a high quality education?
Children and youth in developing countries face many barriers to obtaining quality education. These range from:
- distant, overcrowded or unsafe schools
- poor quality of teaching, irrelevant curriculum and learning materials
- the pressure for children to work to support the family
- school fees, uniforms and supplies that millions of families are unable to afford
For girls, children from minority ethnic groups, children with disabilities, and children living in conflict areas, the barriers are even greater.
How does Canada support education in developing countries?
Canada’s development assistance focuses on establishing strong education systems which enable children and youth, particularly girls, to get a full 10-year cycle of quality basic education. Our assistance supports activities such as:
- building the capacity of government education officials
- supporting new and existing teacher training institutes to create a professional accredited cadre of teachers
- improving the development and distribution of relevant, gender-sensitive learning materials and curricula
- supporting efforts to make schools responsive to girls’ water, sanitation and hygiene needs
- working to end school-related gender-based violence and harmful practices which keep girls out of school, such as child, early and forced marriage
- providing support to meet the education needs of crisis-affected children
We carry out this work through partnerships with developing country governments as well as Canadian and international non-governmental organizations working in the education sector.
We also support key multilateral organizations, such as the Global Partnership for Education and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
To learn more about Canada’s specific programs in basic education visit the project browser.
Beyond basic education, Canada’s development assistance includes investments to help ensure that youth and adults, particularly young women, have the knowledge, skills and competencies they need for employment and to contribute to economic growth.
Our support in this area focuses on labour-market-driven vocational training, including literacy and numeracy, especially for those who missed out on basic education.
Canada also funds international scholarships with the aim of reducing poverty in developing countries.
These scholarships support targeted training and skills development for students and working professionals from developing countries where local higher education capacity is weak.
Scholarships are also a means of preparing the next generation of innovative leaders to contribute to their communities.
To learn more about international scholarships funded by the Government of Canada, for Canadians and non-Canadians to study in Canada or abroad, visit scholarships.gc.ca.
- 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- Canada’s support to scholarships
- Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Education Transforms Lives (UNESCO Document)
- Global Education Monitoring Report (UNESCO)
- Global Partnership for Education
- Returns to Investment in Education (The World Bank)
- Skills for Employment Global Public-Private Knowledge-Sharing Platform (International Labour Organization)
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