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What Works In Girls' Education: Evidence and Policies from the Developing World: A Report by Barbara Herz and Gene Sperling

Speakers: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator (D-NY), and Gene B. Sperling, senior fellow for economic policy and director, Center for Universal Education, Council on Foreign Relations
Moderator: Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development
April 20, 2004
Council on Foreign Relations


Council on Foreign Relations

Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004


NANCY BIRDSALL: [In progress] -- she has agreed to answer questions after the address. Please stay in your seats. Senator Clinton will have to leave after some questions and answers. Stay in your seats, and we will then proceed to a discussion with Gene [Sperling] of the wonderful book that he has put out. Let me say a word about Gene, who's going to introduce Senator Clinton. Gene is, as you all know, right now a senior fellow for economic policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. But very important, he was the national economic adviser to President [Bill] Clinton and head of the National Economic Council from 1996 to 2000. I'm also proud to say that he is a member of the United Nations Task Force on Education and Gender Equality. Most important of all, as many of you know, Gene is going to be sure that there's a feature about girls' education soon on "West Wing." [Laughter.] Gene, you have the floor.

GENE SPERLING: Nancy has continued the very unfortunate Washington tradition, Mrs. Clinton— or Senator Clinton, of people being much more impressed with consulting for the fake "West Wing" for two years over actually working in the real West Wing for eight years! [Laughter.] But let me just say a couple of things about today, because today is an interesting day. Today is actually something called Global Action Education Day. And I wear a lot of hats. One hat I wear is also being the U.S. director of the Global Campaign for Education. So it is worth knowing that in about 75 or 80 countries all over the world today they are doing events on education, and the goal towards reaching the Millennium Development goal of universal education. So we are, I guess, not alone in focusing on this today, nor was this date a coincidence.

I need to do a couple of thank yous, which is first to thank the Council on Foreign Relations because I think they allowed me, with the help from the Hewlett Foundation, to start a Center for Universal Education at the Council on Foreign Relations. And I think that showed a real commitment to broadening the sense of foreign policy at the right time and taking leadership. And I thank the Council. I thank Nancy Roman, our Washington director, for helping to host today. And I have to— when you do a book like this, there are many people who help. But I have to thank— on girls' education, I think I have to thank particularly a few women, appropriately. One is Barbara Herz, who is my co-author, who had to be away due to a family illness today. And she— 20 years of commitment at the World Bank, at the Treasury Department as a consultant. And then I also want to thank— there are many people who helped me— Oeindrila Dube [consultant for the Center for Universal Education], John Neffinger [former associate director at the Center for Universal Education], Brian Deese [senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress]. But in the baseball season, there's nothing like a good closer. Rekha Balu [associate director of the Center for Universal Education], who many of you have worked with, has just done an extraordinary job of pulling this together and helping this happen. I really want to thank her enormously for what she has done, and as well as my assistant, Jeremy Bayer. I also cannot mention all of the people in here who have been inspirations. I have to mention [Executive Director of the Basic Education Coalition] George Ingram, who works very closely with me and Nancy, but also a couple of people, just let me mention at least two people here, which is Ruth Kagia, who is head of education at the World Bank, who has been a real inspiration to me, and Elaine Wolfensohn [World Bank], who has, along with Senator Clinton and others, worked on this for so many years and been an inspiration to so many of us.

This report— I guess if there is a Powell doctrine of overwhelming force— I guess on the battle over aid effectiveness, this is an effort to win the battle of "Does it work to do girls' education by using overwhelming force of bringing all of the evidence together?" I did start working on this issue in the Clinton White House when Mrs. Clinton and President Clinton asked me to start looking for ways that we could stress the issue of globalization with a human face. And I started working on the abuse of child labor. They asked me to represent them at the Dakar meeting [of the World Education Forum] in 2000, where we pledged universal primary education by 2015. And I really felt when I left, there was not much more one could work on that would be more worthy than trying to actually see if we could make that goal come true. Now, I think one thing that any of us who work on this would say is that nobody thinks that girls' education is a silver bullet that solves everything. It has to be, obviously, part of the overall strategy for economic development. But what is absolutely striking, and is, I think, shown throughout here, is how strong the evidence is that girls' education is an integral part to virtually every aspect of development. And what is just striking is the amount of hard, rigorous academic data that is, not only about what girls' education does in terms of returns for income, for growth, but in terms of health, AIDS prevention, empowerment of women, prevention of violence against women. The evidence is so strong on rigorous evidence across the board. And then, furthermore, the evidence is so strong that there are strategies that do work. And while strategies have to be tailored to specific needs, this report also shows how much there are strategies that have been implemented in a variety of different settings. And this is not a report like other reports, which is, look at the great work I have done. This is an effort to bring together the work that so many people have done. And, in a sense, I guess I'm producing here the document I wish had existed when I was in the White House, which is for a policymaker to bring together all of the academic evidence into one place. And again, I think it is overwhelming. And if there's a message here, it's that this is a disease— the lack of girls' education around the world is a disease with a known cure, and a known cure that pays off significantly. Those of us who support girls' education or work on this issue think that the cure is ultimately about universal education for everyone, but there needs to be a special effort on girls' education because the burdens to it are so high and the benefits to overcoming it are so significant, that it is just one of the most compelling things that we can do.

Now, when Nancy and I— when I'm part of her U.N. Millennium Task Force meetings, we often strategize and talk about what needs to be done, where the evidence is, but we always get to the part about what to do. If the evidence is so strong, why isn't there more being done? A statistic we like to use is that even if the U.S. gets up to $300 million on universal education, that is how much we as a country spend to build 15 high schools in a year. So we spend on all universal education for Asia, Africa, what we spend a year on all the children in the world, is about what we spend to build about 15 high schools a year. That is not anywhere close to meeting the heart and commitment that the American people feel towards education. But we always kind of get back to how do we make people focus on how great the gap is, and how do we get a way of getting the kind of high-level leadership that could make heads of state, not only in our country, but the G-8 countries and around the world realize that and take movement? And to the degree that there's been a deficit in that goal of raising awareness and at a high-level commitment, I think today is going to be a major step in closing that deficit.

Senator Clinton has worked on this for so many years. Back in 1995, when anything that sounded like foreign aid was something that was seen as a budget cut to support something else, she was pushing for girls' education and increasing the USAID [United States Agency for International Development] budget. She continued as first lady to focus on a number of girls' and women's empowerment issues and gave major addresses in Beijing and otherwise that were so memorable. And in us doing research I have to admit, even having been there, going through Google and reading everything she had done was just enormously inspiring for me.

But we are at a different stage here, and there is— and I think of girls' education being very much like AIDS would have been in 1996 or 1997. People are realizing there's a problem, they know there could be a solution, but we're nowhere near the focus. And to have somebody like Senator Clinton, with her fame worldwide, with her history of commitment now, not only speaking out on this, but as you will see today making the first major education-for-all legislative proposal that has ever been, I think, will be a real rallying cry. And with that, I’m happy to introduce a woman who, besides being one of the most famous and influential women in the world, has been a tremendous personal inspiration to me personally, Senator Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. [Applause.] Well, good morning, and it's wonderful to see so many of you here this morning to talk about this important issue. And I want to thank Gene for his commitment. Those of you who know Gene Sperling know he never does anything halfway. We used to joke in the White House that he moved in in 1993, never went home, he never ate a decent meal. You could find him, at all times of the day, toiling away on behalf of many of the important issues that he was given responsibility for. And I think it's fitting that he has come to this issue with the same level of passion and analysis that has marked his work in the past, and I am delighted to be working with him. And I want to thank Nancy for taking the lead on this issue with the U.N. Millennium Task Force on Gender Equality and Education. I am hopeful that, in this very difficult time in which we find ourselves, and particularly with respect to America's leadership, that we can find ways to highlight and deepen our international cooperation, and this certainly is one area where I think that is possible.

I also want to acknowledge Barbara Herz for bringing so much research and experience to the report that Gene has been highlighting, and Rekha Balu, who has done so much to prepare for today. I want to acknowledge two of my friends who have also worked tirelessly in this area. Elaine Wolfensohn has already been mentioned, and I'm delighted that she, along with Jim [Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank], have really raised the banner high on education, particularly girls' education, around the world. And Melanne Verveer who, as my former chief of staff, was instrumental in the work we did in the White House, particularly with respect to Vital Voices , an initiative to highlight the needs of girls and women around the world, and specifically with respect to doing all we could to make girls' education, universal education, a priority. And I thank the Council for hosting Gene's project and this discussion today.

This is Global Action Day. Don't you love those kinds of phrases? You know, it has all kinds of wonderful images. And perhaps in some places around the world there is the kind of action going on that Global Action Day suggests, where children and their parents are petitioning and calling for greater commitment to education for all. It is supposed to be a day when children actually lobby policy makers to support universal basic education. And later this afternoon, I will be hosting a reception for about 40 student leaders who are working on this issue in our own country. And I hope that we are able to create more of an incentive to focus on the potential for global education and at the same time help to raise awareness here in our own country about why this is such a win-win strategy for the United States.

You know, for more than 30 years I've been working on behalf of girls' and women's issues, and particularly in the years during the Clinton administration, I had the opportunity to travel to so many places representing our country, often alone, many times with my husband, going into schools, going into communities, seeing firsthand how few girls in so many places were given adequate educational opportunities. And yet I also saw the hunger in their faces for that experience and the desire on the part of so many of their families. I remember going into a school in Uganda with Melanne and those who were accompanying me on that visit after President [Yoweri] Museveni had made the decision to eliminate school fees, a terrible idea that went into effect in the '60s, '70s, '80s and really put almost a barrier up to universal education, particularly for girls. I mean, it was like a lot of ideas that, on paper, made sense in some office in Washington or London or somewhere else that, you know, there was such a gap between the resources available and the need that existed, that trying to instill some personal responsibility in families and make them committed to education by paying fees would just unleash this incredible outpouring of children going to schools, which would increase the resources, et cetera et cetera. Well, you know the facts are quite to the contrary.

But when President Museveni decided he was going to try to make it possible for children to attend school, he had an overwhelming response. And we went into a school that was literally packed to the gills. I mean, it was filled with boys and girls. There were probably 75 of them in a room, you know, maybe 15 by 20 feet, and one teacher, no supplies, but an eagerness that was palpable and inspiring. I remember being in a village outside Lahore [Pakistan], sitting under a tree, talking to the women about the school that they wanted for their girls, because they had finally, after years and years, been able to build a primary school for their daughters, but it ended at what we would roughly think of as sixth grade. And then there was no more opportunity for education, because they were not going to send their girls away, and they couldn't travel safely to the nearest school. So their education ended. I recall being in a village in Bangladesh where one of the experiments that we tried to support during the Clinton administration was beginning, and that was to provide both cash payments and food commodities to families in return for their sending their girls to school. And talking to the, you know, local village elder, he was amazed at how many more families would send their girls to school in return for, you know, a bag of rice or some other kind of reward. Because then they felt they didn't need the girls’ labor, they could actually make a sensible trade to have their girl remain in school. All over the world, we've had these examples. We have many in Gene's book about what does work.

At the same time, we know that the challenge ahead of us is daunting, and I would just remind all of us of some of the statistics in the book, which really drive this point home.

You know, there are hundreds of rigorous studies, hundreds of them, on the tangible economic, social, and political gains that come from giving girls the opportunity to learn. And the reason for that is because the evidence is easy to gather, if we only look for it. Sometimes we don't look for it, and therefore we don't see it and don't draw the right conclusion. But a single year of primary education, one year, correlates with a 10 to 20 percent increase in women's wages later in life. Academic studies find the return to a year of secondary education even higher, in the 15 to 25 percent range. An extra year of a woman's education has been shown to reduce the risk that her children will die in infancy by 5 to 10 percent. Education offers what the World Bank has referred to as a window of hope in helping prevent the spread of AIDS among today's children. A recent study of a school-based AIDS education program in Uganda found a 75 percent reduction in the likelihood that children would be sexually active in their last year of primary school. Girls' education is the best single policy for reducing fertility and therefore achieving sustainable families, according to a recent survey of the academic literature. In Brazil, for example, illiterate mothers have an average of six children, while literate mothers choose to have less than three children and are better able to care for and invest in their children's well-being. A study of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa found that from 1960 to 1992, more equal education between men and women could have led to nearly 1 percent higher annual per capita GDP growth. This report also documents, in extensive detail, what I have seen in many of the countries I have visited. The most effective way to reach the goal of getting all girls in school is by encouraging countries to make a firm commitment to universal basic education for all children, boys and girls, but with an understanding of the special obstacles that girls face.

There's an internationally recognized goal to get all children in school by 2015. We will fail to reach this goal unless poor countries themselves make a firm commitment to education and develop credible national education plans. But the developed world, led by the United States, has to do more to help reach this goal as well. In 2000, when our government and 182 others came to Dakar, Senegal, at the World Education Forum, to affirm this 2015 goal, the well-off countries, including the United States, pledged that poor countries who were willing to go the distance would have the help of those of us who had the means to support them in this effort. Specifically, the pledge that the World Bank and others articulated was that no poor country with a national plan for universal basic education and a commitment to pay its fair share would fail for lack of resources. That was the grand bargain. That was the social compact reached at Dakar, but we have failed to live up to our side of that bargain. We've seen progress, to be sure. I take great pride in the special United States initiative we launched in 1995 to enhance girls' and women's education around the world. And I'm also proud of the significant increases in funding we secured to the Department of Labor's prevention of abusive child labor strategy and the debt relief initiative, which helped to increase education spending by as much as 55 percent in many African countries. And I have great admiration for a number of my colleagues, appropriators like Republican Congressman [Jim]Kolbe [of Arizona] and my great friend Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey [of New York] and, in the Senate, Patrick Leahy [D-Vt.], who have worked together to increase funding for education through the annual appropriations process.

But we have to be very clear about this. Most credible estimates of the external resources needed to reach universal education by 2015 are between $5 billion and $10 billion a year, and that is just for primary education. Now, the United States commits over $300 million to education around the world each year, but that is still far short of the $2.5 billion that would be the United States' share of a true, meaningful global education fund. So we're not doing our part, although we have made progress, for which I'm very grateful, and neither are the other major donor countries. Today I am proposing a major new legislative effort to increase U.S. resources and leadership to try to do our part to reach this goal. I will be introducing legislation in the coming weeks that will bolster our education assistance strategy in several critical ways. The Education for All legislation calls for the development of a clear global strategy to achieve universal education by 2015. We recognize that no country can do this alone. We have to work together. And we can no longer afford the inefficient overlapping of projects and conflicting donor requirements that serve only to confuse and frustrate developing country representatives and impede long-term development planning. I really applaud the work of many organizations and individuals who have labored to move us toward a more coordinated global approach: UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] for its work on girls' education; UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization] for its important efforts to monitor countries' progress; and most of all, those who have worked so hard to launch the Education for All fast-track initiative, which provides a framework for the kind of international donor coordination that we so clearly need. But it's time for the United States to take the lead, not only to strengthen the fast-track initiative, but to use it as the foundation for a true global effort on education.

Secondly, we have to get our own house in order. I've seen individuals in various United States government agencies doing heroic work on programs to get more children in school. But so far, these efforts have been scattershot and uncoordinated, and the sum is less than the whole of even the very modest parts. While we don't need a new bureaucracy by any means, we certainly need a common purpose and a new commitment to coordination. I think we should have someone in our government designated as a coordinator for Education for All who will help to rationalize and oversee the U.S. education assistance efforts. I think we then could use an interagency task force comprised of representatives from USAID, State, Labor, Treasury, and the new Millennium Challenge Account [MCA], as well as the AIDS initiatives, to help us move beyond the pilot efforts and the project-by-project approaches to use the work that Gene and others have done to really begin to, not only support best practices, but scale up from them.

Third, we need to make a new commitment of resources tied to strong standards of accountability and performance. My legislation calls for increasing U.S. funds available that support education to $500 million this year, $1 billion by '06, and $2 billion by '09. And I know we're in a terrible budget deficit, and I know that we are in a very difficult time with all the other competing considerations. But I even think with respect to the pressing national security challenges, making a commitment to education for all is the kind of positive statement that the United States needs to be seen making and standing behind right now. And if we did so, we could leverage even more private funds through nongovernmental organizations and private sector organizations. I think there has to be a public-private partnership. I don't know how many of you saw the wonderful television program about what Oprah Winfrey is doing in Africa. It was a very inspiring and moving story of her personal commitment. There are many Americans who would make a personal commitment to an effort that they thought was coordinated and accountable, that would actually result in children going to school. And I believe we can leverage these government resources if we have the right approach and we make it clear that we have accountability and coordination that will assist those who wish, on the private side and the non-profit side, to contribute. If we do this, then we have to make sure that the countries whom we are working with understand what their obligations are. And some clearly do. They have demonstrated that in the last several years. Others don't, but can be, with the appropriate resources and technical assistance, moved in the right direction. And it's also critical that if we look at education for all, we make a linkage to some of the countries that have failed to provide adequate education and have had that vacuum filled by religious organizations, nationalistic organizations, and the like who, in the guise of providing schooling, are contributing to instability and violence and terrorism. The obvious example are the madrassas [Muslim schools] in Pakistan. When I was in Afghanistan over Thanksgiving, I came out at Islamabad [capital of Pakistan] and had a long meeting, along with [Democratic] Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, with [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf. We met, I guess, about midnight on what would be Thanksgiving here. And I pressed him hard on what had been his government's statements regarding primary education as a means of providing an alternative to the madrassas, which are the only alternative for poor families looking for any kind of organized schooling for their boys. And he is well aware of the problems that have been caused and seemed very committed to dealing with it. But in the months since, the problems of undoing a problem that has been created because a government didn't provide primary education on an ongoing basis is overwhelmingly difficult, politically and financially. President Musharraf and Pakistan need help in creating a universal education system that will be not only for girls, but for boys, as well. That is just one of the many examples from around the world where it is in our interests, our strategic self-interest, to be the promoter and coordinator of global education for all the children in the world.

Now, I'm hopeful that as we, you know, launch this effort today, and as we look for support, that people will understand that this is not only the right thing to do, this is the smart thing to do, as well. It is imperative that we provide education that opens up the minds of girls and boys around the world, not subject them either to no education or pseudo-education that closes their minds and focuses their energies on making some kind of statement or even engaging in violence against the outside world as it is defined for them. Americans are generous and giving, and I think we can make the case for global education. I'm hoping that we can create a means for individual Americans to contribute to a global education fund so that they can match their money to money, not just from the United States government, but the other G-8 governments, Oprah Winfrey, foundations, and it can be a real call to action on behalf of the children of the United States and other so-called developed countries to tangibly help children in other places have a chance to educate themselves and have a better future. So I'm excited by this opportunity. And I thank Gene and Nancy, and many of you, as I look at this audience, who have been working on this issue for a very long time, who know far better than I what the challenges are, but also appreciate what the potential for change is. And I am excited because any time Gene Sperling is involved in something, you know that you won't get a lot of sleep, but you'll have a great adventure in trying to reach the goal. Thank you all very much. [Applause.]

BIRDSALL: The senator has time for some questions. And I want to ask the very first one. That was fantastic. You said everything that I thought I might ask you about. In particular, though, I want to remind all of us that there is not only the goal of 2015 for universal primary education, but the 2005 goal, which is embedded in those Millennium Development Goals, for gender parity. I have to say that, because my co-chair of the U.N. Task Force, [president of the International Center for Research on Women] Geeta Rao Gupta, is there. And she would want me to be sure to mention this is urgent, this is an emergency. So, Senator Clinton, the first question is, how can we, as a community, help you accomplish what is a tough— it's a tough agenda you've set out. As Gene said, we need— what's Colin Powell's point? You know—

SPERLING: Overwhelming force.

BIRDSALL: --overwhelming force, how can we help you do that as a community?

CLINTON: Well, I think that we need a much better communication strategy to get the information out about the consequences of educating girls and universal education. This report is a summary of so many other studies. We have known this information for a long time. The best way to stabilize economies, to give democracy a chance to flourish, to provide all of the benefits that we think we need for a safer, more prosperous world in the future is to invest in girls and women, in their education and their health care, and to ensure that they are full participants in their societies and economies. And so I think that for many Americans, that is a message that is very positive and that people will resonate with, but they don't know it. And we need to get it out there. It was really heartwarming to see the reaction that Americans had with respect to Afghanistan when the Taliban was dislodged and women literally took off their burqas. And then through Vital Voices, under Melanne Verveer's leadership and the patronage of Mrs. [Laura] Bush, we were able to create an opportunity to employ women and help send girls to school by creating little cottage industries of making school uniforms and, you know, begin to try to instill the idea of girls going back to school. And now, you know, schools are overflowing. Some of them are literally just under trees, they're in tents. There was a backlash; some of those schools were burned, some of the teachers were threatened, some of the families were intimidated but, at least so far, in many parts of Afghanistan, not everywhere, girls are going to school eagerly. And not just little girls. You've got 19- and 20- year-old young women going to their first year of school. And I think Americans get that. And the more we can educate girls and women, the safer America will be. You know, that's a big leap of faith to say, but I happen to believe it. And so I think that's the first point.

And Nancy, the second point is that I think we need this as part of our strategy in the war on terrorism, to just put it in very blunt terms. You know, we're not doing very well winning the hearts and minds of people around the world. We have managed to alienate just about everybody. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the administration's policies, it has to be said that it would be far better to do it with more support than less, and also if we were standing for other principles and goals in addition to our commitment to the war against terrorism as a military undertaking. So I think, as I say, it's the right thing to do and it's the smart thing to do. And we have to do a better job of making that case to the public and certainly to the Congress.

BIRDSALL: Thank you. Very good.

QUESTIONER: I just left the NSC [National Security Council] and I also worked for your husband's administration. I have a two-part question for you. How do you deal with the politics of supporting education abroad at a time when our own schools are in so much trouble? I ask the question because we recently launched a large education initiative in Indonesia when President [George W.] Bush was there last fall. And we were subjected to substantial criticism from a wide range of groups on the politics of supporting schools abroad when our own schools are in so much trouble.

The second question is in regard to your comments about Pakistan. Of course, we've seen fairly dramatically the problem with their madrassas and what it has led to on a national security basis for us. But, of course, there is significant diversity across the Muslim world, and there are places like Indonesia, where madrassas or such schools are, in fact, a force for good and for moderation. What are your views on us supporting what, in essence, are religious schools using U.S. money? Thank you.

BIRDSALL: We— I should have asked people to introduce themselves. You did quasi-introduce—

QUESTIONER: I’m Karen Brooks.

BIRDSALL: Thank you, Karen.

CLINTON: Thank you so much, Karen. As to the first question, you know, I am a strong supporter of education in our own country. And I think that we do have a lot of unfinished business with respect to helping communities with their facility needs. We were doing that at the end of the Clinton administration. That was eliminated under the Bush administration. I thought that was a big mistake. We also don't even fulfill our obligations on federally mandated programs like special education. You know, the federal government's supposed to pay 40 percent of it here in this country; we don't come anywhere near that percentage, imposing tremendous burdens on state and local government, and particularly where there's concentration of impoverished children in many of our big cities and rural areas. So we have work to do at home. I am absolutely the first to say that. And I think we should be up front about it. And unfortunately, you know, there's a big gap between what the— this administration said they would do in terms of financial resources for our schools and what they've delivered. So it does put, you know, at least the administration in an awkward position, to be advocating global education or education in Indonesia or Afghanistan, when there are many people in the Congress, and out in the states, and in school boards who feel like they've been, you know, burdened with all these new mandates under the No Child Left Behind [education] legislation and not given the support they need.

So I acknowledge the problem up front. And I think that it has to be a continuing domestic priority for us to do more to ensure a quality of educational opportunity in our own country. I mean, I represent, you know, a state that had some of the best schools in the world, and schools that you wouldn't send any child you cared about to, because of the paucity of resources, the deteriorating physical facilities. It's outrageous. And we're engaged in a big, you know, political battle inside New York because there's a court case saying you've got to spend more money on the children of New York and Buffalo and Albany, and not just, you know, turn your backs to their legitimate financial needs. Because, in the United States, it is a cultural issue. It is a personal responsibility issue and, yes, it is a resource issue. And anybody who says, you know, improving education doesn't have anything to do with money is not talking about their own children. So I think that, you know, we should just sort of strip the hypocrisy off of this and, you know, be very blunt about what we need to do here. Having said that, we are a pretty great and rich country who ought to be able to do two things at once when it comes to education: do a better job for our own children and do more globally; and, if for no other reason, to try to make a world that is going to be safer for the children we love here at home. So I think there's a linkage here, Karen, and it's not easy. And, you know, we still fight the myths that we spend 10 to 20 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid. I mean, that's a constant, you know, figure that comes in polling. If you open-ended ask people, "How much money do you think we spend on foreign aid?" "Oh, 10, 15, 20 percent." "How much do you think we should spend?" "Oh, I don't know, 5 percent." I mean, how many of you would be happy with 5 percent if we ever got to that level, right? [Laughter.] You know, so I think that we have our work cut out for us, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Secondly, on religious schools, I am extremely reluctant to provide money for religious schools in the United States or anywhere in the world. And I think it is a— you know, it is an argument one can make that, in certain places, religious schools are value inculcators. They are, you know, sometimes standing against the tide of fundamentalism, and I acknowledge all of that. But by and large, I think religious schools should not be the recipients of American tax dollars. And I remember going to Northern Ireland following the— or in the midst of the process that led to the [1998] Good Friday Accords [on peace in Northern Ireland] and meeting with a large group of students in Belfast. And, you know, I didn't know what their answer would be, and I said to them— I said, “Well, if there was one thing that could be changed that you believe would help you have a more peaceful future— because most of them had never been in a room with someone from the opposite religious tradition— what would it be?” To a person, they said, “Let us go to school together.” Because, you know, Northern Ireland has Catholic schools and Protestant schools, period. And they just yearned for our comprehensive, you know, public schools that people have to go to and get mixed up in and deal with.

I'm also concerned that it would be difficult to draw lines that made sense. We're going to support madrassas in Indonesia? Well, you know, we've got a really good, you know, mullah here, you know, somewhere outside of Karachi [Pakistan]. Don't you think we ought to support him? I mean, I don't know how you would draw the line. I want to support national programs that create public school systems. And then, just like this country, those who wish to pursue religious or private education can do that on their own. But there has to first be a commitment to a universal public education system that provides a decent, at least, primary education for both boys and girls.

BIRDSALL: Actually, I think many Americans would agree we could do both if they understood how much light you could put in the eyes of those girls outside Lahore for $20, $30 a year. So I think that's— that can be part of that.

CLINTON: Well, that's why, Nancy, I hope— you know, we're struggling with the legislation— because my view is, if there were a way to create a kind of, you know, public-private entity that individual Americans could contribute to, you know—

BIRDSALL: With confidence—

CLINTON: --with confidence that it was going to end up teaching those girls— you know, it's like when we used to go collect money for UNICEF, you know, and people had, you know, Halloween trick-or-treat opportunities to go do that. Well, we need something to re-engage American young people in children around the world, some commonality, some sense of identification. And you're right. I mean, $20, $40, $100— it could educate a child for a year. One last question. Then I, unfortunately, have to leave.

BIRDSALL: Let's go all the way to the back. Right there, on the aisle. Yeah.

QUESTIONER: Senator Clinton, that was fantastic! Just before you led the delegation to Beijing— oh, my name is Ruth Kagia.

BIRDSALL: Did you remember, Ruth, to introduce— thank you. [Laughter.]

QUESTIONER: My name is Ruth Kagia. I work with the World Bank. Just before you led the delegation to Beijing, Senator Clinton, you made a similar address at the World Bank, which, in many ways, has remained a pillar of our way going forward on girls' education. It was inspiring, it was stimulating, and in many ways it forced us to lift our game on girls' education. What you've done this morning is similar in some ways, in a more fundamental way, because what you have provided is the bridge that we've been missing on education for all globally. We've been associated with the fast-track initiative, but the best we can do at the bank is to provide the leverage, to provide a framework. But we wait for the governments, both from developing and developed countries, to come forward. And what you proposed, both in terms of increasing the support from the U.S., as well as in having an internal consistent framework in the country, is exactly what has been lacking in order to lift the game at the international level. And the timing is perfect, because the U.S. is chairing the fast-track initiative in the context of their chair in the G-8. So if the challenge you've put on the table were to be taken forward, we then can cross to the next threshold, starting with the 2005 gender goal, but also beginning to create a forum for private sector to come in, which again is the missing link. So for me it is to say that we stand ready to support what has been the missing piece in this game. Thank you.

CLINTON: Thank you so much. And I— unfortunately, I do have to leave. But I would just add to your assessment that I think we have to be creative in understanding how best to achieve these goals. And the '05 gender goal is a perfect example. You know, I've thought often, suppose that every American business doing business anywhere in the world took it upon themselves to pay the school fees, in countries that still have school fees, for the boys and girls in their community, or in the region where they worked. It's a pittance for any major American corporation, and it's a life-changing investment for the children. Suppose we did have a sort of request for not only American businesses, but individuals and organizations, institutions of all kinds to just start by paying the school fees for girls, you know? I mean, I just think that we have to do something tangible and achievable within the next year or two to show our commitment. And, you know, where— there are still many countries which have school fees, I mean, where they're beginning to eliminate them and cut them and try to do without them. But then, of course, they don't have any resources, and you end up with 75 eight-year-olds with one teacher and no material. So there are ways of thinking outside the box. I mean, this legislation I'm proposing is more of a discussion-starter. I mean, I don't expect it to— I don't expect to see it be signed into law this year, unfortunately. Maybe. You know, who knows?

BIRDSALL: Absolutely!

CLINTON: Yeah, right. [Laughter.] We'll be very optimistic about that.

BIRDSALL: 2005 is upon us.

CLINTON: Yes. Well, so is an election. [Laughter.] And maybe, you know— maybe there is a way to harness that energy and convince people that it's a good thing to do. But we can't wait for that, either. I mean, we have to do all we can to get the United States government more focused, committed, and to provide more resources. But we also have to get Americans personally involved. And I think that is one of the ways, to go back to Nancy's original question, that we build momentum for the eventual commitment of resources and leadership that I hope will come from our own government. So I want to thank Nancy and Gene and all of you for letting me come by and talk with you about this. I look forward to working with you. They're going to stay because they have a lot more information. And this report that I commend to you is filled with very impressive research and statistics that we should be able to make the case with, Gene, if we can just get in front of enough audiences, and if you will help us do that. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

BIRDSALL: Senator Clinton, thank you. Gene, I think we have to start the next part of the session by thanking you for helping make this happen and helping bring Senator Clinton to this issue. I think, you know, Gene took away, and so did Senator Clinton, some of what I wanted to say about his own leadership. Do you want to say a few words about the content of your report?

SPERLING: I think it's a hard act to follow, and I think our time has probably somewhat evaporated, as well.

BIRDSALL: Would you like to take a couple of questions?

SPERLING: Let me just say one thing following on that. I actually want to make a couple comments off hers. One is, this issue on religious schools is a very tough issue. And what we support and what we condemn or commend are two different things. And we do run a risk if we just have a blanket approach. We have to look a little bit at the question, do schools teach a secular national standard education. It's very hard in different countries, in different situations, to look at that. So there's an issue of U.S. aid, support. But I think the question is really is there a— I think in Malaysia they are trying to do something where every single school, whether it's religious or not, has to do the same secular curriculum. And, I think, there's an issue of what we support. But we do risk offending some by suggesting that— we have to be careful that we don't suggest that we think anything that is called a madrassa or a religious school is associated with hate or terrorism. That's not the case.

Secondly, it was very interesting, I was with President Clinton at a U.S.-Islam forum, and— let me say something: I think the kind of universal education— what I kind of call a pre-emptive— "pre-emption" is a big word now, so this is the pre-emption approach on education. I find that, when it looks like you're doing universal education as a targeted national security goal, you don't quite win the hearts and minds of people. I had an amazing discussion with three women who are on the legislative council from Bahrain. So there's only six women on the legislative— appointed legislative council, and there were three there. And they said, you know, before they used to try to do curriculum change and it was tarred, but at least people thought they had good intentions. Now everywhere they go they say people say “Why are you a tool of the U.S.?” And I said, “Well, why do people say that?” They said, “Because no one— because everybody in our country knows that nobody from the U.S. ever cared about the education of our kids.” I don't think you can win the hearts and minds of people by just saying we care about your kids to the extent that you don't bomb us, we care about your kids to the extent— I think to win the hearts and minds you have to have a pre-emptive approach. We're bringing in the minister of education from Kenya next week for visits here. Here's a country that could be— [it] could go either way; could be kind of new sorts of democracy in Africa, or it could be a place that harbors terrorists. Right now is the pre-emptive opportunity to show the U.S. cares about children in Kenya. So, when you take a universal education approach, I think actually you do more on the national security side by doing something that shows the goodness of the American people and takes away the suspicion that there is just— it is just now happening for some underlying approach. Are you going to take a question?

BIRDSALL: Yeah. I want to ask the first question again, since you've been on the inside, Gene. Everyone knows that countries that need these resources most are overwhelmed with donor initiatives. We have in the U.S. now the MCA, the AIDS initiative— we have a special administrator for the AIDS work. Do you have thoughts about how, as we begin this conversation— and it's a tremendous opportunity with Senator Clinton putting this legislation on the table— how to ensure— you know, with Ruth Kagia here, with Elaine Wolfensohn here— that somehow, if there are resources from the U.S., the U.S. provides leadership in a multilateral context rather than adding another special initiative with all its additional burdens? Everyone knows we have an article in Foreign Policy from my center, this issue. It has a chart about the 2,600 different projects that Tanzania copes with from donors every single year. We don't want this to be 2,601. Do you have thoughts about, despite the political problems, how to transform unilateralism into leadership in a multilateral setting?

SPERLING: Yeah, I mean, a couple of thoughts. And it goes to the legislation— and I talked with Mrs. Clinton on the legislation. One thing we thought— I mean, first, I think you do have to get your own house in order. And then you have to make a commitment that you're going to go through the pains and agonies of working with other countries, because if you don't, you are failing— something you talked about, Nancy— which is like the donor responsibility— getting your own house in order. I don't think— I think Mrs. Clinton's legislation is right from the inside. It's not new bureaucracies that matter. It really is, do you pull everybody together and have a common theme? I can tell you that we tended to put money into the International Labor Department as opposed to USAID because that was— the '90s were a time where people didn't want to fund the 150 Account [the U.S. international affairs foreign policy budget]. But when we tried to bring everybody together, I mean, just to be honest, these were people who weren't used to talking to each other. Now we've done these great— there are these great new things— the Millennium Challenge Account and the AIDS initiative. But we've essentially, even in these good efforts now, you know, one of the best things you can do for a poor African country is explain to them how you can apply to the U.S. AIDS initiative, to the Millennium Challenge Account, to the— we have actually increased the level of confusion. So you don't need to have a single fund, but I think you do need what you would think of as a virtual fund. And I think this is where building off the fast-track initiative is asking the countries to continue the work of having essentially a single application process no different than small businesses ask of the U.S. government, a single application process which has the single standards. And then the donor countries can figure out how best to fund someone.

But right now, I think, we are in a world where it is donor shopping, it is conflicting. We were in— Ethiopia had the most amazing principal, amazing school. But you had 170 second-graders in this school, and this was because they were so successful. And we said, “My God, this is so great, you know, can't you do something?” And she said, "Well, we're trying. But we get our construction funding from Canada. And until we get construction funding from Canada, our government won't give us a teacher. And then the U.S. government NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] do our teacher training." So here you're in Ethiopia and you've got this amazing female principal doing great things, and she's got to coordinate from a regional level three different governments to get a new school and get kids. I mean, that's kind of— it's terrible. So you really have to look at coordination at, really, I think, at the U.S. government level, then the willingness to work— not necessarily give up our sovereignty or have, necessarily, a single fund, but a willingness to continue the work of having common practices.

And I think it still does come down to— I mean, the one good progress that has really been made in the last several years in the debt relief initiative and in the Millennium Challenge Account is the idea of spurring a country to have its own national plan, and figuring out how you support that plan, as opposed to these different processes. But this is at war with itself because— why? Every program is four [programs]. We've essentially created four different programs that everybody has to apply. So, I think, even if you didn't have all the funds Mrs. Clinton wanted, that kind of coordination and incentive to the country would go a long way.

BIRDSALL: Why don't we take one or two last questions? Go ahead, please.

QUESTIONER: My question has to do with education materials. I'm Jeanne Toungara, Howard University. And that is, I'm sure that you've thought about the production of education materials. I mean, we're talking about social engineering, in many cases, in Third World countries. And so, I'd like to know what kind of scenario you and your team have thought out to produce those materials that would yield the kinds of societies that we think would come from this kind of initiative.

SPERLING: You're asking what kind of materials could—

QUESTIONER: Education materials. Who, when, where, how? I mean, what kinds of books will these children be reading? I assume that you've thought about that scenario, but if not, I would strongly suggest that people start coming together now to think about what those children will be studying.

SPERLING: Well, I mean, first of all, this is an area where one has to listen very carefully and understand local. You know, in Ethiopia they try to do English for the— I mean, in Tanzania— do English for the secondary school, but at the primary school, at the primary level you can have 20, 30 different languages. So this is not a place where we can think in D.C. about a one size fits all approach. And, I think, that there are horror stories out there about the U.S. trying to mandate curriculum. I think this is a place where we do have to bring resources to people, understand what the local language issues are, understand what the particular cultural issues are. There's lots of reform, you know, in terms of keeping prices low. I think there's amazing things we could offer people in terms of, you know, efficiencies in production, using the Internet, et cetera, for materials. But I'm really hesitant to kind of go to a one size fits all [approach], because I think when that has been done in the past, it has led to the worst kind of, you know, somebody in Washington, you know, completely misreading the culture of another country.

I do think, on the other hand, when I think of the women I talked to in Bahrain— had somebody said to them, “Listen, you know your country well; could we provide you with experts on science to help you design this, and we could bring experts to you?” I think there would be overwhelming desire. So, I think this is a great place for technical assistance, a great place where NGOs can do an enormous amount and do an enormous amount. But I do think it really has to start with bringing technical assistance, what we know, and then listening carefully at a country-by-country level, or you really risk that kind of cultural offensiveness that I think at times we've been guilty of.

BIRDSALL: Gene, thank you very much for your leadership. Incredible. Your persistence, your passion. And thank you to all of you for joining us today. [Applause.]






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