USAID Administrator Mark Green and a panel of representatives from government agencies discuss the U.S. government strategy on international basic education and the linkage between international education efforts and U.S. foreign policy priorities.
This meeting is co-sponsored with CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program.
COLEMAN: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for braving the weather this morning. I knew it was going to be bad in New York. I didn’t realize it would actually be snowing in Washington. So thank you all for coming out. I think we will have a terrific conversation this morning about a topic that I’m sure is important to all of you, which is why you are here, international education and the U.S. government’s role in improving education around the world, which we all know why that is so important.
And we have two panels today. The first panel with administrator—USAID Administrator Mark Green, who really does need no introduction. Four-time congressman from Wisconsin, has been leading USAID in all sorts of terrific directions, former ambassador to Tanzania, and, most importantly, started his career, in some ways, as a high school teacher in Kenya. Some years ago.
GREEN: Some years ago.
COLEMAN: As in the inaugural class of World Teach with your wife, which I think is just fantastic. So thank you for joining us here.
GREEN: My pleasure.
MODERATOR: Julie Cram, who the deputy assistant administration and person leading the charge on coordinating U.S. government efforts, USAID efforts on international education. She has along and illustrious career in public liaison work and public affairs, having worked with the George W. Bush administration on public liaison work. And I think that skill set will no doubt be very important in coordinating everything that you’re doing on education. So thank you.
Can we start with you, Mark, and just tell us a little bit about how the U.S. government strategy and, more specifically, how the USAID policy, what’s new? I know we’ve had the READ Act, legislation that was a year ago September. How are you thinking about this? Why is it so important? How important is it, in all of the many things that you’ve got to do leading USAID? Where does it fit in your priorities? And why is this a big deal?
GREEN: Well, first, I think a lot of it does come out of the READ Act, and the great work that Congresswoman Nita Lowey has been doing over the years to really raise the profile of international education and the role that we, the U.S. government and the American people, can play in that. Also, I think Senator Rubio has been very strong in pushing it forward. So we’ve had great champions who have really brought us to this point. A number of things are new.
First off, the USG strategy on international education really takes in every aspect of the U.S. government, across the administration. USAID is designated as the head, and Julie is designated as the senior coordinator, and has a single-minded focus on making this a reality. So that approach, that commitment, I think is new. But what’s new out in the field, the world has changed. And the world is changing rapidly. And so we are in our approach looking at that. So what that really means is we’re looking at the millions of school-age kids who are unable to go to school particularly in crisis and conflict-affected areas. And so we’re looking for ways to try to reach out and help provide quality educational services in those settings.
And I’m often asked what it is that keeps me up at night. That’s what keeps me up at night, children being born in camps, being raised in camps, being educated in camps, and then, you know, someday, God willing, the gates open and the fence comes down. Somehow, we expect them to be connected to the world around them and not vulnerable to the worst kinds of exploitative forces. So we’re trying to address that. Secondly, as part of that, part of what’s new, is turning to new partners, non-traditional partners, in particular to help us fill in the gaps in those kinds of settings. So we’ll work with whoever is able to work in those settings. It may be NGOs like Save the Children. It may be faith-based organizations. Whatever it takes to try to reach out and provide services.
And I would say third what is new is our country-based focus. So some of you who have heard me speak before know that my approach to foreign assistance is what we call the journey to self-reliance. So I—you know, I believe with my whole heart that the purpose of foreign assistance must be ending its need to exist, which means that we have to go country by country, identifying capacity needs, commitment shortcomings, and finding ways to help countries so that one day they can lead themselves. And nowhere is that more important than in education, because if you don’t have quality access, inclusive access to education, there’s no possible way you can get to self-reliance. And there’s no possible way that any of our other investments are going to be sustainable.
So education is an extraordinarily high priority for us, because we see it as the sort of key to every other area we’re working on. And it’s also a high priority for us because of what’s happening in the world. We have 70 million displaced people in the world. That number is growing each and every day. We see way too many children who have been displaced, away from their home, in these fragile, conflict-ridden settings. And we have to, for our own sake—and that’s why it’s in the National Security Strategy—we have to, for our own strategic purposes, find ways to try to provide some meaningful access to education for these kids. So those are probably the main ways that his new approach is different.
COLEMAN: Great. Well, let’s stick with the crisis situation. And tell me what you are seeing as things that are working in those situations. We chatted a little bit about Somalia before. Perhaps one of the toughest cases. It’s a very unstable environment, insecure, fast-growing population. What are you seeing in a place like Somalia, or Bangladesh, Myanmar, any of these places where there are lots of displaced people?
GREEN: Well, and each one is different. So in the case of Bangladesh right now, Cox’s Bazar—seven hundred thousand people in Cox’s Bazar. The government’s official position is that we can’t have schools there because they’re temporary guests. OK, well, they still need education. So in that kind of a setting you’ll see, what, learning spaces, and you’ll see things that we come up with names for. Really, we’re trying to provide some semblance of educational services so that hopefully someday those kids are able to, God willing, return home in a meaningful, voluntary way, but in any other case have a more regularized life, that they’re not so far behind that they can’t catch up. So that’s what we see in a place like Bangladesh.
In the case of Somalia, 3 million of the 4.9 million school-age kids are not in school. They don’t have any access to education. So what we’re coming up with there, we have a program that we just put out as an offering. It’s a, what, quality—accelerated quality educational services for Somali children and youth. And what we’re doing there is reaching out to the private sector, whether it be private schools, or NGOs, or whatever it might be, to offer a compressed educational opportunity to help those kids catch up, to get them to a place where they can return to a normal, public school system.
I actually saw this some years ago in Liberia. I traveled to Liberia—and this wasn’t so long after the war. And they had a whole generation in some places that had been left out, that did not have the ability to go to school. And I believe it was the Clinton Foundation who was doing the world. And they had accelerated education. So these kids were going to school seven days a week. They’re, you know, working long days, in an effort to compress by as much as fifty percent—you know, reduce down how far behind they were so they could return to being productive, invested young people in Liberia’s future. That’s the kind of thing that we’re looking for in Somalia. As you pointed out, it’s a—it’s a terrible fragile situation. What we do know for sure is there’s no way that Somalia rises if they forget a generation of kids. We know they can’t rise. So this is a way to try to address some of that.
COLEMAN: When you talk about really driving towards countries standing on their own, what do you see as some countries doing very well in education, and what are they not doing well?
GREEN: Well, and I should back up and say that we have crafted what we call a road map country by country. And it has seventeen objective metrics, pulled together metrics from outside sources. Oftentimes it’s the World Bank we may be turning to. And we measures capacity and commitment along these seventeen lines with host countries. Education has its own key metric. That’s how important we think it is. So we look at a number of things, the quality of instruction. But in terms of journey to self-reliance, it is availability of quality teachers. It is inclusivity of opportunity for young people involved. It’s also financing. It’s helping countries which either don’t have a proper way to be able to collect the revenues that they can allocate toward education, or else just haven’t started down that road before. So we help mobilize domestic resources to tie it to financing so that they have, as we have in this country, a clear connection between our resources and outcomes.
In our metrics, we don’t measure outputs. We measures outcomes in each place where we are. So, again, our belief is that we have to help countries build their capacity and incentivize reform so that someday they can take this over. Now, some places that’s a long—a long way away. But we want to make sure that people are always thinking about leading themselves. And in education, again, that touches just about every aspect of a country’s economy and, quite frankly, its fortunes.
CRAM: And if I may, a place that you’re most familiar with, in Kenya, you asked about a country that’s on the right track. Kenya is a great example of where we’ve been working with them, and they’ve been working with us take—within the next year, they’re going to take over the entire education program that USAID has been working with them on. So that’s a perfect example of where we’re trying to get to.
COLEMAN: Mmm hmm. That’s great. Could you say a little bit more about this—the move from measuring outputs to measuring impact, and how you’re thinking about that?
GREEN: Well, so, when I arrived at the agency a year and a few months ago, you know, I tried to change the focus almost immediately, because as a former implementing partner from my past—so USAID does lots of monitoring and evaluation, but I never saw that they were, in my opinion, measuring the right things. They could measure widgets produced, but they weren’t looking at these issues of capacity and ability for countries to lead themselves. So that’s what it is that we’re focusing on.
In the health sector—and what we tried to do is we pulled together about eight hundred staff around the world who have helped us think this through based on their years of experience. In health care, it’s under-five child mortality. And all the experts say, well, that’s just about the best measure there is overall for the quality of the health care system. Primary school enrollment—
CRAM: Primary reading efficiency—proficiency.
GREEN: And that was the best indicator that the experts could help us find that would give a broad overview of the health of the education system. I should say, we used these indicators to help guide the conversation in each country. So we present the road map with our counterparts and try to sit down and help prioritize the investments. But we also use—there are some metrics that we use that we don’t really publicly—because in some cases, they’re just snapshot pieces of the overall picture. But that also helps us in program design.
And then the final piece to this that’s important is the way that we’re building our partnerships. The other quirk I have in the approach at USAID, I don’t like the term public-private partnership because I think it’s almost devoid of meaning it’s been used in so many settings. It usually means contracts or grants, and we’re going to do contracts and grants. We always have. I’m really interested in co-creation, collaboration, co-design and, yeah, co-financing. And so in each of these educational opportunities—for example, Somalia and the kids who are not enrolled in fragile state settings—we’ll put out an offering, and then we turn to all of you. We say, what are your best ideas?
In most cases with these mechanisms, the cost of participation is a two-page statement of interest. And then that helps us take a look at those who we think are—you know, have ideas that are things that we want to bring in. And then we try to sit down together literally at a white board and design innovative approaches. So it isn’t one-size-fits all. one of the big differences between our approach and past approaches, it’s not a global approach. It’s meant to be country by country. It’s not done from here. Actually—I don’t mean to insulting to my team—but we don’t do development here in Washington. Development is done out in the field, obviously. And so what we try to do is turn to bright minds who are on the ground, who know these countries well, and get their ideas and then, again, try do some co-creation that will produce the most effective results.
COLEMAN: OK. We’re just about out of time. Last question. I asked you what keeps you up at night. What are you most excited about?
GREEN: Every time I go to a school, I’m excited about what I see in the eyes of kids. And I will say, you mentioned I started out as a teacher in Kenya. And it’s true. We didn’t have electricity. We had running water that we couldn’t use, so we didn’t really have running water. We had one telephone in the village. And we had one textbook for every dozen kids. But my kids were absolutely desperate to learn. They used to ask my wife to come back in on Saturdays for more classes—alien concept in the United States of America, right? (Laughter.) When you have kids that are desperate to learn, you can do almost anything.
And so every time I visit a classroom—I was just in Ghana, actually, with the first lady, Mrs. Trump. And we looked at not only the classroom that they had staged for us to see, those of you who know me, I always walk out of those and go to the other side, to the real classrooms. It didn’t matter. Those kids were absolutely desperate to be there. If you’ve got that, that’s what you can build on. And so that’s why I’m excited.
COLEMAN: Well, thank you. So we’re going to pause now, have a stage transition, and bring our other panelists up for the second panel. But let’s join in thanking Administrator Green for being with us here today. (Applause.)
GREEN: Thanks very much.
COLEMAN: So, welcome. A little bit of a change in panelists here, but same conversation. We’ll just now expand it to the U.S. government. And we have a terrific group of people here to discuss U.S. governmentwide strategy on international education.
So Julie Cram, you’ve already met on the first panel. And then we have Judy Olsen—going to start at this end—who is leading the Peace Corps. And I think it’s very appropriate to have someone leading the Peace Corps who started her career as a Peace Corps volunteer and has worked many years in the Peace Corps around the world in many different countries. So welcome. We have Margaret Pollack, who is heading up multilateral coordination and external relations at State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration, PRM, working with refugees in all of those places that keep Administrator Green up at night. That is what Margaret—(laughter)—well actually, both—everybody on this panel, I think, is working a lot on that. And Lona Stoll, who is the deputy vice president for sector of operations in the Department of Compact Operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, MCC.
So thank you all for being here. Every one of you is doing a different piece of implementing the government strategy. And so maybe I’ll just start with a group question, just launching off of what Administrator Green was saying earlier. How does this new strategy and the USAID policy—but how is the U.S. government strategy changing what you do? How does it make you think differently about what you’re doing? I understand that, you know, there’s been some overlap in some ways. Gosh, dare I say it, competition among the different organizations that are represented up here. And I have worked in and around international education long enough to know that there are sometimes competing interests. And I think it’s terrific that the U.S. government is trying to have a more coordinated approach.
So, Julie, why don’t we start with you, because USAID is sort of the big Kahuna in this picture. And talk about this, and your playing that coordinating role.
CRAM: So first off, I see many familiar faces out in the audience. So thank you all for coming and braving this weather. And thank you, Council on Foreign Relations, and USG partners, and you, Isobel, for hosting us. And I know we all have a different perspective to add, so I’ll tell you what my perspective has been.
I think you hit the nail on the head. I think in some places we work very well together, and in other places there’s a lot of room for improvement. And the READ Act and the strategy provides a real opportunity for us to do what we do better together. And I know that sounds kind of, you know, naïve and Pollyannaish, but the truth is when we sat around the table for the first time there was such an enthusiasm for actually achieving the results that many of you in this room and may be listening work very hard to get to. And I think there was a—there is a real commitment to achieve the results, to produce the outcomes, and to get to that efficiency and coordination. And I think the administrator said it really well, that we can improve—that the folks that do this every single day do it in country better.
And we’ve set some guidelines up. But it’s really a country focus, and what can we do to improve that. And from my perspective, the two most important—outside of the interaction that we have very, very regularly to, again, get to the—get to the results, are the two pages, page fifty and fifty-one, which is the coordination road map of the strategy, that really lays out what the key elements are that we’re going to achieve over the next five years.
STOLL: Great. So I would just build on what Julie said in two parts. One is, I think we’re all definitely stronger when our programs compliment and build on one another. So MCC’s programs are statutorily limited to five years. So if you take the example of I was just in Georgia, the country, last week for a week of skills, which features some of the technical, vocational programs that are in place in Georgia. And there, the MCC program had used results from a pilot that USAID had done to help shape the compact programming. And as the compact closes out next summer, there’s subsequent USAID investments that will continue to invest in some of the key areas for the sustainability of those changes and that real system transformation we’re seeing there. So that’s an example.
And then Peace Corps was—in August there was a specific—the Georgian compact is very focused on science, technology, engineering, and math as a key to the transformation of the economy. And there was a camp specifically focused on girls and exposing girls to that STEM career path. And the Peace Corps volunteers were camp counselors at this camp that brought together girls from all around Georgia. And it was a fabulous example of how our different agencies’ programs, if we’re very deliberate about it, can really help countries on this path to self-reliance and to really be able to transform their education systems.
So I think, as Julie said, we’ve seen the potential for us to be even more deliberate on that. And the strategy lays out that we take a few countries and really deliberately see what coordination is already happening, what is the good practices that we can build on, and then how do we even more directly continue to complement. And then the second thing I’ll throw out quickly is around evaluation and results.
It’s really important that all of our programs are founded on data of what’s working. And that for MCC, for example, we do independent evaluations that happen several years after our investments, and that give really good impact results that can then shape subsequent programming. And then similarly, when USAID or other agencies do pilots, do their own evaluations and data, we want to all be able to benefit from that. And so we’ve been talking about shared indicators, how we really make sure that evaluation results that we all have are shared and each one of our agencies is starting from the very best state of knowledge that exists, both globally and then from U.S. government investments. So those are two things that are exciting to me about the strategy.
COLEMAN: Were impact assessments not shared?
STOLL: So they’re share on our—so, for example, they’re on our websites, right? so all of them are public. And I imagine, similarly, you could, if you really searched, find the different pieces of evaluations and/or data that’s coming from all programs. But that’s different than having an established group that’s sitting down and saying: OK, for other agencies, not so much MCC, crisis conflict schools, what do we know specifically has worked? And then we proactively bring the evidence we have around those areas. So I think the knowledge is there, but we all know that having the right people around the table really talking about what’s come out of those evaluations is part of what helps you put it into practice.
CRAM: And being deliberate about it, and incentivizing, through various means, our teams to do that. So it’s a different approach, I think, than what has existed before.
POLLACK: Yeah. I think for the State Department I would say it’s a—there’s a double opportunity here in terms of what the READ Act provides us. One is for us to better coordinate within the department in terms of all the education activities that we support—whether it’s through the PEPFAR program and the DREAMS Act in terms of specifically targeting girls and making sure they have the educational opportunities that we know full well allows them to lead more healthier lives and not become HIV invested, through the Global Women’s Issues Office, a lot of the work that they’re doing in education programs, specifically with girls, and then in my own bureau, the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. It really has elevated what education means for refugees and conflict-displaced individuals.
We have always worked in the field of education with refugees. But through the READ Act, and there’s a separate chapter in there on conflict victims that we’re really pleased and worked very closely with USAID on, that gives us the opportunity to really focus at the very beginning of a conflict, to really get girls and young children into schools. And it’s allowed us as a bureau to dedicate more resources to it, which I personally find quite rewarding. I was just recently in Brussels, and it’s also providing us an opportunity to have a seat at the table like we didn’t have before. The ECHO, the European humanitarian army, is doing quite a bit on education—Canada, Sweden—and now we’re part of that group in ways we haven’t been before on education in conflict situations. So it’s been a—it’s been a double opportunity for us.
COLEMAN: Mmm hmm.
OLSEN: Peace Corps. (Laughs.) We’re always considered that last mile. And I actually started as a Peace Corps volunteer TEFL teacher. And that really set my life going forward for education, and youth and education. Peace Corps, we’re very excited about the READ Act. We’re very excited about the administrator’s goals in self-reliance, because Peace Corps can play a very unique role in this process. I know we think about—we have seven thousand volunteers working in sixty-four countries. And over half of those volunteers work directly in education. And another thirty percent work indirectly in education. And so Peace Corps really is about education. And as we have moved to today, in terms of what Peace Corps volunteers do, we’re focusing on TEFL, and we’re focusing on literacy, and we’re focusing on STEM.
But how do we do that? We do that with working directly with the teachers. We co-teach now. I taught in a classroom in Sousse, Tunisia. Today, our volunteers work co-effectively with counterparts that are also in the classroom and are working with curriculum. We reach out to literacy and really recognize and help the parents, the mothers, as well as the children themselves, in basic literacy and STEM. And for example, in STEM, we have programs—because largely young volunteers are very good with technology. And so in places where there is no electricity, we have programs that let girls code or teach girls to code. And we bring in with the solar panels, bringing the girls together in the classroom, and teaching them in the STEM sciences some of the areas related to computers and computer activity.
One of the other elements that hopefully make us a very strong partner—and Julie and I were talking about this earlier—that we measure what we do. And the administrator was talking about outcomes and ultimately the impact. But the outcomes are also dependent on the outputs and the activities. And that’s where we fit in. So we have our wonderful volunteers, once a month they actually provide data on the number of children that they did these camps with, or the number of camps that they did, or the number of teachers that the did activities with, and the number of teachers and students together that were able to raise their education level a little bit.
As we input that—these are outputs—but I’m thrilled, and what we talked about, is that we now have a place to put that data. That data now goes into this governmentwide effort that leads to the outcome and the sustainable difference. I also hope in—and Administrator Green was very active about this point too—that in part it’s a country-by-country effort. Our themes are broad, but we have to honor culture. We have to honor language. We have to honor the way children go to school and the way they are taught in the school. So we really try to be in the local language, establishing trust at that community-by-community level, working in groups—two years—volunteers serve for two years. So we’re making a difference at that local level and providing the indicators that lead to what we really think is a very substantial change and opportunity for education.
COLEMAN: Thank you. Can we go back to MCC? I always think of MCC as the compact with countries that are really signing up to get on the program to help themselves. It’s that journey to—
COLEMAN: —self-reliance, thank you. Can you talk us through one of the MCC countries that you think is doing education well, is really focused on the things that make a difference in education? And I think people in this room have a sense of what that is. It’s financing, as Mark talked about earlier, but not just financing. It’s quality. And there’s been such a big focus on access to education, and quality has really, really suffered. I always shock people when I ask people, what percent of Americans graduate from college? And then I ask them the same statistics for Egypt. And it’s about the same in Egypt as it is in the United States. It’s just remarkably different economies, remarkably different quality. And so talk us through a country that you think is doing well, and how you’re coordinating now with some of these, you know, other parts of the U.S. government to deliver on that compact.
STOLL: Great. Sure. So as you—as you noted, MCC’s country partners are selected by our board based on their meeting criteria that really demonstrates they can take that leadership role in transforming their own economies. And one of the constraints we’ve seen coming up more and more in MCC compact countries is human capital. And when human capital comes up, in partnership with the country, we dig into what are the root causes of why human capital is holding back poverty-reducing economic growth. And so what ultimately comes out of that is really a systemwide approach to seek to help, in the five years, that country to figure out how to transform its own education system.
So in most cases, we are investing along with the country in a number of complementary interventions, which includes—normally they’re not investing in operations and maintenance of schools. So even if they have sufficient buildings that need to be just rehabilitated and you’re talking about where they need to be built because they don’t exist at all. There is a funding realignment that needs to happen. Normally the teachers don’t have the pedagogy and the training and the support—the continuous support throughout the school year, not just the initial training but the in-service training and the coaching and mentoring. In most cases, you don’t have the right assessments so that there can be data-driven decision making, you can actually see if the different interventions are working.
And then in a lot of cases, you talk about outside of a country what’s happening globally, the nature of work and productivity is radically changing. The most rapidly growing career fields right now didn’t exist five years ago. And so part of what you have to look at as well is how do you better connect that private sector demand and the market demand with what’s coming out of the schools? So a lot of times our programs are actually investing in all of those things together with the country, but then going deeply in a few of the regions. So for example, in Morocco, we’re working in just three regions of Morocco. But the point is that during the five years of working with MCC, that country then figures out how to have an approach that they roll out in the entire country, subsequent to our program. So you have systems strengthening. You have country leadership from the beginning because it’s the ministry of education, it’s the local schools, it’s the teacher training institutes, it’s the private sector that are themselves part of this intervention.
So you asked to go deeper into one. I’ve already talked about Georgia and I was just there, and it’s an entirely education-focused compact that’s closing out, so we’ve already been thinking about these points of connection. So there, for example, we helped introduce student-centered learning, learning by doing, particularly with all of the science and math teachers. But now that the compact is eight months from closeout, the government just made those same modules available to all teachers in Georgia. And within two weeks, ten thousand teachers had signed up to do this same training that all of the STEM teachers had gone through under the MCC compact. And it was informed by the pilot on teacher training that had been done through a predecessor USAID program.
So we have a real training of thousands of teachers that happened during the compact, new pedagogy, increased capacity in the teacher training institute. We’ve rehabilitated or are rehabilitating ninety-one schools because access is a problem and the quality of the learning environment is a program. We’re working with them on operations and maintenance and standing up a whole new funding. This is the first year they’ve had a budget line in their budget for operations and maintenance. But then we’ve also rolled out NAEYC assessments and different assessment tools, so you can see if you have the data that means this is actually working and start to resolve—evolve it over time.
But we are there for only five years. And so on the ground in the communities where we work, where there’s Peace Corps volunteers, they can play a really important role. And we saw that in Georgia with these STEM-focused intersections and the role that the Peace Corps volunteers can play. And then with USAID, there’s both really important roles that the USAID programs, which primarily in almost all of our countries existed before MCC and can inform the—you know, that’s part of that data, the stakeholder analysis and that evidence base that underpins the compact. And then afterwards, we really work very closely with USAID to say, OK, so they are now doing—I don’t want to put a dollar amount on it in case it’s not final, but they’re rolling out an education program that will similarly continue to do—
COLEMAN: They being?
STOLL: USAID, with the government of Georgia, that would focus on K-6, whereas our programs are primarily focused on secondary and TVET.
And so last minute on TVET, so what we’ve also seen in almost every MCC compact country that’s doing education is looking at how do you bring the private sector more, and that market demand, more directly into education? And so in Georgia, there’s ten centers that together have currently now over 1,200 students enrolled in fields like welding, and port logistics management, and various types of engineering that are in demand in the private sector in Georgia, but that the students that are graduating from secondary school don’t have, and university graduates don’t have. And these are the areas where there’s job growth, where there’s really good incomes.
And so part of it has to also be transforming the perceptive—perspective of people in that society that getting a university degree means I’m going to get a high-paying job. And so there’s a whole effort by the Georgian government to also rebrand what technical vocational education and training is. And rebrand it for girls in particular and bring girls into these programs. And so I think Georgia is one of the partners I’d point to that’s just making the tough choices to overhaul teacher salary schemes as well to correspond to this new training, really tackling the issue of operations and maintenance, and really investing heavily in these private-sector approaches to ensure that the workforce really has the skills that will continue to allow this economic growth.
COLEMAN: Thank you.
OLSEN: Can I just—
OLSEN: I want to add just a small piece, because you illustrated so well how we work together, that we work off of many of these broad goals and objectives that you lay out. And, for example, the country-by-country perspective is so important because in some countries, as you’re talking about, the camps or the activities in the summer, is to how we bring the girls together, which will help keep them in school. And in other cases, how we bring boys and girls together to look gender equity, in a sense, to also keep them in school. We also work on, let’s say, after school activities, a lot of them having to do with computers. And so, again, they’re wanting to stay in school.
And we also—two countries in particular. Mongolia is looking towards more English. And Ecuador is definitely looking towards more English. And in fact, they’ve talked about going to become bilingual. So in those two countries, just to take two in example, part of our education effort, working in these broad goals that have been laid out, we can do very deliberate TEFL teaching training in a school-by-school basis. And so in addition, we have in terms of, I guess we would say public-private, but we have opportunities for organizations, groups, families, to contribute small amounts of money—$2,000 to about $5,000—that come into the classroom with the volunteer and the students. So it can be for lab equipment for STEM. It can be for a basketball court on the side of a school so that they can continue the afterschool activities. And so we try to play these kind of roles in also bringing Americans into being partners with us at the local level. But, again, we also—I’m very conscious of data and how we also present that so that our on the ground work really links back to the work of what we’re putting together under the READ Act.
COLEMAN: Thank you.
So Julie and Margaret, I’m going to ask you a similar question that I did to Lona about working in a particular conflict situation, refugee situation. USAID and PRM are both working, you know, as we heard from Administrator Green, it’s his priority, really, is to deal—it’s what keeps him up at night, is dealing with these kids who are not in school. And yet, refugee is also what PRM is doing. So how are you coordinating on education? How are you making sure that what you’re doing is aligned and is not redundant, overlapping, competitive, you know, whatever? How are you—because we’ve all seen it in action when it hasn’t worked so well. So how are you changing that dynamic?
POLLACK: I mean—let me start off, Julie.
POLLACK: I think Uganda is a good case in point. We’re finding that in particular refugees are more and more now living in communities, living in urban settings. And often—
COLEMAN: And they’ve been there for years.
POLLACK: Oh, yes. And the protracted situations—you know, the majority are in protracted situations of ten years or more. So we’re changing the way in which we’re responding to the education needs of many refugees, focusing on communities. So that means we have to invest in the communities too. And in the case of Uganda, we’re now seeing that refugees in Uganda are going to Ugandan schools, being taught by Ugandan teachers. So we’re not doing it on a parallel track. We’re integrating it into the national education system and supporting that national education system to do that.
CRAM: And part of our job is ensuring also that we’re working with the ministries to make sure that they’re accepting of this.
CRAM: And so we’re working very closely together. But I just wanted to make that point. Go ahead.
POLLACK: Exactly. Exactly. And then the new—well, relatively new; it’s a couple years old coming out of the kind of year of 2016 with the focus on refugees and President Obama’s refugee summit at the U.N.—is the Education Cannot Wait effort, headed by Gordon Brown, that Julie sits on the board of. And really focusing on, again, the importance of education at the initial stages of displacement.
So to answer your question more specifically, Isobel, we focus primarily on refugees. And with our AID colleges, they focus on the internally displaced. As Administrator Green said, there are over 70 million refugee and conflict-displaced individuals in this world. That’s, in my view, 70 million too many. But this is the way we complement our activities, as Julie mentioned, through USAID’s work, working with the government or the ministries and so forth, and then certainly with the refugees, working with the communities that are hosting them.
COLEMAN: Mmm hmm. Julie, you want to—
CRAM: Well, I think Margaret really answered the question well, that I think the place where we are working well is the Education Cannot Wait example as well. It is new so we’re paying close attention to it. But part of what we’re helping them do is also look at their resilience strategies and how are our tools and resources helping to build that case as well?
But I also want to go back to what Lona was talking about, how we—what’s going to be different in country. And I had the opportunity to go to Morocco. And that’s a place where it’s actually working really well, where in fact we saw down with the—you know, obviously MCC is focused on economic growth and the important part of what that sector—how that sector plays in ensuring people that come out of—kids are getting jobs, and really building the private-sector lens of how we’re trying to do education there. But I think importantly what this strategy and what our work together will do is help us, as a U.S. government, present one face to the ministries, whether it’s education, whether it’s finance, whether it’s health and agriculture, that we’re able to sit down together and ideally look at where each of our expertise areas are and build out that program from a whole of U.S. government approach, and one face to the government.
COLEMAN: So what’s the hardest thing? I mean, this is—this is an effort that I think many would say is long overdue, long time coming. If it were easy, it would have happened before. So it’s not easy to do this. What’s the hardest challenge you have in really forcing and driving this coordination?
CRAM: I’ll tell you, it’s been easy in Washington—(laughter)—truly, so far. I say that. I’m sure my team out there is laughing. But I think behavior change is always hard. And so I think that will—that’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. But I know in talking and going to—unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel as much as I’d like to and will be doing. I think there is such a desire to be more efficient that that is going to be the—behavior change and ensuring what we’re trying to do is not personality driven. Does that make sense? And instilling kind a new way of doing business together.
OLSEN: I want to pick up on what Julie just said, because part of our behavior change with Peace Corps is the fact that we do measure. And we’ve been working in the field for fifty-seven years, but that opportunity for our behaviors to link more directly with research related to strong education principles, and Americans, as volunteers, to understand that what they do is important to measuring a difference over time. So as we internally work, we get excited because we’re now appreciating that what we’re doing on the ground is making a difference. And it’s making a difference within this governmentwide effort that we have been setting up. And so for Peace Corps volunteers, it’s like, oh my heavens, I see the difference. I see where my difference fits into the larger scheme of what’s happening.
I think one of the—and so I’m very excited about this initiative because of what it is in the collaboration at the community level with volunteers and with educational groups. Also, I think the hard part is a lot—and it was alluded to earlier with the administrator, is about culture. It’s about tradition. It’s about a way of thinking about education country, by country, by country. And so as we form this framework—this global framework for education, we need the framework, we need the research, but we also need to be very respectful in the countries of the way change happens, because how it happens in an Asian country is very different from how it might happen in West Africa. And that respectfulness and what that looks like is when I think the countries become active participants with us.
STOLL: So I think the hardest thing is going to be the data and evaluation and metrics. I was part of the Feed the Future effort in the early days.
CRAM: Leave it to Lona.
STOLL: And I know how hard—
COLEMAN: I’m glad you brought this up, because this is where I was going next.
STOLL: I was part of the Feed the Future, wearing a different hat years ago, when we tried to really align U.S. government indicators around agriculture, and nutrition, food security. And many of you maybe were even involved in that effort, because it took multiple iterations, engagement with the stakeholder community. And it’s not easy, because our programs can be very different. And so agreeing upon how do you try to get to where you can draw broader conclusions, while understanding the nuance of the how mattering in many cases. You know, we used to use the analogue of post-conflict situations, that you can measure if you built a school. But it’s very different if the military comes in and builds a school versus the community builds a school. But if what you’re measuring is the school’s built, you’re going to miss a lot of what you’re actually trying to achieve through those different routes.
So it’s not as easy as on the face when we say we want data, we want really good evaluation. So we have our working group that has our, you know, monitoring and evaluation lead thinkers on this that are hunkered down together trying to figure out how do we meet the need we have, and that Congress is asking, and our stakeholders are asking, for this more rigorous data? And for us, we really rely upon these evaluations that are done several years after the compact. Does that satisfy our congressional stakeholders, everyone willing to wait? Because if you want to get to impact and measuring some of these results, you have to wait for it. And that’s not an easy thing. We’re hungry for the numbers of teachers trained, number of students in classrooms, those output data. But there is a time delay to get to, at the end of the day, are more people getting jobs and are they getting better higher-paid jobs.
So I think there’s going to be a lot of work for us to do. We’re committed to it. That doesn’t make it easy.
COLEMAN: So let’s stick on metrics for a moment, because I actually agree that I think that is the hardest thing. And especially—and you talked earlier about culture, Judy, about changing culture and changing behavior. I think there has been a very deep cultural prevalence, practice, to measure outputs and not look at impact. And people are quite wedded to their programs that they’ve been doing for many years, who they really believe these things are nice, without actually measuring over time does it make any difference. And so when you think about those longer-term evaluations and really getting at impact, I mean, there are countries that have had lots of input—resources and technical input from the United States, that continue to fail on their PISA tests. You know, at what point are you looking at impact and really saying, OK, these things are making a difference? I noted earlier there’s been a huge expansion of access to education, which is great, but it’s quality. There are many more kids in school, but can they actually read? And so talk a little bit more about how you’re getting at that.
CRAM: So I think—but this came up a little bit with the administrator. So lots of access—there’s been lots of progress in access. But the quality—and I think AID has led in trying to pivot the world around measuring outcomes. And all over—the READ Act, the strategy, and the USAID policy is a—is all about outcomes. Which is where—why we’re focused on—you know, on the country metrics, and also making sure that our partner countries are as committed as we are to achieving that. And that from the high level and from looking at the country roadmaps that the administrator was talking about and having education be one of the primary ones—and there will be others that fall in underneath that—it’s a—it’s a place to start the strategic dialogue with them about in places where it’s not working as effectively, why? Are you committed? What are you committing in terms of your domestic resource—in terms of your resources? Who else is at the table? And having that discussion with them to evaluate it, and having something clear and tangible to measure it against to start that discussion in places where it hasn’t been as effective. So that’s one way.
COLEMAN: But presumably, as you measure, some of the measurements you’ve done measuring outputs, now that you—when you turn to these metrics and impacts, some of the programs are not going to look so good.
COLEMAN: And there’s a commitment to move away. I heard Administrator Green saying that, yeah.
CRAM: And no question about that. No question.
POLLACK: Let me jump in on here because you asked the question earlier about, you know, so what’s some of the hardest things. And I think, Lona, you really touched on one, is giving it time. And I think particularly in emergency situations, we don’t have the time. The initial focus is always going to be on, you know, is there shelter, is the water, sanitation. Education oftentimes is an afterthought.
And we’re changing that. We’re trying to say no, education should be provided within the first month of displacement. It may not be the education we’d all want, but it’s a start. And then we need to build it into the longer-term possibilities.
CRAM: And I think there’s a global recognition of that as well.
POLLACK: Yes. Yes, exactly.
So it’s staying the course. And I think this city is awful at staying the course because we all want our own initiatives, and that lasts for six months and then we need another initiative on something else. And so being able to really stay the course and invest in it—especially in education, it takes time to really get to the impact—we’re not terribly good at. And so, as much as we can get governments to really integrate this into their DNA, I think that will be helpful.
And at least for us humanitarians, it’s a constant challenge because another crisis happens and—I mean, who’s talked about Ukraine of late? I haven’t heard—well, actually, I’ve heard a lot about Ukraine—(laughter)—but you probably all haven’t heard much of what’s going on in Ukraine. That was yesterday’s news. And so how do we kind of keep the attention and the energy and the funding going for that? That’s the tough thing, and that will affect how we’re able to measure impact.
OLSEN: I want to pick up because—about time and the importance of time. We are consistent in being in certain places year after year after year, working with schools year after year after year. And so, increasingly, we have data that we can input or output year after year after year. What’s important is that we’re connecting it, because you all are looking at the next part down. We can say that we’ve trained X number of teachers over a five-year period, and be pretty firm and very confident about that. But then we turn to you because it’s you that then look at: What are the measurements of student learning? What are the measurements of teachers that are staying in education? So, again, that’s all over time to ultimately get to the impact, but we’re hoping that we can give you the longitudinal outputs year after year after year, at least in certain countries and in certain communities, that you can look at with the broader indicators of what happened because of the fact that we have been consistent in these communities. But we’re dependent on you all—I don’t mean to put anybody on the spot here—(laughter)—we’re dependent on you all to help frame what that larger output and the larger sustainability that comes from that work.
STOLL: So I’d like to go back to TVET for a second to give an example of this. So MCC, because of our focus on economic growth that reduces poverty, we do tend—we do the root cause analysis, so we do sometimes end up in primary schools and others. But we do a lot in this technical vocational space. And if you look across our evaluation history, we have results that show you there are different things that went wrong in a variety of those programs, and we try to be very honest and transparent about that. We have a forum every two years. We bring all of our education—the country partner, directors of the education programs, and then our own staff together to go through what have all the evaluations shown and what have we learned.
CRAM: And we’re talking about combining—
CRAM: —that with AID, which—
CRAM: —has not happened before.
STOLL: Yeah, which would be great.
STOLL: And then those lessons and those practices and what you learn from one country gets built into the next generation. So we’re doing what I consider right now to be this—it’s a pretty cutting-edge generation of these Technical Vocational Education Training programs because we keep learning the private sector is still not close enough to setting the demand, identifying the skills, to helping with both the curriculum and the actual on-the-job integrated parts of that curriculum.
And so the model in place in Georgia will be in Morocco and in Cote d’Ivoire and El Salvador are those kind of next generation that learned from a number of these compacts and the data that showed it made progress but not to the extent we wanted, for a variety of reasons. And so I think part of what I’m excited about, as Julie said, let’s get everybody together who’s doing Technical Vocational Education and Training programs.
Right now, there’s sort of a sense that what the global development community has helped countries do hasn’t really worked. So we’re trying what we think is taking the best of the evidence and doing it in a number of countries and we’re going to start to have the real results on these students’ income levels and are they in jobs more than our measures—do they have jobs, what is the income—a year after they’re placed into that job.
So they have to stay in the job, too. And that’s going to help us understand, OK, does this model seem to be working for now. The world changes, though, so, you know, the point of putting the private sector in is you help build the dynamic capacity for the country and the organizations to themselves change. Or do we have to go back and look at, you know, yet another way to continue to refine it.
OLSEN: In your words—
STOLL: So it’s not a monthly change.
STOLL: You know, it’s really taking the time to get to where you have—not just are you doing things right, but are you doing the right things. And that is a gap.
OLSEN: But so you can then—I mean, I get very excited about this because you then help give us guidance on the ground because you’re then seeing what some of these broader term outcomes are and say, oh, wait a minute, that basketball court didn’t work out. Well, we won’t go into that. Anyway, but you then can feed back to us what we can do on a community by community basis that’s more grounded in the long-term strategies and I really appreciate that work you do.
CRAM: And on—thank you, Julie, and on TVET in particular I think it illustrates the importance of the—bringing in the private sector and having them be a real partner—the private sector in that country be part of where do we need to go with skills development in our youth and workforce development work. And I think that—I think in some places, quite frankly, that works terrifically and in other places it’s not as close of a connection that youth is getting those relevant skills that are needed.
And I was just in Central America and there was a MOU signed with AID and the ministry of education and a group of 117 private sector organizations where they’re aligning their dollars with the ministry of education and USAID’s programming. But that alignment also leads to skills development with where they—with where they are. And so I think that’s a good demonstration of the data, the education office, and our programming and the ministries and the local capacity and private sector commitment to ensuring that those outcomes are not—that we’re working towards greater outcomes for the kids who are getting skilled and getting jobs.
COLEMAN: Thank you. So now we’re going to turn to all of you to ask questions—our members here. Could you please wait for the microphone, stand, state your name and affiliation, and do ask a question? That would be terrific. So we can start right back here.
Q: Thank you. Adrianna with Voice of America.
So I know that—so we all know that China is investing in about, like, sixty-five countries along with their One Belt, One Road initiative and they’re also doing investment in education in those areas. So is there a competition with what you are doing in those areas? And so what have you done in those areas and what do you hope to do in the future? Thank you.
STOLL: I guess I’d say—I’d say that the fact that the U.S. government invests so heavily in human capacity building is actually something that distinguishes us from other donors and that commitment to really build the local capacity in this country to do the jobs and do the workforce. I mean, if you compare—
CRAM: And more partnering with the countries to do that.
STOLL: That’s right. That’s right. I mean, so our programs are all done with the ministries of education, with the private sector in that country, et cetera. But if you compare even just infrastructure projects that MCC does, right, we are helping the—going back to my Georgia example, ESIDA is one of the government institutions that helps do the infrastructure around the schools, right.
We’re working with them so that their capacity is built on how to connect the ninety-one schools that we’re rehabilitating, you know, after the actual infrastructure work around that school is in place. And so at the end of the day, the compact will have built the capacity of all of the relevant Georgian institutions that surround how you maintain, build, assess schools and infrastructure.
So I would say we haven’t encountered competing Chinese investment, really, in the education space in our compacts. But I think there’s a real distinguishing value of U.S. development assistance because we are so deeply looking to build the human capacity of these countries, which is critical for them to be good markets for U.S. companies over the longer term as well.
CRAM: And good partners. And may I ask that it be from Council members and others, if we can hold press questions until we’re done?
COLEMAN: Right here.
Q: Thank you very much. Such an interesting panel. My name is Janet Fleischman with the CSIS Global Health Policy Center.
And one word you didn’t mention was health, and some of the issues, particularly for girls but not only for girls, that impacts their ability to stay in school, to advance to secondary school, to pass the test to get out of secondary school, involves gender-based violence, menstrual hygiene, family planning access—the whole range of health-related issues. So I wonder if you could speak for a moment about how you are integrating that element and coordinating with USAID’s global health programs in that arena to better ensure their chances for success in advancing.
CRAM: Well, I think the whole strategy in our policy and in our work together is in fact it lays out a focus on ensuring women and girls have better access, better quality, and integrating it across all of our programs as well as with—well, as well as with other programs. So I think, Lona, you wanted to say something.
STOLL: Well, I mean, so when we see that human capacity has constraints we, with the partner, do a real root cause of what’s behind that, and that’s true for girls and/or women as well. And so it’s different in different countries. As you’ve said, there’s different factors.
But there are themes like the gender-based violence, the access to restrooms and facilities that allow girls’ health needs to be taken care of. And so a lot of times the infrastructure improvements we’re doing relate to having toilets in the school for both girls, having schools that are close enough to villages and where—especially secondary schools so that girls don’t drop out when they finish primary school because there’s not a safe distance secondary school that they can go to. So it’s a very—
CRAM: Of higher security in the restrooms, in the schools, so that they feel like they can do that.
STOLL: Yeah. So and in most cases, we work—there’s a policy institutional reform component of this, too, and so in most of our partner countries they are putting gender policy in place for the first time. They’re really looking and creating the same kind of data feedback systems to better understand over time why girls are dropping out or why girls aren’t coming in the first place and ensure that there can be that same dynamic responses to those changes as well.
So yes, and we definitely seek to ensure that the right people in that country, whoever is dealing with in this—who has responsibilities for some of those issues is also different in different countries. But that has to be a part of taking a real systems approach if the end goal is to have girls graduating in equal numbers as boys—what are the different factors that contribute to that—and our dollars are, luckily, flexible enough to let us really invest where the root causes take us.
OLSEN: Just quickly on the Peace Corps note, we also work actively through PEPFAR and have many volunteers in that space and one of the elements with that is working with high-risk populations and in the case what we work with are youth and girls. And so some of the DREAMS’s activity through PEPFAR is what we’re doing is linking to keep the girls in school so they are less susceptible to—ultimately, what happens is the behaviors that lead to HIV. And so we watch a very interesting relationship between the two and we find helping girls stay in school is critical for their health and we’re understanding that through the health side of the work that we do.
COLEMAN: This gentleman back here. Thank you.
Q: Hi. I’m Alex Palacios with the Global Partnership for Education.
Familiar faces up there. One of the most important aspects of the strategy that really appealed to us was the focus on national education sector plans. It’s something that GPE itself has spent a lot of time supporting the development of, financing the implementation of. I haven’t heard much about from the other agencies or departments about sector plans and to what degree those sector plans feature in your own thinking as you think on a country by country basis.
CRAM: Well, Alex, you know, our—both the strategy and the policy, a—I don’t want to call it a shift but a priority is system strengthening, which is, of course, what GPE and AID and all of us are working at the end game. And so that is a hand in hand with this country focus shift that AID has and it’s also completely embedded within the strategy and this country focus.
So I’m going to let the others—but I think you know full well where AID is in terms of its country strengthening, country focus, and the work that we’re doing together. But I just want to—GPE and the countries where GPE, ECW—Education Cannot Wait—and the whole of U.S. government is I think there is a real opportunity to look more strategically at how—where the multilateral organizations, where the donor countries are, and be much more coordinated towards that system strengthening than I think we’ve been in the past, and I know that’s a goal that we share and my colleagues also around the—
POLLACK: I mean, as I said, Alex—good to see you again—you know, I think there’s, at least in the humanitarian arena, we’re now seeing education moving up as a(n) immediate activity that has to be provided in any kind of humanitarian crisis and I want to keep that going. But in the past, we’ve seen that kind of go back and then we had to bring it back up, and I’m hoping I think with the READ Act, that it’s now legislated, that will—that’ll keep the momentum going and keep us staying the course.
I mean, at the end of the day, you know, I don’t know if a child in a refugee camp is going to become a lawyer in eighteen years’ time but I—
STOLL: An engineer.
POLLACK: Or an engineer. (Laughter.)
CRAM: A girl engineer. (Laughter.)
POLLACK: Yeah. But what I do know is it’s offering that individual some protection for the time being and that’s key—to allow them the space to develop the resiliency, to develop perhaps some other skills, and just to live as a kid. That’s just so important for that immediate time.
STOLL: I’d just say yes. The country definitely has to have a strategy, a plan, and if there are gaps in that that’s something we have to work with them so that they have that. Everything to deal with—what percentage of their own financing are they going to put towards education? Because we don’t want to build schools if they can’t—
CRAM: Which is a threshold for GPE.
STOLL: —that they can’t maintain. You know, if we’re training these teachers, OK, but teachers are going to retire. New teachers are going to come in. They have to be able to keep up that training and then, hopefully, expand it to other teachers that we didn’t directly do in our programming. So it’s a critical piece having a roadmap, a vision, of where they’re going and—
CRAM: And holding them accountable.
STOLL: That’s right, because at the end of the day, this is their—this has to be theirs. They have to want it more than we do or it doesn’t work, and so in different countries there’s different states of sector plans that exist. But, definitely, the compact looks at that. Similarly, if we were doing infrastructure and transport or any other sector, there has to be a sort of master plan that then we’re helping them advance and refine as necessary.
COLEMAN: Just right here.
Q: Hi, there. Diana Price from McKinsey.
I work in our education and global health portfolios across both MCC and USAID so really glad to be here. My question is about financing and the fact—as we know, financing is a constant issue in international development across all portfolios, and you mentioned that in some countries the issue is as basic as a public financial management issue with just getting a line item.
But you also touched on some opportunities for co-financing and you mentioned also an example in Latin America involving an MOU with the private sector. And I’m curious what kind of innovative models, given the new kind of emergence of results-based financing, development impact bonds, things like those, are there any innovative financing models that you’ve seen in the education space that have been particularly successful?
CRAM: There hasn’t been a lot but there’s going to be. I think that all of the discussion that we’re having, and I’m sure—I mean, this is what McKinsey does—there is a—there is a gap—a $1.8 trillion gap—and the donor community is not going to be able to fill that gap and the domestic resource mobilization of the individual countries are not going to be able to fill that gap. And so there has to be innovative financing opportunities—opportunities for co-financing—all towards ensuring equity and outcomes.
So we’re exploring—I can tell you from USAID’s perspective we’re exploring all of it including with our multilateral partners and others about how do we—how do we innovatively do this so that—because of the world we live in and particularly in the education and crisis and conflict—we’re working hard with ECW on that—as well is how are we going to fill this gap because it’s just—it’s not sustainable unless we do explore all of those. So that is something I will be spending I know a lot of my time on in addition to all the great work that we already do is to try to—to try to do that.
STOLL: I’d give two examples. One is in our—these Technical Vocational Education Training programs that I’ve already talked about a bit today. They have to come up with a financing plan. That’s part of both receiving the grant and then part of the technical assistance that they get over the life of the compact, and that’s because for most of them they have to figure out blended ways to pay for these centers and these programs over time.
They get some amount from the public sector but then they’re also getting it from the private sector. They’re getting everything from in-kind contributions to, you know, people from the private sector helping teach some elements of the classes to then paying for in-service training for existing employees in that company that the company directly pays for.
So there’s a lot of different ways these TVET centers are figuring out how to make everything add up once our public sector dollars from MCC transitioned to the government’s public-sector dollars, but knowing that that’s a fixed amount. It’s not going up. There’s not some—so they have to figure out how to make that center continue to work.
The second is in Morocco we’re actually working with the government. The government itself has tried results-based financing in the past and part of the support we’re giving them is really looking at how do you do that around job placement programs right now—how can you change the way you do do those subsidies to technical vocational training or other skills programs so that you’re prioritizing not the number of students that are pumped out but the students that get and keep the jobs over time. And so that’s something that’s still in the—we’re only in the first—we just passed our one-year anniversary of the five years of that program. But that’s going to be a really interesting opportunity to really look at what can you do in this space with vocational to change some of those incentives and try to get it right, that balance of really supporting the programs that are getting you to the outcomes.
Q: Thank you. Amber Gove from the Research Triangle Institute.
I’m really excited to hear about the data evaluation and metrics and greater collaboration across the different groups. I haven’t heard a lot, though, about helping countries measure and report against their own goals, particularly vis-à-vis the sustainable development goals for 2030. Can you comment on how the strategy or the new USAID policy will help countries in that regard? Thank you.
CRAM: Well, I think the first place this helps is that embedded within the strategy, embedded within the policy and the work that we’re doing, is that is a priority. In fact, you know, in our policy a focused approach is ensuring that data—that our countries—our country partners are using data to drive their decision making.
And so going to the sector plans that Alex was talking about, that data and measurement is fundamental to—it’s not new but it is an increased focus, at least from USAID’s perspective, and I think it’s embedded also within the strategy. I think we’ve heard a lot about that the only way we’re going to get to the improved outcomes is for countries to measure and make better decisions based on their capacity to develop their own data management plans and knowledge management plans.
OLSEN: Let me just say that Peace Corps is in a country at the invitation of that country and so we’re in the sectors at the invitation of those sectors. So as we work in education, we work directly with the minister of education and all the ministry officials. And so we’re a catalyst in that helping them achieve the goals that they have.
Now, again, we use, as we’ve been talking about, what our broad themes are as to how we think those can be achieved. But which parts of those we work with is really dependent on where the departments—in this case, through the ministries of education—feel that we might be able to make the biggest difference. So it’s indirect but it’s in that context of being part of ministry of education plans within their own development.
STOLL: Almost each one—every one of our compacts has some investment that traditionally it was kind of a management information system space—how do you help a ministry or government even have the pretty basic data that then helps them decide how to allocate resources. Nowadays, we’re also adding to that as the world changes. You know, how do you help them have the data analytic capacity to also take advantage of do you have spatial information, to take advantage of really building in—if they’re bringing digital tools into the classrooms how do you help teachers have more of that real-time assessment capability as well.
So I think it depends on where the country is and what—but they need a digitization and a data strategy that goes along with everything else and then we want to make sure that what we’re supporting them in doing is knowing how to—data does no good if you’re not very clear about what decisions you’re using to—using it for because otherwise no one has incentives to report it and verify it and make sure it’s good data, and it also has to come at the right time for people to make those decisions. So I think that’s changing. It’s something we’re wrestling with at MCC—how do we be good partners—
CRAM: And encouraging that. Yeah.
STOLL: Yeah, and encouraging it and making sure it’s the right technology and making sure they have the capacity, because we also don’t want to help them build systems that then they don’t have the sustained personnel to really deal with in the right way and there’s high demand for those same skill sets in the private sector, too, right. So it has to—data has to be an integrated part of this if we’re on a self-reliance path because if the country itself can’t make good decisions after our programs end or even during our programs, then they’re never going to be self-reliant. So just acknowledge that has to be part of it.
CRAM: And it is, but it’s—but it’s—
STOLL: A part of what we’re doing in each of these programs.
CRAM: —yeah, it’s—but it has to be done more holistically and better. But it’s a challenge.
COLEMAN: Just right here. Thank you.
Q: Hi. I’m Beth Johnson with the Basic Education Coalition.
And, first of all, I just thank you so much and congratulations for all of the work that went into this strategy and policy. It’s also—I mean, it’s a tremendous moment for international education as a sector but it’s also super exciting to see all of you up here. What a great example of government working together, and I’m just wondering if you can share some reflections on how you made this happen—maybe Ms. Cram—and what the plan is for continuing this commitment and cooperation, moving forward.
CRAM: Thank you for that very nice question. (Laughter.) Well, I think I said this earlier. The first thanks goes to Ms. Lowey and Senator Rubio and others and, frankly, many of you sitting in this room. So I think we all say thank you to you for that. And, honestly, we got together the first—our first meeting and everyone agreed to achieving the results that the READ Act requires us to do. So it has—it has not been—the speed at which we’ve got it done has been the hardest part, not the working together.
As I said before, from my perspective—and I’ll let others speak to theirs—the most important part of the strategy—the U.S. government strategy—is page fifty and fifty-one, which lays out the coordination roadmap for how we’re going to achieve the results that are required. We’ve got short-, mid-, and long-term goals. The first step is—and we’ve got kind of the decision-making bodies and some of us are here, and then we’ve also got teams of people focused on the individual outcomes that we’re looking to achieve over the course of the next five years that then—and we meet every month or two and our working group meets more frequently than that to really achieve the indicators.
It’s everything from short term—how we—what are the indicators we’re going to share on outcomes to co-creation and that’s the end goal is actually sitting down in a country early and planning the entire sector strategy from the U.S. government perspective but also encouraging our other partners where we may have investments like GPE, like ECW, our donor partners, and having a real sector approach from that perspective, and as the U.S. government we have the tremendous opportunity to lead and convene and bring all of our resources, all of our learning, and all of our leverage together to do that.
And so I know that there’s a huge commitment from all of us to do that and it’s more than a commitment. We’ve all been in government and done things in different capacities, and there is a real enthusiasm to get it done, which you don’t always see.
OLSEN: One sentence. We do better at what we do knowing that we’re part of this partnership, and we are grateful for this partnership.
POLLACK: Let me add one other thing. It’s—and I think some of these folks are out here in the audience—it’s what’s going on at the working level. That’s really making a difference. I mean, we can sit up here and talk at kind of the larger—
POLLACK: —higher levels and so forth. But it’s really the cooperation and the spirit and the commitment that our staff are bringing to this issue that I’ve not seen before in my thirty-some years working on international development and humanitarian affairs. So that’s, you know, really sustaining for me as an individual.
STOLL: Can I interject two sentences? I promise. One is it matters that the stakeholder community, Congress, all of you, stay focused on outcomes because we can come together on outcomes. If you care about the how, that divides us. And, secondly, I think it does matter that we have the time to do this and that we’re—you’re staying focused on we want you to work together—we want to see the long-term results. Those are two really important ingredients to have everyone not feel, from Congress or from stakeholders, that what you care about is this particular program or activity—
STOLL: —or what you care about is this thing rather than the outcomes and that all of these resources are coming together, because we’re not structured as—right, we technically don’t come together until the NSC (sp), and so the stakeholder and congressional perspectives on those matter.
COLEMAN: I think we have time for really just two more questions. The gentleman right back here we’ll take. Yes, you.
Q: Thank you so much. I’m Mark Engman, UNICEF USA.
First, Julie, I want to give you props for the outreach you did to the NGO community—
OLSEN: Thank you.
Q: —consulting on a strategy. It was really great.
OLSEN: Thank you.
Q: And I love that the U.S. government is rallying around this principle that education is a lifesaving humanitarian response, no question. The problem is most kids are not in camps and most kids are not refugees. So there’s an issue that—you know, PRM does a great job trying to fund refugee projects—education projects in refugee situations. The funding situation outside refugee contexts is a little more difficult.
You know, USAID education funding tries to help where it can. AFTA funds a little bit of education projects but it’s not a priority. So the question, really, is how can we increase resources for the nonrefugee education needs, particularly in places like Syria and Yemen where, you know, we don’t have formal development education programs?
CRAM: So I think this goes to some of the—some of the earlier discussion. We have to figure out how to be more efficient, which is what the government strategy’s trying to get after, work with our—and leverage our dollars in a more innovative and effective way. I mean, there—and encourage our country partners to—where we can—to be smarter, and to put and to dedicate the right level of resources to education. And, look, because this is not an easy question.
And but at the end of the day, every single tool has to be on the table. And I think it’s incumbent upon us as the U.S. government and you all as the stakeholder community to be as innovative and—as you can to leverage those dollars more effectively and I think fundamentally part of what we’re trying to do is harness this moment where I think one of the reasons we’re going to achieve results is because there is a recognition, A, of the important role that education plays in all of our development.
I think there’s a global recognition of the role that education plays and I think those—and I am not one of them but I will be honored to be one in ten years—who have spent their life’s work on education to harness this moment that we’re seeing—what you were talking about, Margaret, and what we all do. But it’s really the folks in the field and the kids and the teachers, you know, to take advantage of this moment and that’s our job as leaders.
Your question is not an easy one, but we know it’s there and we work with the resources that we are given and we will squeeze every single dollar we can out of it and we will be squeezing dollars out of you all to do it. And so that’s the best answer I can give you. (Laughter.)
COLEMAN: Well, I think we are in fact just about out of time, and that’s a very good answer because we know that you’re not the appropriators sitting up here—(laughter)—that you’re given the budget that you get. But to the extent that there are some working with appropriators in the—among our members here and others, more money for education.
We’re out of time. I think there are many other questions. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to all of them. But just join me in thanking our terrific panelists for a great conversation. Thank you. (Applause.)