Along with all good Plan employees, the belief that education can lift children from a future of poverty to one of opportunity is one which I firmly hold. We should all know the facts; that a girl who makes it through both a relevant and quality primary and secondary education is:
- less likely to experience violence or marry and have children whilst she is still a child,
- more likely to be literate, healthy and survive into adulthood, as are her children,
- more likely to reinvest her income back into her family, community and country,
- and more likely to understand her rights and be a force for change.
It’s a compelling case, and collaboration between enlightened business and NGOs such as Plan are helping change the lives of millions of children – girls in particular – by ensuring that they can fulfil their basic right of access to a quality education.
What though, does quality mean? Definitions rightly acknowledge the importance of the learning environment, the availability of family or community support, the process through which teachers impart knowledge, all on top of the actual content itself.
It is clearly a complex field, and many organisations and individuals are making great strides to improve the different components that will enable more children to achieve an education globally. Unsurprisingly Plan’s education projects include interventions to address all of the barriers to education faced by children, particularly girls, and their success lies in this holistic approach.
Here though, I wish to focus on content, and how a new approach to the knowledge, attitude and behaviours that children need on leaving school is shaping education. On Wednesday, I will participate in a Business Fights Poverty online discussion of ‘how can we strengthen collaboration in support of women and girls’ empowerment’. I’ll focus on Plan’s current collaboration with Credit Suisse and Aflatoun, whose expertise on financial education and life skills for young people is helping Plan to think about the way in which we empower girls at school (after our hard work to ensure that they can be there in the first place).
It’s a three year partnership, which continues the positive work on girls’ education that support from Credit Suisse’s Global Education Initiative has been giving Plan since 2008. Importantly however, the new collaboration – with the inclusion of Aflatoun – will introduce financial education and life skills into the mix, exploring the role that financial education for adolescent girls can play in helping girls to remain in secondary education and go on to transition successfully into adulthood and economic independence.
To quote Katherine Rake, former director of the Fawcett Society, speaking in Plan’s 2009 ‘Because I am a Girl’ report: “We are educating a generation of girls on the promise that they will enter a world without barriers. We now need to meet that promise by offering girls and young women the keys to power so that they too can be part of the shaping and making the world of tomorrow.”
Increasingly we recognise that ‘the keys to power’ almost certainly don’t include the ability to list the ten longest rivers in the world. Instead, by incorporating financial literacy and life skills into the education that 100,000 adolescent girls will receive as a result of this project in Brazil, China, India and Rwanda, we’re trying to ensure that they leave school with knowledge that enables them to be active contributors to their society. This includes the ability to make informed decisions on matters that affect them, their families and their communities.
We’ve got a lot to learn, but the partnership is part of a fascinating and important conversation – a global collaboration – about what girls actually need, and how best to deliver it. The goal may seem ambitious but it is such a crucial one; and through talking to each other and most importantly by listening to what girls themselves want the prize is in our sights.