Plenary: 9 Closing: The Way Forward for the Education Sector
August 25, 2011 — 2:45 p.m.
||Richard W. Whelden, USAID Office of Education
In closing, Richard W. Whelden, the Director of the Office of Education, reviewed some of the key points made about education during the week. As he put it, education is the unsung hero of development because it is the basis for progress in all the other sectors. Quality education lays the critical foundation for growth for both the citizens and their country.
Whelden reminded the audience of some of the main issues presented through the focus on the eight thematic areas of the workshop: (a) early grade reading, (b) information and communication technology (ICT), (c) crisis and conflict settings, (d) workforce development, (e) youth (f) higher education, (g) access to finance, and (h) capacity building.
Programs need to measure success based on the quality of education and not just the ‘number of seats filled.’ A focus on girls’ education is an on-going need in an effort for girls to attain the greatest return on investment in country development. In addressing education in conflict and crisis situations, the U.S. government has an important role to play in bridging the gap between military engagement and the advancement of development. Cross-sectoral programs are necessary to address the multiple needs of youth, not to ‘fix’ them, but to develop their potential. A focus on ICT will open minds to the advantages and opportunities of technology in preparing for the future and helping to meet the diverse learning needs of special populations.
Whelden reminded the audience of the fast approach of 2015, the deadline for the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He urged the audience to emerge from the workshop energized and empowered to work toward new goals and accelerate activities that will enable attainment of the MDGs.
To move forward, USAID as a whole must work productively with partners and agency staff must bring to bear the best practices and lessons learned in the workshop to implement strategies intelligently in each program. In a nod to the increased Agency-wide emphasis on evaluation, he encouraged participants to learn from successes and failures, using evidence (such as the collection of baseline information in literacy and workforce development, for example) as the foundation for moving forward. The entire agency must respect the challenges of transitioning long-standing programs in the move to new goals.
Key take away points from this session include paving the way forward. Education undergirds development. It is necessary to keep in mind the eight thematic areas found throughout the workshop: early grade reading, information and communication technologies, crisis and conflict settings, work force development, youth, higher education, finance, and capacity building and participant training. With the 2015 deadline in sight, Whelden encouraged the audience to emerge from the workshop motivated and excited to reach the Millennium Development Goals.
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