Former Australian leader to chair Global Partnership for Education

Julia Gillard, former Australian prime minister, has been appointed as chairman of the board of the Global Partnership for Education. Photo by: Annaliese McDonough / Commonwealth Secretariat / CC BY-NC-ND

New year, new job.

Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has embarked on her latest challenge after being appointed as chairman of the board of the Global Partnership for Education, a Washington, D.C.-based multilateral organization that supports improving education in some of the most impoverished nations in the world.

The 52-year-old politician and education advocate — who served as Australia’s chief executive from 2010 to 2013 and was the first female to attain that position — will be in charge of making sure that the 57 million out-of-school children in the world receive quality education and another 250 million make it past the fourth grade.

In a blog post published immediately following her appointment, Gillard highlighted the need for more funding for global quality education and the huge role that the aid and development community plays in this endeavor.

“My first and most important priority as GPE Board Chair over the next several months will be to reach out to all of the donor countries urging them to make a strong commitment to this year’s replenishment,” she said, adding that an innovative new funding model while sustaining the partnership will be key to the mission.

Although there have been considerable improvement over the last few years, including the gradual decline of the number of out of school youth in the world, Gillard — also a former education minister — said efforts have to be scaled up to continually build on the momentum gained while not losing sight of the goal of providing quality education for all — something she is hoping the rest of the world, especially donors, commit to.

This concern is rooted at the alarming decline of global development assistance and aid pledges for education initiatives. GPE revealed that in 2011, total aid commitments for global education programs have declined by 6 percent despite the pressing need to achieve significant results given the 2015 Millennium Development Goals deadline.

UNESCO further reiterated this glaring figure, saying that almost a quarter of direct aid to education does not leave donor countries because of the preference of in-country scholarship programs for international students, while 15 percent of global aid for education is in the form of loans amid the economic situation and doubtful capability of several poor nations to pay these back.

With this, Gillard mentioned that GPE’s new funding model will “provide incentives to countries to create a more efficient and effective education systems, to prioritize learning outcomes, to increase domestic investment in education and to collect and use more and better data, which promotes accountability and efficacy.”

This issue has been burning for so long with a handful of governments’ lack of commitment to prioritize education in their national agenda including lack of infrastructure, materials, logistics and, especially, support for teachers and instructors that form the backbone of a nation’s education sector.

Whether the former Australian leader is up to the task, only time (and the effectiveness of her programs) will tell.

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About the author

  • Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a former Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He previously covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics.