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Australia’s aid program helps more children, particularly girls, to attend school for a longer and better education.

heading foldHow we are helping

2013/14 estimated outcome

$978.5 million

2014/15 budget estimate

$1,105.8 million


New development policy

Australia’s priorities in education are set out in a new development policy for the aid program and a new performance framework to improve aid program performance, value for money and results.

More about the development policy

Education enables development and is crucial to helping people overcome poverty. Australia and its neighbours benefit from investments in education for human resource development, economic growth and stability across the region. Australia prioritises access to quality learning for all, with a focus on gender equality and assisting the most disadvantaged, including people with a disability, find pathways out of poverty.

Australia has bilateral education programs with 21 countries throughout Asia and the Pacific. Our largest education investments are with PNG, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pacific Island countries, Bangladesh and Laos.

Through the aid program, Australia’s investments in education will enable children, particularly girls and children with a disability, to gain the skills they need to participate in the economy and their communities. In 2014-15, investments will include:

  • investing in school construction in disadvantaged regions
  • supporting teacher training and improved learning assessment
  • supporting technical education, skills development and training aligned with labour market needs
  • supporting inclusion of children with a disability in education
  • supporting regional stability through increased access to education in conflict-affected areas
  • increasing opportunities for girls to learn
  • investing in innovative approaches and research with the private sector and civil society to improve access, reach and quality of education
  • strengthening the management and accountability of education policies and systems globally, to ensure the sustainability of our investments.

Australia Awards scholarships support emerging leaders from developing countries to study in Australia, build people-to-people links and return home to contribute to economic and social development. At the same time, the New Colombo Plan, a foreign policy initiative, is enabling Australian students to study in the region.

Research overview

Good research can lead to positive change for the world’s poorest and improve the quality and effectiveness of development policies and programs.

Current research activities due for completion in 2015 include:

Developing a community approach to supporting literacy for pre-schoolers in Fiji

University of South Australia

This project will focus on identifying sustainable ways of developing local capacity to support pre-schoolers’ literacy development in communities without early childhood services, and will provide a research base to inform the establishment of community-based sustainable approaches to literacy learning for pre-schoolers in urban and rural areas.

Improving educational outcomes for female and disadvantaged primary school students in Bangladesh

Monash University

This project will evaluate several low-cost intervention programs to improve outcomes through greater parental involvement and supplementary teaching, targeting girls and underperforming students in particular.

Evaluating the changes to the lives of rural women made possible by the Bangladeshi Government’s gender focused school subsidy scheme

University of Kent

This project studies how the opportunity of secondary education for rural women in Bangladesh, made possible by the government’s gender-focused school subsidy scheme, impacted upon their later lives, particularly decisions relating to marriage, childbirth and employment.

Improving the teaching of mathematics in Papua New Guinea elementary schools by using local languages and cultural practices

Charles Sturt University

The research will design and refine guidelines to assist elementary teachers to recognise and use cultural mathematical proficiencies and to develop vernacular phrases for school mathematics.

How does the transition from school to work affect later lifetime prospects in Indonesia

Curtin University

This study will focus on variations in the way that the transition from school to work affects the lifetime prospects of men, women, children of various social classes and children in urban and rural areas.

Education: Fast Facts*

Universal primary education

  • The number of children out of school has fallen from 109 million in 1999 to 57 million in 2011.
  • 54 per cent of those children out of school are girls and around half live in conflict-affected countries.
  • 63 per cent of countries have achieved gender parity.

Economic returns on investment in education

  • Each additional year of schooling can increase an individual’s earnings by up to 10 per cent1 and increase Gross Domestic Product by up to 0.37 per cent.
  • World Bank studies have concluded that an extra year of education beyond the average boosts girls’ eventual wages by up to 20 per cent2.

Women and girls

  • Every year of basic education makes a difference to marriage age, fertility, health and the capacity of women and girls to make better decisions about their lives and those of their children.

People with disability

  • People with disability comprise 15 per cent of the world’s population, or 1 billion people.3
  • It is estimated that of all children not enrolled in school, one third have a disability.4

Learning Outcomes

  • 250 million children are unable to read, write or do basic arithmetic – 130 million of whom are in school.
  • In 2011 there were 774 million illiterate adults, almost two thirds of which were women, a figure that has dropped by only 1 per cent since 2000.
  • 200 million adolescents, including those who complete secondary school, do not have the skills they need for life and employment.5

*key source EFA GMR Report 2013/14 unless otherwise noted

1. UNESCO, 2010. Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Reaching the Marginalised.

2. Psacharopoulos, George, and Harry Anthony Patrinos. 2002. “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2881. Washington, D.C.: World Bank. Psacharopoulos, George. 1994. “Returns to Investment in Education: A Global Update.” World Development 22 (9): 1325–43. As cited in Global Campaign for Education 2010; B Herz & G Sperling, What Works in Girls’ Education: evidence and policies from the developing world, Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 2004., p.22.

3. World Health Organization 2011, World Report on Disability

4. UNESCO, 2007. EFA Global Monitoring Report -Strong Foundations-early childhood education.

5. UNESCO, 2012. EFA Global Monitoring Report, Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work.


heading foldWhy we give aid


Education quality is a pressing concern. As many as 250 million children of primary school age could be failing to read or write by the time they reach grade 4. Many of Australia’s partner countries have large and growing youth populations, and in an age where higher levels of skill are increasingly important for employment, job security and a better income, improving education quality is an imperative.

Find out more about why we support education


heading foldHow we give aid

Australia’s investments in education and health will primarily focus on supporting changes to the systems and policies that deliver better education and health in our region.

Find out how we support education


heading foldProgress Against MDGs

  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women

   MDG 2 - Achieve universal primary education

  • The total number of children out of school has fallen from 108 million in 1999 to 57 million in 2011.

   MDG 3 - Promote gender equality and    empower women

  • Gender parity in primary and secondary school has improved among developing countries in the past 10 years.
  • Some countries in the Asia Pacific region have already achieved gender parity in primary and/or secondary school enrolments.

Last reviewed: 18 June, 2014