Press Release

Universal Education Achievable and Affordable, American Academy Study Finds


CAMBRIDGE, Mass., January 17, 2007 – Educating All Children: A Global Agenda, a new book from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, examines the impact of providing high-quality education to every child in the world between the ages of 6 and 16. According to the authors, achieving universal basic and secondary education, by the middle of the twenty-first century, is both possible and affordable. The volume presents a cohesive picture of past, present, and future steps necessary to achieve this goal.

The Academy study concludes that achieving universal primary and secondary education is both urgently needed and well within the ability of wealthy nations to fund. Five changes are essential to achieve universal primary and secondary education by mid-century:

  1. Open discussions, nationally, regionally, and internationally, on what people want primary and secondary education to achieve — that is, the goals of education;
  2. A commitment to improving the effectiveness and economic efficiency of education;
  3. A commitment to extending high-quality secondary education to all children;
  4. Recognition of the diverse character of educational systems in different countries, and adaptation of aid policies and educational assessment requirements to local contexts;
  5. More funding from rich countries for education in poor countries.

Although greater numbers of people are completing primary, secondary, and tertiary education than ever before, ensuring universally available high-quality schooling still faces major obstacles. In Educating All Children, leading experts discuss the current state of education and how to measure global educational progress, the history of compulsory education, political and financial obstacles to expanding education, the role of educational assessment and evaluation in developing countries, cost estimates for providing universal education (and why they differ so widely), the potential consequences of expanded global education, and the relationship between education and health.

Universal primary education has long been advocated in international forums, but the editors contend that secondary education must also be universally available. They note that many benefits of education do not accrue until students have had ten years or more of schooling and that “primary education is more attractive if high-quality secondary education beckons.”

At the current rate of progress, the international commitment to universal primary education by 2015, as expressed in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, will not be met. According to the study, by 2015, roughly 114 million children – most in the world’s poorest countries – will still not be enrolled in primary school and almost twice that number will not be receiving a secondary education.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown commented "Educating All Children: A Global Agenda is a timely reminder of the importance of universal access to education in the fight against poverty.” Stephen P. Heyneman, Professor of International Education Policy at Vanderbilt University said, “This is among the most interesting books on education and development I have read in a decade.”

The volume is edited by Academy Fellows Joel E. Cohen (Rockefeller and Columbia Universities) and David E. Bloom (Harvard University School of Public Health), and Academy Program Director Martin B. Malin.

Contributors include: Aaron Benavot (UNESCO, Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Eric Bettinger (Case Western Reserve University), Melissa Binder (University of New Mexico), Henry Braun (Educational Testing Service), Claudia Buchmann (Ohio State University), Javier Corrales (Amherst College), Helen Anne Curry (Yale University), Paul Glewwe (University of Minnesota), Emily Hannum (University of Pennsylvania), Anil Kanjee (Human Sciences Research Council), Michael Kremer (Harvard University), Julia Resnik (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Gene Sperling (Council on Foreign Relations), and Meng Zhao (University of Minnesota).

Educating All Children: A Global Agenda is published by the MIT Press. The volume grew out of a multidisciplinary project undertaken by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Future research will concern the goals and rationales for universal primary and secondary education. The project is supported by a major grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and by a small number of individual donors. More information about the project is available online.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on: science and global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world.




Universal Basic and Secondary Education

Joel E. Cohen and David E. Bloom