The Puggle: December 2016 edition

2016 Year-End Edition

Welcome to the end-of-year installment of The Puggle. In this issue, the Echidna Giving team summarizes emerging issues and findings related to girls’ education from November and early December.

In the U.S., November was dominated by the presidential election and its unexpected results. We’ve been thinking and reading about what implications those results might have for our work on girls’ education in developing countries. There is far more uncertainty than certainty at this stage, but here are three things we’ll be watching for.

 Photo by Garry Knight. Photo by Garry Knight.

First, what happens with foreign aid under the Trump presidency? On the one hand,Trump’s plans for tax cuts and spending on infrastructure in the U.S. will mean tradeoffs elsewhere, and U.S. aid could take a hit. As this Devex piece predicts, “The big losers will likely be investments in multilateral institutions; democracy, rights and governance; women and girls; and climate.” Trump could end a long trend of strong, bipartisan, U.S. support for Africa that has thread across the Clinton, Bush and Obama administration.

On the other hand, as the Center for Global Development argues, to “make America Great again” requires attention to what’s happening in the broader world.Development matters for American security and prosperity. This is exactly the argument put forth by panelists hosted by Brookings to discuss Recommendations for the new US administration in global education: education has tremendous bang for the buck in promoting stability and economic growth. Finally, as this Devex article argues, “If the U.K. is any guide (and Brexit seems the most analogous political tsunami to this one), there will be more status quo than change…We may well find that the U.S. foreign assistance infrastructure — the product of decades of bipartisan efforts — remains largely intact when the president-elect’s term ends.”

Second, what happens with existing U.S. commitments around girls’ education, including the inter-agency effort around Let Girls Learn that Michelle Obama launched in 2015? Let Girls Learn is expected to continue under the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls through multi-year program funding for another two or three years. The First Lady is also expected to continue her own advocacy around girls’ education after leaving the White House.

Third, what, if anything, do the election results imply about broader sentiments towards globalization and women’s leadership, and what might these trends mean for our work? On the globalization front, the pushback on globalization has come because many have been left out, as this analysis and others have shown. Part of tackling the problem of job loss will need to come through education: “Fail to give them the skills to be part of a fast-changing, interconnected, digital economy, and they will strive to take it apart.”

In terms of what the results signify about attitudes towards women, there were good reasons for leaders in Africa to be concerned about the setback for feminism. While it is impossible to know how much her gender played a role in Hillary’s defeat, thisarticle from the Atlantic contends that “The more a leadership position is perceived by the public as powerful, the harder it is for women to secure it—at least until a woman manages to occupy that position and challenge its association with masculinity.” Male-dominated leadership isn’t inevitable: women have become president even in countries where there are significant gender gaps in education and life expectancy, and gender gaps in politics are closing more rapidly than in other domains.

From the world beyond election results…

  • The latest PISA results suggest that “Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.”
  • Evidence (from the U.S.) suggests schools that work well are those that have “high expectations, with high support.”
  • The Education Commission released the background papers that informed their report, including several related to girls’ education that are of interest (under the “inclusion” tab).
  • Data from India highlights the need to pay attention to gaps in technology access between men and women—especially urgent as technology gains traction as an avenue for education.
  • The 2016 cohort of Echidna Global Scholars shared their final research findings as part of a broader event at the Brookings Institution.

The Puggle will take a hiatus until our January 2017 edition. Wishing you a restful end to the year and looking forward to pursuing our collective work for girls’ education with renewed energy in 2017!