8 September marked the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day. There have been many achievements over the last 50 years and education remains a strong priority for Australia and our regional partners.
Education provides the tools for people to learn skills to improve their lives and those of their children. If all students, boys and girls in low income countries, left school with basic reading skills, more than 170 million people could be lifted out of poverty.1 It also enhances stability. Australia has a direct stake in regional stability, and education is a powerful tool. There is clear evidence of a relationship between education and stability and that increasing education participation 'breeds peace'.2 Of Australia's 15 largest aid partner countries, 11 are economically or politically fragile or conflict-affected.3
The quality of teachers, curriculum and learning materials is critical to give students the best opportunity to develop the reading, writing, critical thinking and technical skills they need. Inclusive and good quality education services offer all children the chance to maximise their potential. That is why inclusion and quality are such an important focus of the Strategy for Australia's aid investments in education 2015–2020.
Through innovative programs supporting poor families and culturally sensitive schooling in Myanmar and the Philippines, Australia is helping more children to get into school and stay in school – laying the foundation for a prosperous future.
Australia is assisting young women from ethnic minority groups in Laos to become teachers, giving them leadership opportunities and employment opportunities close to home, and providing much-needed female role models for young girls in remote communities.
Our work with the Australian Centre for Educational Research (ACER) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is improving the collection and use of gender disaggregated data on education in our region and introducing innovations to better target responses to help those children who need it most.
Across the Indo-Pacific, Australia is helping women and children with a disability to access life-changing education opportunities. We are providing accredited training opportunities and literacy support to people from poor communities, which have helped to increase family incomes and women's empowerment.
In Nepal, with the assistance of Australian aid, children have inclusive learning resources and are able to go to safer, stronger schools, built to better withstand earthquakes.
Australian aid in Afghanistan, Pakistan and for Syrian refugees is helping children affected by conflict and fear to enjoy new education opportunities for a brighter future.
Australian volunteers are an important part of Australia's contribution to improved quality education across the Indo-Pacific region. More than 800 volunteers have worked on education-focused assignments since the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program commenced in 2011. The education profiles outlined in this newsletter show the hard work and dedication of Australian volunteers, as well as the range of important ways Australia is contributing to improving education in our region.
I would like to congratulate all of our Australian volunteers for your work and for sharing your skills and knowledge to help increase opportunities for girls, boys, men and women across the Indo-Pacific region.
Director Education Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade