Australia gives more children in developing countries a better education

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Australia will provide $40 million to the Education For All - Fast Track Initiative to help low-income countries provide universal primary education by 2015.

The Fast Track Initiative is the first global compact on education. It is administered by the World Bank and recognises that without drastic efforts poor countries will not be able to offer children basic education.

Our funding will help countries extend the reach of their education systems. For example, funds from the Fast Track Initiative allowed Vietnam to build or refurbish 7,000 classrooms and supply textbooks to 2,300 communes. It supplied more and better school books and teaching aids to schools in five needy provinces and introduced information systems so that the primary education system could be managed effectively.

I am also pleased to launch today Better education - a new education policy for Australia's aid program. Investing in people is one of the central themes of the White Paper on Australian aid.

At present many countries in the Asia Pacific are burdened by a shortage of resources, poor education policies and weak management. Often they only have enough funds to pay the salaries of teachers, leaving school buildings and educational materials under-resourced. Of the 26 million children in the region out of school, 16 million are girls.

Better education aims to raise the number of children in school in the region by 10 million and improve the quality of education for 50 million children by 2010.

Australia's assistance will:

- Help countries to improve the management of their education systems by building the skills of administrators in financial management and procurement, and reforming teacher recruitment and deployment policies.

- Fund essential infrastructure including the construction of new classrooms and refurbishment of dormitories, toilet blocks, science laboratories and other school facilities in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Pacific.

- Provide vocational and technical education to prepare students in Pakistan, East Timor and the Pacific to gain productive employment.

Better education is backed by a substantial $540 million funding package that trebles Australia's support for education systems in the Asia Pacific by 2010.

In addition Australia is providing $1.4 billion over five years for the Australian Scholarships program. These scholarships allow future leaders in the region to study at Australian universities and foster close people-to-people links that extend well beyond the duration of the scholarship.

Education is fundamental to social and economic development and a key to poverty reduction. There are few better investments we can make in children and young adults than providing them with access to learning and knowledge.

Media contacts:

Malcolm Cole (Minister's Office) 02 6277 7500

AusAID (Public Affairs) 0417 680 590