Poverty reduction and economic growth are possible when countries invest in educating their people. Research shows a positive relationship between educational attainment and individual income, and that a highly skilled workforce can spur economic growth. Investment in human capital leads to improved worker quality which directly reduces poverty and contributes to a reduction in income gaps.
Education also yields strong economic and social benefits for girls and women. There is a strong correlation between girls’ education and accelerated economic growth, slower population growth, higher wages, increased agricultural yields and labor productivity, and improved health and well-being at the household level.
MCC applies country ownership—one of its core principles—in its work with partner countries to identify challenges in the education sector, design projects that are consistent with country strategies, and work on policy and institutional reforms that will enable inclusive, quality education and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Initiative: Education for Women and Girls
MCC seeks to maximize girls’ and women’s educational opportunities and reduce missed potential by focusing on improving access, developing capacities, training teachers and community leaders, government reforms, and increasing community and private sector involvement. In Burkina Faso, MCC successfully implemented a BRIGHT schools project that focused on girls’ primary and secondary education, constructed 132 primary schools for girls, and established local community ownership of the schools through mothers’ associations to ensure sustainability of results.
Initiative: Private Sector Engagement
MCC invests in public-private partnerships in countries such as Georgia and Mongolia. In Mongolia, where there was no prior engagement from the private sector, the partnership began by building trust with the private sector through competitive grants that required funds from the schools and industry partners. MCC created a funding facility that would provide the competitive grants to technical vocational education and training institutions that worked with local businesses and used private resources for skills development and training.
Primary and Secondary Education
MCC invests in primary and secondary education in partner countries to ensure that students obtain the foundational knowledge and skills needed to obtain jobs and contribute to their countries’ economic growth.
MCC's $304.5 million compact with Namibia invested approximately $90 million to enhance the effectiveness of primary and secondary education in disadvantaged areas. In schools in Namibia which experienced overcrowded or degraded classrooms, and insufficient teaching-learning resources to succeed in English, math and science, MCC provided funding for textbooks, science laboratory equipment, laptops and school libraries; targeted teacher and administrator training to improve instructional leadership and effective use of materials; and school rehabilitation or classroom expansion. MCC also worked with the Ministry of Education to launch a continuous professional development program and implement new policies and efficient procedures for facilities and textbook management and maintenance.
In Burkina Faso, through its MCC threshold program and subsequent five-year $480.9 million compact, MCC invested $41.9 million to increase girls’ primary school attendance and transition to secondary school through a variety of school-based and community interventions aimed at reducing the burden of time-consuming household chores and preventing early marriage. Over eight years, the project constructed 132 primary schools with access to drinking water and separate latrines for girls and boys, mobilized community support and improved school engagement through mothers’ associations, provided take-home food rations as an incentive for girls’ enrollment, and adult literacy and micro-projects for mothers.
MCC’s second Georgia Compact is focused on improving the learning environment in Georgian schools by rehabilitating school facilities, training teachers and school managers, and supporting student assessments. The investments are intended to improve the quality of education. The $140 million MCC compact will establish an operations and maintenance plan with an incentive fund and hire dedicated staff to implement the plan. A training program for teachers will focus on core content knowledge and training in math, science, information and communications technology, English, student motivation, creative and critical thinking, career counseling, and school management. A testing and assessment system to track student progress will also be established.
In El Salvador, a shortage of skilled labor is a key factor that limits investment in the country’s export sector and its competitiveness in global markets. MCC invested $30 million as part of its first compact with El Salvador to help students in the poorest area—the Northern Zone—to develop the necessary skills to work in the country’s growth industries by renovating 20 secondary technical schools, developing demand-driven curricula, training teachers, and providing scholarships.
The $277 million El Salvador Investment Compact, the second MCC compact with the country, will focus on strengthening the national education system by reforming the laws, policies, and operations that govern teacher continuous professional development, student assessment, and information systems. Teacher training will be provided that enhances knowledge in key subject areas as well as pedagogical training in active learning methods. To help teachers apply the training, curricular learning plans and improved methods to assess student learning will be developed, as will a system of teacher performance management. The compact will also implement the full-time inclusive school model that extends the school day from part- to full-time, provides instruction using active learning methods in core subjects including English, math, science, and information technology, and focuses on competency development. MCC will make significant investments in infrastructure and equipment to improve the learning environment and ensure that a high school will exist in each cluster of schools, allowing greater attainment at the secondary level.
MCC works with partner countries to increase access to and improve the quality of higher education for students.
In Namibia, MCC expanded access to post-secondary education and improved the climate for developing skilled workers by assisting the Ministry of Education in its efforts to establish a sustainable and more widely accessible education finance system. MCC also helped launch a National Training Fund, which allows potential employers to fund education programs based on the skills needed.
In Georgia, a lack of skilled professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) had become a bottleneck to the country’s economic development. As part of the country’s second MCC compact, MCC is supporting a partnership between SDSU and the Government of Georgia to allow young Georgian men and women to pursue internationally accredited degrees in STEM subjects without leaving their home country. The program includes three Georgian universities as local partners—Tbilisi State University, Ilia State University and Georgian Technological University—and includes a focus on increasing women’s participation in STEM professions.
Technical Vocational Education and Training
MCC invests in technical vocational education and training (TVET) programs in partner countries to ensure a better match between the skillset of the workforce and the demands of growing industries.
In the El Salvador Investment Compact, MCC will fund a grant facility that supports workforce development programs and other public goods that exporting companies need to improve their productivity and expand their businesses. At the policy level, MCC would support an integrated TVET governance system and the creation of a continuous assessment process for demand-led TVET specific to private sector involvement in labor demand assessment. This would include support for standards for student and teacher certification and curriculum and learning method development. It will also create an ongoing process to diagnose labor demand and create new programs or improve existing training programs to meet the demand. Current training programs will also be assessed and improved as will the coverage area of these programs. Finally, culminating the educational life course of students, MCC will also invest in interventions to facilitate labor mobility and job matching, which link TVET course offerings with the demand of the labor market.
In Namibia, the $304.5 million MCC compact helped move the country towards a more demand-driven and inclusive TVET system by helping the National Training Authority establish the country’s first National Training Fund, developing a grant program for training in high priority trades, and launching a program that provided academic credit for job-based learning. The compact also focused on enhancing growth in rural areas where many poor tribal communities live, by building communities’ capacity to develop eco-tourism operations that preserve and showcase the country’s abundant natural resources, and helping the country accommodate a growing tourist industry. To generate tourism operation skills within the community and the greater industry, MCC provided grants to tourism lodge joint ventures to provide on-the-job training in needed skills and grants to major private tourism and hospitality industry skill providers. Finally, MCC provided support to regional resource and study centers that provide basic information technology skills, adult literacy services and job information services for unemployed youth, low-skilled adults, and the greater community.
In Georgia, where industries lack workers with the right science, technology, engineering, and math skills, MCC established a grant program as part of the country’s second MCC compact that makes grants to public and private TVET providers who partner with industries and businesses to offer courses in specific skill areas according to market needs.
Across Morocco, MCC funding in the first Morocco Compact allowed training institutes to expand vocational training programs that focus on providing formal training for key artisan crafts—including carpentry, ironwork, ceramics, leather, and textiles—whose products are in demand in the national, export, and tourist markets. In addition, fifteen schools were renovated and equipped with facilities to teach students the skills needed to participate and compete in the labor market.
Non-Formal Education and Literacy
MCC funds non-formal education and literacy programs for those who have been educationally disadvantaged and are seeking skills for self-employment or to enable them to bridge back into the education system.
As part of Morocco’s first MCC compact, MCC helped stimulate economic growth in the tourism sector by providing literacy training to 69,000 men and women farmers, artisans and fishers, and helped to strengthen the national system for literacy and vocational education. More than 70 percent of training participants were women. MCC also funded the development or Arabic translation of textbooks and other teaching resource materials, teacher training, equipment, and capacity building for vocational school management.
In El Salvador, a portion of the country’s first MCC compact supported non-formal vocational training classes to provide educationally disadvantaged Salvadorans with the skills to get jobs or to start their own small businesses.
Funding for adult literacy programming as a complement to school improvement or community-based economic development has also been provided through the Niger Threshold Program, both the Burkina Faso Compact and Threshold Program, and the Malawi Compact.
Let Girls Learn
MCC supports Let Girls Learn, a U.S. Government-wide effort that will leverage the investments and successes that we have achieved in primary school education, and expand them to help adolescent girls go on to complete their education. By giving encouragement and support to community-led efforts to find solutions, Let Girls Learn hopes to break the barriers that prevent adolescent girls from completing their education.
MCC has joined the Clinton Foundation, Brookings Institution, NGOs, private sector businesses and other donors around the world in the CHARGE Initiative, which stands for Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education. This five-year partnership aims to improve learning and leadership opportunities for young women and girls worldwide. This reinforces MCC’s leadership in gender integration, education and employability, and provides an opportunity to share MCC’s experiences and expertise with others. As part of this partnership, MCC has committed to more deeply pursue and track outcomes that reflect the ‘second generation’ education goals, through the agency’s programs in El Salvador and Georgia.
STEM Degree Programs in Georgia
In 2013, MCC and the Government of Georgia signed a $140 million compact to improve the quality of education in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. A partnership between the Government of Georgia and San Diego State University is a key component to the Georgia Compact and includes three Georgian universities as local partners to deliver joint-degree and ABET-accredited science and engineering programs. SDSU is also developing measures to promote female faculty in STEM fields, where they remain underrepresented, particularly at higher levels.
For a country to be selected as eligible for an MCC assistance program, it must demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, investments in its people and economic freedom as measured by different policy indicators. MCC's selection criteria include a category called “Investing in People,” which measures investments in people by assessing the extent to which governments are committed to investing in primary education, girls’ primary education completion, and girls’ secondary education enrollment.