U.S. Efforts To Educate and Train the Poor in Developing Countries

ID-80-18: Published: May 5, 1980. Publicly Released: May 5, 1980.

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Since 1960, the United States, through the Agency for International Development (AID) has programmed over $3 billion to improve education and human resources in developing countries. Over the past decade Congress has been concerned about the extent to which U.S. assistance reaches the poor in developing countries. Despite a strategy developed in 1973 requiring that U.S. assistance meet the basic human needs of the poor, including education, AID has not yet completed an agencywide policy for education and human resources program guidance.

AID faces many obstacles in attempting to improve the education of the poor in developing countries. Recipient governments, and often the poor people themselves, do not commit resources needed to implement the U.S. sponsored projects. Problems have been encountered in supplying and maintaining learning materials to users in remote areas and in capital cities. AID had not effectively recorded and used its 20 years of experience in designing, programming, and implementing education and human resource projects. Many development problems encountered currently are similar to previous experiences, but the AID management system did not adequately reflect these experiences in an easily accessible, usable form. Although about 190,000 people have traveled to the United States and other countries since the late 1940's for training, a shortage of qualified local people continues to hinder development projects in many countries. This shortage stems from the impact of the "brain drain," or the exit of skills from developing countries. AID could not fully support its position that less than 1 percent of the sponsored training participants do not return home. It has been estimated that as many as half of all participants were not included in statistics representing those reported returning home after completing training abroad. Furthermore, AID does not adequately follow up on participants to evaluate their contributions to development and the impact of U.S. spending upon the poor.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of AID should: increase recipient-government involvement in identifying, designing, implementing, and evaluating U.S. supported projects; place greater emphasis on the host country's ability to carry projects through the implementation phase and to sustain recurring costs; encourage joint planning and execution of education related programs among all donors; assure that program planners obtain substantive information on experiences gained in prior and ongoing education projects that directly relate to current programs; prepare additional guidance for program planners to obtain needed information in such areas as the effects on the poor; and establish procedures for exchanging plans, programs, and project designs among the various functional sectors to assure coordination and development of the best program and country strategies. GAO further recommended that an agencywide system of accountability of arrivals in, and departures from, the United States, as well as the application of training received, be developed for overall management and evaluation of the participant training program.

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