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Education in developing countries

Canada’s development assistance aims to help young people gain access to quality education and skills that provide the foundation for lifelong learning. Canada supports efforts to ensure that every child receives quality primary and secondary education, and works to reduce barriers and help narrow education gaps for women and girls.

Why focus on education in developing countries?

Education is a human right and is central to achieving many other sustainable development outcomes.

A quality basic education gives children and youth the knowledge and skills they need to face daily life challenges, and take advantage of economic and lifelong learning opportunities. It is also a key driver for reducing poverty, fostering economic growth, achieving gender equality, and social development.

These benefits are even greater when support to education is targeted toward girls. Girls who complete their primary education tend to find better jobs, marry later and have fewer children. They are also:

Education is particularly important to communities that are fragile or rebuilding. Education provides stability, structure and hope for the future, helping children and youth to overcome trauma caused by war, disaster, or conflict.

Having a safe learning environment also makes children and youth less vulnerable to exploitation, kidnapping, and recruitment by militant groups or organized crime.

However, around 59 million children in developing countries do not have access to basic education. The quality of education is also a key concern: 250 million children are unable to read, write or count, even after four years of schooling.

Many young people in developing countries who have not been able to complete a quality education are lacking the foundational and high level skills for work and life.

What prevents children and youth from getting a high quality education?

Children and youth in developing countries face many barriers to obtaining quality education. These range from:

For girls, children from minority ethnic groups, children with disabilities, and children living in conflict areas, the barriers are even greater.

How does Canada support education in developing countries?

Canada’s development assistance focuses on establishing strong education systems which enable children and youth, particularly girls, to get a full 10-year cycle of quality basic education. Our assistance supports activities such as:

We carry out this work through partnerships with developing country governments as well as Canadian and international non-governmental organizations working in the education sector.

We also support key multilateral organizations, such as the Global Partnership for Education and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

To learn more about Canada’s specific programs in basic education visit the project browser.

Beyond basic education, Canada’s development assistance includes investments to help ensure that youth and adults, particularly young women, have the knowledge, skills and competencies they need for employment and to contribute to economic growth.

Our support in this area focuses on labour-market-driven vocational training, including literacy and numeracy, especially for those who missed out on basic education.

Canada also funds international scholarships with the aim of reducing poverty in developing countries.

These scholarships support targeted training and skills development for students and working professionals from developing countries where local higher education capacity is weak.

Scholarships are also a means of preparing the next generation of innovative leaders to contribute to their communities.

To learn more about international scholarships funded by the Government of Canada, for Canadians and non-Canadians to study in Canada or abroad, visit

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