Girls, children with disabilities, and children in conflict zones are most affected.
A group of MPs is calling on the UK government to put a bigger share of the overseas aid budget towards getting the world’s “most marginalised children” a good education.
The International Development Select Committee highlighted in a new report the vital role that education plays in improving people’s lives in the world’s poorest countries.
But only about 7% of the aid budget was spent on education in 2015, according to the MPs — which is down from 10% in 2011 and 2013, and 9% in 2014.
In total, the spending adds up to about £650 million in direct, bilateral aid — aid directly from one country to another — and a further £227 million in spending through other departments or international organisations.
Stephen Twigg MP, who chairs the committee, said the focus should be on “the very poorest, girls, disabled children, and those affected by conflict and emergencies.” He added that improvements in global education would “require a substantial increase in finance.”
“The world faces an enormous challenge in trying to…ensure access to quality and inclusive education for all,” reads the report, entitled “Leaving No One Behind.” “It will require an unprecedented push from the international community to address gaps in funding, to improve learning outcomes, and to find ways to get the most marginalised children into school.”
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Education is vital in tackling poverty and inequality but, right now, efforts are severely underfunded. Around the world, 264 million children are out of school — with girls, children with disabilities, and children living in conflict zones most affected. A further 330 million children are in schools where the quality of education is so low that they don’t even learn the basics.
If current trends continue, 15 million girls and 10 million boys worldwide will never set foot in a classroom. And by 2030, less than 10% of young people in low-income countries will be on track to gain basic secondary level skills.
The committee is urging the government to give greater support to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an international coalition that works to improve education in 65 developing countries.
GPE is asking for a pledge of $500 million from the UK government, which would be enough for 1.6 million children to complete primary school every year — including 783,000 girls and almost 900,000 children in countries affected by fragility or conflict.
An additional 550,000 children would complete lower secondary school, according to GPE. About 141,000 teachers would be trained, and 2,000 classrooms built. Some 17 million textbooks could be distributed.
All of this, adds up to a significant, life-changing improvement to the global education system.
The committee’s report, which examines the Department for International Development’s (DfID) work on education, identified a lack of access to education for children in developing countries and conflict zones as a priority.
With the number of displaced families having almost doubled since the late 1990s, the report highlighted the need to focus on refugee and displaced children.
“Education is a fundamental human right which underpins the improving of lives and the eradication of poverty,” reads the report.
The committee is also calling for more funding to come from developing countries to support their school systems.
But it said that DfID has to be a “global leader.”
“Ultimately,” the report concluded, “if the aim of Sustainable Development Goal 4, to ‘leave no one behind’ is to be achieved, DfID should continue leading by example, stepping up where necessary, so that no child is denied this basic human right.”
A DfID spokesperson told the BBC : “As this report recognises, the UK is giving millions of children in the poorest and most fragile countries the vital education they need to get jobs and have a brighter future. DfID is increasing its focus on getting the world’s most vulnerable children, including refugees and those with disabilities, into school.”