Improving education systems in developing countries is beneficial for everyone. It supports young people to get good jobs and helps them to lift themselves and their countries out of poverty, thereby building a more prosperous and more stable future for us all. Moreover, it reduces the incentive to seek a better life in another country – which directly impacts the UK.
The UK is a world leader when it comes to improving global education. We are the biggest bilateral donor to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the largest fund in the world dedicated to improving education in developing countries. The UK occupies a prominent position in the GPE, and co-hosted (with Kenya) its 2021 Replenishment Summit in July, whereupon $4 billion was raised.
The UK is giving £430 million to the GPE as part of its (2021 - 2026) replenishment. This is the UK's largest ever donation to the GPE and represents a 15 per cent increase on our previous commitment.
Girls' education is a particular priority for the PM, and one of the seven Official Development Assistance (ODA) priorities for the UK. The FCDO will also spend £400 million on girls' education in 2021/22, which will help achieve the global target to get 40 million more girls into education, and 20 million more reading in the next five years – an ambition now adopted by the G7.
To be clear, our £430 million funding pledge to the GPE is separate to the £400m of UK aid which will be spent this year on bilateral ODA efforts to increase girls’ access to education in developing countries.
The pandemic has caused an unprecedented global education crisis, with 1.6 billion children around the world out of school during the height of school closures. Girls have been hardest hit as the pandemic compounded the obstacles to education girls already face, including poverty, gender-based violence and child marriage. I am proud that the UK put these issues at the forefront of the global policy agenda this year as part of its 2021 Presidency of the G7.
Indeed, meeting in 2021, G7 Foreign and Development Ministers endorsed a girls' education declaration, which states that the G7 will work in collaboration with developing country partners, multilateral institutions, and civil society organisations to remove the obstacles to education that stand in the way of girls.
The UK’s flagship Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), launched 2012, is the world’s largest global programme dedicated to girls’ education. The GEC operates in some of the world's poorest nations and has supported over a million girls to receive a quality education. In Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, for example, the GEC has helped over 315,000 girls from poor communities to learn and transition to the next phase of education, training or employment.
Helen Grant MP was appointed as the UK’s Special Envoy on Girls’ Education in January 2021, tasked with championing every girls’ right to 12 years of quality education.
As part of the agenda, I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement of 13 May of £55 million for the What Works Hub for Global Education, a programme which will drive crucial research into education reforms, turbocharging efforts to get girls into school and learning.
According to the UN, the Coronavirus pandemic has been responsible for the largest disruption to education systems in history. This, it warns, risks erasing decades of progress on education. To manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am informed that the FCDO has adapted many of its bilateral education programmes as well as providing additional funding, including £5 million to Education Cannot Wait. The UK has also provided £20 million to UNICEF to protect vulnerable children and £5.3 million to UNHCR to fund the salaries of over 5,500 teachers in refugee camps in 10 countries.
In July 2020, the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel was established: an independent body composed of leading education experts from around the world. Its mandate is to provide succinct, usable, and policy-focused recommendations to support policymakers’ decision-making on education investments in low- and middle-income countries. It is jointly convened by the FCDO and World Bank, and its first report was released in October.
I hope this has provided some reassurance that, when it comes to improving education around the world, the UK is leading the way.