Committee publishes letter to Secretary of State urging increased spending on global education

Ten percent of Department for International Development’s (DFID) spending should be dedicated to tackling the global learning crisis, say MPs on the International Development Committee.

In a letter to the Secretary of State, Priti Patel MP, published in lieu of a final report, the Committee says education is central to development. It improves life chances, has a positive outcome on health, helps prevent conflict, increases a country’s human capital and contributes to economic development. The commitment to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” is enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal 4, which the UK, along with 192 other signatory countries, has adopted.

However, DFID’s current spending on education lags behind health, disaster and government and civil society, at just over eight percent.  There has been a clear decline in international aid spending on education since 2011.  In evidence to the Committee, MPs heard the average expenditure per child in low and middle-income countries was less than $10 per head per year, even with spending of all aid agencies taken together. The proportion of the global humanitarian budget spent on education is just 1.8%.

Despite an increasing UK aid budget, DFID’s spending on education remains lower than its spending on disaster, health and government and civil society. Because of this, the Committee is calling on DFID to spend at least ten percent of its budget on education.

DFID has been a leader on education in emergencies. The Committee commends the work being delivered in Jordan and Lebanon to ensure Syrian refugees have access to education.  However, the current UK aid strategy fails to place enough emphasis on ensuring all children across the developing world have access to quality education. Access to a quality education remains a pipe dream for millions of marginalised children, especially girls, disabled children and refugees.

Chair of the International Development Committee, Stephen Twigg MP, commented:

“More than 250 million children and young people are currently out of school and another 330 million are in school but not learning. There is a global learning crisis. 

“Even though we know the benefits of education, there is not enough funding from the international community to deliver this, particularly in the low-income countries which need most support. National governments in low and middle income countries should also be investing in their education systems.

“Currently, we are leaving millions of children behind, deprived of an education. We must take action to ensure the most marginalised children can go to school, including the poorest children, those whose lives are torn apart by emergencies, girls, and children with disabilities.

“Education has been shamefully neglected by the international community and many national governments. The forthcoming G7 and G20 summits will offer crucial opportunities to attract the funding and commitment to achieve SDG 4. DFID has the chance to be a global leader on education and must not be afraid to stand up for the most vulnerable to ensure that no child is left behind.”

The Committee’s inquiry on education has been curtailed as a consequence of the general election.  The International Development Committee launched the inquiry in July 2016.  Transcripts from the oral evidence sessions are listed below:

Tuesday 1 November 2016 with evidence from Alice Albright, CEO, Global Partnership for Education; Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly from Save the Children, Susan Nicolai from ODI, and Dr Hamed Al Hammami, Lebanon Country Director, UNESCO.

Wednesday 11 January 2017 with evidence from Kevin Watkins, CEO at Save the Children UK.

Thursday 26 January 2017 with evidence from Rt Hon Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

Monday 30 January 2017 with evidence from Dr Alison Evans, Tina Fahm, Korina Cox from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI); Rt Hon. Lord Bates, Minister of State, Anna Wechsberg and Anna French from Department for International Development (DFID).

Tuesday 21 February 2017 with evidence from Julia McGeown, Handicap International UK; Lucy Lake, Camfed and Professor Pauline Rose, University of Cambridge; Dr Joanna Härmä, University of Sussex and Professor Pauline Dixon, University of Newcastle.

Tuesday 28 March 2017 with evidence from Dr Shannon May, Bridge International Academies; Rt Hon Lord Bates, Minister of State for International Development; Anna Wechsberg and Ian Attfield, Education Adviser, Department for International Development.

The written evidence submitted to the inquiry is also available.

Committee membership: Stephen Twigg MP, Chair (Lab (Co-op) Liverpool, West Derby), Fiona Bruce MP (Con, Congleton), Dr Lisa Cameron MP (SNP, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow), Stephen Doughty MP (Lab, Cardiff South and Penarth), Mr Nigel Evans MP (Con, Ribble Valley), Pauline Latham OBE MP (Con, Mid Derbyshire), Jeremy Lefroy MP (Con, Stafford), Ivan Lewis MP (Lab, Bury South), Wendy Morton MP (Con, Aldridge-Brownhills), Paul Scully MP (Con, Sutton and Cheam), Mr Virendra Sharma MP (Lab, Ealing, Southall).

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