By Alice Albright
The unmistakable and growing momentum in global education over the last year received an especially big boost in September when the International Commission for Financing Global Education Opportunity (more simply known as the Education Commission) offered an array of bold ideas to make significant progress in educating the world’s children.
The Education Commission, made up of some of the most influential global leaders from government, business and human development, asserted that the current trajectory in education is hardly enough to ensure that all young people are learning within the next generation – what it calls the “Learning Generation.”
The Commission notes there are 263 million out-of-school children and young people across the world. At current rates, only four out of 10 children of school age in low- and middle-income countries will gain basic secondary-level skills by 2030 and only one out of 10 in low-income countries. That will keep millions of people from tapping their full intellectual potential. And, given that education is an essential ingredient in all global development progress, it will also hobble efforts to overcome poverty, promote better health, quell incivility and conflict and improve the environment.
According to the Commission, education’s share of overall official development aid (ODA) has fallen from 13% to 10% since 2002. Moreover, it says, low-income countries, which need the most help, currently receive less than one-quarter of all external education aid and should be getting something closer to two-thirds. At that rate, we can’t expect to come anywhere close to the ambitious goal of educating the millions of children who are not in school.
The United Kingdom, which has long been among the most important drivers of aid for the education sector, can play a critical role in encouraging its G7 peers to build on the momentum that emerged from the Education Commission’s recommendations in September. As an active and consequential leader in global development, the UK can bring considerable credibility and drive to that task.
That’s part of the message I plan to deliver today in London when I attend the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education for All co-hosted by the Global Campaign for Education UK and when I offer evidence to a parliamentary inquiry on education by the UK International Development Committee. I am confident about the crucial role that GPE will play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on education.
The UK, and a few other GPE donor partners, can rightfully claim some of the credit for GPE’s emergence as a central mechanism for supporting education systems in dozens of developing countries. The UK has not only been a lead financial contributor to GPE since 2005, it has also been an active GPE Board member that has helped set our strategic direction and drive reform.
That reflects the UK’s recognition of the critical importance of education to development overall. To date, the UK is among the largest OECD funders of primary education. To date, the UK is among the largest OECD funders of primary education. It currently invests about 5.4% of its ODA in basic education.
True to its historic focus on education in developing countries and to its pledge to strengthen resilience and responses to humanitarian crises, the UK – along with Canada, Denmark, Dubai Cares, the European Union, France, the Global Business Coalition for Education, the Netherlands and Norway – is one of the initial contributors to the Education Cannot Wait fund, which is dedicated to ensuring the most vulnerable children, including those fleeing war zones, don’t miss out on schooling. We hope other donor countries will follow that example.
The UK and its counterparts in the G7 have much to show for their collective efforts in many other development arenas that require multilateral action, such as the fight against HIV/AIDS and major anti-poverty programs. Their leadership role in the education sector is as critical now as ever, especially as GPE heads toward its 2017 replenishment. We look forward to seizing this opportunity through our continuing collaboration.
Alice Albright is the Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education.
Also read a new report published today by the Global Campaign for Education: Creating a learning generation: The UK’s crucial role in financing quality education for all.