Four key take aways from the landmark inquiry on DFID’s education work
Parliament’s International Development Committee published its long-running inquiry into DFID’s work on education this week. After visiting five countries and surviving a General Election, the inquiry has proven quite the journey, so it was pleasing to see the end result: a strong call for the UK Government to do more to support education globally.
As DFID currently undergoes a refresh of its education policy, this report, developed by a group of MPs from across the political spectrum, could not be timelier and might help shape the way the Department funds education for the next five to ten years. While there is an abundance of issues to pick through in the report, here are my four key take aways.
1. DFID needs to spend more on education
Last year, when we provided evidence to the Committee, we highlighted the colossal financing gap of $1.8 trillion that would need to be overcome to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Quality Education. While the UK is among the most generous in providing aid to education, we argued that to deliver results for the most marginalised girls, the overall pie would need to be bigger.
Former Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown, agreed, “Britain is spending too little on education. It is far too small, given the challenges we face.” He went on to highlight that average aid spending on education in the world’s poorest countries amounts to just $10 a year. While the Committee’s recommendation fell short of referencing the global target of 15%, they made a bold and compelling case for an increase in aid to education over the coming years.
2. The Global Partnership for Education should be fully financed
When GPE’s Chief Executive, Alice Albright, sat in front of the Committee giving evidence last year, one former member expressed how he wished she’d run for US President. It is fair to say that this cross-party group of legislators have been impressed by GPE’s reform in recent years, recognising its improved performance throughout the report.
For this reason, and the fact GPE fulfils the unique role of improving education systems in the world’s most challenging contexts, they called for the UK to make an early pledge of $500 million to GPE. We have been campaigning on this topic with our colleagues in the Send My Friend to School coalition for over a year. We’re delighted to see that the Committee shares our enthusiasm for GPE. DFID, it is now over to you to pledge big, whilst ensuring this commitment delivers for girls.
3. DFID needs to focus more on tackling gender-based violence in schools
Gender-based violence in schools is one of the most pervasive and misunderstood challenges facing the education sector today. Whether in the form of bullying and teasing, or sexual violence and rape, violence in schools impacts learning and perpetuates more violence, particularly against girls. In our longitudinal study, which follows the lives of 142 young girls across nine countries from birth to age 18, we have seen a significant increase in the amount of violence young girls are exposed to as they transition into adolescence. The IDC report calls on DFID to consider how it can best integrate the tackling of school related gender-based violence in programmes that it funds. This is something we look forward to supporting them with as they refresh their education policy paper.
4. We need a long-term strategy to better deliver education in emergencies
At Plan International UK we are increasingly working in fragile and unstable settings, where the lack of education provision is ever more evident and the need to develop quality solutions is equally so. The report recognises the exceptional challenges presented when delivering education during crises and urges DFID to 'establish a long-term, integrated strategy for supporting education in emergencies'. This is a welcomed and positive recommendation. We hope that this encourages DFID to help build the evidence base and increase funding for education in emergencies. We also hope to see DFID place the unique challenges faced by girls at the heart of any long-term strategy.
All in all, this was a solid report and strong pitch to the new Secretary of State to place education front and centre of DFID’s agenda. We look forward to seeing a strong response from the Government, and then continuing to work together towards our shared goal of ensuring every child receives a quality education.
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