Should 10 percent of UK aid go to education?

By Molly Anders 27 April 2017

Ten-year-old Bano sits on the mats, practicing her writing on a chalk board. Photo by: Nick Cunard / DfID / CC BY-NC-ND

The United Kingdom parliament’s International Development Committee today sent a letter to Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel, expressing its support for dedicating 10 percent of the U.K.’s 12 billion pounds annual aid budget to education.

The letter stresses the U.K.’s responsibility as a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals and SDG 4, which “ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all” as a cornerstone of impactful aid spending.

While praising the Department for International Development’s work on education in humanitarian crises — calling it a “leader” in the field for programs, including those to educate Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan — the letter points to a broader downward trend in funding for education, and presses DfID to lead by example.

“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,” said Stephen Twigg, a member of parliament, and chair of the International Development Committee, in a press statement.

“The current U.K. aid strategy fails to place enough emphasis on ensuring all children across the developing world have access to quality education … [which] remains a pipe dream for millions of marginalised children, especially girls, disabled children and refugees.”

He added that, “national governments in low and middle income countries should also be investing in their education systems.”

DfID spent about 8 percent of its budget on education in 2016, less than it spent on health, disaster relief, government and civil society. The letter to the Secretary of State points to a clear decline in international aid spending on education since 2011. According to DfID figures the agency spent an average of 9.1 percent of the aid budget on education between 2011 and 2015.

“The UK is a global leader in education,” the spokesperson said. “Our commitment to providing the world’s most vulnerable young people with access to school is evident in our results: We are proud to have supported over 11 million children in primary and lower secondary education from 2011 to 2015, including over 5.3 million girls.”

The letter emphasizes the U.K.’s role as a potential catalyst in increasing global investment in education.

A statement from the International Development Committee said that: “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 percent.”

Charlie Matthews, head of advocacy at ActionAid welcomed the letter, and stressed that the barriers to education are especially treacherous for girls.

“Millions of girls around the world do not have access to education, with those living in poverty facing the greatest barriers. Girls are shut out because of school fees, prioritization of boys’ education, inadequate sanitation facilities and violence such as early child marriage and [female genital mutilation] preventing girls from attending schools,” she told Devex.

“Britain has a strong record of supporting women and girls through investment in education and ActionAid calls on all parties to maintain that global commitment,” she said.

For more U.K. news, views and analysis visit the Future of DfID series page, follow @devex on Twitter and tweet using the hashtag #FutureofDfID.

About the author

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Molly Andersmollyanders_dev

Molly is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in London, she covers U.K. foreign aid and trends in international development. She draws on her experience covering aid legislation and the USAID implementer community in Washington, D.C., as well as her time as a Fulbright Fellow and development practitioner in the Middle East to develop stories with insider analysis.


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