This paper sets out how the UK, through the Department for International Development (DFID) works to improve education in some of the poorest countries in the world. A good education is a human right, a global public good and a necessary ingredient for economic development and poverty reduction. Education enables people to live healthier and more productive lives, allowing them to fulfil their own potential as well as to strengthen and contribute to open, inclusive and economically vibrant societies.
For education to maximise its transformational potential, children need not only to be in school but also learning. The world, however, is facing a learning crisis; too many children in school are learning little or nothing at all and there are still too many who have never been to school, or do not complete the primary cycle. Progress on getting children into school shows what sustained national and international investment can achieve but clearly more needs to be done, and done differently, to ensure all girls and boys can access a quality education and learn. This includes addressing underlying causes of disadvantage, including gender disparities, geographic isolation, disability, ethnic and linguistic disadvantages.
The UK is facing up to the challenge and providing global leadership on delivering value for money, developing new partnerships across the public–private spectrum, using new technology and building evidence on new approaches and aid modalities with partner governments. In line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the goals of Education For All, the UK government is helping ensure that every girl and every boy can access, and complete, a good quality basic education (primary plus lower secondary). Between 2010 and 2015, DFID is supporting 11 million girls and boys in school, especially in fragile and conflict affected states, with up to 1 million more of the most marginalised girls supported through the Girls’ Education Challenge.
A focus on learning runs throughout DFID’s work in education. The UK approach combines strengthening national education systems to ensure better provision for improved learning; improving accountability to citizens and taxpayers for results; and improving what happens in classrooms. There is no single technical fix to guarantee improved learning outcomes for every child. Affecting change in learning outcomes can take time but a focus on learning does provide a clear measurable indicator of education quality and impact.
DFID’s education programme is flexible and well aligned to fragile states and countries furthest from meeting the education MDGs. Of the 57 million children out of school, 35 million are in DFID education priority countries; sixteen of these countries are considered to be affected by fragility. DFID is focusing its investment in education on what makes most difference, using the best available evidence, responding to context, and working alongside governments, multilateral and non-state partners. To maximise impact, DFID education teams work across sectors, including health, nutrition, governance and social development.
DFID is also working with partners and supporting a selected number of investments in early childhood, upper secondary, skills and higher education to build evidence about what works and the types and combinations of investments that deliver the best results for poor children and young people.
Education is an essential part of responding to current and future challenges from demographic and climate change and to rising inequalities both within and between countries. The UK is committed to the principle, in the High Level Panel Report, that no-one should be left behind as we focus our education work increasingly on the most vulnerable and marginalised, including children with disabilities. Getting all girls and boys through a full cycle of education and learning are challenges both today and for the future. The UK government is committed to ensure that education can deliver its full poverty reduction potential.