Education for all

Global education must be at the forefront of the agenda at this weekend’s G20 summit in Hamburg, argues Stephen Twigg MP

This weekend the G20 meets in Hamburg to discuss a wide range of global issues. One of the first issues on the agenda of world leaders should be global education, as it is a lack of education that is at the heart of so many international development issues. The millennium development goals and the sustainable development goals have provided the international community with concrete ambitions to focus our efforts, leading to real progress. For example, we have seen the number of children out of primary school cut by 42 per cent since 2000. Nevertheless, now is not the time to rest on our laurels, as 263 million children remain out of school worldwide. The G20 summit is an excellent opportunity for our global leaders to make some bold commitments to global education.

Education is key to human development. Investing in education leads to better health outcomes, empowers women and girls, and reduces inequality. Educated populations are better equipped to build sustainable societies which can move towards self-financing of development programmes. Education reduces poverty, boosts economic growth and increases income. Investing in education is critical for closing the global skills gap and securing the jobs of the future.

Internationally, education is shamefully underfunded. The Education Commission, led by Gordon Brown, estimates that annual global spending on education will need to increase from $1.3tn to $3tn by 2030 to achieve SDG number four, which aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. Yet there has been a clear decline in international aid spending on education since 2011. Spectacular improvements in global health have been made over the past 15 years. Let us do the same now for education.

We should in particular focus on the poorest people in the poorest countries. Unfortunately, in Africa, the number of out-of-school children is rising; urgent action is clearly needed to reverse this worrying development and provide the people of one of our poorest global regions with the support they need to grow and develop. As chair of the international development committee I visited Kenya and Uganda in March and saw the impact that education can have for the poorest. There is a particular issue in Africa with female education rates, with one in five girls not receiving a basic education. Gender inequality must be specifically addressed in any agreement on global education.

There are several ways in which we can support progress in global education. The department for international development should increase the percentage of its spend on education to no less than 10 per cent, as suggested by the international development committee letter submitted to DFID in April. The current figure is below 8 per cent. Education is a key driver in combating poverty, health issues and economic inequality and should be prioritised appropriately by this government. Respected NGOs, like the Malala Fund have proposed a more ambitious goal of 15 per cent.

It is vitally important that at the G20 summit this weekend action is taken to put global education at the forefront of the agenda. The United Kingdom government should push for the G20 leaders’ communique to include a reference to the importance of key multilaterals such as the Global Partnership for Education, the Education Cannot Wait fund and the International Finance Facility for Education. This would be an immediate measure on which we could build to achieve the millennium development goal of universal primary education and the more ambitious sustainable development goal four to ‘ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning’.

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Stephen Twigg is member of parliament for Liverpool West Derby. He tweets at @StephenTwigg

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