I beg to move,
That this House has considered promotion of education for all at the G20 summit.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. Before moving on to the subject of today’s debate, may I take this opportunity to welcome the letter that the Secretary of State for International Development sent to all MPs about the small charities challenge fund? This is a very positive development, which the International Development Committee called for in the previous two Parliaments. It gives smaller UK-based charities the opportunity to access Department for International Development funding to support projects to tackle extreme poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world.
As G20 leaders, including the Prime Minister, meet in Hamburg, this debate is an opportunity for the House to reaffirm the crucial importance of investment in education to tackle poverty and inequality across the world. Millennium development goal No. 2 related to the aspiration for universal primary education. There has been remarkable progress across the world: globally, the number of children not in primary school has been cut by 42% since the year 2000. We should pay tribute to all those who made that important progress possible, not least the civil society and campaigning organisations that worked so hard to secure those goals.
However, there remain about 263 million children and young people around the world who are not in school. Most disturbingly, in Africa today the number of out-of-school children is on the increase, and one in five girls there does not receive a basic education. Globally, millions of children are in school but are not getting even the basics of literacy and numeracy. It is estimated that there are 330 million such children around the world.
I pay tribute to Mark Williams, the former Member of Parliament for Ceredigion. Mark represented that constituency for 12 years, from 2005 until this general election. Between 2010 and 2017, he chaired the all-party parliamentary group on global education. During that period, he led two overseas delegations with the all-party group to Nigeria and Kenya. He hosted countless events and meetings, and engaged with several Ministers on this issue throughout his time as chair. I am sure Members on both sides of the House will wish to join me in wishing Mark Williams well for the future.
May I also take the opportunity to encourage Members on both sides of the House to join the all-party parliamentary group on global education, which does fantastic work? I thank RESULTS UK for its work in this area and for helping me prepare for this debate.
Education is at the heart of the battle against global poverty and inequality. The sustainable development goals include SDG 4, which I will return to in a moment, but education is linked inextricably to all 17 of the global goals. Investing in education can improve outcomes in health, empower women and girls, and reduce inequality. Educated populations are much better equipped to build sustainable societies that can move towards the self-financing of development programmes so they cease to be reliant on aid from wealthier countries. We know from our own experience that education is an investment in our economy. An extra year of schooling can increase someone’s earnings by up to 10%, so investing in education is critical if we are to close the global skills gap and secure the jobs of the future.
The Government’s aid strategy has at its core the goal of strengthening global peace, security and governance. Historical analysis demonstrates that inequality itself fuels social unrest, and evidence suggests that when educational inequality doubles, the probability of conflict more than doubles. Most importantly, education is a human right enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights, the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. Every child should have the right to a quality education.
As we know, the United Kingdom is the only G7 country that allocates the UN-recommended 0.7% of GNI to overseas development assistance. As I said during the Queen’s Speech debate last week, I very much welcome the fact that the Queen’s Speech reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to 0.7%. The UK is recognised as a global leader in providing aid for education, and we rank second only after the United States in the amount of aid we invest in basic education.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the problems in education is that teachers are often poorly paid, if they are paid at all, and have to do other jobs to supplement their pay as teachers? That results in poorer experiences in classrooms where teachers are provided.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. He is my long-standing friend, and represents the constituency that I represented in the House between 1997 and 2005. I welcome him to the House. His point is extremely powerful. In a moment, I will refer briefly to the work that the International Development Committee was doing in the previous Parliament.
I am delighted that the hon. Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) and for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) are here. They are both in different roles. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills is now the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State—I congratulate her on her appointment—and my good friend the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, represents DFID’s offices in Scotland, but is speaking for the Scottish National party from the Front Bench today. They know that the International Development Committee did a lot of work in the previous Parliament on education, and earlier this year we visited east Africa.
The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) makes is absolutely pertinent, because we saw real issues with the ability of teachers to get themselves to work. Their levels of pay are such that they often have to work other jobs, and teacher absenteeism is often as big or a bigger challenge than pupil absenteeism in some of the poorer communities of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. My hon. Friend makes a very good and powerful point.
DFID has a world-class team of technical staff who deliver the bilateral education programmes and lend support to some of the key multilateral bodies, such as the Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait. When the Select Committee visited east Africa and the middle east in the previous Parliament, we saw the fruits of UK aid for education. In particular, when we went to Jordan and Lebanon last year, we saw the amazing impact that aid has had on the refugee population, who came particularly from Syria but also from other conflicts in that region. I want to say once again that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Governments and the people of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, in particular, which have taken so many Syrian refugees. We can also be proud of our record and that of others on ensuring that many of the children from the conflict in Syria have access to education.
In east Africa, we saw some great examples of UK aid being invested. In Kenya, we visited a truly brilliant project, run by Leonard Cheshire in Kisumu, about identifying children with disabilities or special educational needs—I will return to disability later in my speech. That was a fine example of a very positive programme. In Uganda, we visited a frankly inspiring Saturday school in Kampala, which is funded by DFID and educates child refugees from conflicts elsewhere in Africa who have escaped to Uganda for their own safety, in particular from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The UK, via DFID, does many things in education of which we can be proud. As a result, DFID has significant political capital and influence among donors and non-governmental actors, which gives the United Kingdom a responsibility to act as a leader and global advocate on education—including, most immediately, at this weekend’s G20. I urge the Government to use their voice to encourage other donors to allocate more funding to education, and to ensure that existing funding is allocated to areas that most need it.
I also believe—the previous International Development Committee felt this strongly—that DFID can use its influence more with Governments in recipient countries to encourage them to allocate a greater proportion of their domestic budgets to education. Aid alone cannot solve the challenges. Aid has an important role to play, but Governments in some of the poorer countries have a responsibility to spend more of their domestic budgets on education.
Internationally, education is underfunded. To achieve SDG 4—
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”—
an enormous increase in funding is needed. The Education Commission, led by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, estimates that annual spending on education will need to more than double, from a global level of US $1.3 trillion to about $3 trillion by 2030, if we are to have any hope of achieving global goal 4.
In recent years, however, the sad reality is that we have seen a decline in levels of international aid spending on education. In our own overseas development assistance spending, the amount spent on education is lower than the amounts we spend on health, government and civil society, and infrastructure. The UK remains one of the biggest donors internationally, but the figures show that DFID dedicates only 7.56% of its budget to education.
Over the past 15 years, we have seen spectacular improvements in global health. Those advances are clear evidence that the international community, working together, can bring about genuine transformation if the will is there. Innovative partnerships such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have helped to reset global health financing standards, saving tens of millions of lives. We have the opportunity to learn from that experience and to do the same for education.
In the spirit of this debate and given the hon. Gentleman’s view that we should increase the percentage of the funding we spend on education, may I ask the hon. Gentleman a question? If he wishes to see a 2% increase, what should we decrease spending on in the DFID budget?
The Minister asks a very reasonable question, which I was going to come on to, but I will answer now.
The previous International Development Committee, which I chaired, was looking at education. In April, we wrote to the Secretary of State with a proposal that I will refer to in a moment. The solution that we identified is one with which the Minister may or may not agree: we should slow down the shift of ODA spending from DFID to other Government Departments. We want to have a good evidence base for additional spending, and the money saved by that slowing down would enable our proposed increase in spending on education. I will come to that in more detail now.
Before the general election, the Committee was taking evidence on education. As I have just said, I wrote to the Secretary of State in April, urging DFID to increase the percentage of its annual spend on education to no less than 10% of its budget, which would represent an additional 2.5% on the current spend of 7.5%. Many organisations, such as the Malala Fund, RESULTS and others, have urged the Government to go much further and commit 15% of the DFID budget to education.
Since we made our recommendation, the latest DFID figures for the budget spent on education have fallen slightly from that 7.56%, so in the first instance the Government need to reverse that decline and then to head to at least 10%. I would be grateful if the Minister—perhaps not in the debate today, but afterwards—provided me with a complete breakdown of all UK ODA spent on education, including that from other Departments as well as DFID.
I now move on to some of the multilateral organisations, which are more directly relevant to the G20 summit. The Global Partnership for Education supports 65 developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, giving priority to the poorest, the most vulnerable and those living in countries affected by fragility and conflict. Along with Education Cannot Wait, the GPE forms an essential part of the multilateral landscape on education, with its focus on low-income countries and basic education, where support is most needed. The GPE has been through significant reform in recent years and, as pointed out by DFID’s multilateral development review, it now aligns well with UK priorities.
The view reached by the previous IDC—I am delighted to welcome to his place my friend, the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), an assiduous Committee member since 2010—was that the United Kingdom needs to take a lead during the Global Partnership for Education replenishment round for 2018 to 2020. A substantial contribution from the UK to that replenishment would ensure that the GPE continues to achieve results and, we hope, would act as a lever to encourage and press other Governments to commit their support to funding the work of the GPE.
I also take the opportunity to urge the Government to push for this weekend’s G20 leaders’ communiqué to include a reference to the importance of fully funding the key multilateral bodies, the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait and the international finance facility for education.
One of the greatest challenges to face the world in achieving global goal 4 is tackling inequality in education. The theme of “Leaving no one behind” is indeed at the heart of the sustainable development goals. The most marginalised children, including girls, disabled children and refugees, are those most at risk of missing out. A very large proportion of the world’s children are clearly being left behind, and reaching them will be a critical challenge for DFID in the years ahead.
The education of girls is essential, and DFID has rightly made it a priority in recent years. Breaking down the barriers that prevent girls from getting access to education is a huge challenge. I welcome the innovative approach of the Girls’ Education Challenge and recognise that the lessons learned from its programmes could be vital in finding out what works in supporting more girls to receive an education. The G20 rightly has a focus on female economic empowerment. Education is clearly a crucial component of the economic empowerment of women and of economic opportunity for other marginalised sections of society. I urge the Government and the G20 to recognise the vital role that education performs in the economic empowerment of women, especially in the developing world. This summit is an opportune moment for them to do so.
UNICEF estimates that 90% of disabled children in the developing world—nine out of 10 disabled children in the world’s poorest countries—are out of school. That is an extraordinary statistic. The British Council highlighted that although DFID has had a strong focus on girls’ education, it
“has had less focus on children with disabilities and special educational needs”.
The Secretary of State has acknowledged that. She said in March:
“Disability is shamefully the most under-prioritised, under-resourced area in development.”
I agree, as did the last International Development Committee. We recommended in our letter that DFID should place a greater emphasis, akin to its focus on girls’ education, on working to ensure that disabled children have access to appropriate high-quality education. I mentioned the remarkable programme run by Leonard Cheshire that we witnessed in Kisumu in Kenya. That is the sort of programme that I hope DFID not only continues to fund but increases support for, where there is a proven case for doing so.
Let me say something about early childhood education. We know from academic evidence that, by the age of five, a child’s brain is around 90% developed. Early childhood education is crucial for cognitive development and learning outcomes, so investing in pre-primary education can make a real difference to children’s life chances and thereby help to reduce inequality and, indeed, deliver excellent value for money.
It is estimated that, for every dollar invested in early childhood education, the return can be as high as $17 for the most disadvantaged children. Despite that, a new report by Theirworld shows that 85% of children in low-income countries do not have access to pre-primary education. Theirworld states that more than 200 million children under the age of five risk failing to reach their potential.
I apologise for arriving late, Mr Stringer—I was in another debate when this one began.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) and I saw a good example of the importance of early childhood education in Tanzania earlier this year. We saw pre-school children being educated in a small rural community, in preparation for their attendance at a primary school. That was a DFID-funded project, and it is exactly the kind of thing that addresses the need that the hon. Gentleman so eloquently set out.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The example that he gave from Tanzania and my example from Uganda demonstrate that DFID is supporting some brilliant programmes for disabled children and for early childhood. If DFID is able to find the funds to increase its education spending, those are the sorts of programmes that should be protected and, where the evidence is there, expanded—either into other countries or in the countries where they already exist.
The hon. Gentleman is being generous in giving way. He raises a vital question: what does one do in a poor country with a stretched education budget that is finding it difficult to provide decent primary education or any secondary education at all? How does he envisage the conversation with the Education Minister in such a country about setting up the entire pre-primary education and early learning structure, and about the competing priorities that that involves? Has he seen any examples of that actually working on a systematic basis in a poor developing country?
I am grateful to the Minister for his characteristically thoughtful intervention, which speaks to a broader debate about education and where spending priorities should lie. I certainly do not suggest a one-size-fits-all approach for every country in which DFID operates.
To answer the Minister’s question, we saw evidence of that working well in Kenya, where I was impressed by the existing investment programme for early childhood education. In a sense, this is linked to my earlier point about the domestic budgets of recipient countries. Those of us who went to Uganda and then to Kenya were struck that Kenya devotes a significantly larger part of its budget to education than Uganda, and it has chosen to allocate part of that to early childhood education. My argument is this: DFID should seek to increase its funding for early childhood education programmes and, importantly, to integrate those programmes with other relevant areas of the human development portfolio, such as child health and nutrition.
Many Members will be aware of the Send My Friend to School campaign, which for more than a decade has engaged with Members of Parliament up and down the country and invited us into schools in our constituencies to talk about global education. Last year, the campaign engaged something like 400,000 young people, and this year more than 2,000 schools have signed up to it. Next Wednesday, 12 July, 20 students from around the country will come here to Westminster to discuss their campaigning with key decision makers, both in Parliament and in the Government. I look forward to meeting them, and I know that other former members of the International Development Committee in the last Parliament will meet them too.
Many of the students will meet their own local MPs, the Foreign Secretary’s special envoy for gender equality will meet them, and I understand that they will pay a visit to No. 10 to hand in a letter. I believe that an invitation has been sent to the Secretary of State for International Development, and I hope that she might find time in her busy schedule to meet them too.
I am grateful to Mr Speaker for granting the debate, which gives Parliament an early opportunity to address the challenges of global education. It is especially timely because it comes at the beginning of the G20 summit. If I am re-elected as Chair of the International Development Committee in this Parliament, I will propose that the Committee resumes and completes its inquiry into global education.
I look forward to listening to contributions to the debate, but I am particularly keen to hear from the Minister a sense of when we might expect a full response to the letter that I sent on behalf of the previous Committee to the Secretary of State. I appreciate that I sent it just as we finished for the general election and it covered a lot of issues, but it would be useful to have a sense of when I might receive a full response.
As I said, it would also be useful to have, at an early opportunity, a full breakdown across Departments of all United Kingdom ODA spending on education. Given the focus of the G20, will the Government commit to making a substantial contribution to the Global Partnership for Education during its replenishment for 2018 to 2020 and push for a G20 leaders’ communiqué that commits to funding key multilateral organisations, including GPE, Education Cannot Wait and the international finance facility for education?
Investment in global education is vital to tackling poverty and inequality, to securing future economic growth, jobs and livelihoods, and to addressing the causes and consequences of conflict. I once again praise DFID for its global leadership in this area, but I urge the Department and the rest of the Government to go further, because investment in education today pays enormous social and economic dividends tomorrow.
Thank you, Mr Stringer. I will make only a few comments—I had not expected to be called, but I am very grateful to you for calling me.
In the course of my membership of the International Development Committee, I have seen several excellent education programmes that underlined to me how extremely important this subject is. I recall a visit—in 2011, I think—to a small private school that had been set up just outside Lahore by a lady, with some helpers, for the children of the workers of a brick factory. The children had been working in that factory, some of them for many years. This was their first opportunity for education, and the thrill on their faces could be seen as they encountered the wonders of education for the very first time. It was a small private school—the state was not able to provide that—it was basic and it was set up pretty much in the open air by an extremely dedicated lady, but it was doing a tremendous service.
Another programme I recall—I think I was with the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron)—was in Kano in northern Nigeria. We visited a primary school with an enrolment of about 13,000 pupils. It was by far the biggest school I have ever come across. Again, the keenness of all the children could be seen. DFID’s work there was in providing a modern curriculum on the basis of which the children were taught. The school educated boys and girls together, and if I remember rightly, it also had special provision for disabled children. The city of Kano had been subjected to major terrorist attacks just one year previously, but here were boys and girls whose parents were absolutely determined to send their children to be educated.
There is also the example of pre-school provision that I mentioned in my intervention. To answer my hon. Friend the Minister’s point, it was very much supported by the Tanzanian Government, who were determined to put money into it. Young children were being taught Swahili and maths—basic education—in a church made of thatch, mud and wood, because that was the only public building in that village. They were taught by a volunteer from the local community who was paid for by the local community not in salary but in board and lodging. The local community combined with DFID and the Tanzanian Government to ensure that that pre-primary education was in place. We then visited the primary school where some of those children went after spending a year or two in that pre-primary education, and heard directly from the teachers how important it had been that the children had received that education.
I came to realise that education is so important through our work in the International Development Committee in the previous Parliament, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg). He is absolutely passionate about this issue, for which I commend him. I hope he is re-elected as Chair, so that he can continue that work in this Parliament. Education is so important because, unless we have first-class education systems throughout the world, people will not achieve the jobs, livelihoods and other things that they have the potential to achieve, and that are absolutely vital for development. They will not have the health services that we know can be achieved, as we have seen in our own country.
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak, Mr Stringer. I thank the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby for all his work on this, and I trust that this will be a major theme of the International Development Committee’s work in this Parliament.
It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), who as always gave an extremely comprehensive overview. It is a field that he led in both for his party and in his chairpersonship of the International Development Committee in the last Parliament. I hope he continues in that role—he has my full backing in that regard. It is a role he has taken to avidly and for which he has utilised all of his skills, abilities and experience to the utmost.
The timing of the debate is important, given the G20 summit focusing on sustainable growth and development taking place in Hamburg this week. Sustainable development has been one of the key issues we have focused on in the International Development Committee, as have the sustainable development goals, which are a step forward in overcoming poverty and giving potential and opportunity to people of all ages around the developing world. On our sustainable development goals, the key issue for me is that we leave no one behind. That is extremely important for education, and for the post-school education and vocational training that should be available to all.
I reaffirm the Scottish National party’s commitment to the 0.7% foreign aid target—I believe there is cross-party consensus on that, which I am extremely pleased about. Education for girls is something that we have taken a lead role in and have championed, and we should continue to champion it in future. I will focus particularly on secondary education and girls’ access to it. Our achievements in primary education are changing cultural values and beliefs about the worth of girls, and about the cultural stereotypes that we must overcome. However, until girls have equal access to secondary education, equal value and equal opportunity will never be fully achieved.
Our history shows that, when girls and boys have had access to proper education through to secondary school and further training beyond, it has been possible for all to reach their full potential, no matter which area of the country they come from or whether they come from a disadvantaged background. We need to learn from our own history, but we also need to support those across the developing world to aspire to achieve that. We need to try our very hardest to leave absolutely no one behind.
In some countries that I had the privilege to visit with the International Development Committee, early marriage continued to be an issue, particularly for girls. It took them out of school at the age of 13 or 14, meaning that they were unable to aspire to careers or think about what they wanted to do in their future outwith a marriage at that very early stage of their lives. Secondary education is key to changing those attitudes and stereotypes, and to affording girls the full potential of their own lives and making choices therein.
There were other worries from our work on early marriage. When I visited Nigeria and Kenya, I spoke with local people who said that, although there appears to be less early marriage, it is because it is often not recorded—it still takes place, but it is a cultural marriage and not an official one. The statistics we have do not show the depth of the difficulty we face. I ask the Minister to target young girls who want to continue education and give them support to overcome early marriage where we can. I would also like the Minister to look at the data to ensure that we have accurate statistics on early marriage.
The Committee looked at the importance of data collection on our sustainable development goals. We can use innovative techniques such as mobile phone data to collect appropriate statistics. I would be interested to know how we are updating census material to show that we are working towards the sustainable development goals utilising all data sources, which will be extremely important in that regard.
Jobs and livelihoods are another key issue. It is important that we look beyond the formal role of education and think about vocational training for young people in developing countries. We should lend our support for apprenticeships, sustainable businesses and employment opportunities. When I was in Nigeria, I was rather disappointed to meet Ministers who appeared to be creating vocational training centres focused largely on opportunities for boys. There appeared to be cultural stereotypes—girls did not have the same access and thought was not given to girls’ vocational opportunities.
I have a particular focus on education for disabled children, as hon. Members will attest. I have been chair of the all-party parliamentary group for disability since the previous Parliament. I was heartened to see the work being done and the progress being made on some of the International Development Committee’s visits. We saw work supported by DFID, including work supported from my own constituency of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow. It is extremely important that we try to lead the way on inclusive education and prioritise it. We have the skills and the ability to support other countries, and it is extremely important that we use them to help the most vulnerable right across the world—disabled children are the most vulnerable. I believe the public would be behind that type of initiative, and I would like to hear from the Minister on that.
An issue that came up during one of our visits—I think it was in Kenya—was that specialist teacher training for work with disabled children tended to be for those in secondary schools. Most disabled children were not reaching secondary school—many were not able to access primary school, but even when they did, they were not going on to secondary school. Where we can, we must focus our efforts on making teacher training inclusive and ensuring it is at the right level, so that teachers who will be working with disabled children are also available in primary schools, where the majority of disabled children will start their education.
Investment in buildings is important. We saw some good examples of wheelchair-accessible schools in Kenya and the difference it can make to children who can then come into the classroom, socialise with peers and have such a better quality of early life. Overcoming marginalisation and ensuring we help the most vulnerable disabled children to achieve their potential is crucial. I argue strongly that we should be leading on that. We cannot fail if we are to meet the sustainable development goal of leaving no one behind.
One example that touched my heart was in Tanzania, where I spoke to people from Sense who informed me about a young girl who was both deaf and blind. Her parents, out of fear for her safety, would tie her to a tree locally for most of the day while they worked in a nearby field, because they worried that she would wander off. Obviously, the risks to her person and the quality of her life were absolutely atrocious, but the parents struggled to know how to sustain the rest of the family while looking after her very specific needs. Sense worked with the family to ensure that a care placement was provided for her during the daytime, to give her an excellent quality of life, comparatively, and to ensure that her parents felt secure in the knowledge that she was safe during the day and that they had the support they needed. Some of these initiatives require additional resourcing, as they are resource-intensive, but the magnitude of change they can make to a young disabled child’s life is without comparison.
I would like to mention the visit I undertook with the International Development Committee to a school in Lebanon that hosted Palestinian refugee children. The work being done there was inspirational. However, the school building lacked windows, and the children had to wear gloves because it was often too cold for them to write and learn. Where we are contributing funds and working on education, I would like us to take a holistic approach to ensure that the environment is conducive to the education of children attending the school.
A worrying issue was raised while I visited camps in Lebanon and Jordan. One camp that we were not able to visit, due to apparent security issues, was for Palestinian refugees. We were told by civil society representatives that the electricity system in the camp, which has been there for many decades, had no health and safety standards, and there were regular reports every week of individuals being electrocuted. Will the Minister follow that up or write to me about the work we are doing there? I understand that we provide education support to the camp, but I was told that we do not provide sanitation, electricity or other basic needs because it is not DFID’s role. However, the very basic human rights are for safety, shelter and sanitation, and people being electrocuted every week is not right. If we are contributing to that camp, health and safety standards must be correct, and we must surely provide for those people’s needs.
While we saw some very good education work by the British Council in the countries we visited, we tended to meet only the most affluent individuals who accessed it. I hope the Minister will tell us how the British Council is reaching out to marginalised and disadvantaged groups and ensuring that children from all backgrounds can learn English with our support.
Finally, I pay tribute to the Send My Friend to School campaign and all the work that our local schools have been doing, which shows how strongly they feel that access to education for all children right around the world is important. I look forward to the Minister’s response and thank the hon. Members for Liverpool, West Derby, and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), for their excellent contributions.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I would particularly like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) for his invaluable work as Chair of the International Development Committee and for calling this debate today.
It is a great shame that because of the general election, the Committee’s final report on its long-running inquiry, “DFID’s work on education: Leaving no one behind?”, was unable to be published, but I am sure it soon will be. I know that all members of the Committee worked hard on that inquiry and I thank everyone involved, including those who gave evidence and assisted on the Committee’s visits to the middle east and east Africa, for their work on this important subject.
Today has been an excellent opportunity to hear more about the Committee’s findings. As is often the case with international development issues, cross-party contributions have shown the strength of support on both sides of the House for global education. I thank all those who have spoken for their interesting and insightful contributions. I thank in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) and the hon. Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron).
I want also to mention the fantastic levels of public support for education aid, which have been shown through the Send My Friend to School campaign. More than 2,000 schools have signed up to that campaign, calling on the Government to increase their investment in the power of education. I was very fortunate to visit one such school: Starks Field Primary School in my constituency.
As has been made clear throughout this debate, DFID has a proud history as a world leader in helping to transform the global education agenda. During the past 15 years, UK aid has supported 11 million children through education. The UK remains one of the biggest donors to education internationally. DFID has shown commitment to providing education to the most vulnerable in difficult situations—for example, by dedicating resources to girls’ education and to the education of refugees in conflict situations.
Access to education ensures that people have an opportunity to get the best start in life. Education provides hope and empowerment to those who receive it. It is a vital tool in ending poverty, improving health outcomes and tackling gender inequality by empowering girls. Investing in education addresses not only inequality, but issues of security and radicalisation. It is the vehicle to a more prosperous, stable and safe society. Above all, it is a human right, enshrined in law.
Thanks to the millennium development goals’ focus on achieving universal primary education, the number of children in primary education has greatly improved since the year 2000. According to RESULTS UK, which supported me no end in preparing for this speech, the number of children out of primary school has been cut by 42% since 2000. However, much more needs to be done. Save the Children describes the situation as “a learning crisis”. More than 263 million children worldwide are not in school, and hundreds of millions of children are in school but not learning as a result of the poor quality of their education. How is that right? If the current trend continues, how will we reach the target of ensuring that everyone has access to education? That will become almost impossible.
To provide a quality education for all, we have to address not only the issue of teachers, but the environment in which young children are trying to learn. We have heard fantastic examples today of where DFID is doing the best it can, but it needs to consider holistically how we are to achieve the goals if a school does not have windows, a roof or running water. We must work together to ensure that every child has the best education, and we must do that by setting a strong example, which I know DFID has done.
That is why Labour, in line with the International Development Committee and non-governmental organisations, recommends that DFID publish a new 10-year education strategy. In line with that recommendation, it would be helpful for the Minister to outline how DFID’s strategy of value for money will take into account the higher cost of delivering ambitious education programmes, such as targeting left-behind vulnerable groups. I am thinking of programmes aimed at girls and especially persons with disabilities.
There are two bodies—the Global Partnership for Education and the Education Cannot Wait fund—that, with continued funding, will help to achieve the strategy to which I have referred, so I would welcome an announcement from the Minister on whether those two bodies will see continued funding. The next replenishment conference for the Global Partnership for Education is in early 2018, so will the Minister update the House on whether the Government will be following the International Development Committee’s calls for them to sustain or increase financial support for the Global Partnership for Education? I applaud DFID’s work in helping to establish the Education Cannot Wait fund to provide support for refugee education.
In the light of the excellent work that DFID has done in improving access to education for refugees in the middle east, will it be extending that work to help refugees in east Africa and particularly in Uganda, where there are more than half a million South Sudanese refugee children?
I call on the Minister today to provide an assurance that the percentage of DFID spending on education will not be cut in the next two years or, indeed, after Brexit. I am sure he will join me when I say that it is particularly important for the Government to step up as a strong advocate for global education at a time when there is no explicit reference to sustainable development goal 4 in the G20 agenda. That will show that the UK Government want to be a world leader on education.
If the Government lead with the recommended positive actions—increasing financial support for the Global Partnership for Education and for Education Cannot Wait, along with publishing an education strategy—that will highlight Britain’s continuing commitment to global education and encourage other international donors to follow suit. I look forward to working with the Minister on these issues.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. As always, we have had a very good debate. I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) for initiating the debate. He is a real inspiration, as are the other hon. Members in the Chamber. It is quite unusual in politics—it sometimes feels unusual, anyway—to have people who seem so sincere, so committed to an issue and so interested in the detail, rather than simply being interested in posturing, and that really comes across. One reason why the whole House feels strongly that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby has been an excellent Chair of his Committee is precisely that he approached the role in a very fair, objective and ethical fashion. It is therefore a great pleasure to be involved in this debate.
An enormous number of things have been touched on today. The basic message that I would like to get across is that the real problem in this field is not the big ideas, but the implementation. The really big problem, underneath all the very good contributions and really good points made by hon. Members, is that the situation on the ground in many developing countries is an absolute disgrace. Very sadly, what is happening even in those schools that exist is really depressing. I will try to touch on some of the points that have been made, but the scale of the problem is the central issue.
The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) made a series of really good points—points that it is easy to relate to. They were points about disability, about schools that she has seen in which there are no windows and children are wearing gloves and—I am imagining the Shatila camp in south Lebanon, where there are real problems—about electricity. Very good points were also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby about issues such as pre-school education. The shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), made a very strong statement about refugees in Uganda, and others have made statements about disability.
The fundamental underlying problem is that before we start talking about all those things, we have to acknowledge that the basic primary education in most of the countries that we are discussing is not even beginning to be good enough. Nearly 67% of children coming out of primary schools in the developing world basically cannot read or write. One of the tragic choices that an international development agency faces is how to get the balance right between making sure that the schools and teachers that already exist are teaching something of value to their children and a dozen really good ideas about how we can improve things by bringing new people into schools, getting girls into secondary school, improving vocational education or addressing the crisis in classrooms.
Money is one of the aspects of this problem. This excellent report, “The Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world”, put together by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, estimates that $3 trillion needs to be spent on education annually within a pretty short period. We can have a discussion about whether DFID should spend 8%, 10% or 12%, but the amount it currently spends on education is one five-thousandth of the amount that would be needed to address global education. Even if we took up the challenge from the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby, ramped that up and spent 100% of the entire British aid budget on education, that would still be only one five-hundredth, or 0.2%, of the global need.
Huge theoretical problems underlie this endless debate. One of the challenges is what kind of jobs or employment opportunities are available to children in the developing world when they come out of school. One of the challenges around vocational education is working out what jobs there are at the end of it. Like the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, I was in a vocational training centre in Nigeria last week. I was in Kaduna. I do not know whether we were looking at the same centre, but in the centre I was at the carpentry and construction schools were indeed dominated by men; the women were largely in the hospitality and sewing schools.
The fundamental problem underlying that issue is that it is not clear that there are any jobs in Kaduna for people who sew, cook, make buildings or do carpentry—the skills that those people emerge with at the end. At the end of a six or twelve-month course, are they skilled enough as carpenters or construction workers to be valuable to a business? Many of the employers we talked to in Kaduna in northern Nigeria are much less interested in those hard vocational skills than they are in soft skills—someone’s ability to engage with customers and their work ethic, discipline and desire to turn up to school.
There are huge questions in the report around family planning. All of us can see the correlation between investment in girls going into secondary education and girls having smaller families, which is very good for their health. But what exactly is that relationship? Is it that what they learn in school makes them less likely to have children or is it simply about the fact that they are in school? If it is the latter—if the fact that someone stays in high school means they are less likely to have children—will the social pressures that drive people into early marriage simply mean, conversely, that those same girls are removed from school?
The claim is made that if someone in the developing world goes to primary school, their income over their lifetime will be five times higher than that of their parents. But if we got everybody into primary school, would that be true? We would effectively be claiming that we could guarantee to quintuple the GDP per capita of these countries by getting 100% primary education. That, presumably, is not true.
Above all, we have to start from a position of realism. We agree violently with everybody in this room that education matters, but we must get a clear sense about why it matters and the unexpected ways in which it does. There are ways in which it might matter for family planning, but exactly why does it? How does it work for skills? Imagine a craftsperson in central Asia. What exactly are they learning in school that will allow them to supply calligraphy to a Saudi hotel or get carpets into a London market? Is it their literacy and numeracy skills or their confidence? What kind of emphasis are we putting on opportunity, empowerment or getting people into a digital world? What kind of jobs are we trying to prepare people for?
Ethiopia famously believes in a policy of agricultural-led industrialisation, but is the industrialisation envisaged in 1991 going to be an option in 2020? Or will—as Larry Summers, one of the co-authors of the report, suggests—increased automation mean that the shoe factories we were hoping for are increasingly located close to markets such as Britain and the United States because the shoes will largely be made by robots? These are big questions underlying what we are trying to do in the education system.
I am following what the Minister says extremely carefully and entirely agree with the thrust of his argument. In his work has he seen good examples of where this work preparedness and soft skills, which will be vital for young people if they are to have the jobs and livelihoods they need in the future, are happening, either in DFID’s programmes or elsewhere?
The honest answer is that I have seen them, but they are easier to identify in schools where a great deal of investment is going in to individual children. I have a particular case study in mind of a vocational training school that does a three-year course that includes literacy, numeracy and English along with vocational skills, has a business incubation process at the end of it, links people into an industrial park, helps to create the markets and then moves away. But that requires an enormous amount of investment in the individual and is very difficult to replicate at scale.
One of the challenges is that that gold standard, which really does get extraordinary successes—at that particular vocational school, 95% of graduates find their way into employment in those sectors—is being achieved for an expenditure of about $1,200 per person per year. How is that going to be achievable with investment down at $50 to $60?
As I move on with the argument, the key is the very detailed work done by DFID education advisers—looking critically at what goes on on the ground, for example. One of the striking things we see from this conversation going back and forth is the real differences that exist between Kenya and Uganda, or Tanzania and Lebanon, and the different ways in which people are approaching this issue.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby has focused a great deal on spending. We will reply to the hon. Gentleman by letter, having taken on board the overall ODA expenditure on education; the plea for the excellent global partnership, which we do believe in; and the request on the G20 communiqué. All that is fully lodged in the brain. Fundamentally, however, my argument is that, although spending is very important, the big question is not about expenditure but about what we actually do. It is not the “how much”, but the “how”.
How do we sort out teacher training in the developing world? How do we deal with the issue of ghost teachers? How do we deal with the fact that in many cases we are paying the salaries of teachers who do not exist? A survey found that in Ghor province in Afghanistan 3,500 teachers on the Afghan Government payroll were not teachers at all—they were just ordinary people sitting at home and receiving a teacher’s salary. That is replicated again and again across the developing world.
How do we deal with political resistance? How do we deal with a country where a particular political party has taken over the teachers’ union? How hard can the teachers’ union be pushed? How do we deal with the fact that many of the teachers being dealt with are spending most of their time teaching in private schools and only part of their time teaching in the public schools for which they were originally employed?
We all agree that education matters. We are really proud in DFID of what we have done. We are proud that we have achieved this 43% change in the number of people going into primary education. It is extraordinary. Countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan now see primary school registration rates, theoretically, of 88% or 90% of children. If we look back 15 or 20 years, in Afghanistan, famously, no girl was going to school at all. These are incredible changes, but there is so much more to do.
If I may for a second, I wish to pay tribute to the Secretary of State for International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), who has, as the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow pointed out, put a lot of emphasis on disability. She has also put a lot of emphasis on some of the issues that are raised by Gordon Brown’s Education Commission. One that we have not discussed today is testing and standards—all the grisly stuff that, in the British context, gets everybody overheated about Ofsted. That is a critical question: how much emphasis do we put on testing? More than 50% of the countries concerned have no testing in place.
I am aware that I am trespassing on your patience, Mr Stringer, so I will move toward the end of my speech. I do not wish to continue for too long, but I will make two main points. One, before we all give up in despair, is that there are places where progress has been made. Ethiopia is a striking example of a place that has gone from one in five children in school to four in five. How has that been achieved? Largely through the leadership of the Ethiopian Government, who are genuinely committed to education, teacher training, getting people into remote areas and access for marginalised communities such as disabled people, women and others.
We have had other kinds of experiences in other countries. One question is how to deal with the particular context. In Afghanistan, education is community-based, and Save the Children, CARE and the Aga Khan Development Network work in remote rural villages in Hazarajat. That is quite different from what reform means in Jordan, where USAID has been working with the Jordanian Government on education for nearly 40 years; in the Education Minister’s office, reports are piled up almost to the ceiling. There is almost nothing in one of those reports from 1987 with which we would disagree today, but the challenge has traditionally been implementation, particularly on difficult issues such as how to deal with teachers’ unions—to drop a grenade into the middle of this room.
Dealing with teachers’ unions is not as easy as it might sound in a British context. In Jordan, the issue has famously been dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. We can discuss the political contexts in other countries, and what they mean for the curriculum and for what goes on in the classroom. In conclusion—to reassure you, Mr Stringer, that I will not remain on my hind feet forever—
I am listening intently to the Minister’s comprehensive speech. One practical thing that could be done is to give advice and support to those becoming primary school teachers, so that they have the ability, skills and experience to teach disabled children and so that education at that level can be inclusive. In the countries that we visited, some secondary school teachers have had those skills, but they do not reach primary school children.
I could not agree more. Teacher training is vital, especially teacher training on how to deal with children with disabilities and, in a refugee context, how to deal with children suffering from trauma. One impressive thing that the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow might have seen in Jordan is the learning centres run by Save the Children and UNICEF, where psycho-social counselling is a strong element of the teaching.
However, there is a more fundamental challenge, which is that in some countries, around 50% to 60% of teachers are illiterate—they cannot read or write. In many other countries, 80% of teachers are educated only one grade above their students: that is, if they are teaching second grade, they have a third grade education. While thinking about how to ensure that teachers can deal with disabled children, we must begin by ensuring that teachers can read and write. If they cannot, it does not matter how good the textbook is or how fancy the internet provision is; the teacher lacks the most basic skills to communicate. We are all a bit polite in this business. At the moment, those kinds of facts—and the fact that more than 60% of the children leaving such schools cannot themselves read or write—are not being mentioned enough in this debate.
To finish with the shadow Minister’s challenge, yes, we will produce an education strategy, which I hope will address many of these issues and more that Mr Stringer has not given me time to address in this debate. Those will include the seriousness of Governments’ commitments to education. What do we do when the national Government are not committed and do not care very much? What do we do in a conflict situation where there is no state in place and almost nobody to work with to drive through education? How do we think about classrooms? In particular, what is the point of a classroom if affordability is a challenge and if uniform or food costs make it impossible for a child to go to school, or if the opportunity costs of that child not being at home to look after livestock or a baby prevent the parents from sending them to school? What do we do with the digital revolution?
Above all, how do we challenge business as usual? How do we move beyond this excellent report and all the wonderful things that we hope will follow from organisations such as the G20 and the UN to realising that there is an enormous, fatal, terrifying gap between rhetoric and reality in this, as in so much else in international development?
I thank all hon. Members who have participated in the debate. It is always a pleasure to listen to the Minister; he was characteristically thoughtful and thought-provoking. To take up his point about “how much” versus “how”, I have focused a lot on the funding because of my sense that the G20 is an opportunity to make a breakthrough, but I absolutely concur that the “how” is of equal if not greater importance and that learning from the evidence what works is best of all. The example that he cited from Ethiopia is an interesting one from which we can learn.
I welcome the fact that DFID will publish an education strategy. I praise the work done by education advisers, and particularly by some of the bilateral education programmes that DFID runs around the world. Many of the challenges that the Minister described are not dissimilar to challenges in our own domestic education policy. As I listened to his comments on jobs, soft skills, literacy, numeracy and confidence, it struck me that, although the challenges may be of greater scale in the poorest parts of the world, the fundamental issues are very similar.
I am grateful to all hon. Members who have spoken. My good friends, the hon. Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr. Cameron), contributed enormously to the International Development Committee in the last Parliament, and I know that they will continue to be keen advocates for international development in this one. The hon. Member for Stafford has been a particularly great advocate for global health, jobs and livelihoods. The voice that the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow gives to disabled people, particularly disabled children, is powerful and had a big influence on our Committee’s work in the last Parliament.
My hon. friend the Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), the shadow Secretary of State, referred to a number of things, but I particularly noted her point about refugees in Uganda, to which the Minister also referred. When we were in Uganda, we were struck by the generosity of the Government and the people in their response to refugee flows. Support for that, including education, is vital. I welcome the Minister’s positive response to the specific points that I raised about the G20 and the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education. I hope to work with him and his colleagues in the weeks and months ahead to take forward that important agenda.
Finally, the Minister asked me, perfectly reasonably, where the money would come from. In our letter in April, the Committee said that we felt that the pace of the shift from DFID to other Departments could be slowed and that the money saved could be invested in education. As well as the inquiry into education that was interrupted by the general election, we had just begun an inquiry into non-DFID overseas development assistance. Whoever the Committee Chair and members are during this Parliament, I am sure that focusing attention on the parts of overseas development assistance that come through other Departments, as well as on those that come through DFID, will be an important priority for our work. I thank you for your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and I thank all colleagues who have taken part in the debate.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered promotion of education for all at the G20 summit.