Skip to main content

Gap in Educational Attainment

Volume 646: debated on Tuesday 4 September 2018

The petition of pupils and staff of Deanburn Primary School,

Declares that the petitioners believe that the gap in educational attainment across the globe is deplorable; further that schools need to be a safe and peaceful haven where children are free to learn and flourish; yet 264 million young people are denied this right worldwide.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that the “Send my Friend to School” campaign forms a key aspect of the UK Government’s international development programme and ensure that every child in the world receives a quality education to reach their full potential.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Martyn Day, Official Report, 26 June 2018; Vol. 643, c. 861.]


Observations from the Minister of State, Department for International Development (Alistair Burt):

Education is a top priority for the UK Government and UK aid: we know it is a critical ingredient for reducing poverty, a key driver for development and significantly improves the lives of children globally. Like the Petitioners, we champion the importance of ensuring all children, including marginalised groups, receive a safe, good quality education.

Education systems in developing and conflict-affected countries face a learning crisis—more than half of the world’s children (387 million) will leave primary school without basic foundational skills of reading, writing and basic maths. This is truly alarming, and demands that national Governments, civil society and development partners all step up and take action.

Between 2015 and 2018, the Department for International Development (DFID) supported 11.4 million children to gain a decent education, half of them girls. We are also working to close the learning gap by driving improvements in. teaching, supporting education reforms, and providing targeted support to disadvantaged girls, children with disabilities and those affected by conflict and crises.

Girls are 2.5 times more likely than boys to not attend school in conflict zones, placing them at greater risk of exploitation, violence, trafficking, early marriage and child labour. This is why the UK is proud to be a global leader and major investor in girls’ education. Through the UK’s flagship Girls’ Education Challenge—the largest global fund dedicated to girls’ education—we will support over one million girls to stay safe and access quality education, including approximately 75% who live in conflict zones and fragile states. This will help girls to reach their full potential and contribute to the prosperity of their families, communities and economies.

In most developing and conflict-affected countries, there is an enormous gap in education provision for children with disabilities. At the recent Global Disability Summit hosted by the UK Government, we called for global action to get more children with disabilities into school and learning. The Government are stepping up their own effort to achieve this objective.

With regards to the safety of schools, the UK Government agree that it is deplorable that so many girls and boys experience violence at school. Education should provide children with a sense of normalcy, stability, structure and hope for the future, and schools should also save lives through providing physical protection from the dangers and exploitation of a crisis environment. We have long addressed violence at schools through our education programmes around the world, and this is an issue which we have committed to tackle further in our education policy “Get Children Learning”, published in February 2018. In April, the UK announced our endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration, underlining our political support for the protection of schools during military operations and armed conflict. However, keeping girls and boys safe at school is not something the UK can do alone. We are working closely with partners such as UNICEF and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children to raise the profile of this issue and push the international community to better protect children at school. We look forward to also working with the Send My Friend to School campaign to make safe schools a reality for children the world over.