Britain urged to spend more of overseas aid on education amid 'learning crisis'

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Britain should increase the proportion of its overseas aid going to education, to help address a "learning crisis" in poorer countries, the House of Commons International Development Committee has said.

The committee's chairman, Labour MP Stephen Twigg, wrote to International Development Secretary Priti Patel, urging her to boost education spending from 8% of her department's spending to 10% or more.

Britain currently dedicates £526 million a year to education in disadvantaged countries, less than its spends on health, disaster and government and civil society, said Mr Twigg, who warned that education had been "shamefully neglected" by donor countries.

The UK should act as a "global leader" at upcoming summits of the G7 group of rich countries in Italy in May and the wider G20 in Germany in July in ensuring that the international community meets its fourth sustainable development goal (SDG4) of delivering education for all, he said.

"More than 250 million children and young people are currently out of school and another 330 million are in school but not learning," said Mr Twigg. "There is a global learning crisis.

"Currently, we are leaving millions of children behind, deprived of an education. We must take action to ensure the most marginalised children can go to school, including the poorest children, those whose lives are torn apart by emergencies, girls, and children with disabilities.

"Education has been shamefully neglected by the international community and many national governments. The forthcoming G7 and G20 summits will offer crucial opportunities to attract the funding and commitment to achieve SDG4. DFID has the chance to be a global leader on education and must not be afraid to stand up for the most vulnerable to ensure that no child is left behind."

ActionAid head of advocacy Charlie Matthews welcomed the committee's call, saying: "Women and girls in the world's poorest communities stand to benefit the most from improved access to school.

"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, prioritisation of boys' education, inadequate sanitation facilities and violence, such as early child marriage and female genital mutilation, preventing girls from attending schools."

A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: "The UK is a global leader in education.

"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 2011-2015, including over 5.3 million girls."