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Investing in girls’ education should be at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy

Investing in girls’ education should be at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy
3 min read

The combined impact of school closures and economic crisis brought on by Covid-19 threaten to entrench educational inequality and roll back two decades of progress on learning.

2021 represents a critical year for Britain on the world stage as the UK plays host to three events, each one threaded together by the need to prioritise girls’ education globally.

Our presidency of the G7provides us with a platform to demonstrate global leadership in building back better from the pandemic.

We will host the COP26 summit in Glasgow, showcasing clean, green leadership while calling for global action on the race to net-zero.

This summer, we will work with Kenya to co-host the Global Education Summit. Aiming to raise at least $5bn for the Global Partnership for Education over the next five years, the summit will help to turn the tide on the education emergency. It will also help to make the Prime Minister’s goal, for every girl to receive 12 years of quality education, a reality. This summer represents a real opportunity for the UK to maintain its reputation as an international development superpower.

For every additional year of schooling a girl receives, her country’s resilience to climate disasters improves significantly

UK civil society are calling on the government to contribute £600m towards the global target which would help education systems recover from Covid-19 and enable 175 million more girls and boys to learn.

This investment is desperately needed, with education continuing to be the ‘orphan’ of the aid sector. 130 million girls were out of school before the pandemic hit. Without urgent and systemic change, many of them may never have the opportunity to learn.

The combined impact of school closures and economic crisis brought on by Covid-19 threaten to entrench educational inequality and roll back two decades of progress on learning, increasing the number of out-of-school children for the first time in years. It is imperative that we act now.

Every child should have the chance to succeed in life and reach their full potential, no matter where they come from.

But this is not just a noble objective. As Boris Johnson has said, girls’ education is the “swiss-army knife” to tackle the world’s greatest problems. Investing in inclusive education systems is the only way to sustainably transform the prospects of communities and countries.

Educating girls makes societies more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable, boosting future earnings for women and their families and adding trillions to the global economy. It helps to avoid early marriage and pregnancy, and allows children a better chance of living healthy, informed and productive lives. The Brookings Institute has even found that for every additional year of schooling a girl receives, her country’s resilience to climate disasters improves significantly.

Those outcomes sit at the heart the UK’s foreign policy objectives - and each of the major moments we will host this year.

I am proud to be a UK Champion for GPE. Since 2002, thanks in significant part to the UK’s leadership in global education, they have helped partner countries enrol an additional 82 million more girls in school. If we can use our G7 presidency to galvanise world leaders to meet GPE’s re-financing target, the long-term benefits will see $164 billion added to lower-income economies, 18 million people lifted out of poverty and two million girls saved from child marriage.

Today, as children across the UK are returning to school, I hope this government commits the right resources to ensure that every child around the world can do the same. The G7 summit, the Global Education Summit and COP26 are a chance for Britain to show true leadership on the world stage. For me, this International Women’s Day, that starts with girls’ education.

 

Laura Round is a former Special Adviser and host of the podcast What Were You Thinking?

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