Laura Round is a former Special Adviser and host of the podcast What Were You Thinking?
2021 represents a critical year for Britain on the world stage. We have already seen the Prime Minister use the G7 summit to coordinate international progress on vaccine distribution, climate change and international tax efforts. At the end of the year the UK will be able to reinforce its global leadership on climate change in Glasgow during COP26. And later this month, Boris Johnson will co-host the Global Education Summit, alongside the President of Kenya and the Global Partnership for Education.
At the core of our G7 presidency has been the need to build back better from the pandemic, and absolutely central to the global recovery is ensuring that we tackle the global education crisis, and make good on the Government’s manifesto commitment of standing up for the right of every girl in the world to have 12 years of quality education.
As Conservatives, we all recognise the importance of investment in education at home in creating opportunity and improving society. It is important that we take this approach globally, too.
Aiming to raise at least $5 billion for the Global Partnership for Education, the summit can help to turn the tide on the education emergency. It will also help to make the Prime Minister’s goal, agreed with the G7, to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10, a reality.
The summit represents a real opportunity for the UK to maintain its reputation as an international development superpower. A fully funded GPE would help education systems recover from Covid-19 and enable 175 million more girls and boys to learn.
This investment is desperately needed; 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 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 their 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’re fronting 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, it has helped partner countries enrol an additional 82 million more girls in school. If the UK can work with other countries to ensure that we 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.
Ahead of the Global Education Summit in London, 28th-29th July, every government must step up so that GPE can reach its goal of raising $5 billion and transform education so that it’s fit for the uncertain future we face.
Julia Gillard, GPE’s Chair and former Australian PM, described investment in girls’ education as a silver bullet, and one of the most efficient ways in which we can invest in the future. I completely agree with her and hope that our Conservative government maximises the opportunity of the Global Education Summit to lead from the front, and make a tangible difference to millions of girls around the world.