Yesterday evening Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for International Development, launched DFID’s new Education Strategy: ‘Learning for All’. As many of you will know, RESULTS provided written input to the consultation on the strategy, and also took part in organising a consultation day with the Global Campaign for Education. Several of our grassroots activists also provided input through the online consultation.
So it was with much anticipation that we attended the launch event last night, and overall it did not disappoint. It was great to see such a high priority given to education by the Department, with the Secretary of State giving a speech and representatives of many DFID partner countries in the developing world also present.
Douglas Alexander made several important pledges including:
- Half of all DFID’s bilateral aid for education will go to fragile states – this is excellent news as just over half of all the world’s out-of-school children live in fragile states, which have until recently been seriously neglected by donors to education – see our report ‘Must Try Harder’ for more details.
- There is a strong focus on quality in the strategy, including the commitment to train 130,000 new teachers every year to tackle the massive shortage of teachers faced by many developing countries. Again this is a crucial issue, and formed a core part of RESULTS’s submission to the consultation.
- This year DFID will ‘help to build a new global education partnership, building on the Education for All – Fast Track Initiative (FTI)’. This is perhaps the best news of all to come out of the launch. Over the last few months RESULTS have been calling for the establishment of a new global initiative to support education for all, which would grow out of a fundamentally reformed FTI in order to revitalise support for education and counter the stagnation in aid to education which has been present since 2004.
The strategy also acknowledges that disability is a major factor in excluding children from school and commits to publishing a toolkit to support country programmes and partners in delivering inclusive education for children living with disability. However, it stops short of adopting an inclusive approach across DFID’s education work which is disappointing and may limit the impact of the strategy on the issue of excluded groups including (but not limited to) children with disabilities. Again this is a really important issue for us, and formed a big part of our submissions. We recently published the report ‘DFID, disability and education: bridging the implementation gap’.
The strategy itself is a weighty 50-page document, so it’s going to take us a little while to digest it more detail! There are a few areas that we are concerned about – including disability and the lack of analysis of macroeconomic constraints on the education sector – but overall we feel we are able to welcome this strategy as an important step forward in DFID’s education work and a great way to formalise and make transparent DFID’s commitment to the education sector.