Big spender

Government funding for development education has risen dramatically, but it's still not a priority. Martin Whittaker reports

The Government is delivering the goods on its manifesto pledge to promote awareness of development issues in schools, according to the Development Education Association. But while the Department for International Development is increasing funding for development education, the DEA says it is disappointed at the response from the Department for Education and Employment.

In recent years, the UK has been the lowest spender on development education in western Europe. At the time of the Conservatives' defeat last year, only Pounds 750,000 a year was going to non-governmental organisations. (The main agencies including ActionAid, Oxfam and Save the Children, have been spending Pounds 4 million a year on development education.) With the new government's creation of the DFID and the setting up of a new Development Awareness Fund, government funding doubled this financial year to Pounds 1.5 million.

And there are further increases in the pipeline. "We are optimistic that the fund will probably double again to around Pounds 3 million next year, with the likelihood of further increases in the following two years," says DEA director Doug Bourn. "Bearing in mind other restraints on public spending, it is an area of considerable progress and shows that the Government is delivering on its manifesto commitment."

Organisations can now apply for government funding for projects of up to Pounds 100,000 a year for three years. Non-governmental organisations are also able to access funding from the National Lottery Charities Board; about Pounds 1.5 million per annum is now going to development education projects.

But Doug Bourn says they've still got a long way to go. "Because of all the agendas around, getting David Blunkett and others at the DFEE to show publicly their support in these areas is difficult. They haven't been hostile, but it's not seen as a priority."

Development education has been helped by the revamping of the Overseas Development Administration into the DFID, with a new agenda involving the public in development issues. The new organisation has increased grants to Education Partners Overseas, and publishes Global Eye, a glossy magazine on development issues aimed at teachers.

There is also a push to include development issues in the curriculum. A panel has been meeting to discuss the subject, and The TES has obtained an exclusive copy of their report to the DFEE and Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which sets out what education for sustainable development looks like in practice. It is defined as a way to enable people "to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future".

The report also sets out learning outcomes for key stages 1 to 4 under seven concepts, including interdependence, citizenship and stewardship, and needs and rights of future generations.

George Foulkes, parliamentary under-secretary for international development, says Labour is giving development awareness a much higher priority than its predecessor. "We believe that it's right that people should know about these issues, not just in terms of starving children but the development issues - particularly how they affect us."

In response to the DEA's criticism, there will be talks with the ministers concerned, Clare Short and David Blunkett.

"I wouldn't expect them to give the same kind of commitment because they have 101 other issues to consider. But I think they will have the same beliefs and will find ways of bringing them in."

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