Almost $30 billion has been pledged to drive up standards of education in developing countries in a record fundraising drive.
The announcement was made at a conference of the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) in Brussels today.
The vast majority of the contributions were pledged by 27 developing nations themselves, which promised to invest an additional $26 billion (£15 billion) on education over the next four years – well in excess of the GPE’s $16 billion (£9 billion) target.
An extra $2.1 billion (£1.2 billion) has been stumped up by donors including the UK, the European Union, Denmark, Norway and Sweden – a 40 per cent increase on the sum raised at the GPE’s last replenishment conference in 2011.
The GPE has claimed that the contributions will allow 20 per cent more children to complete primary school, and 36 per cent more students to complete their lower secondary education.
For the first time, contributions were also made by other organisations and the private sector, including $300 million (£176 million) from Microsoft.
The biggest individual contribution was from the UK, which promised to stump up £300 million, providing several conditions were met.
“We cannot do this alone,” said international development minister Lynne Featherstone. “That is why our support is contingent on other donors, developing countries, private companies or foundations stepping-up their support for the partnership’s important work.”
The level of contributions have not yet been finalised by many countries, and GPE board chair Julia Gillard said she was confident it would hit its $3.5 billion (£2 billion) target for the next four years. She paid tribute to the “spectacular, indeed explosive, growth” in education spending by developing nations.
Alice Albright, the GPE’s chief executive, said the money would “make a big dent in some of the major challenges in education”.
“This is far, far in excess of what we had estimated, and demonstrates superb leadership and commitment to education [by governments],” she added.
But new figures published today revealed the scale of the challenge facing the GPE, with the number of children out of primary school increasing by around a million since last year, and now totalling 58 million across the world.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) the increase was largely caused by a population surge in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the children out of school, almost a quarter (23 per cent) dropped out of education after enrolling at primary school, while 43 per cent “will never enter a classroom”, according to Unesco.