Britain needs to make a significant increase in the amount it spends on education as part of its overseas aid if it is to keep its position as a “global leader” in this area, according to the International Development Committee.
In a report on work by the Department for International Development (DfID) on education, released today, the committee warns that the proportion of aid spent on education has reduced in recent years.
“Spending in 2015 was particularly low at just 7.17 per cent of all UK aid. In contrast, that same year the government spent close to 13 per cent of UK aid on health,” it states.
Education is vital in helping people out of poverty and preparing them for work and “it seems right that aid to education be increased” says the report.
Between 2012 and 2015 around £966m was spent by DfID every year on average, but the report says it "expects to see a significant increase in this figure over the next spending review period”.
'Government should lead'
In the meantime, DfID should provide the £381m already requested by the Global Partnership for Education – the only multilateral fund which focuses solely on education – between 2018 and 2020, it says.
“DfID has stated that it is a global leader on education. In order to demonstrate and maintain this, the government should lead by example”.
The report also looks at the department’s support of Bridge International Academies, a chain of private schools. This is something which has “caused particular controversy”, it notes.
Some “elements of Bridge’s model are innovative, impressive and scalable” and there is a “demand for Bridge schools from parents who could afford to pay”.
Overseas aid report
However, British MPs who visited Uganda, one of the countries where the company operates "felt that the quality of teaching was still variable and was notably poor in the Ugandan Bridge school”.
The report states: “In Uganda, all Bridge schools have been threatened with closure by the Education Minister, after inspectors reported that children were being taught in “substandard facilities and unsanitary conditions”.
In Kenya, the company’s operations are under threat owing “to an alleged lack of compliance with government regulations”.
DfID’s support of “low-fee private schools” is “controversial” and the report says “it is imperative that the Department fully reviews available evidence when considering future support for such initiatives”.
It adds: “DfID’s support is primarily given to free government schools, in order to reach the maximum numbers of children, and we envisage this continuing”.
A spokesperson for Bridge International Academies said: “In a world where the majority of children are not learning the basics, we think it is absolutely right that we partner with governments to help them quickly improve education access and quality for some of the most marginalised children in the world”.
A DFID spokesperson said: "As this report recognises, the UK is giving millions of children in the poorest and most fragile countries the vital education they need to get jobs and have a brighter future. DfID is increasing its focus on getting the world’s most vulnerable children, including refugees and those with disabilities, into school.
“We recognise the scale of the challenge, which is why we are working closely with the international community to ensure all children get the education they deserve.”
It added that DfID does not currently provide financial support to Bridge academies.
Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and Instagram, and like Tes on Facebook