Ceredigion’s Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams held a debate last week in Parliament, highlighting the importance of education in international development.
As the UN meeting in Rio to finalise the Sustainable Development Goals this September approaches, there is much discussion globally about the progress being made to ensure every child in the world has access to quality education.
Whilst the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 have meant 42 million more children across the world have received an education, 58 million children across the world are still out of school, and 59 million adolescences remain out of school.
In addition to this, critically 250 million children are in school, but fail to learn the basics. UNESCO has described this as a ‘global learning crisis’, and the Sustainable Development Goals need now to focus on providing a more inclusive, equitable and quality education.
In his debate, Mark explained that this means ensuring children from all areas, and all backgrounds get an education, regardless of gender, disability, or whether they live in a conflict zone. For instance, there are 93 million disabled children globally, and in most countries these children are more likely to be out of school than any other group. In some countries being disabled more than doubles the chance of a child never going to school, and the UN has labelled them ‘the world’s biggest minority’. In addition to this, of the 58 million children of primary school age who are out of school, around half of them live in conflict areas.
Commenting following the debate, Mark Williams said:
“This year is a critical one in international development. As was reaffirmed at the World Economic Forum in Korea in May, education is a human right, a public good, and a main driver of development in achieving the other proposed Sustainable Development Goals. Without education, communities will not progress, and countries will not develop.
“But as a former primary school teacher, I also know how important the quality of the education is, and I think it is important that in the next phase of the Development Goals we address this, to ensure that not only are more children going to school, but that they are getting the skills required.
“The UK already plays an important role in providing education in developing countries, and promoting its importance, and I can see from the success of campaigns such as ‘Send my Friend to School’ when I visit classrooms in Ceredigion, that it is an issue we are all passionate about. The numbers have improved, but we also need to focus on inclusivity in education, so that children have opportunities regardless of gender, disability or the circumstances of their physical location in the world. Of course numbers are crucial, but so is the standard of education being delivered.
“This is a huge task, and there is much to do. In the debate I encourage the Minister from the Department of International Development to ensure that the UK uses its influence in this sphere to ensure all developed countries do their bit to ensure that no child, anywhere in the world, is left behind.”