Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

International Development: Education

by Lloyd on 29.03.18 in Uncategorised
Tags: ,
I echo the comments we have heard. As a member of the Select Committee, I was very pleased to be able to support this report. I have to refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—I, too, attended the RESULTS UK trip to Liberia last year. Liberia is an interesting case study, because of the recent pilot that the Liberian Government have undertaken.
I echo the comments we have heard. As a member of the Select Committee, I was very pleased to be able to support this report. I have to refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—I, too, attended the RESULTS UK trip to Liberia last year. Liberia is an interesting case study, because of the recent pilot that the Liberian Government have undertaken.

They have trialled a number of alternative models of education: one whereby they have used Bridge International Academies, which we touch on in the report; one whereby they use local NGOs as providers; and one whereby they use completely non-profit international NGOs. When we spoke to some of the international NGOs on that trip, I was reassured about their motivation for engaging in those projects, which seemed very clear to me: they were there to help to reform the education system and then hand it back to the Government, with the idea that it should be the Government, in the long run, providing all or the vast majority of education services in-country.​

Street Child, which works internationally, added only $50 extra to the $50 provided by the Government, meaning that there was $100 to educate each child. However, Bridge Academies added hundreds of dollars extra to educate each child from external money, meaning that no Government in the developing world would be able to sustain that level of investment if the schools returned to the Government. The report that follows and the outcomes base are interesting because they show that the Street Child education was more inclusive, reached out to more young people and had the same or equivalent outcomes as Bridge Academies. That study means that the Department needs to relook at its involvement with Bridge Academies and other providers and consider value for money. It is one of the first case studies in which we have seen schools running side by side in one country and sometimes in the same city. The Government in Liberia want to move towards a project with the Global Partnership for Education whereby they would directly run the schools. Although we are not a major funder directly to Liberia, we are a funder through the GPE, and we need to look closely at that model and reflect that in our work. I hope the Minister will take it into consideration.

The GPE, whose Senegal replenishment conference I attended with the Secretary of State, requires countries to spend 20% of their tax revenue on education. We do not achieve that domestically, so we are asking developing countries to achieve a very high bar. DFID achieves only about 10%—we hope that that is growing—which poses the question: are we asking others to do something that we do not achieve ourselves, either in the international development budget or in our domestic budget? We need to reflect on that, because power is not just about being a funder and setting the rules, but about leading by example and showing others the way.

On the GPE and replenishment, we recommended in the report that the full amount—$500 million, which is about £300 million—should be invested over the three-year term. I have written to the UK Statistics Authority about the use of Government statistics in this respect. The Government say in their response that there is a 50% increase on their previous contribution. I do not believe that fully reflects the picture. The pledge last time was £300 million over four years, which is £75 million a year. The pledge this time is £225 million over three years, not four, which is £75 million a year. The per-year figure is identical. The Department is right that we did not spend all our pledged money last time, which meant that we spent only about £50 million a year. We might spend the full amount this time, but we cannot compare what we spent to a pledge. One has to compare either a pledge with a pledge where we have maintained the same pledge, or a spend with a spend, in which case we cannot tell what we will spend until after the spending period. We have imposed almost exactly the same conditions in terms of the cap and performance indicators on these pledges as we did last time, which was one reason why we did not fulfil the full cap last time. This time, I hope the GPE manages to meet all our conditions and that it is able to draw down the whole amount.

We have given a very generous amount, and I do not want to take it away from the Department at all that we are the single biggest country donor and the second biggest donor after the EU, to which, of course, we have ​contributed, in the GPE. We should be very proud of that, but we should be so proud that we do not have to fudge the figures. I would appreciate the Department coming back and saying, “Yes, we understand that for public relations purposes we did this, but the reality is that we are looking for a like-for-like match.”

I also note that, on the same day as the pledge was announced, the Department released its new plan—its policy refresh—for education. Broadly, it was a very positive policy refresh, but I am concerned about page 16, which states:

“Securing teacher reform will be politically challenging for national decision-makers. It will often require long negotiation with influential teachers’ unions which have the capability to mobilise at national scale should they oppose reform. Politicians who rely on teachers’ political support face difficult trade-offs in negotiating improvements”.

I am worried about the tone that that sets. It does not talk about unions in a positive way. It does not say that politicians who work with unions are more likely to get added value in reform if they bring teachers along. It sets up a clear dichotomy between reform and unions, which is a real shame. I would hate to see again the negative and pernicious attitude that was in the Department for Education with the Secretary of State a Government ago. He described unions and teachers as “The Blob”. I am sure that that is not what the Department meant, but that phrase was very poor and did not positively engage with teachers’ unions, which have played a very positive role globally and sit alongside our Secretary of State on the governing board of the GPE. We should see them as partners, not adversaries.

Finally, I want to touch upon some of the issues around the international finance facility for education. We recommended that the Department commit to that. It only partly agreed to do so in its response, saying that it will look at the issue and when it has greater detail it will decide. I am worried that this is the same approach that happened with the GPE. We asked for an early announcement and a pledge to refinance. The Government said, “Oh yes, just wait.” Only the day before did they announce—on the GPE—the amount we would pledge. If we are trying to leverage more money and support, we must announce early—we must be a forerunner, not a follower. With the GPE, we have pledged an amount now that is unlikely to reach the cap and really has not leveraged a greater amount. I worry that if in the international finance facility for education we do not pledge early, strongly and unequivocally, other countries and donors will hold off. I hope the Minister will be able to make a slightly stronger commitment than the Department did in its report.

I have picked out some of the things I disagree with in the Department’s response, but it is important to note that, on the vast majority of things, we are clearly at one—the Government, the Committee and, I hope, Parliament. We support global education. We understand the value that it gives to people and children in the developing world, particularly to young girls and people with disabilities, where we have led the way. We also understand the value for our country of providing a world that is more educated and more equipped to engage in positive economic activity, and that fulfils the human rights we value.

Leave a comment

Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Contact Lloyd

Click here

Follow Lloyd