Investing in education is in all our interests, as education provides children with the best route out of poverty, giving them the power to improve their own lives and their country, and ultimately reduce developing countries' reliance on aid. Globally we must push for education for both girls and boys because evidence shows that when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, it has a strong positive impact - she marries later and has fewer and healthier children, and is more likely to be economically productive.
The Department for International Development (DFID) is helping to educate millions of girls: the UK was a co-founder of Education Cannot Wait, a fund to deliver quality education for children living in emergency and conflict settings; DFID also supports girls' education through bilateral programmes, such the Girls Education in South Sudan programme, which has reached over 185,000 girls; and flagship programmes such as the Girls' Education Challenge, which is supporting a million marginalised girls to learn.
I am proud that between 2011 and 2015, DFID supported over 11 million children, including 5.3 million girls, in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries. The Government has committed to helping at least another 11 million children in the poorest countries gain a decent education by 2020. DFID is on track to deliver this, having supported 7.1 million children to gain a decent education between 2015 and 2017. This is a huge investment in a better future for these children.
But it is not just about having the chance to go to school, children must be well taught and what they learn must improve their opportunities in life. While 89 per cent of children are now in school, many teachers are not properly equipped to teach basic knowledge and skills: over 330 million children are expected to leave primary school without having learned how to read or how to do basic maths. DFID's new education policy focuses on raising teaching quality, helping national governments improve teacher recruitment and training, so that children's potential is not wasted.
The International Development Secretary recently pledged £225 million to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) (£75 million a year for three years). We should be proud that the UK remains one of the biggest donors to the GPE: this pledge marks a 50 per cent increase in our annual contribution compared to this year, and will keep 880,000 children in school each year and train 170,000 teachers. One third of the funding will be conditional on GPE focussing on achieving key improvements in countries' education systems.