When I think of the UK educational system, I think of strict, gender-divided boarding schools with drafty rooms and kids walking in straight lines, clad in the same clothes--the product, no doubt, of old books that I’ve read and movies that I’ve seen.  

I also think of Oxford--one of the pinnacles of education.

It’s safe to say that people around the world look up to Oxford, and the rest of the UK, as a model of academic excellence.

So, is the UK helping other countries create their own Oxfords?

Maybe not the actual libraries and storied streets of Oxford, but it is helping other countries create Oxford graduate material.

Image: Pencils of Promise

In fact, the UK is a leader in delivering foreign aid, 1 of only 5 countries that dedicate at least 0.7% of their gross national income to this purpose.

Much of this aid finds its way to educational projects. After health-related projects, education gets the most funding.  

For 2015, the country aims to help 9 million children receive a primary education. That’s an ambitious goal considering that the world as a whole is working to get around 62 million students into primary school.

About 40 percent of UK foreign aid goes to multilateral organizations that oversee projects across the globe. The International Development Association of the World Bank is a primary beneficiary of this money.

Here are some recent projects spearheaded by the IDA:

1) In Laos, 450,000 members of rural communities have benefitted from programs to build new infrastructure including schools, roads needed to travel to those schools, irrigation systems to improve livelihoods and health clinics.

2) Around 3,000 people in Djibouti are expected to receive the skills needed to create their own businesses.

3) 49,000 people in Xinjiang, China, will benefit from technical and vocational educations and employment opportunities.

4) Sri Lanka is expanding early childhood educational opportunities to boost the economy in the long-term.

5) A campaign in Bihar, India, will train around 600,000 teachers by 2020 to become more accountable, effective and responsive.  

Image: Flickr: World Bank Photo Collection

The UK also committed $300 million to the Global Partnership for Education over the next four years. GPE has helped get 22 million more children into school and supported a 17 percent increase in girls completing primary education in the past decade.

Here are some recent GPE successes:

1) About 100,000 children in Moldova have benefitted from early education programs in 50 renovated kindergartens.

2) With the help of the GPE, Honduras was able to reduce the number of out-of-school children from 115,000 in 2000 to 30,000 in 2011.

3) 3.5 million children were out-of-school in 2012 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country worked with GPE to develop its first educational sector plan, bringing together government, civil society organizations and unions.

4) In Laos, a school meals program funded by the GPE fills the nutritional deficiencies of students and teaches self-reliance, community ownership and sustainability.

Image: Flickr: Global Partnership for Education

5) Somalia’s civil war tore the country apart, leaving more than 1.1 million people internally displaced. The GPE helped the country unify a fragmented education system, shifting it away from emergency aid to longer term programs.

These are just a few of the thousands of educational programs made possible by foreign aid, plucked from two multilateral organizations that the UK helps fund. As you can see, they have to potential to help millions of lives.

Education is a long-term commitment, though. Funds one year need to be matched in following years if children are to receive a full, robust education and break cycles of poverty.

That’s why countries need to rise to the challenge and increase their educational commitments in the lead-up to the announcement of the Global Goals September 25th, which will guide international development for the next 15 years.

Currently, 62 million girls around the world do not receive a primary school education. To get these girls through 12 years of school, $39 billion--or 8 days of global military spending--is needed annually.

Now you know how much of a difference one country can mak, TAKE ACTION NOW by sending a tweet to Norway, a leader in the education space, to rally world leaders to fill this deficit.


Defeat Poverty

The UK builds schools, fills classrooms to get kids educated

By Joe McCarthy