THE BLOG

Funding a Future Generation: Is Global Education on the Right Track?

06/03/2014 11:46 GMT | Updated 04/05/2014 10:59 BST

"Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential." Kofi Annan

On Thursday 6th March it is World Book Day. And in many schools across the world students will be celebrating the power a book has to transform lives.

In a Western society, words are everywhere. Adverts on the tube, bus on billboards.

There are words on our mobile phones, we can get apps which tell us the latest news, which tells us what is trending and which celebrity is pregnant, has been arrested or has overdosed.

When we walk down the street, there are signs (if we haven't relied on the GPS on our smartphones), telling us where the station is, or to the school, or even to the town centre. And these signs even come equipped with measurements.

So I'm preaching to the converted, we know this. I grew up in a highly literate family with my mum reading to me, and being surrounded by books.

But what happens when you reverse this? What happens when there are no words at all in your community except the odd word in a foreign language on a Coke bottle or on a football shirt? The only English you know is Manchester United, David Beckham and football.

In 2009 I spent my Summer teaching in a primary school just outside of Ndola, Zambia. The school was incomplete, as when the building had begun funding had run out to complete it, meaning that students were rotating when lessons took place to deal with the lack of teachers and space to teach.

There was one book per subject for the entire school, and here lessons were taught in the local language with English lessons helping to prepare the students for the mandatory exams in year 6 where fluency in English would aid their secondary education.

But here is the problem, students were not fluent in English, they were not even close.

The student comprehension of the remainder of the curriculum was extremely behind the Government targets for their level, because limited resources and teaching approaches, in addition to poor attendance meant that the majority of students would struggle with KS1, let alone KS2.

At this stage, I should add that I do not blame the teachers. When I started my placement they were brilliant, and the willingness to try new ideas was fantastic. The inevitable problem was with the limited resources they had at their disposal (including a blackboard that would barely clean for the chalk, and desks that regularly collapsed in the lessons). What the teachers did achieve was admirable in the circumstances.

The challenges facing education in development are not straightforward and perhaps one of the largest challenges is the lack of data on schools, school performance and pupil analysis within each country as a whole.

In the UK, we struggle with frequent changes to the curriculum, with post 16 reforms considered a vital vote winner. But here-in lies a consistency, where a top-down curriculum approach is necessary for sustainable learning.

Can long term business investment provide vocational training and apprenticeship opportunities whereby communities are also equipped in the initial skills to ultimately learn on the job?

One of the criticisms directed at the original MDGs is that the goals were holistic and didn't consider measurable progress. Whilst each country has its own individual targets to comply with, universal primary education in each country is prioritised over student improvement, or development of new resources to aid development as well as teacher training.

Currently 57 million children are not in education.

Currently the universal goals of MDG2 and 3 are well off target.

And currently global spending on education has decreased significantly when it is needed most.

I believe the need for increased funding to education is paramount to the post-2015 debate going forward.

But when we consider universal primary education, it is more than just merely getting bums on seats to meet a statistic for funding.

We should be considering the value of education, and this is where the argument for funding is at its strongest.

Education has the power to re-habilitate those who have experienced damage through conflict.

It can teach about good health, nutrition and sanitation.

It can teach about sustainable farming, and warn about climate dangers and potential risks that can damage livelihoods.

Education teaches about the past, where mistakes have been made and how to learn from them.

Education is the opportunity for literacy and numeracy enabling opportunity for economic growth in a developing nation.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" Nelson Mandela.

On Saturday March 8th, RESULTS UK, Canada, Australia, and the US are joining together on a global webinar to hear from Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, about increasing access to education for the 57 million children who are out of school. This is a unique opportunity for us to work as a global community to advocate for increased education funding.