Education (Developing Countries)

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Betty Williams Betty Williams Labour, Conwy 11:30 am, 26th February 2003

What steps she is taking to improve girls' access to education in developing countries.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

Since 1990, the number of primary schoolchildren who are out of school has decreased from 130 million to 115 million, so progress has been made. However, the number of children who are out of school is still unacceptably high. Globally, girls still represent 56 per cent. of children currently out of school, and 66 per cent. in south and west Asia. We are working with a variety of partners to help to accelerate progress on girls' education. We plan to spend £1.3 billion on basic education over the next five years.

Photo of Betty Williams Betty Williams Labour, Conwy

I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging response. She will be aware of the Global Campaign For Education, which is about to report on girls' education—its main campaign focus for 2003. Is she aware that the campaign will be holding a seminar in Portcullis House on 8 April, where my hon. Friend Ms King will be on the panel? Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging the campaign and congratulating the people involved on their excellent work?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

I am happy to congratulate anyone who is committed to driving forward the implementation of the millennium development goal to get all children in the world, including girls, into basic education. In the poorest countries, girls tend not to be in school. Getting girls to school and a generation of them through primary education brings the biggest development effect in any country. Girls who go to school as they grow up marry later, have fewer children who are more likely to survive, increase household income, get their own children into school and access health care. That is fundamental to progress in development in the poorest countries.