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ONE response to G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ meeting: Good news for education is undermined by UK cuts

LONDON, Wednesday, 5th May – Today, Foreign and Development Ministers of the G7 countries committed to targets to boost girls’ education. This is an important step in addressing the global learning crisis. ONE’s research shows that in 2021 alone, a staggering 70 million children will reach their 10th birthday without being able to read and understand a simple story. However, the Government has set itself these goals against the backdrop of cutting UK aid, potentially thwarting progress at the outset and sending a damaging signal in the same year as Britain is hosting the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) replenishment .

Reacting to the announcement, Romilly Greenhill, UK Director of ONE, said: “These are significant commitments on foundational literacy, and will mean millions of girls will get a better education. 

“However, this good news is undermined by a 40% cut to UK funding for girls’ education (1), which translates to over 3 million fewer girls in education. This decision, in the year the UK hosts the G7 and the Global Partnership for Education, diminishes Britain’s credibility and international standing on an issue that is described as a priority for the Prime Minister.

“To show it’s serious about arresting the global learning crisis, the UK must deliver a bold and ambitious pledge for funding GPE, which will encourage other countries to do the same. They must also build momentum by reiterating support for these commitments at the G7 leaders’ meeting in June.”


Notes to editors: 

  1. The 40% cut to education spending comes from new analysis by Centre for Global Development. To read more please visit here.

Other key information: 

  • The two girls’ education targets are to increase the number of girls’ attending school by 40 million, and to ensure 20 million more girls are able to read a simple story by their 10th birthday by 2026.
  • The two goals agreed by G7 Foreign and Development Ministers today were developed by the UK at the end of last year with the aim that other countries, and especially G7 members, would get on board with their delivery. The goals are intended to accelerate the delivery of SDG4.
  • The age of 10 is a pivotal learning milestone in a child’s life, where they transition from the phase of learning to read to reading to learn. This is a make-or-break moment that allows a child to go from simply learning to read words on a page to understanding complex subjects and content.
  • Based on calculations from the World Banks and UNESCO official ‘learning poverty’ figures and UN population data of all 10-year-olds, latest research from the ONE Campaign shows that a staggering 70 million children could be unable to read and understand a sentence by the end of this year. 
  • This situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed 17% to the total number of children falling victim to this global learning crisis in 2021 — leaving them with a life-long brake on their future potential.
  • The Lost Potential Tracker — created by the ONE Campaign, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and Save the Children —also tracks, in real time, the increasing number of children who are unable to read and understand a simple sentence by age 10.