§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Baroness Whitaker rose to call attention to the role of education in developing countries; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am grateful for an opportunity to open a debate on this subject at this time. There is a growing campaign to influence the World Education Forum in Dakar next month to agree programmes to deliver primary education for all children by 2015. That is not a new target. In 1990 at the predecessor World Conference on Education all 155 member governments promised to ensure a good basic education for all children by the end of the decade. When target dates move, sometimes the reason is greater realism, which at least would be evidence of commitment, but sometimes the reason is lack of political will. That is why a campaign is important now.
§ When we consider why education is so important in developing countries we usually think of primary education. Primary education is now acknowledged to be key to development. Those 130 million children who are not in primary school will miss out on a fundamental human right, but their countries will be deprived of the springboard which literacy gives to capability, income generation, better awareness of health, hygiene and nutrition and democratic participation, all of which are necessary prerequisites for economic growth.
The Department for International Development has significantly increased the proportion of funds that go to primary education, including new bilateral commitments of over £300 million, which is welcome. Is it enough if we look at the benefits? From Adam Smith on, people have lamented the lack of expenditure on this most valuable of public goods. To quote a more modern source,
If you think education is expensive, try ignorance".
§ The starkest of the indices of poverty—infant mortality—has a close correlation with the lack of primary education enrolment. I am indebted to Amartya Sen, in his brilliant book, Development as Freedom, for a comparison between the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and poor states in the much richer India, which shows that where the adult literacy rate is higher in those African countries, even with their poverty, infant mortality is lower. So it is particularly tragic that in some African countries such as Kenya—I was there last November—educational standards are dropping.1548
§ Amartya Sen draws particular attention to the gain from sending girls—two-thirds of the 130 million—to primary school, not only because their right to education is often not equally regarded but because of the value of women as agents of economic development and raisers of families, whose planning, health and nutrition depend so much on their mothers' knowledge; as economic decision makers and income generators in their own right; and as drivers to ensure that the community values school for children.
The World Bank agrees with him in ascribing a higher social return on investing in girl's primary education. A child's chance of survival can be increased by as much as half if the mother has been to primary school. Following this precept, the Government of Bangladesh instituted scholarship schemes to bring girls' attendance up to that of boys. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said,
a society which empowers its women is sure to succeed".
§ But education needs time, as well as far more abundant resources of its own. When I visited DfIDfunded projects in Mali for a small NGO whose board I am on—SoS Sahel—there was a striking difference between villages with piped water and those without. In those with standpipes, the children went to school. In the others, not only did the children have no time to play—and a village where the children do not play is a poignant sight—but the girls fetched water and did housework, and the boys worked all day in the fields. Sadly, education in Mali was not then compulsory. But in one village, a small amount of intermediate technology had enabled the women to grind millet mechanically rather than pound it laboriously by hand. This is what they did with the time they saved: some of the women made extra food for sale; some went to adult literacy classes; some learnt to produce a business plan for the cultivation and sale of produce; and, as a matter of fact, their husbands told me that the women had time to make more demands on them, which they appreciated. Even more significantly, the women also gave their daughters time: they sent them to school. In that region of Mali at that time one quarter of the boys went to primary school but only 16 per cent of the girls. It was the first year, I was told, that the whole year's enrolment stayed at school until the end of the year.
§ So provision for education needs to be kept in equilibrium with other necessary technical development. And it is fundamentally undermined by the catastrophes, natural and man-made, which sweep across countries which have so few defences. Oxfam, whose work and ideas make such a notable contribution to development—the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, will speak further about that—tells us that in Zambia a high proportion of teachers has died from AIDS, and in Angola and Sudan education expenditure has fallen by one-third since their lingering wars began.
§ To prioritise primary education does not alter the need for more targeted investment in secondary and adult education, including human rights education, tertiary, technical and vocational education and in 1549 building the capability which fits local need. DfID's approach to funding programmes that match local needs is to be commended, as is their approach to partnership with NGOs which share the same values. And the Commonwealth Secretariat, among other strategic programmes, has provided expertise attuned to local needs for training teachers and organising examination boards. Of course, governments themselves also need to take vocational and other education in hand. I was impressed by the development of agricultural and forest conservation expertise which I encountered in Kenya—evidence of a growing commitment in the public service.
§ Before I conclude this rapid tour d'horizon I should like to make a more general point about the inseparable companion of education—research. The unique capacity of the international institutions can influence research towards much greater responsiveness to the needs of poor countries. If, for instance, a malaria vaccine or better crop productivity is to claim a share of resources commensurate with need, the international community needs to be more active, including in respect of intellectual property rights whose exercise can penalise developing countries. It is long-term finance that is needed for global public goods like humanitarian research, not loans from the World Bank; and research capacity needs to be developed in the countries themselves.
§ In conclusion, the World Bank annual report on the state of the world's poor last year said that progress in education had stalled. Since then, my right honourable friends the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Development have succeeded in a splendid campaign to relieve the debt of the most heavily indebted poor countries. Is it not time for another campaign: to earmark money saved in debt relief for education, particularly primary education; to persuade donor countries to increase bilateral aid; to influence the international community to fund more appropriate long-term research; and to enable governments themselves to deliver the promise that all children will have a basic education? The effect would not only be humanitarian. Social stability, greater chances of peace and economic development follow from universal education. Indeed, they cannot arrive in its absence. I look forward to the contributions to the debate. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing a debate on such an interesting subject. Education is the means to improve life for the many illiterate people in the world. The majority are the female population: the women and girls.
Today in The Times there is a detailed report of a scam whereby people from the UK are being asked to send money to help children to receive education in Uganda. Investigation has revealed that the money is not being put to the use for which it is sought. It is all very unfortunate and those who have been conned in this way will be badly hurt by the experience.
1550 For the past 10 years, I have been the chairman of PLAN International UK, a child-sponsorship-based charity working to the benefit of children and their communities for long-term sustainable development. In the UK, our donors give more than £14 million a year and internationally PLAN raises more than £160 million a year. Twenty-seven per cent of the budget is spent on education.
Often, our donors are not well off, but they give because they feel that others have greater needs. It is important that donors can feel confident that the money is being put to good use and that the agencies to which they are entrusting their donations have a presence on the ground in the development country and a strict audit of expenditure.
Money is necessary, but quality and practicality of the education programme are also essential. There needs to be a long-term commitment and that will work well only if it meets the needs of the local community. I want to read a comment on Niger by Dr Sathya, the PLAN learning adviser, himself an Indian. He writes:I have travelled now in more than 25 developing countries so far and observed the life of the poor in rural and urban areas and how they respond to both formal as well as non-formal education programmes. I have never seen in any other country such high extreme poverty and illiteracy that I witnessed recently in Niger. At the current rate, it will take forty years for Niger to achieve primary education for all.Most countries' education systems are rooted in human capital theory and promise a better life for educated people. But in Niger, there is no evidence what so ever for this. The entire education system based on the French system is ill equipped to meet the educational needs of people ill rural areas. [The] formal education system in Niger is essentially a mechanism for separating out a French-speaking elite from the masses. Understanding this, the people in Niger are increasingly becoming apathetic towards it. This is evident in the operation of formal primary schools and the enrolment and literacy figures. With only 30 out of every 100 children [going] to primary schools and only 14 per cent of the adults (10 per cent females) who can read and write, the situation is catastrophic. In villages that PLAN International has selected to work the gross primary school enrolment rates are as low as 3 to 14 per cent …What are the reasons for the current situation? Due to the predominantly subsistence character of the rural economy in Niger, agricultural practices and animal husbandry are primitive and labour intensive. Therefore they demand labour from every able bodied person—adult and child. I saw very young children (approximately four years and above)—boys as well as girls, involved in household chores, on-farm and off-farm activities … I also saw children involved in bellowing at a blacksmith's work place in a hazardous environment. Women's working hours range from 12 to 15 hours. A typical day of most women begins about 5 or 5.30 a.m. with pounding of millet and ends around 9 p.m. They spend 3 to 4 hours a day to fetch water in a hot and dusty environment. Therefore organisations aimed at improving enrolments and literacy should take these factors more seriously and allow flexibility while designing education programmes".I myself in Tanzania saw a child sitting beside a hole in the ground with a small yoghurt mug on the end of a long stick waiting for enough water to seep in so that he could dip one cupful out and put it in a bucket and then return to the same task again. In a nearby village, I saw where we had installed a water supply for these people—indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned a similar experience—where the child with a touch of a hand could fill a bucket with water. That child had all those extra hours to go for education.
1551 The same applies to fuel. If people can be helped to grow trees which will provide fuel, they do not have to walk miles through areas denuded of forestation in order to find fuel with which to cook food.
PLAN International also states:PLAN International's efforts will be mainly to support the village development committees to organise and manage progressive non-formal community schools. These schools will meet the educational needs of children, youths and adults".In some areas, school hours have been changed to suit the occupation of the people. Instead of regular hours, there might be no school classes when, for instance, the produce has to be harvested. Everyone in the village can turn out to gather it in. A certain number of hours each day may be needed to collect water or fuel or to perform agricultural tasks. In that situation, it is more effective to reduce the number of school hours than to have long, formal hours when no one attends.
The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned the conference in Senegal. PLAN is running a project in Senegal where less than half the population is literate. Again, we are faced with an intractable problem in rural areas and are trying to set school hours which fit in with the children. We are undertaking a scheme in collaboration with the Senegalese Ministry of Education and two local NGOs. It is going well because the teacher, who is a young graduate volunteer, is hosted by the local community and lives with them. He is teaching a combination of traditional subjects combined with literacy, and it is working well. We must examine such practical plans if we want to create educational opportunities.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this important subject. I declare an initial interest; it is my connection with the Council for Education in the Commonwealth. Forty years ago, I was one of its founders as an all-party organisation and I am still connected with it.
In the limited time at our disposal, I want to emphasise two aspects. The first is the fundamental importance of the education aid budget within the overall development strategy. I should be grateful for some reassurance on that from the Government as I find it difficult to disentangle the figures. Will they confirm that the proportion of education aid as against our overall aid budget has not reduced in recent years?
My second and more pertinent point—I shall be a little more critical than the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker—relates to the need for a better mix of expenditure within the educational aid budget. All the emphasis in UK policy is on basic education. I agree with the noble Baroness that the needs are real and obviously there is an issue of priority; she emphasised the education of girls who will be tomorrow's mothers. However, it is important that a proper balance is maintained in our support for education in developing countries. Primary education takes place in local 1552 languages and must be grounded in local cultures. The need is for money for teachers' salaries, for better classrooms and better schools, and for better reading materials and so forth. Frankly, unless we are prepared to make available large sums of freely spendable cash, it is not clear that countries such as Britain are best placed to support basic education on the substantial scale of the ambitious targets that have just been described.
In my view, we are better placed to help in terms of technical, vocational and higher education. Recently, UNESCO and the World Bank issued a report making a case for higher education development support and for a better balance in support of education in developing countries. I should like to use the opportunity of this debate to ask the Government to give some fresh consideration to that particular point.
It is most unfortunate that Britain's policy of full-cost fees for students from abroad and the reduction in the number of publicly funded scholarships under the aid programme have taken such a serious toll of students from the poorest countries. The number of students from the European Union, whom, very properly in my view, we treat as equals under our memberships obligations, has increased more than 10 times in United Kingdom universities since 1979, whereas the number from the poorest Commonwealth countries has declined by 49 per cent during that period. Moreover, some of the scholarship schemes introduced to mitigate the effects of full-cost fees have been cut back severely under DfID's Technical Cooperation Training Programme. They have been reduced from about 12,000 places 10 years ago to approximately 1,500 now. The Government should look carefully at those very serious figures.
DfID's 1999 departmental report published in March last year talks with legitimate pride but, perhaps I may add, just a little dogmatically, of concentrating its resources on primary schools and gender inequality. Of the 26 paragraphs in the annual report on education, only two deal with what are described—perhaps I am over-sensitive to the language but I sensed a certain disdain—as "more conventional scholarship schemes". They included such schemes as the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.
Education is one of the essential cements that hold the Commonwealth together and give it meaning in the modern world. Yet the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan has been allowed to shrink and only eight or nine of the 54 countries now give awards. However, I believe that there is still a lot of life in it. The University of the South Pacific in Fiji, for example, now funds a fellowship for the first time. I pay tribute to the United Kingdom Government, who still play a full part by providing 200 to 300 places. Research into that scheme shows that approximately 30 of the former Commonwealth scholars or fellows have gone on to be vice-chancellors in universities in their own countries. Others have become Ministers and leaders of public life. It is a rich harvest, but one which at present is at some risk from our priorities and our own aid policy in this field.
1553 I should like to plead with DfID to give a wider and more imaginative impulse to its policy of educational aid, battling not only against poverty and illiteracy but encouraging an educated leadership, capable of sustaining decent civil societies in their independent countries. I believe that DfID has achievements to trumpet, but it does not make enough of them; for example, with regard to books. DfID's reference to them is confined to worthy remarks about the battle against illiteracy, but there is nothing about the success of Book Aid, for example, which DfID assists with a grant of £200,000. When I was first involved with Book Aid some years ago, its annual income was £123,000; today it is £1.5 million from a variety of sources. It is promoting local publishing in Africa and fruitful partnerships with NGOs.
This is supposed to be joined-up government. Valuable educational work is being done, partly by DIM, partly by the FCO, and partly by NGOs with encouragement from various government departments; for example, in training journalists around the world in the skills of unbiased reporting. Both the BBC World Service Trust and the Thomson Foundation, of which I am a trustee, carry out good work in this area with funding from, among others, DfID. The BBC World Service on an FCO vote is now the world leader with 151 million listeners and a most powerful educational force.
There will shortly be a major conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Canada. I should like to plead with the Government to give an imaginative lead at that conference. Perhaps they will seek a Commonwealth education charter or perhaps go on to create a Commonwealth education council, as they did in the business field at the South African CHOGM a year or so ago. But in a Commonwealth where 85 per cent of the citizens—
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, I am dreadfully sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. When seven minutes are shown on the Clock, the speaker's time is completed. The Minister will have no time at all to reply if everyone goes over their time by two minutes.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness and to the House. I have reached my last few words. I simply plead that in a Commonwealth where the citizens are so poor, we should educate for democracy and ensure that that matches education against illiteracy.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Lord St John of Bletso
My Lords, there is no doubt that one of the greatest challenges which will face developing countries in the 21st century will be the need to tackle the education crisis, particularly in countries such as India, South Africa (where I come from) and the African continent. There is no doubt that tackling the education crisis would have a major knock-on effect in reducing poverty, infant mortality and crime. I mention crime because that has become a major concern in South Africa.
1554 I join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for having given us the opportunity today to raise this vexed issue. The statistics which we have heard, and which I am sure we shall continue to hear, make very stark reading. One in four adults—that equates to 872 million people—in the developing world is illiterate. That number is rising, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for one-third of the total out-of-school population. Every year almost 12 million children under the age of five die needlessly of infectious diseases, including AIDS—all associated with poverty. I understand that each additional year spent by their mothers in primary school would lower the risk of premature child deaths by almost 8 per cent.
It is a well known fact that one of the reasons why many children fail to attend school in developing countries is that their families are expected to pay for them, which many simply cannot afford to do. As the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, has already mentioned, 50 years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed free and compulsory education to be a basic human right. With teaching standards in many developing countries being very low, compounded by over-crowded classes and, again, as the noble Baroness mentioned, with over 90 million girls of primary school age around the world not in school, the challenge to provide primary education for all appears to be several decades away. Originally, it was estimated that by the year 2000 all children would be educated to primary school level. The estimate was then extended to 2015. It now looks highly unlikely that it will be reached by 2030.
However, there is much to be positive about. Through the ongoing support of the World Bank, UNESCO and the many hundreds of thousands of NGOs, many of which come from Britain, the world has made major strides in expanding access to primary and secondary education. The advent of the Internet—the world's fastest growing method of communicating—could to a certain degree solve some of the problems in third world education.
In South Africa the increased provision of electricity and basic services, such as water, to most of the rural areas has given a major boost to improving access to education. One of Nelson Mandela's first initiatives when he came to power was to provide one meal for all school children in South Africa. At the time it seemed an easy task, but the problem facing many school teachers was what that meal should be. Eventually there was a joint initiative of the government and business to provide the distribution, as well as the basic needs, of one meal a day. That has had a huge effect in promoting education for many of the young in South Africa. It has been shown that without a basic meal, breakfast, many children have problems concentrating.
There is much other positive news in South Africa. South Africa supplies two thirds of Africa's electricity and is one of the cheapest electricity suppliers in the world. In 1999 Eskom, the major government electricity supplier, provided over 1.7 million homes in the country with electricity. The South African Government have, among their eight core education 1555 initiatives, pledged to improve the professional quality of teachers and to promote schools as the centre of community life. Just as important, they are focusing more and more resources on the provision of higher education. This approach to higher education has been endorsed by the World Bank and UNESCO, which are now calling for more focus on advanced education for developing countries challenged by hunger, persistent poverty, environmental degradation and economic under-performance.
In the short time that I have left, I wish briefly to touch on how the Internet could help education in the developing world. I should declare an interest, as managing director of an Internet infrastructure company. Schools in the developing world, without textbooks and well qualified teachers, can now access educational websites and lessons with long-distance teachers. The Internet already reaches almost every country in the world, and by 2001 the number of Internet web users in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and eastern and central Europe will have nearly quadrupled, from 7.6 million to 25 million.
In conclusion, I wish to say that, in order to tackle the education crisis in the developing world, it is not just a matter of coming up with £5 billion a year, which is what it would cost to put every child through primary school. It is a matter of refocusing the approach to higher education and of pressuring all developing countries to allow girls the same access to education as boys. The Guardian on 31st January this year said:Education in the developing world is neither a luxury nor a privilege; it is a fundamental right".
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Baroness Gould of Potternewton
My Lords, I also wish to start by thanking my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating this very important debate. Its importance is illustrated for me by two quotations. First, I quote also from Kofi Annan, who in 1998 said:education is a human right. On it rests the cornerstones of freedom and democracy … there is no higher priority, no mission more important than that of education for all".I then wish to quote an unknown Ugandan woman who said:An educated person will have new opportunities. My daughter's life will be better if she can read and write".It is on her daughter's life that I wish to concentrate.
Despite progress, there are still wide gaps in enrolment between girls and boys, as has already been said. The reasons are many and complex. The high economic and social benefits gained by the fact that girls are educated are substantial. It results in women having fewer children and healthier families. A study of 45 developing countries, as has been said, also found that the average mortality rate for children under five was 144 per thousand live births where the mothers had no education, dropping to 68 per thousand when they had attended school. There can be no better example of the value of education for girls. But education also leads to a reduction in health costs, 1556 brings about greater social cohesion and is the most valuable development intervention a country can make.
The year 2005 was the target for eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education set by the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. That conference identified education as the single most important key to development and poverty alleviation. Poverty has a woman's face, 70 per cent of the world's poor being female. The education of girls is therefore critical. Beijing recognised for the first time that in order to promote full equality between women and men in all spheres of life the causes as well as the consequences of inequality had to be addressed, the major cause being the lack of access to education.
So what is the reality? Seventy five per cent of children are enrolled in primary schools but, as my noble friend said, more than 130 million children do not attend primary school at all, 73 million of them being girls. Unfortunately, instead of closing, the gender gap is widening.
In Ethiopia, which has one of the lowest rates of enrolment in the world, a third of six to 11 year-old boys attend school, but only one tenth of girls are enrolled. In 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa an extra 2 million children will join the ranks of those not at school. The majority of them, I am sure, are girls. The proportion of girls in school fell by 10 per cent in Pakistan and by 8 per cent in Afghanistan.
But there has been progress. In Bangladesh the proportion of girls to boys attending primary school is now 49 per cent. Guinea has attempted to reduce the domestic burden on girls and has also made it illegal to force girls to marry before they have completed nine years at school. Malawi has eliminated school uniforms and therefore reduced costs. Mauritius, after 20 years of schooling, has sent women surging into the workforce.
I repeat that there are many reasons, both economic and cultural, why girls are denied their right to education. In West and Central Africa children as young as seven are trafficked within and across national borders to work as domestic workers or in some other form of manual labour. Ninety per cent of them are girls. Anti-Slavery International cites as examples that in parts of Nepal, Pakistan and India girls are forced to work 12 hours a day as bonded labourers in the fields, brick kilns and quarries, as described by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.
Exclusion may also be because of the lack of separation of the sexes or the lack of female teachers. Educating a daughter might be perceived as a waste of time and money. Schooling is not always free, and sometimes girls are not seen as permanent members of the family as they will marry and move away. Some think that there is no value in educating a girl who will be unable to provide for her parents in later life; it has been said that educating a girl is like watering another man's garden.
1557 But education is not just about access and enrolment; it is about quality and content. All too often there is a shortage of books; there are teachers who are badly trained or poorly motivated and who discriminate; there are classes with over 100 pupils and inflexible school schedules and hours; there are language barriers; and there are schools with no access to clean water and often without toilets. This dismal quality means that many attend school but learn little. There are 150 million children, mostly girls, who drop out of school before acquiring basic literacy skills.
That is tragic because education is affordable. Primary education for everyone for 10 years in all the developing regions would cost only an additional 7 billion to 8 billion dollars each year. That is about four days' worth of global military spending and, it is understood, less than Europeans spend each year on mineral water.
The Secretary of State is to be praised for her promotion of joint programmes, for promoting schemes to write off billions of pounds of third world debt and for helping to secure international agreements on swapping debt relief for action on poverty. Development goes into reverse when poor countries spend more on paying their debts than on educating their children.
Millions of children will continue to be denied the right to education without a global financial strategy incorporating detailed action plans to get children into schools and ensuring that none of those plans fails through lack of money. But, ultimately, progress towards education for all depends on national governments. They must have the political will. There must be a commitment within their overall development plans to secure universal primary education and to work to a focused agreed strategy which removes gender inequalities, educates girls and empowers women.
I have had time to refer only to primary education. But, equally, there must be literacy programmes for those women and girls who have never been to school or who have learnt little. Primary education for girls in the developing countries is the one chance for them to acquire basic literacy, numeracy and essential life skills. It is not an option; it is a necessity.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Lord Tomlinson
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lady Whitaker for introducing the subject for our debate today, and the more so for the cogency and urgency with which she has demonstrated its importance.
Education in developing countries is a fundamental ingredient of any strategy to break the cycle of world poverty. At the world conference, Education for All, a decade ago the commitment of the world was high. The promises of a full decade ago included:Universal access to good quality primary education".The promise also foresaw that within the last decade of the 20th century the world's children would be provided with an opportunity "to develop their full capacities". I ask your Lordships to note that word "capacities" because I wish to return to that shortly.
1558 However, the performance has not been matched by the promise and as we examine the achievements of the last 10 years of the 20th century the statistics, which were so kindly provided to us by Oxfam in a very useful brief, are a frightening condemnation of our collective incapacities: 125 million primary school-age children not in school; a further 150 million children are starting primary school and not completing four years' education; one in four adults in the developing world is unable to write.
The statistics are bad but the trends are worse. I readily pay tribute to the work of my right honourable friend Clare Short and her strategic approach to poverty reduction and, it is hoped, eventual elimination. But yet again the global community has shown itself to be strong on promise and woefully short on performance.
Education is not just a necessary input to personal development; it is an imperative ingredient of economic growth, of sustaining democracy, of enhancing equity. It is the very basis of empowerment within the international community.
As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said,There is no more noble cause than education of quality for all".It is against that background that I want to return to the word I mentioned earlier—"capacities". Throughout the world, in a range of international fora, the current buzz phrase is "capacity building". The United Nations and its specialised agencies want capacity building. If one looks at the European Union and its relationships with the ACP—the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries—with which we negotiate the Lomé agreement, again capacity building is part of the order of the day. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank support capacity building. The World Trade Organisation, in its post-Seattle analysis of the problems of how to deal with the interests of the least developing countries, also focused on capacity building.
But in my opinion demands now for capacity building are the empirical evidence of the past failures of past strategies to provide education in developing countries or of the world's failure to provide such education to the extent that it promised. Demands for capacity building today are the broken pledges of the past returning to mock us.
Globalisation has brought ever greater pressures on rich and poor countries alike to internationalise the resolution of their joint problems. But in the international fora there is a great and growing inequality in the capacity of individual nation states equally to defend their essential interests.
Therefore, in this short debate I draw two conclusions. I believe that we must clearly recommit ourselves and work within the international community to honour the pledge of universal access to quality education. We must make sure that next month's conference produces promise which has more meaning than those which were produced in Thailand a decade ago.
1559 Secondly, we must seek to equalise more urgently than can be provided by universal education the role of developing countries in the international arena. Capacity building cannot wait for a whole generation to be educated. That would be to continue internationally to institutionalise the inequalities which exist to an unacceptable degree.
Therefore, in the meanwhile, governments, the European Union, the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations and its agencies, and the WTO must all accept responsibility for putting on to their agenda the need urgently to address the problem of capacity building so that the failures for which we have in the past been responsible do not continue to the detriment of third world countries.
Unless we do that, I believe that we shall return again to this subject in a decade's time; we shall be expressing exactly the same regrets; we shall be discussing exactly the same problems. The only thing which will have changed is that in a decade the international expression of the inequalities will have become worse.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for making it possible for us to participate in this debate. It is extremely timely. The world's attention is focused on some massive tragedies on the African continent. The flood and cyclone ripping apart communities in Mozambique and Madagascar are still fresh in our minds. The tragedies of Rwanda and Burundi highlight conflicts which have torn communities part. The unsettled situation in many parts of the continent is still a matter of grave concern. Despite all that, there are key issues which need to be addressed. Those are the elimination of hunger and poverty, political stability, and, above all, education.
I was born in Tanzania, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. I went to primary school there. It left a lasting impression on me. To a great extent, it has a stable government for which much credit must go to the father of the nation—Julius Nyerere. In any debate on Africa, we should never forget his contribution. With his death, we lost a statesman who did much to inspire the African nation.
We take many things for granted. It is easy to forget that countries in the third world do not have the resources to develop themselves. It is easy also to isolate ourselves from the tragedies faced by those countries. Many of their governments become irrelevant when faced with massive problems confronting the local population. But we cannot close our eyes to what goes on. Environment, health and education issues operate beyond national boundaries. What happens in other parts of the world affects us here too.
I left the small town of Tabora, in Tanzania, years ago. But many of that town still meet annually to raise funds for charities there. The High Commissioner, His 1560 Excellency Dr Shareef, plays an important role in ensuring that we support educational projects in the country of our birth.
Over the past few years, Taborians have sent money so that village schools have books and desks for the children. That is just a small example of how it is possible for all of us to make our contribution. But we should not under-estimate the role played by DfID in promoting development and the reduction of poverty. We are often critical of our own efforts but, having been involved in a number of charities and, in particular, as a trustee of the Save the Children Fund, I congratulate DfID on its commitment to the internationally agreed target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by the year 2015. The target includes basic healthcare provision and universal access to primary education by the same date. That is a remarkable target. Let us pray it is achieved.
During a number of visits abroad, I have been impressed by the way in which Britain has contributed to the underdeveloped world. Of course, resources are never enough and more needs to be done. But despite progress with economic structures and political reform, Tanzania remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Fifty per cent of its people are below the locally defined poverty line. Educational indicators are worsening and health indicators are poor. Poverty is not restricted to rural areas; it is found in larger cities. The partnership between Britain and Tanzania is sound. I am encouraged that, if progress is maintained, Britain will deliver a substantial and increasing programme of bilateral development assistance, rising from £42 million to approximately £63 million over the next two years.
Education does not simply mean a qualification on a piece of paper. It must be much more than that. It means encouraging people to develop democracy as a core value. It means promoting a civic society which values the contribution of all its citizens. It means improved public resource and economic management. It means opportunities being available to all and, in particular, to the poor. Education must encompass programmes which improve knowledge and health status but also raise awareness of people's civil rights.
We read headlines about the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in this country, but we often forget that conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi and Congo have created massive shifts in population. Countries such as Tanzania bear the brunt of such upheavals. Tanzania has many challenges to face. Despite equal rights under the 1977 Tanzanian constitution, the status of women varies. That must concern us all. The public education service in Tanzania is in a state of unprecedented crisis. Primary school enrolment, which had reached 100 per cent in 1980, is now less than 60 per cent. A growing number of children are dropping out, disillusioned by the quality of teaching. That itself is the result of low morale among teachers due to poor training, lack of supervision, lack of basic teaching materials and low pay. Many children leave school without being able to read or write, and illiteracy is increasing. Secondary school enrolment, at 1561 7 per cent, is one of the lowest in Africa. State education, which used to be provided free of charge, is now subject to fees and contributions which put education beyond the reach of many children from poor families.
In the health service, the picture is also critical. The government are in the grip of tight cash budgeting. As in the education sector, structural problems mean that what money is available is not well spent. Food insecurity is a major issue in many parts of Tanzania. Many families live on or just below the poverty line. Although Tanzania has avoided involvement in the violent conflicts which have overtaken much of the Great Lakes region in the past decade, it is vulnerable to influxes of refugees and to other negative effects of regional instability. Those in turn have serious implications for Tanzania, in particular its food supply.
That picture may be repeated in other parts of Africa. Uganda and Congo, which border Tanzania, are no exception. We welcome what DfID is doing, hut, equally, we should not forget the role of charities. Despite all the changes taking place in Africa, effective work is still being undertaken. I, for one, admire the work undertaken by the charity with which I am associated—the Save the Children Fund.
We need to mount attacks at every level to ensure that the emerging nations benefit from the core values which education can produce: human rights; transparency; the creation of a just and civil society; assisting with the building of infrastructure; and caring for the environment. DfID has set a good example. Clare Short has had many battles, but she has the determination to succeed. Her contribution and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, should not be underestimated.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Lord Haskel
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Tomlinson mentioned globalisation. Globalisation tells us that work will go to the lowest labour cost country. So why is it that all our industry is not packing up and going to Madagascar or to Vietnam? Why is it that in textiles—surely a global industry—Italy remains the largest exporter of fabric after China? In her thoughtful opening speech, my noble friend Lady Whitaker put her finger on the answer: education; education in its broadest sense—not only primary education, but also technical education, skills training, and training for enterprise. Pure globalisation assumes that skills, learning and business development are available everywhere; manifestly they are not. That is why I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, that education aid needs to be balanced.
If we are going to help people to lift themselves out of poverty, primary education is not enough. They need work-related skills that lead to employment—and employment needs economic development. That means that however universal the technology, a lack of skills and literacy is a drag on the economy. Do not believe that that can be compensated for by the microprocessor. It is a common feature of less 1562 developed countries that frequency and voltage variations in the electricity supply cause microprocessors either not to function at all or to function incorrectly. Any engineer who has installed equipment in a less developed country will tell you about those problems.
To give credit where it is due, I must congratulate the Minister on the fact that her department has recognised the need for skills training. The Government have helped in two ways. They support the Commonwealth of Learning which provides skills training for countries within the Commonwealth. The Minister's department recently announced the Skills for Development initiative, which is full of good ideas, but they need to be put into practice.
However, that is not enough. To progress in our modern globalised world, developing countries need to establish an environment where there is a use for training skills. Job creation and the generation of wealth are as important there as they are here. Consequently, it is not enough to teach the soft skills of management, such as accountancy and engineering drawing. We need also to teach the much tougher and more difficult skills such as how to manage a sea port or run an electricity supply.
My right honourable friend Clare Short is today calling on pension funds to invest more in developing countries. She herself can encourage that process by channelling aid, not only into education and training, but also into establishing an economic infrastructure that encourages business. There is nothing mysterious in all that. The Government are doing much the same thing here. What is right for us is right for the developing countries.
But there is a catch to all this. There is another side that I should like to explore. There seems to be a kind of reverse brain drain from developing countries to the developed world, of which we are the beneficiaries. For example, only last weekend an item in the press stated that Germany will waive its strict immigration controls to allow 10,000 non-European Union computer and high-tech experts to enter the country this year. Headhunters are reportedly already at work in Asia offering salaries 10 times that which such experts can earn locally. There was also an item of news about how the NHS is anxious to recruit more heart surgeons outside Europe to improve our coronary services. I am told that India has become the world's largest exporter of doctors. There are possibly more Indian doctors outside India than inside.
If we think about that for a moment, it is possible that those technicians and doctors were recipients of the very aid we are debating today. Could we be creaming off some of the best educated for our own benefit? The Overseas Employment Corporation of Pakistan says that 36,000 doctors, engineers and teachers have migrated to other countries in the past 20 years. But that figure represents only a small proportion because the majority do not register. My point is that that emigration transfers the benefit of education aid from the developing world to the developed world.
1563 Should there be some form of compensation for that? Should developed countries pay back the original cost of the immigrant's training? Should that be in the form of a tax or import duty levied and then returned to the developing country to compensate not only for the immigrant's training but also for holding back the development of the immigrant's nation?
I doubt whether that kind of levy and repayment would be practical. To arrive at a figure, one would have to cross a minefield of sensitivities. However, much more thought must be given to this reverse brain drain. It needs to be studied. It could be a significant cause of holding back development. It demonstrates how aid to the less developed countries brings extra benefits to the developed countries. Unless that is recognised, the full benefit of educational aid which we are discussing today will not be reaped by the less developed countries. Some of it will be harvested by us in the developed world.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Lord Brett
My Lords, in view of the time constraints, I shall restrict my contribution to this important debate to one aspect only. I refer to the role of the international financial institutions—namely, the IMF and the World Bank—and the impact of their structural adjustment policies on the education programmes of the developing world. I start by saying that I do not believe that their role has been distinguished to date.
That was most vividly brought home to me when in 1996 the International Labour Organisation, of which I have the privilege of being vice-chairman, sponsored a tripartite conference on the impact of structural adjustment programmes on educational personnel. At that meeting I heard a litany of the impact of such policies from educational organisations and trade unions across the world. They included reductions in the numbers of teachers; closure of teacher training colleges; compulsory retirement of teachers; reduction in teaching qualifications; massive reductions in the numbers of non-teaching support staff; and wage freezes lasting in many cases for a number of years, almost always imposed without the prior consultation of any of those directly involved in education, be it the ministry of education, the teachers' organisations or civil society in general.
To obtain a measure of the impact, one should note that in Africa, 46 of the 51 countries of that continent are or have been under structural adjustment policies. Three-quarters of the sub-Saharan countries have cut public expenditure on education. That is in a region with 47 million children not in schooling.
The recent story in east Asia is little different. The Oxfam publication IMF-Wrong Diagnosis, Wrong Medicine is an excellent report which reflects my own experience with those two organisations. The document states that in east Asia the medicine from the IMF led to,A dramatic increase in poverty and deterioration in education indicators".1564 The wrong medicine had considerable impact. It resulted in 1.3 million children dropping out of school in Indonesia; and a 300 per cent increase, to almost 700,000, in children not attending school in Thailand. The story in Latin America is no different. A similar story can be shown from the impact of IMF policies in Mexico or the 25 per cent decline in early childhood education programmes in Brazil. There is a sorry story wherever we go: IMF structural adjustment programmes equal cuts in health and education. That is mainly because those are the major areas of public expenditure, outside defence, in many developing countries.
The record of the World Bank is not as bad, although even there I do not believe there is a great deal to shout about. It too is held in thrall by the neo-liberal economists who believe that private equals good and public equals bad. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will tell me that attitudes are changing in both the Fund and the Bank and that the lessons of the Asian crisis mean that the IFIs recognise the need to be more sensitive to the impacts of their decisions and the social policy adjustments that need to be made. I suspect the Minister may be positive to the proposals that the IFIs will protect expenditure on health and education. If so, she would be correct. Indeed, in no small measure it is due to the splendid efforts of her colleague, the Secretary of State for International Development, that those proposals are coming about.
To that end, she may extol the commitment of the director of the World Bank, Jim Wolfensohn, and the outgoing head of the IMF, Michel Camdessus. All that is fine. I have discussed the issues with both Jim Wolfensohn and Michel Camdessus and their sincerity is not in question. Therefore, what is the problem? The answer is to be found at the coal-face, the chalk-face or whatever nomenclature we want to use for economists working in the depths of the IMF and the World Bank. They are neo-liberal economists to a man—I say that because most of them are men. They draw up the policy framework plans and remain faithful to their neo-liberal training and the now discredited "Washington consensus". They continue in their own arrogant way to prescribe that one policy fits all, usually without consultation with those directly involved in education in the countries concerned.
I have two anecdotes which cover those points. The first concerns consultation. I and others complained to the Bank and the Fund at the lack of any consultation. The message was received and led to an official, on arrival in Ghana, telephoning the head of the Ghana Trades Union Congress. He said, "We really need to consult with you. How about 2.30 this afternoon?" That is not real consultation on a structural adjustment programme, in anybody's terms.
The other anecdote is even more disturbing. Shortly after the last general election, I spoke to an official at the World Bank about changes in policy and the ILO's declaration of fundamental rights to work, which had already been accepted by the head of the Bank, Mr Wolfensohn and, indeed, by Mr Camdessus. The official explained that there would not necessarily be 1565 any real change for a considerable period because people had been working with previous policies for two decades and it would take them time to adjust to any change of policy at the head of the organisation. I pointed out that any Permanent Secretary in this country greeting an incoming minister with the revelation that policies could not be changed for several years because civil servants had worked for a previous administration would not be a Permanent Secretary for long.
That kind of arrogance, I fear, operates both within the Bank and the Fund. My appeal to the Minister and the Government is for them to show the same determination to ensure that the Bank, the Fund and the regional development banks really protect education and health rather than simply pay lip service to that end. They should do so in collaboration with those directly involved at country level in education ministries, teacher trade unions and parent organisations.
The Government have shown great determination at international level to ensure that those issues are on the agenda. They deserve to be congratulated on changing policy in the Fund and the Bank. However, unless they show the same determination to feed that policy down to working level, I fear we shall still be looking for change in years to come. I am grateful for the work of the Ministers and civil servants within DOD. That policy commitment needs to be translated to the officials at the Bank and the Fund.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in warmly congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on introducing this debate, which highlights one of the most important aspects of the needs of developing countries.
As the noble Baroness and others have already emphasised, education is essential for development: for economic development, without which no society can prosper; for the development of civil society and democracy; and for the development of individual citizens to enable them to develop their personal potential and to make effective contributions to their societies. Lack of education too often brings unemployability and a downward spiral of poverty, frustration, alienation and pressures to resort to desperate measures for survival, such as crime, drug trafficking or even selling children into prostitution. By contrast, education can bring personal fulfilment, employability, financial independence, the ability to take care of one's family, and personal dignity.
In many places, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, has already highlighted, there is an especially urgent need to provide education for women to enable them to develop some economic self-sufficiency, personal independence and the ability to make their contribution to civil society.
In a radio interview on Commonwealth Day, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was speaking about aid. I did not hear the interview, but I am told that he made reference to the fact that, too 1566 often in the past, aid resources intended to promote essential services such as education and healthcare had disappeared into the pockets of local elites, never reaching those for whom they were given. I understand that he gave the welcome commitment that, if developing countries are to be relieved of the burden of debt repayment, which many of us hope will be the case, they will be required to specify measures to guarantee that aid given for education or healthcare will be used for those purposes. Can the Minister therefore please indicate what measures will be put in place to ensure strict accountability by countries receiving aid, so that it really is used to maximum effect?
This highlights the main issues on which I wish to focus: accountability and appropriateness. But before I introduce a negative note and refer to a problem, perhaps I may express my appreciation of so much good work that is being undertaken in many developing countries. We have already heard about many examples of such good work. However, because education is so important and because resources are finite while needs are almost infinite, it is essential to ensure that educational aid is both appropriate and that it is used and provided appropriately.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this issue is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brett, and to give an anecdote. I hope that the House will forgive me for recounting a personal story. I was in southern Sudan in an area designated by the government of Sudan as a "no go" region for the United Nations and other aid agencies. In Christian Solidarity Worldwide, we focus on such "no go" areas. Our small aeroplane dropped us off on a forbidden airstrip. We were walking through the bush when we nearly stumbled over a man dying of starvation. I gave him a drink of rehydration salts to ease his discomfort. I will never forget his gracious smile. In the morning, he was dead. A few yards further on, a young woman was dying under a thorn tree.
After we had pitched our tents, we walked through ghost villages where the survivors were living skeletons. While walking to one of these villages, we saw a little boy standing by the path. He was aged about five, naked, with a pot belly as a result of malnutrition or worms, or both. He spoke to us in English. I stopped in amazement and said, "You speak English?". With a cherubic smile, he replied very proudly, "Yes, I go to school". School was a patch of sand under a mango tree and the children were learning to read and write with sticks in the sand.
Later that day, to my surprise, I discovered a large mound of neatly stacked boxes from a humanitarian organisation which I will not name. They obviously contained aid. Feeling delighted to think that these people had received some essential supplies, I went to investigate. I then discovered why the boxes were still intact. They contained several tonnes of blackboard chalk. Try to imagine the cruelty of this: there, in the midst of people dying from starvation and disease, some aid organisation with an educational remit had delivered chalk without even supplying a blackboard. Imagine the hopes raised when the aid aeroplane had 1567 landed on that remote airstrip and people thought that there would be lifesaving medicines, food or clothes. Then imagine the crushing disappointment when all that was unloaded was box after box of blackboard chalk. When the rainy season comes and the cardboard disintegrates, that chalk will be a whited sepulchre to the inappropriateness of some Western aid.
I am not making an unwarranted generalisation from an isolated example. During the course of our work in remote areas, we have come across too many examples of inappropriate aid being sent as a result of lack of accountability and sensitivity on the part of certain donor organisations. Time does not permit me to cite those examples and I have no wish to do so, because I do not want to detract from much good work that is being done. But there is a need for measures to guarantee accountability for aid, to check that it reaches those for whom it is intended, and to ensure that it is appropriate to their situation. Inappropriate aid can be as cruel as corruption.
However, I shall finish on a positive note, with a tribute to the dignity of many people in these dire situations and to their appreciation of the help they do receive. One day, "footing" through the bush in Sudan, we stopped at a village to meet the local people. Sitting under a tree after having exchanged courtesies, the local elders asked if they could offer a word of criticism about Britain's role in the history of Sudan. Of course I agreed, emphasising that I had come to listen and to learn. I expected a rebuke on Britain's role in colonialism; instead, they told me that they regretted the fact that, "Britain left too soon". Then, with characteristic Sudanese graciousness, they quickly added—lest I should be offended—"But we will always be grateful to the British. You gave us education and that is the most important gift. Education gives the freedom to think and that is the most important freedom of all".
Such is the dignity of those Sudanese people, suffering and dying in a bitter war, and such is the dignity of many others we meet in similar dire circumstances in other countries. They cherish education as the most important gift we can help them to attain. For that reason, I hope that this debate will help to ensure that many more people in developing countries will be enabled to attain the realisation of their personal and national potential, which only education can give.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord Clarke of Hampstead
My Lords, like many other noble Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating this debate, not only because it gives us an opportunity to discuss generally government responsibilities, both domestically and internationally, but also because it gives us an opportunity to pay tribute to the positive role played by NGOs in the field of education in the developing world.
1568 Perhaps I may first declare my interest as a founder member and trustee of One World Action. For some considerable time, One World Action has been engaged in educational projects with its partners in a number of developing countries. Like other speakers, time does not allow me to tell noble Lords of the many and varied educational projects in which One World Action has been, and continues to be, involved. They range from teaching skills and literacy in Namibia to citizenship training for women in Bangladesh, to adult education in Mozambique. Unfortunately, this afternoon I shall be able to refer only to a major partnership project undertaken by One World Action in recent years in South Africa.
Today, millions of women, men and children in South Africa still experience severe poverty and marginalisation. Life in the townships is gradually improving as new houses are built and basic services are improved. However, for those living in the remote rural areas, life is still very grim. Poverty there is caused by a lack of any employment opportunities and an almost complete absence of the most basic services such as water, transport and housing. Healthcare and education are also extremely poor. Women make up the majority of the population in rural areas because men migrate to the towns and cities in search of work and return to the rural areas only infrequently, if at all.
The Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), one of One World Action's partners in South Africa, is working with local community-based women's organisations in the poor rural areas of Northern Province to improve the political, social and economic situation of these women. It is running workshops in consultation with poor and excluded women from the rural areas to enable them to become more active in local government. One World Action funds this very important work.
The IDASA also works with local community-based and women's organisations to gather information, using that data as a kind of social audit on the basic service needs of women. It organises consultations with local groups and government representatives. Workshops are then set up to discuss the results of the information-gathering exercise. The consultations and workshops ensure that the basic service needs of rural women are better understood by local and national government. The women are able to express their views and opinions directly to local policy-makers and to demand the kind of services they want. As a result of those educational opportunities, women's access to these services are vastly improved.
One World Action has been working with the IDASA for a number of years and has played a part in the development of its local government programme, LOGIC. The aim of the project is to enhance democratic governance and improve service delivery at a local level. The IDASA and One World Action are working together to promote and consolidate democracy and a culture of tolerance by designing and facilitating processes and programmes that transform institutions and empower individuals and communities as the basis for sustainable development. One World Action takes the view that empowerment 1569 of women is a vital and essential element in building democracy, not just in South Africa, but in all its work with partners in the developing world.
I am aware that our Government are determined to assist the developing world wherever and whenever they can. Those noble Lords who heard my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, speak yesterday afternoon at an all-party meeting could not fail to have been impressed by her breadth of knowledge and her understanding of the many and difficult problems that the international community is facing.
The long-term needs of the developing world—graphically illustrated recently—are made that much more difficult by natural disasters in so many areas of need. It was encouraging for me, and I am sure for others, to hear from the Secretary of State how our Government are taking a leading role in a number of international institutions, such as those referred to by my noble friend Lord Brett (who I know has battled long and hard to bring down some of the barriers that exist), to address the vexed questions of debt relief and the proper co-ordination of international aid.
Party politics aside, all Members of this House can rightly be proud that we have such an able and committed advocate on behalf of the poor and excluded people who share this one world with us. It is our responsibility to share the world's knowledge and resources with those who, by accident of birth, do not have in their whole lifetime that which many of us sometimes take for granted in one day of our own lives.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Baroness Massey of Darwen
My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Whitaker introduced this challenging debate. I must declare an interest as I work as a consultant in the areas of education and health for the UK Department for International Development.
Many issues have been raised, so I shall concentrate mainly on the impact of education for girls and women on population and reproductive health. I must express my thanks to Population Concern, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation for supplying information.
As my noble friend Lady Gould said, there is strong international evidence that educating girls raises economic productivity and lowers infant mortality and fertility rates. It is the key to reducing poverty and to improving quality of life. Children's success, health and productivity depend to a great extent on their mother's health, education, skills and welfare.
The World Bank estimated that each year of schooling a girl receives reduces the under-five mortality rate considerably, as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, mentioned. Women who are better educated have more grasp of issues of health, sanitation and nutrition; they are more likely to use contraception; more likely to defer child-bearing; have 1570 fewer children, and pass on education to the next generation. They are less likely to be burdened by the debilitating impact of frequent pregnancy.
A woman with four years of secondary education tends to have two fewer children than a woman who has not. A World Bank study suggests that doubling female secondary enrolment could reduce the number of births, by choice, by almost 30 per cent in 10 years. The spacing of child-bearing helps to improve women's education and status. If a woman marries early or has pregnancies during adolescence, she is more likely to be unable to continue her education. Women who have repeated pregnancies find it more difficult to work outside the home or to keep a job. The spacing of children gives women more options. Education facilitates both the spacing and the options.
The average family size and child death rates are lowest in countries such as South Korea which combines strong family planning and health programmes with high levels of education for women. Family size and child death rates are highest in those countries where there is low female education, and poor family planning and child health programmes; for example, in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa. There are exceptions to those trends, such as in Bangladesh and Indonesia, where the converse is true for complex reasons. But generally, the correlation between education for girls, low fertility rates and better child health seems indisputable.
The United Nations Population Division's latest projection for global population in the year 2050 is 8.9 billion, which is lower than the 1996 projection of 9.4 billion. The major reason for that is the decline in fertility rates, although about one-third of the reduction in the projection is due to increasing mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of India, caused by HIV and AIDS which have devastated families and economies.
Our strongest response to AIDS has been, and will remain for the foreseeable future, in sexual health education and awareness for men and women. Men too, of course, have the right to receive information and education about reproductive health, partly to support and encourage women's choices, but also because they need to take action against sexually transmitted infections for their own protection.
Gender relations between men and women in societies have been shown to influence contraceptive usage, child spacing and women's contribution to the economy. Opportunities for women may be seriously affected by gender inequality; and gender inequality is the responsibility of men as well as women, perhaps more so. Education can support gender equality.
Strategies suggested by development experts for improving the education of girls include a number of strands, such as structuring timetables (as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner) to suit the need for help at home; giving scholarships to girls and convincing families that education for girls is important. One consistent strand is the need for education in sexual and reproductive health, combined with appropriate services. 1571 Since the conferences on population and development in Cairo and Beijing, there have been efforts by some governments, non-governmental organisations and the World Bank to increase educational opportunities for girls. The Beijing declaration included a commitment,to protect and promote the rights of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health information and services".Adolescent girls, 83 per cent of whom live in developing countries, may be subjected to violence, trafficking and abuse as well as too-early pregnancy, anaemia, genital mutilation, unsafe abortion, and infections of the reproductive tract. Reproductive health education can be provided in families, schools, communities, clubs, places of employment and other places where girls might gather. This education can involve girls as peer educators and councillors. Unfortunately, many countries are reluctant to encourage sexual health education and information even in the face of problems such as HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the actual numbers of girls enrolling in education have gone down and in parts of Asia there is a growing imbalance of girls and boys due to sex-selected abortion, infanticide and neglect. In India, for example, the girl mortality rate in the nought to four age group is 43 per cent higher than for boys; and young women in the 15 to 19 age group have higher death rates relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Again, the support needed from education programmes is clear.
Girls' and women's rights to education, health and reproductive choices are improving in many societies. But there remains much to be done by international and local communities to make those rights a reality, and vigilance is needed if they are to be improved. I look forward to the Minister's comments.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Lord Joffe
My Lords, I must declare an interest as chair of Oxfam, which has education in developing countries at the top of its agenda, which I personally believe is exactly where it should be.
Perhaps I may join other noble Lords in expressing my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this most important and timely debate. It is important because we live in a world which could provide good quality basic education for every single child, but which is failing miserably to do so. The debate is timely because, in just six weeks' time, in the last week of April, the World Education Forum will take place in Dakar in Senegal. If this moment is seized, there is the opportunity to launch a concrete programme to deliver on the internationally agreed target of providing all the world's children with access to good quality basic education by the year 2015.
The critical importance of education is that it is the key that unlocks the attainment of all development targets. In fact, none of the 2015 human development targets—whether to halve the proportion of people 1572 living in extreme poverty or to reduce child death rates by two-thirds—will be met without also meeting the education targets.
The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and other noble Lords, have given many examples of the scandal and the effects of 130 million children in the developing world being deprived of access to education. I shall not add to those examples, although I do have a fair number of very persuasive ones. In summary, over 130 million young children are not in primary school; many of those in it drop out; and many of those who remain are taught by poorly-trained teachers in classrooms that often lack a blackboard, chalk, chairs or desks.
So what is to be done about it? The starting point is to recognise that we live in a world in which eliminating global poverty is actually feasible. In 1997, the Secretary of State for International Development pointed out in her department's excellent White Paper, Eliminating Global Poverty, that ours is the first generation in the entire course of human history for whom eradicating poverty is a realistic aim. This is an astonishing opportunity; but it will not happen without education.
I should like to take this opportunity to express my admiration for the work that the Department for International Development has undertaken in this field under the leadership of the right honourable Clare Short and the noble Baroness, Lady Amos.
I move from the United Kingdom to the international scene. It is time to live up to international agreements, notably the promises made at the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien in March 10 years ago. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, said that it is time to launch a campaign in parallel with the remarkably successful one that has been launched in relation to debt relief. I am pleased to say that Oxfam International has taken the lead in developing a Global Action Plan for basic education for all. That plan has won widespread support from, among others, the World Bank, the UN Development Programme, and UNICEF. The plan is backed by national coalitions of civil society organisations in many developing countries.
The Global Action Plan argues that the tragedy of mass exclusion from basic education is avoidable and that it could be ended through a sustained, joint effort and practical action between developed and developing countries. It calls for a strategic framework for delivering on commitments, and the political will to match resources with needs. The plan calls for about 8 billion dollars to be invested each year, over and above existing expenditure, to achieve the 2015 targets. That sound like an awful lot of money. But, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, pointed out, 8 billion dollars is just four days-worth of global military spending. If one pauses over that, one realises that it says something about the priorities of the world community that four days' military spending could actually provide education for 130 million children who desperately need it.
1573 The key to the Global Action Plan—both in raising the money and in planning and delivery—is the involvement of governments, the public, and civil society in developing countries. Developing country governments could raise half of the amount were they to do such things as reallocate education budgets more towards basic education and redistribute wasteful public spending, including excessive military spending. In turn, the international community could mobilise the remaining £4 billion through an increase in aid and through reallocating aid towards basic education.
Much money could also 'come from debt relief. The 10 billion dollars in debt servicing that sub-Saharan Africa has paid each year exceeds what the region spends on basic education. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative has the potential to generate significant resource flows from over 30 poor countries. Indeed, under the reformed HIPC Initiative—reformed, I would say, very much through the efforts of our Chancellor of the Exchequer—eligibility for debt relief will be contingent on countries demonstrating a commitment to poverty eradication, including a commitment to basic education.
We are already seeing the effects of debt relief in Uganda. There, the government have moved vigorously to provide universal primary education. All of the budget savings from debt relief, amounting to around 40 million dollars a year, have been allocated to a Poverty Action Fund, which includes resources for education. Over the past two years, the number of children attending primary school in Uganda has doubled. The Dakar conference could be the next major step forward in delivering such a Global Action Plan. However, it has to come up with real plans, real money and real momentum—not more high-falutin declarations of intent and statements of principle.
I believe that the UK Government and the Prime Minister are in a unique position to drive forward the goal of education for all. The Government, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development, have, rightfully, won plaudits for taking the lead over international debt, using their influence to secure agreement and funding for a more generous package of debt relief. If the Prime Minister at this 11th hour before Dakar champions the cause of universal primary education in the same way, he could make all the difference. He has already taken a strong lead on domestic education; were he to project this into the international arena, it would send a powerful signal to the rest of the world that the global education crisis really can be tackled now.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Baroness Howells of St Davids
My Lords, I, too, should like' to add my thanks to those already expressed to my noble friend Lady Whitaker for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House. I should also like to join my noble friend Lady Gould and others in paying tribute to the work of the Secretary of State for International Development, who is personally driving and delivering so much in her department. I should also like to pay tribute to my 1574 noble friend Lady Amos. They have demonstrated that, when the old ways have failed, we have a responsibility to provide new and innovative ways in the way that this country works with the developing world to create real change. But how are we to find new ways to improve the outcomes of the assistance that we give to the poorer developing countries? Here our central object and central goal must be effective outcomes.
I wish the Secretary of State well at the Education for All Global Forum in Dakar on 11th April; and at the meeting of the Commonwealth Education Ministers in Nova Scotia, when their attention will be drawn to how they look at education in the global era and what it means for the Commonwealth countries, especially the small Caribbean states. I look forward to real progress in this area.
I should like to contribute to this debate by looking at how development donors, such as the British Government and other institutions—public, private, and voluntary bodies—could assist these nations in the Caribbean to equip their citizens with the skills to enjoy, and compete in, the global information revolution.
The Caribbean in particular is my reference point. The revolution in global information can be brought about in the developing nations of the Caribbean in a way that is significant. I should like to point out that, like every Member of your Lordships' House, I see the number one priority for education in the developing world as being to ensure universal primary education. I say this not only from the standpoint of one who believes that education is a basic human right but of one who knows that primary education is the absolute precondition for progress in development and reduction of poverty. It is to the hard facts of economics as well as human rights that I should like to look.
We in the Caribbean are fortunate to have a thirst for learning and, on the whole, Caribbean governments have put education among their top priorities and basic education has become a right in the small nation states. The greatest need at this time is for information technology. If these new nations are to compete in the global village, they must be helped to prepare themselves to expand their markets. The playing field is not even. The United Nations reports that 20 per cent of the world's population living in the richest countries account for 86 per cent of the total income of the world, while 20 per cent of the world's population living in the poorest countries account for a mere 1 per cent.
The question remains: how do they compete? We believe that knowledge is the key. Technological competence and knowledge enhancement through the Internet can assist so that these small nations can become more competitive. This country has the wherewithal to provide the equipment to facilitate such training.
Access to technology cannot be left to these small nation states alone. There is a need—a real need—for computers and I believe this Government can 1575 help.They can encourage institutions in this country to recycle or donate those computers they no longer need to be used in the schools of the Caribbean. Alternatively, the Internet and computer software industry—we know they are enjoying a boom at this time—could be encouraged to subsidise new equipment in schools. Not only would the pupils and schools benefit but I dare say these companies would be laying the foundations to establish their own future markets.
If this proves to be a sensible route to take, what we could usefully export in conjunction is the know-how and the skills to use the new technology. I should like to suggest the possibility of distance learning and, where possible, the use of technologies to expand access to skills training.
I understand that the Department for International Development has supported the Commonwealth of Learning, which provides training, institutional networking and expertise in distance course development for countries in the Commonwealth. Information technology now provides major new opportunities to increase access to these courses. For example, the Commonwealth of Learning has worked with the University for Technology in Jamaica and other countries to develop training up to the diploma stage for technical teachers based on open and distance learning. The result is that this course can be taken to the student and not the expensive alternative of taking the student to the institutions.
The information superhighway is becoming a crucial tool in education. Education is the key area for real and sustainable development for the new nations. I urge the Government, when considering how they deal with the heavy burden of third world debt, to consider recycling the repayments towards technological training so that developing countries like those in the Caribbean will not be left behind in the new age but will be equipped to compete equitably.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, I am the 15th speaker in this debate. Noble Lords have said a number of good things, one of which I shall repeat. I thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for introducing this timely debate.
I agree with the fears expressed by my noble friend Lord Tomlinson and almost repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe. However, I do not expect much will come of that. People make resolutions, set targets and so on, but these things go on at a supermacro level. We need to think of the third world not as victims but as active agents.
What are the reasons for failure? Here I take up something my noble friend Lord Haskel said. I of course deny that there is any such thing as a brain drain—I have to, do I not? What is true, even in the sphere of higher education, is that these countries can achieve a great deal. There is no problem. Many of these countries not only achieve good higher education but can export higher education.
1576 Why do they fail in primary education? Of course, as here and everywhere else, the middle classes capture a number of gains for themselves and like further education. Our students like further education—they complain a little about the higher education fees, but why should they not? The problem is not so much shortage of resources, although there is a shortage of resources, but allocation within the budget as to where the priorities are. Even admitting the strictures of my noble friend Lord Brett about structural adjustments, among those countries which had to undergo structural adjustment, some managed to save education better than others. We really ought to study the successful responses and strategies in those countries and not just write out a cheque because we believe that we have to do something.
One of the studies to come out of the London School of Economics Asian Research Centre has been about basic education in Pakistan; a similar story can be told about India. It is not so much that parents do not want primary education for their children, even for girls; it is actually that the supply of primary education is inadequate. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, made this point. There are schools but there are no teachers. The teachers are paid but they do not attend. This occurs because the teacher is appointed as a favour to a local Member of Parliament and is not under an obligation to attend. This is one of the perks that the MLA gets. In addition, the school buildings may be so inadequate that parents of girls do not want to send their children. For example, there may not be any toilets.
Something has happened in India. The devolution of power to the village level has meant that the villagers are themselves in charge of the school. They control the teacher and supervise whether the teacher attends. They are on hand to know whether a teacher attends. The key in this case is for the power to be at the top, not at the bottom, and the self-organisation of people whose fortunes are at stake. When people are organised, they want education for their own children and will move heaven and earth to achieve it. In urban areas, one observes very poor parents spending a great deal of money to send their children to good schools. It is not that parents do not want education for their children; it is that they feel helpless because of the structures that are in place.
There is a way in which we should deal with this matter. I am sure that the excellent work of my right honourable friend Clare Short at the Department for International Development is very much in this direction. We should be able to funnel the funds to local groups. They will then make possible the good delivery of education by responding to existing pressures.
In Mauritius I once gave my usual spiel on primary education, targets and so on, and I was heavily criticised. One man said to me that the whole issue of primary education was a conspiracy by Western countries to hold back developing countries. He said, "We do not just want primary education; we want higher education as well". We must not forget that. I agree that primary education is a human right and that 1577 women's education is crucial, but there is more to life than primary education. We must also understand that there is a great desire on the part of developing countries to catch up rapidly with advances in higher education. Some of the techniques to which noble Lords have referred—distance learning and so on—are useful. Many of our universities ought to be engaged—I know that some are engaged—in tackling long-distance learning in order to deal with the shortage of textbooks and other problems that currently exist in higher education in those poor countries.
That is all I want to say. I shall donate half a minute of my time to my noble friend the Minister.
§ 5.1 P.m.
§ Lord Smith of Clifton
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, is to be congratulated on initiating this timely debate which coincides with the recent publication of the World Bank's task force report entitled Peril and Promise: Higher Education in Developing countries. I should like to focus on higher education, following the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and my noble friend Lord Thomson of Monifieth.
The report focuses attention on the particular role of higher education in developing countries. In surveying the situation, it shows starkly how lack of growth in the tertiary education sector threatens the future economic prospects of much of the developing world. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, remarked, the playing field is becoming increasingly less even. The picture, of course, is not uniform. For example, considerable progress has been and is being made in parts of south-east Asia. The greatest problems seem to be in much of Africa where for many countries the data sought by the World Bank's team were simply not available.
President Mkapa of Tanzania has expressed the fear that higher education in Africa is becoming increasingly obsolete, especially in the face of growing globalisation. The World Bank endorses this concern and points to some of the internally generated causes: quality is low and often deteriorating; access remains very limited; the better trained teachers and researchers emigrate for better pay and prospects; the physical, pedagogic and technological infrastructures are hopelessly inadequate; and added to those handicaps is the fact that,Higher education institutions (and even whole systems) are politicized, poorly regulated and sometimes corrupt".The task force recommends that governments in the developing world should make it a national priority to debate higher education, to specify its contemporary role, and to determine what is expected from it as they move from agricultural and manufacturing-centred economies to becoming the knowledge-centred economies that now characterise the developed world, where the emphasis is on human capital rather than physical capital.
My noble friend Lord Thomson made the point that there needs to be a greater balance in the allocation of educational resources. As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, 1578 remarked, people need primary education as a basic human right—that is a prerequisite—but they also want higher education in order precisely to be able to compete in the globalised economy. While progress at the primary level is vital, higher education has tended to be neglected. That needs to be redressed.
As the report states, the main efforts to improve the quality and provision of higher education in the developing world must come from within the countries concerned, but there remains the question of how best to target international aid. The UK cannot and should not seek to be of assistance across the board and spread its resources too thinly. To be effective, it must be selective, even more perhaps that it already is. Distance learning must be further developed, and already the Open University, along with other British universities, has been a pioneering force in this area. The British Council, whose budget was significantly reduced by the previous government, needs again to be expanded in selected countries. Its offices should become major higher education resource centres, facilitating the delivery of British further and higher educational provision suitably adapted to local requirements.
In addition—my noble friend Lord Thomson referred to this point—the role of the Commonwealth should be even more prominent a feature in all of this. The older nations of the Commonwealth should be encouraged to offer more to the developing nations of the Commonwealth, especially to those in Africa. The UK established many of the major universities in east Africa, like Makere and Nairobi, and Ibadan and Fourah Bay in west Africa. They and others need our help to refurbish them both physically and intellectually. It is important to recognise that among international institutions the Commonwealth is one of the better organised and could provide the best vehicle for helping to address some of the many problems identified in the World Bank's report.
Finally, I should like to reiterate a point made by many other noble Lords. Not all worthwhile assistance has to be organised on a macro-scale. I wish to turn to schooling. Small endeavours, properly targeted, can also achieve results, as the work of CamFed—the Cambridge Female Education Trust—reveals. Working in sub-Saharan Africa since 1993, it has enabled hundreds of girls from rural backgrounds in Zimbabwe and Ghana to attend school by creating new forms of partnership with rural communities that transcend the constraints of poverty. With money from Comic Relief and the National Lottery, CamFed has been able to pay local school fees and provide school uniforms, books and stationery for many hundreds of girls.
Apart from liberating the girls themselves, this programme is having profound knock-on effects for national development, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, underlined. That leads to a considerable reduction in the number of young girls becoming mothers too soon. Many of these young women also go on to become "ambassadors" for the cause of 1579 female education, forming local associations which are beginning to raise educational funds for themselves both locally and internationally.
CamFed girls in Zimbabwe have now established nearly 80 new rural businesses using micro-credit schemes and are thus contributing to the rural economy rather than drifting into the towns in search of casual and often dangerous work.
In conclusion, perhaps I may add my appreciation to the commitment, dogged persistence and leadership shown by the Secretary of State, the right honourable Clare Short, at DfID, ably assisted by the noble Baroness, Lady Amos.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, as tail-end Charlie, I am quite surprised to find that I still have a few points to make. First, I should like to say how much I admire the way in which my noble friend Lady Whitaker has timed her debate to coincide with the global forum at Dakar. Perhaps I may draw attention to something that has not been mentioned by other noble Lords. I refer to the strategy document, which is hot off the press, from DfID. It is entitled Education for All—The Challenge of Universal Primary Education. That document is out for consultation. I hope that this debate will be regarded by DfID as part of the consultation process.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, referred to Julius Nyerere, who was widely known as Mwalimu, or "wise one". He said in 1970,Education is not a way of escaping poverty it is a way of fighting it".Therefore it should be—as it is—a central plank of DfID's strategy.
I wish to focus on the impact of basic education on health and community development but with a particular slant towards the problem of HIV and AIDS. As well as the other benefits mentioned by my noble friends Lady Massey and Lady Gould, a further result of the education of girls and the increased empowerment of women is that it may help them to resist the strong social pressure, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, to have early unprotected sex, usually with older men. This has led to the tragic situation in many sub-Saharan countries that the HIV infection rate is higher in women than in men and in a younger age group, with disastrous consequences for their children. HIV and AIDS have seriously set back the plans of many countries to expand education at all levels. Sadly, the incidence in some sub-Saharan countries appears to be highest in the section of the population from which teachers are recruited—the educated middle class. In Ivory Coast it has been estimated that one teacher dies from AIDS every day of the school year, and that is typical of many sub-Saharan countries.
DfID's consultation document states on page 24 that HIV,is reducing the numbers participating in education … Countries in Asia, the Pacific and Latin America are also at serious risk of repeating the African experience in perhaps just a decade".1580 But, paradoxically, it is through education that there is the greatest chance of slowing down the spread of the epidemic. DfID's document further states on page 29,Primary education provides opportunities to educate and alert children to the potential danger before they are sexually active".There are imaginative and appropriate educational materials available to assist with that. Here I put in a plug for the NGO Healthlink Worldwide of which I am a trustee. This organisation publishes newsletters and has links with partner organisations in the South to exchange accurate but effective health educational material to assist teachers and primary health workers. I am glad to say that its value is recognised by DfID which supports some of its activities. There is a great need for down-to-earth relevant information not only in preventing HIV/AIDS but across the board in general and reproductive health. Frank but sensitive discussion about relationships and sex should start before children reach the age where they become sexually active.
The Choices booklet by Gill Gordon, published by Macmillan Education Ltd, and also supported by DfID, distributed through the organisation known as TALC, Teaching Aids at Low Cost, is an example of the style that is needed. It is written for young people aged between 10 and 24, with an African setting in mind. It not only gives helpful advice on how to delay the start of sexual activity until the right time but also explicit information on contraception and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and how sex can be enjoyed best as part of a loving relationship. It gives details of how that can be achieved too.
In closing, I draw attention to the article by Stephen Bates in yesterday's Guardian Education Supplement. It is called, in typical Guardian style, Educating Gita. It points out that not only are there still 130 million children in the world missing out on any form of education, but that the level of much existing education is abysmally low and a high proportion of children drop out before attaining any useful literacy. The article concentrates on India, but, sadly, the description of poor buildings, ill trained teachers, poor accessibility in rural areas and the irrelevance of much of the curriculum are all too familiar worldwide. I add, confirming the account of South Africa of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, that many children are hungry at school. The provision of a nourishing breakfast or lunch enhances their learning ability and provides better resistance to disease, as we know from our experience in this country over the years.
As the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, has told us, Oxfam, in its campaign, Education Now: Break the Cycle of Poverty, estimates that universal provision of primary education within the next decade would cost 8 billion dollars above what is already spent per annum. I suggest that this might need to be doubled also to raise the standards of existing schools to what is needed. However, as the noble Lord pointed out, that would still amount to only eight days worth of global military spending, or the same amount that American parents spend annually on toys for their children. I suggest that our priorities have become seriously warped if paying big boys to play soldiers for a week is thought to be 1581 more important than the education of the world's poorest children to help them to get onto the first step on the ladder out of poverty.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Bradford
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute briefly to this debate in the gap. I declare an interest as the husband of a trustee of the Bishop Mubarak Scholarship Fund for Nuba Women. I wish to make two points. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, I wish to speak of Sudan—the north, this time—to illustrate my points.
I have been to many of the squatter townships around Khartoum and Port Sudan. People live in appalling conditions. From time to time the state government raise the townships to the ground and move the people further and further into the desert. Education is virtually impossible to find. Like many of your Lordships, I could carry on describing the situation in graphic detail. But the question really is: how can we effect change? I should be grateful if, when she replies to the debate, the Minister will indicate how Her Majesty's Government can encourage and support a government such as the Government of Sudan to give real priority, and make real provision, for widespread education at a time when their revenue is increasing day by day as the oil flow increases. We look to the Government to try their best to encourage governments abroad, who may be reluctant—not least, when they are fighting a civil war—to give any pre-eminence to education whatever.
I publicly applaud, draw attention to, and affirm the tremendous work done over many decades by Churches, relief organisations and other bodies, some of which are extremely small and will never hit the headlines, yet make a contribution to improving education throughout the world. I refer to the Bishop Mubarak Scholarship Fund for Nuba Women. I echo the concern for proper education for women which has been expressed many times in this debate. Bishop Mubarak was bishop of El Obeid in Sudan. He died in 1996. The fund was set up in his honour to provide education for women from the Nuba Mountains, 90 per cent of whom are illiterate. They are among the most disadvantaged people in Sudan.
We should note that this fund, set up by Christians with Muslim friends, expresses no discrimination on the ground of faith. It cares for Christians, Muslims and people who worship in the African religions alike. There are no strings attached. The response to setting up this fund was astonishing. The Nuba women in Um Bedda met and 100 of them asked to have lessons straight away. The first thing they had to do was to learn to hold a pencil. Their fingers had become so twisted through years of hard labour that they simply could not hold a pencil. Elsewhere, the Nuba women said that they would not wait until July; they wanted their class in April—and they met in a hut where the temperature was 50 degrees centigrade. That shows an enormous amount of dedication.
1582 When one looks at the situation in a country such as Sudan, it seems impossible to address this issue. And yet, one by one, these little organisations are helping some people to be educated—and every child, woman and man who receives an education for the first time is a step forward.
When I am tempted to despair, I remember the occasion when five barley loaves and two small fish were used to feed 5,000. That is my hope. I hope that when the Minister responds to the debate she will applaud what is being done by these charitable bodies and give them hope as well.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ The Earl of Listowel
My Lords, we cannot all visit the Sudan, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, but there are very many Ethiopians and Somalis in this country whom we can get to know, befriend and become involved with. What are the Government doing to encourage such involvement? Does the Minister agree that involvement fosters interest, care, concern and the drive to achieve all that we have discussed today?
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I add my voice of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. The debate has once again displayed the astonishing level of knowledge and experience in this House. I cannot help thinking that there is a case for a register of altruism to stand alongside the register of interests. By my count, in this debate alone two-thirds of those who have participated have spoken on a basis of their direct relationship to either a charity or some other trust or organisation concerned with the development of the developing world. That is immensely impressive. I wish that occasionally the media would attend some of our debates other than those about fox hunting and Clause 28, which appear to be the only issues that interest them, or us in their view.
I shall not repeat what has already been eloquently said about primary education—a number of noble Lords have spoken with great force—beyond saying that we are all agreed that primary education is the foundation stone of economic development, of democracy and of civil society. Whatever we may say about other stages of education, by definition it has to be the first step; one cannot go on to any other form of education except via primary education.
In regard to primary education, I wish to underline the forceful point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton. She pointed out that it is not only finance which stands in the way of primary education but all too often attitudes. That is well illustrated by the difference between the relatively poor Indian state of Kerala, where 86 per cent literacy has been achieved almost equally between men and women—this owes a good deal to the Christian missions which worked in that region—and other states in India, some of which are better off, where literacy levels are half that rate and sometimes only a quarter among women.
1583 I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brett. I apologise to him because I was called out of the Chamber during the latter part of his remarks. He is right to say that this cause requires not only the powerful and excellent support of the right honourable Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, and in this House of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, but of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
As the noble Lord, Lord Brett, pointed out, much of the damage done to education has been as a result of the ill thought through stabilisation plans of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. I shall give only two examples. At the time of the Asian crisis, the stabilisation schemes for Indonesia and Thailand required them to make cuts in public expenditure. Of course the noble Lord, Lord Desai, is right: no one enforced those cuts specifically on primary education, but that is where the axe all too often falls. In the case of Indonesia, it fell on the outer islands, which had nothing like the same political power as Java.
To take a very different example, only last year in Brazil plans to stabilise the real forced a choice on its Government between cutting higher education, which in Brazil is free—there are no tuition fees for higher education—or cutting primary education, which largely benefits the rural area. For the reasons expressed so clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Desai—reasons connected with power—the choice was made to protect the free higher education, which overwhelmingly benefits the better off in Brazil, and the axe again fell largely on primary education, which even today does not reach two-thirds of the population in a relatively wealthy country.
In the autumn of last year I conducted a debate among educated young Brazilians who were students at the University of Brasilia in which I asked them why they felt that free university education should be protected rather than primary education. They had been voicing the strongest views about primary education until, I regret to say, that moment. I then became the subject of a good deal of attack, on the ground that I did not understand the needs of higher education in Brazil.
My third point concerns the serious issue raised by my noble friend Lord Thomson of Monifieth and the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. Their remarkable speeches pointed to what I describe as the "educational trade balance". It is not often talked about, but the inflow of students under our present educational arrangements has, as my noble friend said, been cut by some 49 per cent for less well off Commonwealth country scholarships. They are beginning to disappear. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, and other noble Lords have said, the Commonwealth is an amazing creation. We are foolish to value as lightly as we do almost the only multi-racial association of equals that exists anywhere in the world. Commonwealth scholarships have been a crucial part of that, but they have been badly slashed.
1584 I remember trying to persuade the Treasury in 1979 that its decision to cut subsidies to overseas students should be changed into using the subsidies for scholarships for the most able youngsters from poor families and poor countries. The Treasury could not see the point and obliged the following government to reduce subsidies for overseas students. As many noble Lords know, in one year the loss in trade with Malaysia alone more than offset the whole value of the saving made by the Treasury. With great respect to the Treasury, it is not always the wisest of our government departments, merely the most powerful.
The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, referred to the other side of the education balance of payments when he talked eloquently about the amazing inflow of free graduate labour into the wealthy countries of the world. To what he said about Germany and the United Kingdom, I would add the United States. Two years ago, the United States changed its immigration policies specifically to allow highly qualified professionals to enter without any of the difficulties that stand in the way of desperately poor Mexican and central American labourers. Like the United States, like the United Kingdom, like Germany, the other rich countries of the world cherry pick some of the most valuable people in the developing world and pay not a penny for them. Let us not forget that educating a single doctor costs something like £ ¼ million.
My fourth point relates to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, on capacity growth. The noble Lord was absolutely right. The assessment of capacity based on experience needs to be examined closely as a crucial bridge between formal and informal education. As the noble Lord said, it takes 20 years for an educated group to mature from the moment that they enter the earliest stages of education. There is therefore a 20-year gap to be filled, and that can only be done by experiential learning and adult education.
In regard to adult education, perhaps I may add to what was said my noble friend Lord Dholakia about Tanzania, by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, about South Africa and by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, about the work that he has done, with IDASA, with South African communities. I have seen similar work done in Rajasthan, one of the poorest states in India, through a charity called Vidya Bhawan, which has set up a local government institute to train young people coming in to the village councils—many of them women under the quota system—many of whom, incidentally, are illiterate. It is unbelievably inspiring to see those very cheap, low-cost residential courses for young men and women with no idea of local government but who slowly learn about budgets, finance, public health and many other subjects.
Perhaps I may refer briefly to a matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, and the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso; namely, distance learning. I simply want to draw attention to the amazing new experiment by the World Bank called the World Wide Web on the Economic Development Forum. It involves some 8,000 people worldwide in contributing, to and commenting on development 1585 policy. It requires World Bank managers, who have often in the past been very superior, to listen to the outcomes of the policies they espouse. I suggest that DfID might like to set up a similar electronic network, feeding back, through e-mail, ideas based on an evaluation and experience of DfID's excellent policies. I believe that that is the way forward to a more massive educational achievement using electronic technology in the way that was so powerfully advocated by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord.
Finally, perhaps I may add my congratulations to the Minister and her colleague in another place on the great work that they are doing.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Baroness Rawlings
My Lords, the whole House must be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this debate, and for bringing a matter before the House that inspired the Leader of the House to attend the early part of the debate. Unfortunately, we have not had nearly enough time to debate a subject of such vital importance—not merely for the developing countries but for the future sustainability of our planet. Almost every speaker has made powerful reference to its seriousness. I pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lady Cox for the constant interest that she takes in this subject and for the outstanding work that she does in this field.
One of the characteristics of Thomas More's Utopian society is that every citizen is taught agriculture and also one particular skill. The general economic and social state of the society is such that all citizens have the possibility and the privilege to spend their considerable spare time as they please, with music or conversation; and everyone, male or female, can attend public lectures—I take that to mean education.
Charles Dickens said in 1844:I look forward to the time when high and low, and rich and poor, shall mutually assist, improve, and educate each other".The present state of education in developing countries is far from being a "perfect state of things", with 125 million children out of school worldwide and a drop-out rate of 150 million. Secondly, education clearly cannot be a privilege. It is a fundamental human right and therefore an end in itself. As James Wolfensohn, the World Bank president, has said,We all agree that the single most important key to development and to poverty alleviation is education".Just as important is the role that education plays in determining population growth rates. Economic growth and a reduced debt burden for developing countries are necessary, too, in order to reduce poverty and to enable those countries to invest in education, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Brett, in a clear and focused speech.
A number of different factors are responsible for the still appalling state of education in many developing countries today. The main task is to break the vicious circle of poverty leading to ill-health and poor education, leading in turn once again to poverty. Opinions differ as to the weight of the different factors contributing to the poor state of affairs in many 1586 countries. These include corrupt and/or incompetent governments squandering available resources by diverting funds, mostly into military spending, wars and self-aggrandising prestigious projects; genuine poverty at national and household level; and cultural and religious obstacles.Education is the road to culture",Matthew Arnold said in 1882. At state level, poverty results in a shortage of school places, a lack of schools for local communities and low-quality schooling in terms of both the curriculum and the basic facilities. At household level, direct costs for parents are often too high—school fees, expenditure for school uniforms and textbooks. Many families may also depend on the labour of their children on the farm and around the home—for example, to carry water, as we heard from my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes.
Matthew Arnold also said:To model education on sound ideas is of more importance than to have the management of it in one's own hands ever so fully".Economic development to reduce general poverty is, however, only one condition for securing universal education. One of the most apparent problems is the gender gap in education in many developing countries. In general, girls account for two-thirds of the children who are not in school. The gap is not directly the result of poverty in itself. Research indicates that many religious, cultural and social factors cause the difference in school enrolment between boys and girls. The place for women is often considered to be in the home and the family. That traditional role for women and limited opportunities on the labour market often prevent parents from investing highly limited resources in the education of girls.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, that it is now generally accepted that education for girls is the single most effective way to reduce poverty. When aiming at universal primary education in developing countries, an important effort has to be made to eliminate the gender gap in school enrolment. Basic education for women tends to lead to later marriage, fewer children and healthier families and reduces infant mortality. Education is especially important with a view to diseases, and I refer, for example, to the world-wide HIV pandemic. Another factor is the passing on of education to the next generation: educated mothers are, in turn, more likely to send their children to school, boys and girls.
As primary and secondary education develops, the importance of higher education also increases. According to The Times Higher Education Supplement,Without more and better higher education, developing countries will find it increasingly difficult to benefit from [the] global knowledge-based economy".That point was rightly stressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. It also emphasises the importance of higher education for developing countries that face great and fast-changing economic and environmental challenges. According to the Harvard economist, David Bloom,For years economists had under-estimated the importance of higher education".1587 Finally, one of the major problems that face the world today is the population growth rate. How does one bring down the world's population to sustainable levels? One does so only by giving women the chance to understand the choices available to them by education so they can decide whether and when to marry and space their children and deal with healthcare matters. The human rights of women include their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly upon, their sexuality—including sexual and reproductive health—free of coercion, discrimination and violence. If we do not improve the education, welfare and legal status of women there is little hope of solving many of the population problems, even though this vital human right is fraught with problems, not least those arising from aggrieved boys.
I very much hope that the Secretary of State will continue to press for the case at Dakar and for the necessary funds, and will also demonstrate the Government's support for the BBC World Service, which does such a terrific job in this field, so that universal education does not, and cannot, remain a mere utopia for the developing countries of the world.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating this debate with a speech which touched on so many issues of concern. It is clear from the contributions from all noble Lords this afternoon that education needs to remain the cornerstone of our strategy to tackle poverty and inequality. As always in a debate of this nature, it is difficult to do justice to an area which is rich in experience and expertise. This debate is made particularly meaningful by the examples and experiences of noble Lords themselves. I also thank noble Lords for their positive references to the work of the Department for International Development and the leadership given to that work by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development, and also for the kind remarks of noble Lords about my own role in that work. I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to work on issues related to international development.
The matters that have been raised this afternoon are complex. Some noble Lords have argued for greater selectivity in what the department does; others have argued for greater support across the whole sector. I believe that this afternoon four themes have dominated the debate. The first is the importance of looking at education and development, in particular the education of girls. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, that in considering girls' education we must ensure that our approach is practical, focused and flexible.
The noble Lord, Lord Joffe, said that Oxfam had put education at the top of its agenda. Oxfam's Global Action Plan for Education and the Read the World campaign by the Guardian have helped to raise 1588 awareness of the plight of the 130 million children not in school, two-thirds of whom are girls. I pay tribute to the leadership which the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, has given in this area. DfID shares the goals of Oxfam. Educational opportunity for all, especially at primary level, is both a fundamental human right and a precondition for progress in development and the reduction of poverty. To deny education to children places a massive block on the development prospects of their countries.
The development case for investing in primary education is now unanswerable. Education helps people to become more productive and to earn more income, and it leads to improvements in health, nutrition and child mortality. It also enables people to transform their own lives, and that of society, and to acquire the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, as well as the capacity to utilise knowledge and information. I agree with my noble friends Lady Whitaker and Lady Gould of Potternewton and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, as to the importance of educating women. Research into the education of girls shows that women with as little as four years of education are likely to have smaller, healthier families, to work their way out of poverty and to send their own children to school. I believe that we have all read the research by the World Bank to which my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen referred. That research suggests that the education of girls is the single most valuable development intervention that a country can make.
My noble friend Lady Gould of Potternewton set out clearly what is happening to girls around the world and its tragic implications for development if we do not tackle the issue now. My noble friend Lord Clarke of Hampstead also talked about the importance of working with women and gave an example of the work that is being done by One World Action in South Africa. It is right to pay tribute to the work of NGOs, churches and other charitable organisations which very much complements the work that we do. In response to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, it is important to work in partnership in Britain as well as in the developing world.
The Government believe that four things need to be done if we are to make gender equality and universal primary education a reality and achieve the target by 2015. The right reverend Prelate asked me specifically how we could effect change and encourage governments to resource education. We need a real and sustained commitment by the governments of developing countries to secure universal primary education. It is only if there is such a commitment that we can work with those governments and help them to put in place the structural changes required.
Secondly, we need to address the resourcing of education. I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai that there is a clear need to increase the level of resources that the governments of developing countries commit to primary and basic education. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, if we look at the balance of resources that are devoted to primary, secondary and higher education, too often the needs of 1589 the primary sector are inadequately funded because the university sector has more vocal and politically influential constituents. For example, in Africa the public subsidy for a university student is 20 times that of a primary school pupil.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso: it is crucial that governments do not impose costs or fees that deter access to primary and basic education for the poor. In some of the countries that I have visited parents make every effort to find the money to send their children to school. I am aware of mothers who do not feed themselves if it means that they can send their children to school for another day or week. We need to stamp that out.
There is also an important role for development donors. Through the DfID's development budget, the British Government have current commitments of around £800 million to education. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, asked me specifically about our contribution. Seventy-seven per cent of that is for basic and primary education—it is the majority of but not all the money—and two-thirds of those resources are concentrated in 11 of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. It is important that noble Lords recognise that we are dealing with competing concerns. I do not apologise for the focus we have given to primary education. If we are serious about eliminating poverty, that is what we need to do.
The third factor which DfID believes important is the need to shift from a projects-based approach to a sector-wide approach to basic and primary education. We need to pull together the work of all the different development donors around a focused, agreed strategy drawn up by the government of the country concerned. Too often, aid for education is used to support isolated projects which crumble when external funding comes to an end. Having such individual projects imposes a huge administrative burden.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia—he has had to leave for another pressing engagement—mentioned Tanzania. Tanzania is a good example of a poor country with 30 donors, 1,000 projects and 2,000 aid missions a year. Scarce administrative capacity goes into managing those aid missions. We have been engaged with the Tanzanian Ministry of Education for over three years in seeking to finalise the comprehensive educational sector-wide development programme. We are fully committed to making that programme a reality.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, that education for democracy—and by implication, I think, education for citizenship—must be an important part of our agenda. The Commonwealth has a key role to play in ensuring that the countries within the Commonwealth share good practice on these issues. As a development donor it is crucial that our role should be an enabling one—not usurping the role of developing country governments but helping them to create the conditions for providing education for all their children.
If we are to achieve universal primary education by 2015, the fourth thing we need to do is to link education policy with the wider development strategy 1590 of the country, including policies on health, sanitation, livelihoods and rural transport. I shall come back to that point.
My noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, mentioned the World Education Forum in Dakar on 26th to 28th April. The forum provides an opportunity for governments, development agencies and NGOs from north and south to recommit themselves to education for all, including the achievement of universal primary education by 2015, and gender equality in primary and secondary education by 2005. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, that the achievement of those targets as well as the poverty elimination target is feasible if the political will is there.
In preparation for the forum the DfID has drafted a paper on Education for All: The Challenge of Universal Primary Education. The paper examines what it will take to enable our partners to achieve the development target by 2015. We plan to consult widely on this draft and to finalise it in the light of the Dakar outcome. I hope that noble Lords will have an opportunity to read the paper and contribute to the evolving debate about how we achieve this key international development target. We believe that the forum should pay particular attention to analysing why some countries, including some of the poorest, have managed to achieve considerably more than others since the world conference on education in 1990. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby—she gave the example of Kerala—that attitude and commitment make a big difference.
We have seven major priorities for Dakar. There is insufficient time to explore those now. I shall write to all noble Lords who have participated in the debate about those priorities. It would be helpful if noble Lords who have comments on them would reply to me.
The second theme in the debate is the importance of encouraging a wider debate about education in the higher level, in particular the second and tertiary sectors, and taking a balanced view of the whole sector. My noble friend Lord Desai, the noble Lord, Smith of Clifton, the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, mentioned the importance of higher education. I assure all noble Lords that while universal primary education is the fundamental building block of our support for education in developing countries, it cannot stand alone within an education system.
We recognise that. It does not provide the work-related skills that many people need to lift themselves from poverty or gain employment. It does not lead to higher education or scientific research. It does not even provide the growing numbers of trained teachers needed to staff the expanding primary sector. So we need to take a balanced view of the whole education sector including provision of adult literacy and lifelong learning. In many developing countries, it is not unusual to find a workforce where less than 5 per cent have some form of secondary schooling. That lack of skills is clearly a drag on the development of the economy as well as on the individual's earning capacity.
1591 We need to look with governments at different ways of providing education at this level which are more efficient and less costly than before. Distance learning, which has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, is one possibility, using new technologies to expand access to secondary education and skills training. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, that we shall continue to support the commonwealth of learning which provides training, institutional networking and expertise in distance course development for countries in the Commonwealth. I agree with my noble friend, Lady Howells, that information technology now provides major new opportunities to increase access to these courses.
The third theme is globalisation and the recognition that we live in a globalising world. As globalisation of markets and economies continues, the world needs not only economic growth but equitable growth that benefits vast numbers of poor people. I assure my noble friend, Lord Haskel, that we recognise that trade and investment can have a much greater impact on development than aid. There is no world shortage of investable funds. But developing countries have to create the conditions to attract that investment. That is the only way to achieve the economic growth necessary to reduce poverty.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked about accountability. I assure the noble Baroness that it is an area we take very seriously indeed. We are promoting better governance nationally and locally in developing countries, making public servants and elected officials accountable to the public, and improving public administration. We are helping developing countries to improve their own systems of financial management, accounting and auditing to help ensure that resources are effectively allocated and used. We are continuously improving our own procedures and capacity to ensure that our development assistance programmes are protected from abuse. Of course, we try to ensure that donors take an integrated approach so that we can maximise our impact. It is not always easy but we shall continue to push for that.
A number of noble Lords spoke of the importance of building capacity. A skilled labour force facilitates investment. Unfortunately, too many poor countries have both a desperate shortage of skills and unemployed graduates. We know that skills and knowledge contribute to higher productivity as well as the capacity to absorb new knowledge and technology from outside sources. Capacity to absorb technology is a product of early investment in basic education and higher level skills in science and technology. But these skills cannot be provided without some kind of policy framework or institutional base. It is to meet that need that the DfID has established a major new programme of assistance and support.
My noble friend Lord Haskel referred to the Skills for Development initiative. Over the next two years, we shall be committing £20 million to the initiative. That will facilitate the stimulation of entrepreneurial skills required by the poorest countries if their economies are to grow. The DfID continues to fund 1592 Commonwealth scholarships, an issue raised by several noble Lords, but only where they are development oriented. As noble Lords are aware, the FCO funds Chevening scholarships.
The Skills for Development initiative has three strands. The first is to assist our partner countries to develop skills in the population which will enable the workforce to contribute to economic growth. Secondly, for those countries where institutions exist but are not sufficiently responsive to skills development, we have established a new programme of links between further education institutions in this country and overseas. Thirdly, our Skills for Development programme will support innovative and knowledge-building projects which can be used to pilot new approaches for skills development work.
I agree with the powerful point made by my noble friend Lord Haskel and endorsed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, about the brain drain. That is why we need to reform and strengthen the economies of developing countries—and it is also about making those countries more attractive to their own people.
The fourth theme is linking education to the wider development effort. My noble friend Lady Whitaker described graphically the importance of linking education to the wider development effort when she gave the example of Mali. Other noble Lords referred to education and health. The HIV/AIDS pandemic puts at risk the achievements which have been made in education during the past decade. My noble friends Lord Rea and Lady Massey made particular reference to that.
In many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa but increasingly in Asia, the cost of HIV/AIDS to the education system will have to be factored into government resource planning. The steady loss of teachers and others from the education system is already putting a break on the provision and quality of primary education.
My noble friends Lady Massey and Lord Rea and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, mentioned reproductive rights and sex education. Young people—boys and girls—need good sex education to enable them to make informed, responsible decisions to protect their health and safeguard their future. That is an important area of support for us.
Three other issues were raised. Debt relief was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Whitaker. In Jamaica, we have linked the resources which have been saved through the Commonwealth debt initiative to targeting education. The rationale behind debt relief is to make progress on poverty reduction, and countries qualifying for debt relief have to put in place poverty reduction strategies.
My noble friend Lord Tomlinson raised the issue of capacity building and in particular the need for developing countries to have sufficient capacity to negotiate effectively in international forums. I can assure my noble friend that we have resourced 1593 developing countries to enable them to do precisely that. One example is the support we have given to CARICOM to improve its competence on trade.
My noble friend Lord Brett focused his remarks on the role of the international financial institutions. As he anticipated, I shall repeat that we have worked hard for reforms in both the IMF and World Bank and the inclusion of social data when they make proposals for economic reform. I agree with my noble friend that further reforms are needed. We shall show determination when we work with the IMF and World Bank on these issues.
In conclusion, perhaps I may quickly return to the question of basic and primary education for all. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, that the Internet and new technology are huge and significant tools for spreading educational opportunities. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, that using the Internet to facilitate education is important. But we must also remember that millions of children might never learn to read. They might never have the opportunity to go to school unless we take more effective action. The Government are strongly committed to bringing the benefits of educational opportunities to millions of children and to helping spread skills and knowledge so that all countries can accelerate their development, reduce poverty and give everyone the chance to realise their potential.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Baroness Whitaker
My Lords, this has been a high calibre debate, with contributions of wide-ranging expertise and first-hand knowledge. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part.
Your Lordships' contributions will be read in detail internationally. The fact that the Hansard Internet address is for the first time on the inside cover, courtesy of the Editor, means that the debates can be more easily communicated and downloaded all over the world. That is peculiarly appropriate for this subject because international pressure is now needed, as my noble friend the Minister emphasised. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.