The education of girls is a key priority within the sustainable development goals that the UK has signed up to. It has been a recent priority for DfID as well, as part of the UK's international aid programme. A recent report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact [ICAI] casts doubt on the policy's impact and effectiveness and makes for difficult reading.
In its introduction to the report, ICAI says:
ICAI’s latest review into marginalised girls found that DFID has made a substantial commitment to girls and improving their life chances across its education portfolio. This included investing significantly in programmes such as the flagship Girls’ Education Challenge fund.
However it also found that too many programmes performed poorly against their original objectives, losing the necessary focus on girls, particularly marginalised girls, and in some cases abandoning targets for supporting girls altogether. Reasons for the loss of focus included:
- Girls’ education objectives being displaced by competing priorities.
- A lack of influence by DFID on the focus of government-run education programmes in certain countries.
- Poor design of girls-focused interventions.
- A lack of expertise on the part of delivery partners in tackling education for marginalised girls.
- Difficulties with implementing in challenging environments.
The review also found that DFID’s approach to value for money risked creating an incentive to focus on the easiest to reach rather than those most in need, such as vulnerable girls, which was inconsistent with its commitment to ‘leave no one behind’. Overall DFID’s performance was graded as ‘Amber-Red’ – requiring significant improvement to ensure a clear, strategic direction, and to tackle a pattern of underperformance.
ICAI made a series of recommendations for improving DFID’s performance in supporting marginalised girls. DfID should:
- develop a clear strategy for supporting marginalised girls in education.
- monitor programmes to ensure a focus on girls’ education is not lost.
- provide guidance on value for money when targeting marginalised groups, including how to combine equity considerations with cost-effectiveness.
"No one is suggesting that delivering such change in places such as northern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan is easy. The attempted murder by the Taliban in 2012 of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the heroic advocate for girls to be allowed to attend school in her native Swat Valley, stands as a horrifying illustration of the depravity of the medieval tyrants opposing progress. Combating such barbarism, however, was and is the entire point of funding a programme aimed at educating the girls suffering brutal repression. Generous fees were no doubt paid out by Dfid to its advisers to help the department decide that such a programme was a good idea. And so it is. When it came to the hard grind of actually implementing this programme, the evidence in the report today suggests that Dfid bottled it. If Priti Patel, the development secretary, was not yet convinced of the shortcomings of the ministry she leads, the scale of the reforms she must make should now be clear to her."
As for me, well, I'd like to think that those interested in Global Learning will be highlighting this report to its members and audiences.