by Camilla Ryberg, RESULTS Australia’s Communications and Education Manager

It sounds obvious and we’ve heard it many times before: Every child has the right to a quality education.

So how is it that a few weeks ago we were told that there were 57 million primary school-aged children not in school and today there are 58 million according to newly released data from UNESCO Institute for Statistics?

We are clearly not doing enough to make the right of every child to an education a reality. Indeed, world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs recently called universal basic education the “millennium goal everyone forgot”.

On 26 June, leaders from around the world came together at the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) second replenishment conference in Brussels to address this discrepancy.

Hosted by the European Commission, the conference brought together 800 delegates including more than 40 ministers, education experts, and representatives from multilateral organisations, civil society, business and youth leaders from 91 countries.

Pledges of more than US$28.5 billion in additional funding for education for millions of children in more than 60 developing countries were made. This is a significant step in the direction towards making education for all a reality.

The outcome was driven by commitments by 27 developing country partners to increase their own education budgets by US$26 billion, or 25 percent, between 2015 and 2018.

Pledges were also made by many civil society organisations (including RESULTS), multilaterals, private philanthropic foundations and the first pledge of an innovating financing resource – loan buy-down arrangements from the Islamic Development Bank valued at more than US$400 million.

There were a few generous pledges from the United Kingdom, the European Commission and some Scandinavian countries, but most donors seemed not quite as willing as their developing country partners to make the right to education a reality.

Of the US$3.5 billion target, only US$2.1 billion was raised at the replenishment conference.

The US will contribute US$50 million in 2015 to the GPE fund – the equivalent of one hour of Pentagon spending.

Australia halved its contribution, announcing an AU$140 million four-year commitment (or less than US$33 million per year). Is this consistent with Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop’s assurance that education is a ‘central pillar’ of the Australian aid program?

Surely Australia can do better.

Overall, pledges by donors to the GPE Fund did increase more than US$600 million, or 40 percent, compared to the last replenishment pledging conference in Copenhagen in 2011.

GPE’s CEO Alice Albright said it is “a powerful start to achieving the goal we set of US$3.5 billion in donor commitments for the Partnership’s four-year replenishment period. We’re looking forward to further commitments in the coming months”.

With aid to education falling by 10% in the last four years, and the target for the GPE fund not yet reached, donor country governments, including Australia, should meet the level of ambition set by developing country partners and those donors who have made significant contributions.

The Global Partnership for Education is the only multilateral partnership devoted to getting all children into school for a quality education in the world’s poorest countries.

A child’s right to a quality education. It’s hard to imagine a better investment than making it reality.

Read our media release on Australia’s pledge.