Accessing, staying and succeeding in basic education – UK aid’s support to marginalised girls

Globally nearly 62 million girls miss out on an education. The UK has made a strong commitment to tackling this huge problem, but is falling short of its ambitions to educate the poorest and most vulnerable girls.

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16 Dec 2016
Amber - Red
Lead commissioner
Tina Fahm
Education, Women and girls
Related documents
Approach paper

ICAI’s 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 implementation 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, ICAI awarded DFID’s performance an ‘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.
  • DFID should monitor programmes to ensure a focus on girls’ education is not lost.
  • DFID should provide guidance on value for money when targeting marginalised groups, including how to combine equity considerations with cost-effectiveness.

Government response

The government publishes a response to all ICAI reviews. You can read the government’s response to our marginalised girls review online.

International Development Committee

Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC), or its ICAI sub-committee, hold hearings on all ICAI reviews. You can watch the IDC hearing on marginalised girls online.

ICAI’s follow-up

ICAI follows up on all of its reviews to check what progress has been made since publication. ICAI’s marginalised girls follow-up is available to read online.