Assessing UK aid’s results in education

A results review that assesses the impact, effectiveness and equity of UK aid on education, with a particular focus on girl’s education.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 27 April 2022
  3. Type: Results review
  4. Subject: Education
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Bangladesh, Rwanda, South Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe
  7. Lead commissioner: Tarek Rouchdy
  8. SDGs covered:Quality education, Gender equality

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This review, which was awarded a green-amber score, finds UK aid-funded education programming has been ambitious, mainly well implemented and relevant to the needs of marginalised children, especially hard-to-reach girls, though barriers remain. ICAI calls on government to focus on achieving better quality learning in future to help tackle the global learning crisis.


  • The UK has contributed to improvements and its work was relevant to the needs of marginalised children, particularly hard-to-reach girls – though significant barriers still exist.
  • The government’s claim that it supported 15.6 million children in education is “reasonable”.
  • However, FCDO does not currently track learning achievements which would provide a better measure of its support for quality, or ‘decent education’.
  • Challenges remain to improving the quality of education and learning in partner countries, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The UK has been seen as a global leader in addressing inequalities in education, with 80% of programming worth over £1 million having targeted activities for girls.
  • However, a quarter of activities targeting girls did not meet FCDO’s expectations and the impacts of some interventions for girls were unlikely to be sustained over time.
  • FCDO aid to education has reached children affected by conflict and humanitarian disasters effectively through various channels. Central to this is the Education Cannot Wait fund, which has supported 4.6 million children in conflict zones to access education since 2016.
  • While the focus on children with disabilities has grown over the review period, FCDO was unable to track how many children with disabilities had been reached.
  • The review welcomed FCDO’s strong influencing role which helped strengthen multilateral education programming, although it said further progress is required on learning.
  • The presence of knowledgeable UK education advisers in partner countries had improved the effectiveness of multilateral as well as bilateral programmes supported by the UK.
  • The UK has made positive contributions to national education systems strengthening and has played a significant role in helping those working in the education sector in partner countries collaborate more effectively.
  • However, the UK has made slow progress on mobilising new sources of international finance for education.
  • Major reductions to the UK’s aid budget have affected UK bilateral and multilateral aid to education and may pose a risk to sustaining the UK’s influence on education globally.


  1. Future FCDO aid for education should have a greater focus on children’s learning, based on evidence of ‘what works’ that is relevant to the context.
  2. FCDO should accelerate its work with partner governments to improve their ability to collect and use good data on children’s learning.
  3. FCDO should ensure that all its aid to education maintains a consistent focus on girls in its design and implementation.
  4. To promote systemic change that benefits the most marginalised, FCDO should have a greater focus on dissemination and uptake of evidence of ‘what works’ for these groups.
  5. FCDO should enhance the convening and influencing role it often plays in partner countries, to promote the impact of aid to education on learning.


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Published 6 September

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 27 April 2022

Government response

Published 9 June 2022

ICAI follow-up

Published 18 July 2023