Access to quality education is a fundamental right which enables communities around the world overcome inequality and tackle the causes of poverty and hunger. While there have been very significant advances in terms of access to education in developing countries over the last decade, progress has been uneven. Today, 61 million children of primary school age remain out of school and almost of half of these are living in countries and regions affected by conflict.
Ireland has a strong and internationally recognised commitment to education, as an important priority of our development cooperation programme. The focus of our programme is on improving access to education for children in some of the poorest countries and communities in the world, and on improving learning outcomes, by supporting activities such as teacher training and curriculum reform.
During our EU Presidency, as we review progress under the Millennium Development Goals and prepare for the negotiation of the post-2015 framework for global development, Ireland has played a leading role in ensuring the EU has a coherent approach to the challenge of ending poverty and achieving sustainable development. Last week, I attended the International Conference on Education and Development convened by the EU Development Commissioner in Brussels, with the objective of ensuring that a commitment to education remains central to global efforts to reduce poverty.
During the Conference, I had discussions with Commissioner Piebalgs, who emphasised the need for a continued focus on education, particularly for children from the poorest families, and with Humanitarian Commissioner Georgieva, who highlighted the important role education can play in preventing conflict and improving the resilience of communities affected by conflict or natural disaster. In speaking at the Conference and in my discussion with the other participants, I affirmed the Government's continued commitment to working for improved access to quality education in developing countries, and ensuring that education remains an international priority in the fight to end poverty, and especially in a new framework for global development beyond 2015.