Julia Gillard appeals to Pope Francis to continue supporting education for the poorest children
Elizabeth Toe's KG-2 class at Billy Town. Credit: GPE/ Kelley Lynch

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 – Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, thanked His Holiness Pope Francis for his longtime advocacy of the right to education of hundreds of millions of disadvantaged children around the world. She spoke with the Holy Father as she participated in a Papal audience today. 

I am honored to have met with the Holy Father today,” Ms. Gillard said. “Every human soul has a right to a quality primary and secondary education, which can lift them out of desperate poverty, enrich them socially and economically and enable them to help their countries and the world to become more economically prosperous and stable.”

“Pope Francis has previously spoken of a broken educational pact around the world that has left far too many people excluded from the opportunities they deserve. GPE’s work is aimed precisely at restoring that educational pact to all,” she said.

In a subsequent meeting with His Excellency Archbishop Gallagher, the Holy See Secretary for Relations with States, Ms. Gillard explained that, globally, more than 263 million children are out of school and hundreds of millions more are in school but not learning what they need to thrive.

Ms. Gillard appealed to the Vatican to continue to champion education, especially this year with GPE’s replenishment approaching. Donor countries will consider the level of funding they will provide to GPE, which uses those resources to help the poorest countries build strong and sustainable education systems and ensure that children are in school and learn.

GPE’s ambition is to become a US$2 billion fund by 2020. For the upcoming replenishment, GPE is seeking donor contributions of US$3.1 billion over three years from 2018 to 2020 to achieve the goals set out in GPE 2020, the partnership’s strategy which was developed in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This would enable GPE to reach 89 countries home to 870 million school aged-children and youth, including 78% of the world’s out-of-school children.

GPE, the only global fund and partnership dedicated exclusively to education, is one of the primary catalysts helping low-income and lower middle-income countries create and sustain strong education systems.

Launched in 2002, GPE supports those countries in designing and implementing long-term national plans that enable more children to go to school, particularly girls, maintain access to education in the midst of conflict or humanitarian crisis, reach the poorest and most marginalized children, build physical infrastructure and expand the availability of qualified teachers and quality learning materials.

According to the International Commission for Financing Global Education Opportunities, of which Ms. Gillard is a member, current donor support for education in developing countries has been declining in recent years. Total spending on education needs to rise from $1.2 trillion per year today to $3 trillion by 2030 to accelerate global education progress and meet the UN Sustainable Development goal of educating all children by 2030. 

“Pope Francis has, throughout his career of service in the Church, been an advocate for education for all,” Ms. Gillard added. “We hope that countries and private sector leaders around the world will emulate his example and join in the growing global community of those who seek to give children everywhere the power of learning.”


The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) works with developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest, the most vulnerable and those living in countries affected by fragility or conflict. GPE mobilizes financing for education and supports developing countries to build effective education systems founded on evidence-based planning and policies.

GPE’s support has achieved the following results in its partner countries:

  • 64 million more children in primary school in 2014 compared with 2002
  • 73% of children in GPE partner countries completed primary school in 2014 compared to 63%in 2002.
  • 71% primary school completion rate for girls in 2014 compared with 56% in 2002
  • Between 2002 and 2013, GPE partner countries increased their education budgets from 15.2% to 16.6% of total government expenditure, more than three times the average increase in all low and middle-income countries. 


Elizabeth Toe's KG-2 class at Billy Town. Credit: GPE/ Kelley Lynch
Basic education, Financing

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