23 MAY 2019

Speech on international education

John Howell (Henley) (Con)

Thank you, Mr Hollobone; it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship and to follow the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey). I agree with his description of what we have to offer. The UK has a lot to offer in this area.

As the Prime Minister's trade envoy to Nigeria—I will concentrate on Nigeria in my remarks—I am committed to raising education standards around the world. That is important to strengthen our soft power regime globally, and to strengthen the international partnerships on which many things are based, including international business and everyday relationships.

I am pleased that we are looking at the value of our education exports, and that DFID is helping to promote them. In Nigeria, for example, DFID has been doing brilliant work in key areas, such as helping headteachers to develop their skills and to become much more effective. ​ It has also helped to increase the competence of teachers within that country. Many schools are participating, and the number of those that want to do so has shot up enormously.

I gently take issue with the hon. Gentleman on market share, which I think should be seen not only in terms of bringing people to the UK, but in terms of what we can bring to the countries to which we are trying to export our education. I have been trying to encourage the sort of joint ventures with which I am familiar in the business world between educational establishments in the UK and in Nigeria. I will come to why I am doing that in a second, because I think it will be music to his ears. This debate is not just about straightforward education; it is also about skills, which is important to bear in mind.

In fact, there is a member of the Government who comes from Nigeria but was educated here, at Eton. That is to be applauded, but it is not the end of the story. We have the second largest diaspora in the world here, and we need to encourage them to participate in creating educational links. That is absolutely essential somewhere like Nigeria, because in parts of the country there is enormous resentment of foreign activity—particularly in the north-east, where Boko Haram will not accept British educational expertise for the sole reason that it is foreign. We are developing a two-tier system where the rich can come to the UK, but those who are not so rich have to stay in their home country. I am trying to establish these joint ventures because it is essential that we do something to help to break down that two-tier system and spread as much prosperity as possible in other countries—not just to provide people with a better education, although that is important, but because it is the only way to stop the terrorists in the north-east of Nigeria and elsewhere.

I am looking for British schools to go to Nigeria and set up in partnership with local schools. I hope that they will be able to deliver the prosperity on which we and so many Nigerians depend; I am quite encouraged by what I have seen so far. That ought to be taken into account in developing the market share idea, because it is an important part of developing their overseas strategy as well as ours.

Back to all posts