G7 performance on education
G7 Summit

G7 performance on education

There are catalysts the G7 should employ for increased action on education, writes Alecsandra Dragus, research analyst, G7 Research Group, as she finds that the higher the number of commitments made on education at each summit, the lower the rate of compliance

Although education has not always been top of their agenda, G7 leaders have discussed it since 1977, often in connection to other issues such as climate change, development and conflict prevention. However, there seems to be a lag between promise and delivery. The Biarritz Summit offers an opportunity to embrace the commitments made at the fourth meeting of G7 education ministers in Paris in July 2019 and elevate them to the leaders’ level, thus forwarding new actions on equality-enhancing education.


G7 leaders have allocated an average of 585 words (4%) to education in their final communiqués. This number fluctuated but grew to 1,135 words (11%) at the 1999 summit. At the 2001 summit it dropped to 162 words (5%) and in 2002 rose dramatically to the second highest number with 2,474 words (21%). After another significant decrease to 273 words (2%) in 2003, it increased again to 1,643 words (4%) in 2004. The numbers levelled out in 2005, but the highest number was produced at the 2006 summit with 4,857 words (16%). This was followed by an uneven decline until the 2015 summit with 415 words (3%). In 2016, the number rose again to 2,031 words (9%) and in 2017 it dropped again to 835 (10%). In 2018, it increased to 1,870 words (17%).


Since its inception in 1975, the G7 has made 97 collective, future-oriented, politically binding commitments on education. This constitutes 2% of all commitments identified by the G7 Research Group. The commitments on education include 25 related to development, 13 to inclusivity, 10 to labour market participation, seven to gender, six to research, two to innovation, and one each to economic growth and digitalisation.

From 1975 to 1997, the G7 made no commitments on education. However, a fluctuating upward trend began in 1997 and reached 14 commitments in 2004. The number dropped to two at the 2005 summit and spiked to 36 in 2006 – the highest number to date. The number dropped again to five in 2007, rose again to nine in 2008, and dropped to two in 2009. Since then, the most commitments were made in 2011 with four. The G7 made two education commitments each at the 2017 and 2018 summits.


The G7 Research Group has assessed members’ compliance with 11 commitments on education across nine years. Compliance averaged 69%, somewhat below the 75% average across all issue areas. Compliance with education commitments fluctuated frequently. The three commitments with the highest average – 79% – were made at the 2001 and 2002 summits. The commitments that scored lowest had an average of 56%, and were from the 2004 and 2008 summits. Six months after the 2018 summit, compliance on the two education commitments was 85%. By member, the United Kingdom leads with the highest compliance of 96%, followed by France at 82% and Canada at 78%.


To improve compliance with their commitments on education, G7 leaders at Biarritz should make fewer of them. The number of commitments on education made at each summit correlates negatively with members’ compliance. The four summits with the highest number of commitments on education have an average compliance of 64%, less than the average compliance for all education commitments. The five summits with the lowest number of commitments on education have an average compliance of 73%, higher than the overall average on education.

Moreover, several catalysts, which are embedded in the commitment text and provide direction for implementation, coincide with increased compliance. These include references to specific agents, international law, a multi-year timetable and relevant international organisations involved in education. There are also several catalysts that are linked with decreased compliance, which the G7 leaders at their Biarritz Summit should avoid in their communiqué. These include references to ministerial meetings, past summits and one-year timetables.