Boris Johnson has pledged £430 million in aid over five years to help get more than a billion of the world’s most vulnerable children into school.
But campaigners said the money fell far short of what was required and criticised the “half measures” offered by the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson made the promise as G7 leaders gathered in Cornwall to discuss the world’s recovery from Covid-19.
Downing Street said the pandemic has caused an unprecedented global education crisis, with 1.6 billion children around the world out of school at its height with girls the worst affected.
The support announced by the UK will go to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the largest fund dedicated to education in developing countries.
The Prime Minister said: “The best way we can lift countries out of poverty and lead a global recovery is by investing in education and particularly girls’ education.
“It is a source of international shame that every day around the world children bursting with potential are denied the chance to become titans of industry, scientific pioneers or leaders in any field, purely because they are female, their parents’ income or the place they were born.
“I am calling on other world leaders, including those here at the G7, to also donate and put us firmly on a path to get more girls into the classroom, address the terrible setback to global education caused by coronavirus and help the world build back better.”
Next month the UK and Kenya will co-host a Global Education Summit in London which aims to help raise around £3.5 billion to support the work of the GPE over the next five years.
The £430m of new aid funding announced by the UK will go towards GPE’s work in 90 lower-income countries that are home to 1.1 billion children over the next five years.
GPE aims to train 2.2 million more teachers, build 78,000 new classrooms and buy 512 million textbooks.
Lis Wallace, head of UK Advocacy at the anti-poverty One campaign said: “This pledge will rewrite the future for many children.
“However, it falls short of what’s expected of the summit co-host, so it must be the preface of the story, not the conclusion.”
Mr Johnson must “pull out all the stops” including topping up the UK contribution at the Global Education Summit, she added.
“The scale of the global learning crisis is staggering, and this silent emergency will not go away with half measures.”
Rose Caldwell, chief executive of children’s charity Plan International UK, said: “If the Government wants to be taken seriously as a global education leader and persuade other governments to step up, it must increase its pledge and urgently reverse the cuts to overseas aid; otherwise, millions of girls around the world could see their chance for an education lost forever.”
Shadow international development secretary Preet Kaur Gill said the Government “had a major opportunity to demonstrate UK leadership in this area” but “this commitment falls well short of the amount needed to support the delivery of quality, equitable learning for the world’s most marginalised children”.
“If the Government is going to achieve its manifesto commitment of 12 years of quality education for all girls, it needs to increase its pledge and immediately reverse the cuts to the aid budget.”