Former prime minister Gordon Brown has called for the creation of a worldwide fund to combat a "hidden and silent emergency in education".
In a new report, Mr Brown says he wants an independent Global Fund for Education to raise £13 billion a year and help achieve the United Nations' goal of universal primary education by 2015.
He claims progress towards that aim has stalled in recent years, with 68 million children of primary school age not in formal education.
Mr Brown wrote: "In the midst of our increasingly knowledge-based and interconnected global economy, millions of children in the world's poorest countries are out of school.
"Millions more are in school, but receiving an education of such abysmal quality that they are unlikely to gain even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills.
"Yet there is overwhelming evidence that disadvantage in education costs lives, undermines economic growth, fuels youth unemployment, and reinforces national and global inequalities."
All 193 United Nations member states are signed up to a Global Millennium Goal for primary school education to be accessed by every child by 2015, agreed at the New York Millennium Summit in 2000.
In the current funding set-up, countries with the biggest out-of-school populations, such as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, are not eligible for grants from the World Bank's Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
Despite being the leading worldwide education fund, the GPE recently failed to raise a pledges target of 2.5 billion US dollars (£1.6 billion) over three years and has been criticised for a lack of flexibility in allocating grants.
It contrasts with the performance of worldwide health funds such as the Global Fund to fight HIV/Aids, Malaria and TB, which has approved grants of 22 billion US dollars (£14 billion) since 2002.
The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB was created by the World Health Organisation but has flourished since becoming an independent body.
Mr Brown believes an independent fund for education would be an equally effective "game-changer" capable of engaging the business community.
The MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath also claims an independent body would be better suited to attract "non-traditional donors" with booming economies such as China, Russia or Brazil.