What should UNESCO's milestone 2015 Education for All Global Monitoring Report do?
This post is an edited version of my comments. You can have your say too (and yes, the GMR Team actually reads the comments!)
(1) Changing Macro-politics of Education; Informal Policy Spaces; the Private Sector
We are no longer living in a world (if we ever were) where global education policy directions set in formal top-down, high-level policy spaces, are ‘King’/’Queen’. For example, the influence of the private sector (e.g. transnational networks, corporates, local/individual actors with commercial motives; Southern private philanthropies; think tanks, etc.) and emergence of certain networks (e.g. the Global Education and Skills Forum, being dubbed the ‘Davos of education’) can be felt in the post-2015 education ‘buzz’. Significantly, much of this discussion is currently happening outside formal global (and domestic) education policy spaces. It is too early to adequately ascertain the impact of this going forward, but it is clear that this area needs critical examination.
The 2009 GMR was the first to address the private sector by focusing on the emergence of the low-fee private sector, which has been a focus of GMRs since. I was invited to Paris for the background discussions on this. But, since then, the private sector (writ large) has mobilized to a much greater extent and will affect the shape of EFA post-2015, either formally in policy spaces, or in education delivery on the ground. One suggestion might be to alert readers to this and/or foreground this debate in the report.
There is also a significant change in the macro-political context as a result of rapid globalization post-2000. The inter- and intra-regional influence of emerging economies (in particular, BRICS) and increasing South-South collaboration are significant for assessing the shape that education policy post-2015 may take. For example, the implementation of India’s newly legislated Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is being watched by other South Asian countries (Pakistan has recently legislated a constitutional amendment very similar to one of India’s precursors). Pratham’s ASER learning assessment strategy in basic education, which began in India, is being replicated in Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mali, and Senegal. The Chinese programmes of development finance and aid have resulted in the construction of schools in a number of African countries.
Finally, the emergence of ‘new non-DAC donors’ signals the need to incorporate broader analyses of official aid to education. These data are difficult to ascertain, but need to be incorporated. We need to keep the pressure up on traditional donors to move beyond lip service and meet their commitments to education. These issues (and others undoubtedly, not addressed here) should be signalled in the report, perhaps under a broader topic of changing macro-dynamics influencing global education policy and EFA post-2015.
(2) Seizing the Opportunity
Timing is key. When will the 2015 GMR be out? Busan and the UN meetings in September will be key in setting the next phase of development goals. There is also uncertainty in what will happen with EFA post-2015.
In any event, the GMR has established itself as the key report for global education analysis within international development circles and across interested parties.Given the greater post-2015 discussions, events, and meetings, the next report can be used to strategically mobilize action around EFA. Perhaps, by discussing some of the broader issues above, the team can link the 2015 and the 2016 reports (is it confirmed that there will be one?) as compendia for action post-2015. Of course, there is a fine line that the report must tread, between analysis and advocacy. Perhaps capitalizing on the media attention and addressing broader themes and foregrounding key issues can help to take a soft advocacy role, if the team decides that this is appropriate.
(3) Promise for the Future
Finally, the report can adopt a tone that highlights immediate action that can be taken to address existing gaps couched in education’s promise for the future, and to continue to push the case for donors to meet their commitments, and national governments to increase investment. This should be tied as much to a moral/ethical/rights-based argument and to the intrinsic value of education, as to the economic value (which has been stressed), i.e. the promise of relevant (not just economic) skills to take advantage of the demographic dividend in high populous, young countries; the social promise of educated girls and women to contribute to more stable societies; the promise of education in building cohesive and stable countries, particularly in fragile circumstances.