Comprehensive sexuality education and the global vision for the education agenda

By Sanet L. Steenkamp, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Namibia

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Image: UNESCO Windhoek

The core responsibility of education systems is imparting the fundamental building blocks of learning, namely the ‘3 R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. Yet national education authorities are increasingly recognizing that while their core responsibility remains crucial, they must also reach beyond it.

Education systems are being called upon to not only help our children learn essential knowledge and skills to navigate an increasingly complex and inter-connected world, but also protect them from inaccurate information driven by myths and value-laden taboos, or harmful social and cultural norms, such as those surrounding gender and power in inter-personal relationships.

Fulfilling this responsibility means empowering young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes for them to be able to make healthy decisions in all aspects of their lives – including their sexual and reproductive health. In Namibia, great emphasis has been placed on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) as an important component in achieving this goal. Continue reading

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How far does media coverage of international large-scale assessment help hold governments to account for their education commitments?

By Mary Hamilton, Lancaster University, UK and Co-Director of the Lab for International Assessment Studies   

A key rationale for carrying out international comparative surveys of skills such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is that the findings can positively influence policy and therefore educational outcomes. Such claims implicate the media as part of a chain of influence. The argument runs that the media publicise the findings, which influence public opinion and in turn this puts pressure on politicians to respond. The media can also compare past successes, failures and improvements through a running commentary on trends in the test scores.

However, the impact of media on educational policy is assumed but not widely researched. My colleagues and I have followed media coverage of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) in France, Japan and the United Kingdom as well as in Greece, New Zealand, Singapore and Slovenia, which took part in the second wave of (PIAAC-2).

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While we can envisage positive roles for the media in policy formation, in practice journalists are often blamed for partial and sensational coverage of international survey findings. Researchers and agencies voice frustration at this, searching for ways to prevent misinterpretation of data and poor commentary. Our research suggests that we need a better, more sympathetic understanding of the constraints under which journalists work along with willingness to share responsibility for the ways in which data from international assessments are translated in the public sphere.  Continue reading

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The importance of learning from data on education, migration and displacement

By Manos Antoninis, Director, Global Education Monitoring Report, and Francesca Borgonovi, Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills, OECD

06/01/2009. Rohingya Rufugees of Kutupalong Camp in Bangladesh.

Migration and displacement are complex phenomena which play an important role in – but can also pose challenges to – development. These phenomena also pose particularly important challenges for education and training systems. Firstly, they can rapidly increase the number of people that require education services, thus challenging both richer countries, which until now had been adjusting to shrinking student populations, and poorer countries, where provision is already stretched, especially in remote areas or slums where migrants and refugees often converge.

Secondly, migration and displacement make classrooms more diverse. This means that the range of strategies teachers need to deploy increases in order to cater for a student population with larger differences in background characteristics, such as the language they speak at home.

Thirdly, education is an important means through which migration and displacement can be managed since school often acts as societies’ main instrument for transmitting the social and cultural codes that forge a community spirit. Continue reading

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What next for the Global Partnership for Education after a transformative replenishment?

By David Archer

gpe blog 1The Global Partnership for Education replenishment event, co-hosted by President Macron and President Macky Sall on 2nd February in Senegal, was a landmark moment for education financing. Over $2 billion were pledged by donors for the GPE’s core fund to support developing countries with credible education sector plans over the coming years. More dramatically, over $30 billion was pledged by developing country Presidents and Ministers to their own citizens – increasing projected budgets for education from $80 billion to $110 billion. This should mark a turning point in how we all conceive the GPE and its potential in the coming years.

The partnership of donors, developing countries and strong civil society representation is a key strength of GPE and it is the inter-dependency of these that has helped GPE make a breakthrough. Too often in the past, aid funding has displaced domestic spending in the education sector, as in other sectors. A few years ago, one government that will remain nameless cut its spending on education from 17% of the budget down to 14%` and then approached GPE for a grant of $100 million to fill the gap. This ends up doing more harm than good – replacing sustainable domestic funding with short term and unpredictable aid. GPE responded by making it an absolute requirement that developing county governments maintain or increase their own spending (towards or beyond a benchmark of 20% of national budgets) to be eligible for GPE support.

In the previous replenishment of GPE in 2014, developing countries made their own pledges for the first time and promised to increase spending by $26 billion. This was bold but lacked credibility as the pledges lacked baselines and the formats in which they were presented made it almost impossible to track. ActionAid, working with the Global Campaign for Education, reviewed the progress of these pledges to the extent possible and found they fell short in many ways. We used this to make the case for more credible domestic pledges in the future. The secretariat of the Global Partnership for Education has now done systematic work to ensure that the pledges made on 2nd February 2018 all have clear baselines, are formulated in a clear way and can indeed be tracked. Continue reading

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“Fulfilling one’s responsibilities”: Accountability and service to the people in Rwanda’s education system

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This blog is written by Catherine A Honeyman, Senior Youth Workforce Specialist at World Learning and visiting Lecturer, Duke Center for International Development at Duke University. Catherine is also the author of a case study on accountability and education in Rwanda commissioned for the 2017/8 GEM Report. The blog is part of a series showing that accountability in education is shaped by a country’s history and political, social, and cultural context.

Background: Rwanda’s education system

Rwanda has been part of an impressive global record of achievements in improving access to education—and it has also been part of the worldwide struggle to ensure that children who are in school actually learn. Rwanda’s accountability practices and policies, in all their strengths and weaknesses, are a key piece in understanding this larger puzzle.


Challenges in education quality

rwanda.pngAn enthusiastic supporter of the Millennium Development Goals, Rwanda was an early achiever of universal primary education and gender equity in schooling. Yet significant challenges still remain. Why are 50% of grade 1 students, 26% of grade 2 students, and even 14% of grade 3 students reaching the end of the school year without being able to read even a single word in Kinyarwanda? On the other hand, what made it possible for the percentage of literate grade 1 and grade 2 students to increase by about 10% over the past few years?

In an immediate sense, these are questions about teacher practice and pedagogy, and perhaps about parental engagement and the availability of quality learning and teaching materials. But stepping back, we arrive at broader questions of policy, financing, formal and informal institutions, and accountability. Continue reading

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Raising billions of dollars for education in Dakar

With the curtains of the third Financing Conference of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in Dakar, Senegal now closed, it is important to remember the context in which it was organized.

2During the first half of this decade, aid to education stagnated even as overall funding increased by 24% in the middle of a financial crisis. In 2015, the international community agreed a more ambitious education agenda with additional cost implications. The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report estimated an annual financing gap of $39 billion between 2015 and 2030 if low and lower middle income countries were to achieve universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education.

(Not) All I see is dollar signs

Aid to education remains a significant source of financing, at least in low income countries. However, aid is valuable not only because of the dollars spent but also because of the support it can provide to education systems, if effectively provided. The GPE still represents a small share, by the latest count just 12%, of total external funding to basic education. But as the leading global fund for education, it has played a constructive role in targeting aid to countries most in need, aligning with country priorities, and engaging a broad group of stakeholders in reviewing the implementation of national education plans. Continue reading

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What is at stake at the GPE Financing Conference?

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 3rd replenishment conference (February 1-2) aims to confirm significant increases in commitments from partner countries and donors – old and new – in order to ensure that all children and youth are in school and learning. GPE’s goal is to reach US$2 billion a year by 2020 to deliver better learning and equity outcomes for some 870 million children and adolescents in 89 countries.

The increased pledges are demanded within a particular context of aid to education trends, the changing role of GPE, and the higher stakes with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 4. With 387 million children not learning the basics, most of them in countries where GPE operates, it is crucial that partners scale their commitments to education up according to the GPE targets.

Aid to education has been stagnating

2The 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report showed that aid to education in 2015 was 4% below 2010 levels. It further revealed that the education share of total aid fell for six consecutive years, from 10% in 2009 to 6.9% in 2015. Comparatively, the share of aid towards the health and population sectors increased from 11.4% to 15.9% between 2004 and 2013 (only witnessing a decline in the two years after that). Likewise, the aid share received by the transport sector caught up with education during the same time.

Yet, previous estimates by the GEM Report in 2015 had showed that low and lower middle income countries faced an annual education financing gap of US$39 billion over 2015–2030 if it were to achieve universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education. In low income countries, this is equivalent to 42% of the total cost (UNESCO, 2015). Even after factoring in ambitious domestic financing increases, aid to education in low and lower middle income countries would need to increase six times relative to the 2012 levels. This estimate was largely confirmed by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity in 2016. Instead, donors have continued to place lower priority to education and, often have not directed their aid to those countries most in need. Continue reading

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