By Baela Raza Jamil- Vice Chair GEM Report
For two full days I was honoured to Chair the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report’s First Advisory Board meeting (June 2-3 2016). Jeff Sachs our luminary Chairperson was unable to attend due to on-going strikes so I stood in, as the Vice-Chair. It was an extraordinary 2 days. It was the First Advisory Board meeting since the GEM Report was baptised, from its earlier incarnation as the EFA GMR (Global Monitoring Report). The decision to rename the Report and to focus on SDG 4 on Education was affirmed at the last year’s Advisory Board meeting. Since then, the role of the GEM Report has been boldly reinforced in the Incheon Declaration (May 2015), the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at the UN General Assembly (September 2015) and in the Education 2030 Framework for Action endorsed by Ministries of Education during UNESCO’s General Conference (November 2015).
Now that the GEM Report has a clearly endorsed mandate, it needs to become more finely aligned to the architecture of the emergent SDG multi-layered governance system and its calendar. Many thought that this is an occasion for the GEM Report and its products to constitute a compelling formal knowledge reference until 2030, a report and set of publications that no one interested in global education can live without!
The GEM Report is a knowledge powerhouse alright – not just as a substantive heavy report that makes an annual appearance in multi-global centres but as one that is accompanied by many knowledge products, bold in their own right. These include the annual Gender Report, sets of policy briefs, infographics, its education database, WIDE, and regional products. It was in 2009-10 that the GMR transitioned into a multi-product knowledge platform and extensively became leveraged not only through formal launches but also more light touch social media – imperceptibly occupying the space of our everyday lives with critical data and headliners for policy influence and policy making.
And how can we forget the GMR’s finding that “250 million children are in school and not learning”. This contributed to the shift from the Millennium Development Goals 2-3 to SDG 4 and its 10 targets as a holistic approach to the business of learning for ALL as a Life Long Learning agenda! We at the GEM Report certainly look forward to many more such critical quotes that can become the essential and compelling framing sentences for the most vulnerable who need urgent attention from financiers and planners.
The GMR and now GEM Report was rigorously reviewed by an External Evaluation that took place in 2013/14 informing very critically the potential and action gaps in communication, outreach and partnerships. Such systematic evaluations will take place every 4 years to ensure rigor and value for money of the GEM Report.
The full breadth of the work done by the Report has been under the stewardship of Aaron Benavot the Director and his extremely capable team of 23 including 2 interns. The communication team led by Kate Redman has managed to scale up the outreach through multiple techniques including strategic partnerships, and youth in each region, but also through meticulous tracking of metrics as evidence of how widely GEM Report and its products are penetrating global settings. The GEM Report has carried out a pilot project in ten countries to better understand what GEM Report products are influencing policy making and how it could improve on this in the future. This was noted by the Board as an excellent initiative.
The GEM Report team has very powerful constituencies on its governance structures. The new Advisory Board has multilateral agencies (6); Civil Society organizations (6); Education Experts (5); Regional Representatives (5) from Africa, Asia, Arab states, Eastern Europe; Latin America and Caribbean and Asia and Pacific groups; Donors Group including private sector (15) and UNESCO with all its bodies (UIS, UIL UNESCO-Education). There is also a Youth Representative, the Chair Jeff Sachs and myself as Vice Chair. The Advisory Board as such presents tremendous diversity with multiple constituencies that kept the two day conversations lively and extremely informative.
This year the Advisory Board had a lot to cover including reviewing the 2015 Report and its outreach, and discussing the 2016 GEM report due out this September in London and concurrently in several countries in other regions.
The focus of the 2017 report on Accountability was further refined conceptually by the Board, and an extensive debate ensued over possible topics for the 2018 and 2019 GEM Reports. There were at least 20 interventions on this topic, illustrating the intense and meaningful engagement of the Advisory Board members – sensitive to and well plugged in their own constituencies and global unfolding of the Sustainable Development Agenda. A decision was made for the 2018 Report to focus on Migration and Education, an issue that all agreed is of huge concern to the education community. The Advisory Board’s annual engagement over two days is always with a tremendous sense of pride for contributing in some modest way to this valued global good.
The GEM Report team was mindful of other strategic knowledge products, including the upcoming Education Commission’s report in September 2016, aiming to ensure that there is room for others to showcase their work; work that can be leveraged through the critical space created in future GEM Reports to track, add value and build upon for wider and focused public attention.
As we ended the 1st GEM Report Advisory Board meeting, we all felt much had been accomplished in terms of providing solid input to the launch of 2016 GEM Report, contributing to the Report’s journey over the next 14 years up to 2030, and its alignment with the global financing and governance calendar of the Sustainable Development Agenda. This would include active engagement of GEM Report with milestone meetings matched with the right knowledge products for High Level Policy Forum (HLPF) and the SDG Ministerial meetings in 2016-2019! Members of the high powered and diverse Advisory Board mingled and networked well to help frame the GEM Report’s future in a way that will propel education as a universal public good and public service.