RTOs need to think big!: Post – 2015 and the global governance of education and training


Source: NORRAG is an independent network whose Secretariat is located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Since its launch in 1985, NORRAG has established itself as a multi-stakeholder network of researchers, policymakers, members of NGOs, foundations and the private sector seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation.

Through networking and other forms of cooperation and institutional partnernships, it aims in particular to stimulate and disseminate timely, innnovative and critical analysis and to serve as a knowledge broker at the interface between research, policy and practice.

Working paper #7: Kenneth KING, Robert PALMER, December 2014  http://bit.ly/1zg2hux


Since at least 2012 there has been a significant amount of discussion and debate about what the post- 2015 education and training focus should be, and about the content and wording of a possible education goal and its targets. With less than one year to go until the September 2015 UN General Assembly meeting, where it is expected that a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including one for education, will be agreed upon, there is increasing focus turning to the means of implementation; to questions of how to achieve these SDGs.

For the education sector there appears to have been very little discussion on how the proposed post-2015 education goal and targets will be implemented and what kind of macro-level governance structure may be required. This Working Paper attempts to shed light on this crucial missing element of the post-2015 education discussions to date, by addressing the global governance of education and training (GGET) and its link to education post-2015. It interrogates three key issues:

• the existing global governance of education situation;

• the understandings, meanings and aspirations of the global governance of education;

• how global governance is reflected in the post-2015 education and training debate and propositions.

The global governance of education and training: the current landscape

The global governance of education and training (GGET) is used in this Working Paper as an organising framework for discussing how state and non-state actors gain political authority and presence in education. Conceptually, we view GGET in three ways:

• Its stakeholders. The GGET stakeholders comprise all the education-related actors, including for example: grant and loan receiving countries; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) countries; Multilaterals (e.g. UNESCO, International Labour Organisation – ILO, World Bank); Regional Banks (Asian, African, Latin American and now BRICS Development Banks); Emerging donors; Private sector companies and coalitions; Private foundations; and, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) and think tanks. Obviously the global (or regional) influence that each has varies considerably.

•The process to define and impose rules and norms. These GGET stakeholders create formal and informal mechanisms by which they exert power and influence. The formal GGET mechanisms may include, for example: goals and targets (e.g. Education For All – EFA- Goals); laws, rules, conventions and charters; and, agreements, compacts, partnerships (including public-private partnerships – PPPs), and initiatives for policy and financial cooperation. What might be termed informal GGET mechanisms also exist. These mechanisms may not have been set up for the purpose of governing or regulating, but they clearly influence stakeholders when it comes to education, and some would argue that the power which they today exert has turned them into de facto mechanisms of GGET. Such informal GGET mechanisms might cover, for example, three domains:

– Governing by “best practice” – This would include the influence of education and training strategies and policy papers of grant- and loan-making development agencies, and the propagation of “best practice” knowledge and approaches (e.g. rate of return to education, competency-based training, national qualifications frameworks). These “best practice” approaches can become global norms that can influence the behaviour and prioritization of both national governments, and the grant- and loan-making development agencies themselves.

– Governing by financial carrots and sticks – This would include the influence that grants and loans for education, as well as their associated conditionalities (now termed “triggers”), have in recipient countries. Equally, the financial carrot and stick can be used by OECD-DAC countries to influence the behaviour of international organisations, like the World Bank.

– Governing by numbers – This would include the influence that data and indicators from assessments and testing (e.g. Programme for International Student Assessment – PISA, Trends in Maths and Science Study – TIMMS) have, as well as benchmarking and ranking approaches (e.g. Systems Assessment and Benchmarking for Education Results – SABER, world university rankings).

•The impact of GGET mechanisms at the national and global levels. This might cover, for example: the creation of policy and programme “norms” that encourage policy and programme convergence and self-regulation; the steering of agendas of both aid recipient and donor partners; and, encouraging prioritization of national resources and development finance, including ODA.

Understandings of the global governance of education and training among the education-development community

While we have elaborated above a conception of how we define the GGET, it should be noted that the understandings, meanings and aspirations of GGET vary considerably among the education-and-development community. For this Working Paper, we contacted almost 80 NORRAG members to ask what they understand GGET to be, and what link they see it has to post-2015, if any. Two of the most structured conceptualizations of GGET came from Birger Fredriksen, a former World Bank staff member with a very long experience of Sub-Saharan Africa, and Kazuo Kuroda, a NORRAG member from Japan and director of the Centre for International Cooperation in Education in Waseda University. Fredriksen argued that to have global governance in an area three things are required:

• A set of rules/regulations/goals that are universally accepted;

• An agreed mechanism of measuring progress/deviations from these rules; and,

• A way of holding countries accountable for lack of progress/deviation.

Kuroda, in turn, argues that the GGET comprises four dimensions:

• Building consensus on the goals of international policies and formulating frameworks through international conferences;

• Formulating principles through international laws, conventions and charters;

• Establishing international indicators and standards and conducting monitoring; and,

• Developing and proposing new internationally influential concepts.

It can be seen that there is quite a lot of overlap between these two understandings of GGET, except that Fredriksen pays more attention to the issue of accountability, and Kuroda argues that internationally influential concepts also have a part to play in GGET. Others noted the soft power dimension of GGET, pointing to PISA or the Learning Metrics Task Force, or noted specific organisations like the OECD, Global Partnership for Education or the World Bank as being significant stakeholders. But beyond this view of global governance as a form of soft power, others recognise that there is an important difference between global governance in general and the global governance of education.

Still others had much more negative reactions to the terminology of global governance of education. It should be noted that it was a distinct minority who sought to engage with the actual discourse of GGET; the very great majority of respondents did not use the terminology at all, but were describing elements of what they perceived to be important influences of education at the global level. We should therefore not expect widespread use of the GGET term in the formal debates around post-2015.

Global Governance in the Post-2015 Education and Training Agenda The key messages of this Working Paper with regard to the GGET are outlined below. Governance is used in post-2015 documents in a different sense from global governance. Where governance is discussed in the post-2015 literature, it is conceived more as ‘good governance’ – accountability and transparency, the rule of law, rights to free speech, political participation, rights to information, as well as freedom from corruption. Furthermore, there is, overall, much more attention being paid to the issue of national governance than there is to global governance.

The post-2015 discussions about global governance and the means of implementation have not yet been very sector specific. The GGET is therefore not being explicitly addressed.

While there has been a whole stream of general post-2015 debate and dialogue on the means of implementation, on global partnership and governance – this has not been successfully connected back specifically to the post- 2015 education or skills ambition (or for that matter to other sectors, like health).

Governance targets have not been mainstreamed across the proposed post-2015 education goal.

There were several options for integrating governance into a post-2015 development framework. One was to have a dedicated stand-alone goal (or goals) with targets and indicators; another was to mainstream it by having relevant governance targets and indicators across other goals; and a third way was to do both. The focus in post-2015 propositions – for example from the Post-2015 High Level Panel, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the inter-governmental Open Working Group – has been on the first option, the stand-alone goal. However, this has led to a neglect in the sector post-2015 discussions, including for education and training, of the specific aspects of governance – global, regional and national – that are required in order for x, y, or z goal or target to be achieved. Indeed, governance does not directly or explicitly feature in any of the current post-2015 education goal (and accompanying target) suggestions.

We need post-2015 governance targets for education, but what would be measured?

Pauline Rose, the former Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, has argued that we need post-2015 financing targets for education so that policymakers can be held to account for financial commitments to achieve identified outcomes. Equally, it can be argued that we do need to mainstream the issue of governance across the post-2015 targets for education so that there are agreed upon non-financial enabling conditions needed to achieve the targets and to hold policy makers to account; for example an agreed measurement and accountability mechanism. However, just how to mainstream governance across the post-2015 education agenda, and what would actually be measured (and monitored) need further consideration.

Post-2015 education targets that are global and universally accepted? One of the components of effective

GGET, as defined by Fredriksen above, was that there be in place a set of goals that are universally accepted. It is well known, of course that neither the EFA goals nor the two education Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were regarded as being universally applicable; they were seen very much as targets for low-income countries. Fast-forwarding to the post-2015 agenda, there has been again a great deal of discussion and debate about the extent to which this new emerging agenda, and its set of SDGs, will be universally applicable. The same debate applies to a post-2015 education goal and targets. The current formally proposed post-2015 goals and targets are perhaps indicative of debates going on behind the scenes. The formal post-2015 proposals do contain an overall universal goal; for example, the Open Working Group on SDGs’ proposed education goal is ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all’, while that of the UNESCO Muscat Agreement is almost the same: ‘Ensure equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all’. Meanwhile not all proposed formal post-2015 education targets are pitched as universal, with some being proposed to be nationally determined. For example, the UNESCO Muscat Agreement contains universal targets for basic education (universal completion) with minimum levels of learning outcomes, while early childhood care and education is proposed as a target to be nationally determined.

Aside from the extent to which the proposed post-2015 goals and targets are being set up as ‘universal’, there are other aspects of global governance discussed in key post-2015 education and training proposals, namely issues related to measurement, to accountability, or to global rules and regulations.

• The UNESCO-UNICEF thematic consultation on education in the post-2015 development agenda did not talk directly about GGET, but discussed the need for a ‘global framework’ that is very close to our concern with global governance. For example, it highlighted the need for: (a) facilitating global discussion and consensus on education by developing indicators for fulfilment of the right to education; (b) defining a minimum percentage of gross domestic product that a country is required to invest in education; (c) disseminating and supporting best practices for improving education quality, and increasing access, equity and sustainability; and (d) providing technical and financial assistance to national governments, civil society and communities when implementing education policies, reforms and programmes. So there are indeed some concerns raised here with the issue of post-2015 implementation.

• The UNESCO-UNICEF post-2015 global e-consultation on governance and financing of education (10th February to 3rd March 2013) did not result in the kind of commentary on global governance issues that the facilitators may have hoped for; despite their prompting people to provide their view on this. Among those that did respond, while there were clearly some who were implicitly addressing global governance issues in education, there was overall much more focus on national than on global issues by respondents. Perhaps this is significant in itself; that the majority of individuals appear to consider that the governance of education is primarily a national issue. Some of the contributions, however, did relate to GGET, with various aspects of it highlighted, including: the role of the international community in designing protocols for all countries to sign up to; the need to be accountable to the Paris Declaration and its successors; the need to provide funds to enable governments to provide education; the need to provide technical assistance; and, the need to facilitate the international access to appropriate information and education technology. However, one commentator noted that such ‘international governance with respect to education… should not be… a cultural imposition.’ Commentators noted that improvements were needed in the current international organisations that support the financing of education globally (including better coordination with each other, and increased financial support for them), as well as the need to improve measurement and accountability mechanisms. Indeed, effective and transparent monitoring and evaluation at a global level was perceived as critical in order for the post-2015 ambition to materialize.

• UNICEF, like many other bodies, did not use the terminology of global governance in its official post-2015 position, but it did very strongly subscribe to the idea that a global framework should be established.

• UNESCO’s Position Paper on Education Post-2015 clearly lays out that the implementation of the post-2015 education agenda will necessitate ‘strengthened participatory governance and accountability mechanisms at the global, country and local levels, and improved planning, monitoring and reporting mechanisms and processes at all levels’.

The global governance of education and training looks like it will only be partially influenced by the education post-2015 framework, goal and targets.

GGET is not a single system. It is made up of a range of stakeholders who pursue a range of approaches and mechanisms that influence and steer education and training, whether intentionally or not. A goal and target framework is only one part of what the GGET is comprised of. Many other aspects of the new GGET remain completely unaddressed by the whole post-2015 education process. So long as the issue of governance is not mainstreamed across the education post-2015 discussion, these connections will not be made.

The weakest link in the global governance of education and training appears to relate to the lack of an effective accountability mechanism to hold stakeholders to account; and, this has worrying implications for the ambitious post-2015 education agenda.



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