The 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report calls achieving SDG4 a collective enterprise
On October 27, 2017, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) hosted the Washington, DC launch of the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report with a panel featuring: Manos Antoninis, Director, GEM Report; Sarah Beardmore, Senior Strategy and Policy Specialist GPE; and Jonathan Fox, Professor, American University. The panel was moderated by Jeff Thindwa, Program Manager, Global Partnership for Social Accountability. The panelists reflected on the theme of this year’s GEM Report: Accountability in Education: Meeting Our Commitments.
Accountability is a means to achieve the Education Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) and not an end in itself. The GEM report highlights why accountability matters for achieving SDG4 and how different actors (governments, schools, teachers, parents, students, international organizations, and private sector) use accountability tools and mechanisms and are held accountable. Accountability helps show who is responsible for what and how this responsibility can be addressed.
The GEM report points to two main responsibilities international organizations are accountable for: helping countries set common goals, rules, and standards; and supporting countries through development assistance to improve education.
International organizations must ensure that predictable, effective, and adequate aid is well-targeted to the countries with the highest education needs. This funding must reflect the recipient country’s priorities and seek to build institutions — a long-term process. NGOs, the media, and peer-review mechanisms are some of the channels used to hold international organizations accountable. Among international organizations, multilateral donors have internal and external accountability mechanisms through its governance structures and grievance mechanisms. Donor and bilateral aid agencies, however, are primarily accountable to their citizens who call for money well spent and proof of results — normally in the short term.
The management systems of international organizations must include a strong representation from aid-recipient countries to ensure accountability happens at the problem framing and policy solutions identification levels.
As discussed in the GEM Report, aid to education has become a lower priority for donors when compared to investments in other sectors, and existing aid does not reach the countries with the largest education needs. The GEM Report highlights the GPE replenishment campaign seeking to raise US$3.1 billion, and the implementation of GPE’s Financing and Funding Framework (FFF) as crucial to ensuring that funding reaches 89 countries with the largest education needs.
The role of the private sector in education is increasing. As cited in the report, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, is the largest multilateral investor in private education in low and middle-income countries. Private sector participation in education can be positive when appropriate regulations are in place, roles are clearly defined, and processes are transparent. The GEM Report outlines concerns when these requirements are not met, for example, when the private sector prioritizes profit-making instead of focusing on the equity implications of who is able to access their services. The GEM Report discusses the expansion of low-fee private schools targeting the poor, particularly the legal challenges faced in Kenya and Uganda by the largest school chain of for-profit, fee-charging private nursery and primary schools, Bridge International Academies. On this matter, the GEM Report draws on RESULTS’ recent research From Free to Fee: Are For-Profit, Fee-Charging Private Schools the Solution for the World’s Poor? that explores World Bank IFC investments in basic education.
What to do with the findings from the GEM Report?
The GEM report concludes by emphasizing governments as the main bearers of the right to education while pointing at the role of civil society organizations and the international community as advocates for the justiciability of the right to education at the national level. Overall, to increase accountability in education, the GEM Report recommends transparent and available information, adequate resources, and skilled actors. Particularly, the GEM Report recommends that governments:
- Create space for meaningful and representative engagement to build trust and a shared understanding of respective responsibilities with all education actors.
- Develop credible education plans and transparent budgets with clear lines of responsibility and truly independent auditing mechanisms.
- Develop credible and efficient regulations and monitoring mechanisms and adhere to follow-up actions and sanctions when standards are not met.
- Design school and teacher accountability mechanisms that are supportive and formative, and avoid punitive mechanisms.
- Allow for a democratic voice, protect media freedom to scrutinize education, and set up independent institutions for citizens to voice complaints.