CIES Annual Conference on "Educational Quality: Global Imperatives and Contested Visions" (New Orleans)


57th Annual Conference of the Comparative & International Education Society (10-15 March 2013, New Orleans)

The idea of educational quality or quality education has become paramount worldwide. It is seen in the inclusion of 'quality' goals in all the major international education forums, in the sharpened focus on the content and outcomes of schooling in domestic educational agendas, and in the expanding profile of large-scale cross-national testing regimes and diverse global rankings. The concern for quality is conspicuous in scholarship, policy and practice at all levels of formal education and in relation to non-formal education. This year we will bring CIES members' diverse perspectives and insights to bear on the idea of educational quality--its contested definitions, competing visions and global imperatives.

NORRAG session on "Education Post-2015: Re-invigorating the Agenda, or Reshuffling the Lobbies?"

Sponsor: General Pool
Scheduled Time: Wed, Mar 13 - 1:45pm - 3:15pm
Building/Room: Hilton Riverside Hotel, First - Burgundy
Chair: Kenneth James King (Emeritus Professor, University of Edinburgh)

Description of Session:
The post-2015 agenda concerns mainly the poorest countries of the world, but the exercise of setting its agenda is currently dominated by institutions and persons in the more economically developed economies. As the excitement about the enrolments countdown fades, both because of failure to meet the goals of universal primary enrolment and because enrolment increases have brought their share of perverse effects in terms of quality and opportunity costs, interest seems to be growing in the development of quality measurement indicators of learning and of skills for work. The metrics of enrolments thus could be replaced by the even more costly implementation of the metrics of testing.

The world financial and economic crisis has led many governments to freeze or reduce education budgets and seems to be leading both public and private donors to shift priorities to spending on sectors with more immediately measurable outcomes such as growth-related education and training or health.

NORRAG (Network for Policy Research, Review and Advice on Education and Training; is a focus and forum for the analysis of aid and international policy development in education and training. It is engaged with its members in a discussion about the policy dialogue and financial flows that are likely to make up the post-2015 environment of Education for All (EFA). This panel forms part of that dialogue and will examine some aspects of the likely post-MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and EFA landscape. Who will be the dominant actors in defining the post-2015 agendas? What are the lessons learned since the launching of the MDGs and EFA? Are these lessons being taken into account in the present decision making processes? Will national and international funding and strategies conform to the international discourse or will EFA quietly fade away to be partially replaced by other headline issues that can energize funders? Will Education for All continue to be mostly a matter of universal aims and goals or will there be a more flexible set of intentions adapted to local circumstances? Where are the assessments of the successes, failures, opportunity costs and distortions brought about by international mobilization for EFA? Will new attention to the important role of teachers lead to a re-evaluation of their place in the policy dialogue?

Structured around an international review of the EFA landscape, “Education and Skills in the Post-2015 Global Landscape: History, Context, Lobbies and Visions” (in publication), this panel proposes a critical look at some of the above issues.


  • Kenneth King, Professor Emeritus, African Studies, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, NORRAG news editor, and Robert Palmer, NORRAG. Kenneth.King(at)

This presentation analyses the role of the developing world in the setting of any new development agenda. We consider why the so-called global south appears to be so little involved in this agenda-setting compared to the north. It is of particular relevance to analyse the role of ‘national consultations’ in this process. There are at least 56 of these planned for developing countries by the UNDP, and they range from China, India and Brazil to Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. Beyond these UN-led consultations, there are on-going consultations with the developing world by international NGOs such as the Global Campaign for Education. Equally, the European Commission has been carrying out an international consultation on post 2015 which has included the developing world. Our paper should be able to draw on insights from the first of these many northern-led consultations. It will pay particular attention to how the role of education and skills development feature in this consultative process.

  • Sobhi Tawil, Senior Programme Specialist, Education Research and Foresight, UNESCO. s.tawil(at)

As we approach the target date of 2015 set for both the EFA and MDG frameworks, global and regional consultations are well-underway to review the experience since 2000, to examine new emerging challenges, and to begin defining the possible shape and scope of the post-2015 education and development agenda(s). This paper will synthesise the results of these consultations, with a particular focus on the proposed scope of education in any post-2015 agendas. Indeed, the EFA, as well as the education-related development goals set in 2000, relate to basic levels of education. Current global challenges and concern for sustainable development, however, are leading to a growing focus on ‘post-basic’ levels of education. There is, for instance, increased concern with the role that skills development, as well as research and innovation can play in shaping sustainable patterns of development. In synthesizing the results of the current global debate, this paper examines the way in which the principle of the right to basic education ‘for all’ is articulated with a more instrumental view of post-basic levels of education which are strategic for inclusive and sustainable development.

  • Alexandra Draxler, independent consultant, formerly education specialist at UNESCO. Member of NORRAG. a.draxler(at)

As education quality takes the forefront in the EFA discussion, several possible trends suggest themselves. Policies of teacher accountability that include measures of student learning to condition status and salary, high on the agendas of U.S. and U.K. politicians, may spread to the developing world. The increasing use of metrics to measure learning, exemplified by PISA and new initiatives by institutions such as Brookings, may focus increased attention and resources on testing, with the same benefits and downsides experienced in countries where high-stakes testing is part of the educational landscape. Based on an overview of current trends as well as of development assistance funding flows, this presentation will offer an overview of experience with teacher accountability and high-stakes testing as well as a view of how these might translate into poorly-resourced settings in the developing world.

>> Conference website