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23 Aug 2013

Education, Knowledge and Evidence in the Post-2015 High-Level Panel Report: Utopian, Poetic or Technocratic? All Three! (Part 3)

[read part 1 and part 2 of this blog post here]

PART III: Data for whom and by whom: a technocratic revolution?

By Michel Carton, NORRAG.

Discussion on Post-2015 in Bangladesh

Discussion on Post-2015 in Bangladesh

Quality education and training – or rather good learning processes that lead to standardized learning outcomes if we follow the rising post-2015 doxa and the World Bank’s and cos move from education to learning  – will be based on existing and new knowledge. The fact that the frequency of the words:

Knowledge 5

Science 4

Research 3

…is so low is puzzling, especially since the HLP Report notes, for instance that “too little investment has been made in [agricultural] research” (p.40) or “to adapt new, breakthrough technologies” (p.47). More of such research would be useful but too restrictive in relation to what investment in research should be, across all fields and disciplines, with a view to explaining the crises and looking in greater detail at the scenarios for “structural changes in the world economy” and not only the so-called inclusive, sustainable and green growth mentioned in the Report. We can but hope that the HLP Report does not consider that the production by different providers such as universities, as well as businesses, NGOs and civil society, and so on of more and improved knowledge that enables not only the adoption of new technologies but also the eradication of poverty, did not form part of their vision of the “World We Want”.

The question of the production of knowledge through research is capital though in order to reach and monitor the new post-2015 global goals that will be set. That is why the authors of the Report make data collection (23 times in the text) a priority – which is evident from the third citation at the beginning of this paper and in the expression “New Data Revolution” used in the Report (p.23)

The questions, not addressed in the Report, are (a) who will be involved in this data collection: individual or institutional consultants, international “experts”, researchers and institutions from the countries/regions concerned, consortiums of universities, and (b) what type of data will be collected, processed and transformed into knowledge: quantitative, qualitative; micro, meso, macro; economic, social, political? Statistical and macro-economic approaches seem to be preferred in the Report – but they are only an option in the framework of institutions that numerous countries cannot afford: regional and international partnerships and pooling of resources and data collected is only the solution.

Finally, the New Data Revolution (26 occurrences of data) can only take place if the capacities of the individuals and institutions supposed to lead it are up to the task. The frequency of the word capacity (8 times) reflects the growing importance of this field for development.

Might the solution, in developing countries where “on average 30 official development partners are operating”, be that “in many circumstances international partners and agencies will be invited to assist in helping countries implement their plans and achieve their targets”? (p.21). Will these partners and agencies, the same public ones as those in the MDG period and much more non public ones, also be called upon to lead the New Data Revolution if national/regional capacities are lacking in terms of quantity and quality? One might also ask these same partners and agencies why, when they preach capacity building/development, they practise the opposite through the consultancy market which extracts and undermines capacities in national knowledge production institutions?

Finally, will the content of the HLP Report be enough to convince the developing countries that the structural change expected by the Panel will take place? Nothing could be less sure, given the interest shown by the members of a panel during a Bangladeshi Government meeting devoted to the post-2015 agenda. (See picture above and NORRAG WP#5)

Michel Carton is the Executive Director of NORRAG. Email:

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