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Event highlights – NORRAG facilitates second expert consultation for UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative

The UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education (FoE) has been catalysing a global debate on how education, learning and knowledge need to be re-imagined in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and fragility. This consultation has engaged nearly a million people already and has helped to inform the Report that the Commission is in the process of preparing.

In April 2021, the Futures of Education team released a Progress Update which provides background information on the initiative and its ambitions, the provisional outline of the report, and an explanation of the main points and arguments currently envisioned for each section and sub-section. They also requested feedback on: the coherence of the arguments presented; what elements need further attention, development or are missing; and what is most novel and promising about the forthcoming Report as currently envisioned.

Overview & Purpose

NORRAG facilitated a meeting involving 28 experts in Education and Emergencies (EiE) from academia, civil society organisations, the European Commission and UN organisations. Its aims were to engage in a collective discussion of three questions, particularly focused on Education in Emergencies, in order to provide the Commission with productive feedback on this critical aspect of education.

Question 1: What elements are missing in the Progress Update Report, regarding EiE?
Question 2: Which elements need further development, with regards to EiE?
Question 3: What is most novel and promising, for EiE, in the forthcoming Report?

To read the full report from this meeting, view raw data and images, and see the full list of responses, click here.

Programme & Summary 

The meeting opened with a series of short presentations to set the stage and the context for the Second Expert Consultation on Education in Emergencies (EiE). Moira V. Faul, Executive Director of NORRAG, welcomed participants and presented the contribution of this expert consultation in helping the Futures of Education team think through some questions regarding their recently published Progress Update from the frequently overlooked perspective of Education in Emergencies.

Next, Yvonne Diallo-Sahli, Advisor of Migration/Education in Emergencies at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, shared the SDC’s engagement and understanding at a strategic level and support for the Geneva Global Hub on Education in Emergencies. Vincent Defourny, Director of UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office, then reinforced the importance of EiE to education and other development and humanitarian actors in Geneva and worldwide. He stressed the importance of the moral obligation to ensure that, especially in situations of emergency, no one is left behind; all kinds of situations and forms of diversity are taken into account; and all dominant systems or practices that are reserved for only one part of the population are decolonized.

The final speaker, Noah W. Sobe, Senior Project Officer for UNESCO Futures of Education (FoE) initiative and Professor at Loyola University, Chicago, gave a brief overview of the Commission and stressed the importance of obtaining knowledge from education experts. He stated that this second online consultation would serve as a useful resource in the development of the Commission’s final report.

Method & Results

All 28 experts were invited to provide answers to each of the three questions on the discussion board. After reading through all of the suggestions, experts had the opportunity to vote (or not) for each, giving a score from 0-5. To support the voting, experts were asked to speak to their suggestions or ask questions of clarification. Finally, they were given the opportunity to change their vote (up or down) on each suggestion. Thus, data was collected on the scoring of each suggestion (0-5) by each expert, and the number of experts who voted for that suggestion. The strength of the vote (0-5) was multiplied by the number of votes received to produce a ranking.

Question 1: What elements are missing in the Progress Update, regarding EiE?

The top five suggestions were as follows:

  • Refugee-blind. Very little focus on refugees in the document or what happens when persons fall outside of state systems (including refugee teachers).
  • The well-being of the learner.
  • Consider proportion of world’s systems in emergency or emergency-like situations. Huge proportion of the world’s children are currently in places where education access is very limited and precarious. Universal access is very limited. Long way to move to achieve envisaged futures.
  • Use of alternative learning pathways to ensure learning continuity/ reaching larger numbers of out of school children.
  • Student-focus. I love the idea of thinking in scenarios and I wondered what this might look like if we think about the scenarios from students’ experiences.

Question 2: Which elements need further development, with regards to EiE?

The top five suggestions were as follows:

  • Early childhood development. ECD is too often deprioritized in emergency response, but research and evidence have shown the importance of ECD in ensuring children reach their full potential.
  • Peace and peacebuilding. Peace and peaceful societies are mentioned repeatedly, but without the nuance often articulated by research and evidence from EiE.
  • Consider causes of inequality, exclusion and emergency.
  • Stronger focus on barriers to education in EiE contexts, disproportionate number of out-of-school children living in countries affected by crisis.
  • Gender aspects could be more explicitly addressed and strengthened in the report.

Question 3: What is most novel and promising, for EiE, in the forthcoming Report as currently envisioned?

The top five suggestions were as follows:

  • Importance given to teachers. Teachers play a critical role in shaping the future of their students, teacher training is even more important in EiE.
  • The Common/ Commoning. These ideas – the noun and the verb – seem really productive in re-framing how we think about collective responsibility, which is so essential in EiE and for non-citizens, including refugees.
  • “A decolonization of the curriculum, and the unlearning of any number of things that have contributed to our current challenges”. This is an important aspect.
  • Adult education. Given the gaps in education in EiE, children grow to be adults who missed out on formal schooling. This has been a critical gap in our programming and policy – it’s nice to see it highlighted.
  • Regenerative education emphasis. This seems particularly relevant to transformative learning in EiE.
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