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05 Nov 2014

The Elephant in the Post-2015 Education Room: What about the Global Governance of Education and Training? (Part 2) by Kenneth King and Robert Palmer

By Kenneth King and Robert Palmer, NORRAG.

In our last post, we argued that a crucial missing element of the post-2015 education discussions to date relates to the global governance of education and training. This issue is the elephant in the education post-2015 room.

But is the global governance of education and training not at all reflected in the post-2015 education and training debate and propositions? In fact, it is there, though not in name, and not in its entirety. And this will limit the impact of the post-2015 education agenda.

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 global governance of education 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 global governance of education is 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 agenda, and its set of SDGs, will be universally applicable. The same debate applies to a post-2015 education goal and targets. The current formal 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 nationally determined target.

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 reference to global rules and regulations.

  • The UNESCO-UNICEF thematic consultation on education in the post-2015 development agenda did not talk directly about the global governance of education, 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.
  • The UNESCO-UNICEF post-2015 global e-consultation on governance and financing of education did not result in the kind of commentary on global governance issues that the facilitators may have hoped for. Among those that did respond, there was overall much more focus on national than on global issues. 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 the global governance of education, 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. Commentators noted that improvements were needed in the current international organisations that support the financing of education globally (including better coordination with each other, as well as the need for 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. The global governance of education 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 global governance of education is comprised of. Many other aspects of the new global governance of education 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.

A related concern, of course, is how the post-2105 education ambition will be financed.

This blog is based on a forthcoming Working Paper, written by Kenneth King and Robert Palmer, on ‘Post-2015 and the Global Governance of Education and Training’, Working Paper #7, available late December 2014 for free at

Kenneth King is the Editor of NORRAG News. He is an Emeritus Professor at the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Robert Palmer is an independent education and skills consultant. He also supports the Editor of NORRAG News and runs NORRAG NEWSBite. Email: Tweets @SkillsImpact

NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,000 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.






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