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What about Good Global Governance and Education? by NORRAG


I’ll have an education and some good governance please, but I don’t know which comes first

What is the link between education and good governance? This was an issue addressed by the recent Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14 (p.170-177), but was also the subject of an interesting session the day before the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) pledging day.

Drawing heavily on the recent Brookings Paper, the discussion at the GPE event was around the issue of whether investment in universal (primary) education can strengthen good governance, or whether good governance leads to universal (primary) education? Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings presented the findings on behalf of the authors, with the bottom line being that they found a stronger relationship from universal education to good governance than from good governance to universal education. The Brookings team note the caveat that ‘not all universal education is created equal’ and thus not all education promotes good governance;

‘education that is inclusive and relevant may have positive effects on governance, while education that alienates or marginalizes individuals and groups or that lacks relevance to the aspirations and possible livelihoods of students may have negative effects on governance’.

However, what the paper doesn’t touch on is the contextual enabling or disabling socio-cultural, historical or economic factors that may have an effect on the link between primary education to good governance (or good governance to primary education). Making claims about what primary education can do in the absence of discussion of this environment is reminiscent of the farmer education fallacy in development planning; the old claims that 4 years of education increases agricultural productivity by x% – this claim was only true of course where there was a supportive enabling context (e.g. machinery, fertilizers, market-oriented production etc).

Moreover, the Brookings session at GPE – and the paper, very much focus on the relationship between universal (primary) education and the national-level good governance of ODA-receiving (mostly low income) countries.

It would be interesting to have a follow on discussion on the links between good global governance of education, good national governance of education and the delivery universal primary or secondary education. Indeed, this global dimension of governance is largely missing from the post-2015 education discussions.  But there are a lot of unanswered questions…..

  • To what extent is the global governance of education good (enough), and will it be fit for purpose when it comes to post-2015 ambitions?
  • What is the role of the GPE, OECD (via tests like PISA), the World Bank, global civil society, multinationals and others in the global governance of education?
  • Why is it that there is so much focus on the ‘what’ of education post-2015 (what goals? what targets?) and not enough focus on the how? – which is not just about input targets like financing, but also surely about wider governance issues and education – at both the national and international levels.


What do you think about all this? Do you think there even such a thing as global governance of education?


NORRAG is examining the global governance of education and training as one of its themes and would welcome your thoughts on this all.

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1 Response

  1. Steve Klees

    The causes of progress towards UPE are very complex involving dozens of variables, good governance being just one. And the causes of good governance are even more complex, involving literally hundreds of variables, UPE being just one. Simple correlations show absolutely nothing, certainly nothing about the direction of causation. And multivariate models would not be able to mirror this complexity in any reliable way. Add to this, we disagree about what good governance means. In recent decades, it has taken on the ideology of neoliberal policies. Therefore, this is not a promising area for quantitative empirical investigation.

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