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Following previous GEM reports on education and the other SDGs (2016), accountability (2017/8), and migration and displacement (2019), the 2020 GEM Report will focus on inclusion. An online consultation opened this morning for the Report and will run for eight weeks. We would like to invite you to take part.

Echoing the overall orientation in the SDGs to “leave no one behind”, the 2020 GEM Report will take an in-depth look at inclusion and education, showing the barriers faced by the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities.

An initial concept note for the Report shows that, by analysing policies the world over, the research will aim to present evidence on the different elements of education systems that can support inclusion, such as laws and policies, governance and finance, curricular and learning materials, teachers, school infrastructure, school selection and parental and community views. A range of indicators will be examined for their effectiveness in measuring inclusion in education.

The 2020 Report will ask the following questions:

  1. What are the key policy solutions for each of the elements of inclusive education to ensure the achievement of SDG 4?
  2. How can common obstacles to the implementation of such inclusive education policies be anticipated and overcome?
  3. What arrangements are needed to coordinate among government sectors, tiers of government and with other stakeholders to overcome overlapping dimensions of exclusion?
  4. How do education systems monitor exclusion in education (with regard both to individual education attainment or success and to systemic factors) and how can current practices be improved? To what extent systems monitor exclusion from the learning process for learners who are in schools?
  5. What channels of financing are used for inclusive education policies around the world? How are they monitored and how do they affect local practice?

The team would like to invite you to:

  • Provide substantive feedback to the proposed lines of research
  • Recommend interesting examples of policies and practices from around the world that highlight how inclusive education policies look like in different countries and how inclusive education is implemented in schools and classrooms
  • Recommend potential areas of new research drawing on already established or previously unexplored sources of quantitative and qualitative data

The views of anyone with an interest in education and development – whether governments, non-government organizations, donors, researchers, practitioners, parents and students – are most welcome. Please read the concept note and contribute to this online consultation before the end of September.

Post your contributions as comments (below) to this blog, providing web links to research reports, policy papers, evaluations, and other documents or datasets that you think would be useful for the Report team.

If you would rather email your comments or attach documents or data that you would like to share with the GEM Report team, please send them directly to gemreport@unesco.org with ‘2020 Report Consultation’ as a subject heading.

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The 2017/8 GEM Report showed that national education monitoring reports are a vital tool for transparency and accountability in education yet only 21 out of 48 countries in the sub-Saharan region published an education monitoring report at least once since 2010 and fewer than 10% did so regularly. One of them is the Annual Performance Report of the Ministry of Education and Sports in Uganda, which the Undersecretary at the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports, Mr Aggrey Kibenge, talks about in this blog.

The 2017/8 GEM Report showed that the basis of governments’ accountability to Parliament and to the public is a credible education plan with clear targets that allocates resources through transparent, trackable budgets.

Uganda is into its second decade of producing its Education and Sports Sector Annual Performance Report (ESSAPR), which is compiled by the Education Planning and Policy Analysis Department in collaboration with other Ministry of Education and Sports departments. The overall goal of the ESSAPR is to present an analysis of sector performance and feedback to key stakeholders, including the general public, on government efforts to educate its citizenry.

Findings from the ESSAPR are integrated into a comprehensive Government Annual Performance Report submitted to cabinet, which form part of a whole governmental approach to strengthen accountability.   

As per GEM Report recommendations, the ESSAPR assesses performance from early childhood through to tertiary education against policies and objectives to inform the next sector review, which seeks to identify priority areas for the coming year. It gives an account of ministry actions and their results at the input, process and outcome levels. It offers some analysis of challenges, discusses factors affecting the achievement of goals and contains budget performance information.

Uganda’s education system faces important challenges. Only 61% of 20-24 year olds had completed primary school in 2016 and in 2015 the pupil-teacher ratio in primary education was 46:1. Added to this are one million people who have crossed borders into the country seeking refuge.

To better learn from and understand the Ugandan experience we spoke to Mr Aggrey Kibenge, Undersecretary at the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports.

How does the current system of annual performance reporting allow you to improve the quality of education for all? 

The ESSAPR has a chapter dedicated to the quality of education that examines the progress towards achieving quality targets which puts in focus inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes. The reported information in each of these areas guides the interventions that the sector undertakes in the next financial year to improve quality of education for all.

What has your Ministry learned from the experience of compiling previous reports since 2003?

Every year, there are new emerging issues, which have not been covered in previous reports. For this reason the reporting format has to be continuously updated to accommodate new information.

How do you ensure that more education stakeholders are involved in the ESSAPR preparation process?

This is achieved through the Sector Wide Approach (SWAP), which involves representatives of all stakeholders in planning, decision-making, implementation and monitoring and accountability of educational developments in the sector. The SWAP is designed to facilitate the participation of all stakeholders in the ESSAPR preparation process via smaller departmental working groups, which feed into the larger report.

A consultative approach is therefore used during the process of writing the ESSAPR and the key stages include:

  1. Constitution of core writing team (Secretariat) based on the broad thematic areas of access and equity, quality, efficiency and effectiveness to collect and collate performance information on agreed thematic areas for consolidation into the ESSAPR mainly from members of the Education Planning Policy Analysis department;
  2. Review by Department working groups;
  3. Review by the Monitoring and Evaluation Working Group, which is attended by education development partners;
  4. Review by the Education Sector Consultative Committee (ESCC), which is also attended by education development partners; and
  5. Review and approval by the top management.

From your point of view, in what ways can the current report preparation be strengthened and introduced in other contexts?

The current preparation can be strengthened by bringing more participants on board. For example, a lot of information among the non-state education providers still remains unreported. We therefore need to bring in the private providers who have vital information that we are not able to access.

We can also involve the local government officials who are the actual implementers on the ground. What happens now is that we visit the local governments and education institutions to validate the information in the ESSAPR.

Launched in April 2018, the GEM Report’s #MakeitPublic campaign calls for all countries to report back to their citizens on progress in education.

In April 2018 the GEM Report launched its #MakeitPublic campaign calling on governments and regional organisations to report on education progress to their citizens via a regular education monitoring report, and to use those reports as key sources for the education section of their SDG national voluntary reviews

To date over twenty international organizations and Ministries of Education have signed up to the campaign including the Governments of Switzerland and Qatar. You can view additional information on the campaign via our website.

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The final draft of the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement on the governance of migration, the Global Compact for Migration, was released today. This is not a small feat given the vast divides in opinion on this issue around the world and earlier setbacks in the process. It reflects a common sentiment that migration is a global phenomenon of huge importance that requires global coordination.

Given this backdrop, we are excited to be launching the 2019 GEM Report on migration, displacement and education on November 20. Its findings and recommendations could not be more topical. The detail our Report carries on the subject will be a perfect complement to the commitments pledged in the Compact. It will help create an even stronger link between the Compact and the SDG4 priorities, bringing two agendas together and creating clarity for countries now tasked with turning the promises into policy.

What does the Compact say about education?

The word education appears 15 times in the 34-page document, appearing in relation to no fewer than 10 of the Compact’s 23 objectives. The links found in the document between migration and education show that this is a classic example of the need for sector collaboration in the spirit of the SDGs. Migration is one of the areas of focus in the 2018 High-level Political Forum taking place this and next week in New York. But three objectives stand out for being the most central to SDG 4 progress.

The first is Objective 15 on providing access to basic services for migrants. Echoing the language of leaving no one behind used throughout the sustainable development agenda, this objective aims to ensure that “all migrants, regardless of their migration status, can exercise their human rights through safe access to basic services […] while ensuring that any differential treatment must be based on law, proportionate, pursue a legitimate aim, in accordance with international human rights law.”

It goes on to promise to “Provide inclusive and equitable quality education to migrant children and youth, as well as facilitate access to lifelong learning opportunities , including by strengthening the capacities of education systems and by facilitating non-discriminatory access to early childhood development, formal schooling, non-formal education programmes for children for whom the formal system is inaccessible, on-the-job and vocational training, technical education, and language training, as well as by fostering partnerships with all stakeholders that can support this endeavour”.

A shopping list, perhaps, but one that covers many of the SDG 4 targets, but the renewed emphasis on the principle of non-discrimination is welcome.

The second is Objective 16 on empowering migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion. Two actions related to this objective imply changes to the way many countries are currently managing the education of immigrants.

  • “Develop national short, medium and long term policy goals regarding the inclusion of migrants in societies, including on labour market integration, family reunification, education, non-discrimination and health, including by fostering partnerships with relevant stakeholders.”
  • Promote school environments that are welcoming and safe, and support the aspirations of migrant children by enhancing relationships within the school community, incorporating evidence-based information about migration in education curricula, and dedicating targeted resources to schools with a high concentration of migrant children for integration activities in order to promote respect for diversity and inclusion, and to prevent all forms discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance

The latter aligns well with the sentiment in SDG target 4a on ‘safe and inclusive learning environments’, and with the aspirations encapsulated in target 4.7 on global citizenship.

The third is Objective 18 on investing in skills development and facilitating mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences. The mismatch between skills qualifications in some countries and skills recognition in others leaves so much wasted talent, resulting in frustration. A global commitment to develop standards and guidelines for the mutual recognition of foreign qualifications and non-formally acquired skills, work on the comparability of national qualifications frameworks, involve the private sector, extend internship programmes and mentoring, and provide language-specific training could turn thousands, if not millions, of people’s lives around.

Where next?

Where this step forward takes us will depend on the review mechanisms to be set up to examine progress. The GCM is non-binding. There will be an International Migration Review Forum in 2022, 2026 and 2030, although this is not the same as a formal review mechanism, which leaves accountability, as the 2017/8 GEM Report taught us, lacking. In addition to transparency, accountability and performance appraisal mechanisms, there is also the question of support now given to member states in their national implementation efforts.

The Compact is just that – a compact. It offers a positive message for education as an opportunity to make the most of migratory flows. But the details need to be spelled out. And that is where the 2019 GEM Report, with its full global analysis of policies tried, tested, failed and proven, will be of use.

Sign up to receive the 2019 GEM Report on migration and displacement when it is released.

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By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

I am in Bangkok at the Asia-Pacific Meeting on Education 2030 (APMED) to find ways to transform learning and meet the skills demand to achieve the SDGs. There is a sense of urgency in the discussions, with references to the global learning crisis that jeopardizes the future of 6 out of 10, or 617 million, children and adolescents who are unable to achieve minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics according to data from the UIS.

But it is the numbers that we don’t have that scare me the most.

How many adults in the world lack basic literacy and numeracy skills? The standard answer is that 750 million adults are illiterate worldwide. To be honest, I rarely cite this number, knowing that it is based largely on a single question – “Can you read or write a simple sentence?” – asked in a household survey or census.

How to reduce the technical and financial burden of learning assessments 

Through the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML), we are working with countries and partners to produce the very first internationally-comparable indicators on skills and learning. But clearly the best indicators in the world will amount to little if countries cannot collect the data to produce them. We must be pragmatic and creative – finding flexible ways to adapt existing assessments in order to meet the priorities and contexts of countries.

A UIS paper presents a series of options to help countries reduce the technical and financial burden of conducting the learning assessments needed to produce the data to monitor SDG Target 4.6: “ensure that all youth and a substantial portion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.”

Ideally, all countries would implement a full spectrum learning assessment such as the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) or the World Bank’s Skills Measurement Program (STEP). The problem is many developing countries don’t have the resources to administer these assessments in their current form. The good news is that there are ways to adapt them in order to meet the needs of countries.

Here are the options:

  1. Reduce the number of domains: countries could decide not to assess numeracy skills and just focus on literacy skills, which would reduce the data collection costs of the assessments by 66%. However, this is not strictly speaking acceptable for SDG 4 monitoring.
  2. Point or synthetic estimates: countries could use a synthetic estimate based on a sample of respondents with similar characteristics rather than establishing a direct point estimate of skill distribution. The sample sizes could be reduced from 5,000 to 1,500, which would reduce the costs by 30-50%.
  3. Implementation: countries could reduce implementation costs by taking advantage of existing platforms and attaching a short module to a household survey. While this may have an impact on response rates, it would lead to a significant cost savings in fielding the assessment.
  4. Mode of delivery: countries have the choice of using either a pencil- or a computer-based approach to administer the assessment. The UIS estimates that the computer-based option can reduce the costs of data collection by 40% while yielding more reliable results across the entire skill distribution.
  5. Continued skills or classification by threshold: countries can also decide to use a basic threshold proficiency rather than the more complex skills continuum proficiency scale. This could lower the cost and operational burden of learning assessments by 25%.
  6. Centralizing administration: countries can decide to administer an assessment on their own using clear guidelines or rely on the expertise of an international or regional organization.

How to meet the specific needs of developing countries

Personally, I consider PIAAC to be the “gold standard” in skills assessment. The problem is that it was originally designed for middle- and high-income countries and therefore doesn’t cover the complete range of foundation skills that are a priority in developing countries.

In 2030, I sincerely hope that every country is ready to implement PIAAC. Meanwhile, we need an assessment tool specifically designed to reflect the contexts, needs and priorities of low-income countries. The answer may lie in an adapted version of the Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Program (LAMP), which was originally developed by the UIS for low- and lower-middle-income countries.

With Mini-LAMP, countries will have a streamlined version of the complete set of tools that have already been field tested in 10 countries and translated into a range of languages spoken in different regions. They would also have more options and flexibility in implementing the assessment in order to meet their specific needs. For example, they could use shorter modules to assess literacy and numeracy skills. This would enable countries to reduce testing time while continuing to evaluate both domains.

Mini-LAMP would also be computer-based. So countries will have a fully-adaptive assessment based on the skills of the individual test taker, which not only ensures that results are available more quickly but also shifts expenditures from collection to analysis.

Finally, countries could directly administer mini-LAMP with the support of a regional body. Mini-LAMP will include a comprehensive implementation package and quality assurance guidelines so that countries can take a decentralized approach to administering the assessment rather than relying on an international organization. In short, they will have the flexibility to meet their specific needs and contexts with the assurance and support needed to produce quality data for monitoring and policymaking.

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This week, affirmative action has been making the headlines in the United States. First introduced by President Kennedy in 1961, the policy was designed to ensure non-discrimination in university enrollment. Although originally some universities used strict quotas to admit a set percentage of minority students to the university, a 1978 US Supreme Court cased ruled that practice unconstitutional. Since that time, affirmative action in admission policy entails using race as one of multiple factors, such as exam scores, socio-economic status, and extra-curricular activities, in making admission decisions. A few days ago, under directive from President Trump, the Department of Justice took a step toward challenging affirmative action by rescinding all guidance to universities on how to legally implement the policy. President Trump has said that the policies “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

This decision comes on the back of many legal battles over the policy, won by those championing affirmative action. Only a few years ago, the Supreme Court upheld a case on affirmative action in relation to the University of Texas’s admission policy. In this case, the University of Texas identified three compelling interests for increasing diversity through its policy: “the destruction of stereotypes”, promoting “cross-cultural understanding”, and preparing students “for an increasingly diverse work force and society”. In 2003, the University of Michigan won another major Supreme Court, allowing race to be used as one factor in admissions decisions.

Another high profile case, dating back to 2015 and still ongoing, involves complaints filed by a group of Asian-Americans against Harvard University for using race as a criteria in its admissions policy.

The critics of affirmative action are perhaps summed up in the line issued this week by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, when she said ‘Schools should continue to offer equal opportunities for all students while abiding by the law.’ In her mind, the policy is easier to read as being reverse discrimination. Indeed the Justice Department labelled it as ‘intentional race-based discrimination’ when they began to sue universities over the policy under the new President.

But this line doesn’t quite stack up.

Taking the ongoing Harvard case, for example, the arguments on the other side of the fence seem pretty indisputable. For instance, against some people’s belief that the policy only affects a few, and isn’t making much of a difference, evidence shows that Asian students have greatly benefited from Affirmative Action since 1978. For those that think it might be an unpopular policy, and therefore worth scrapping, survey results show that 60% in 2003 considered affirmative action programs designed to increase the number of black and minority on college campus a good thing. In 2017, this number raised to 71%.

The argument that the same set of students would benefit if race was removed from the admissions equation is also countered by evidence showing that income-based approaches don’t yield equal results when it comes to increasing the number of blacks and Hispanics on campus, and don’t see the same school wide benefits of diversity either.

Furthermore, evidence beautifully displaced in the New York Times, shows that even with affirmative action, blacks and Hispanics are more underrepresented at top colleges than 35 years ago. The fact is that this policy is needed because the disadvantages blacks and Hispanics face are real.

Affirmative action has also been proven to work in helping these students overcome their disadvantage: There have been declines in the number of minority students enrolling in States that have banned the inclusion of race as a factor in admissions, with a drop in minority enrollment of 23 percentage points between those including it as a factor, and states that have banned the policy. These same states have also seen fewer underrepresented minorities graduating. Similarly, evidence has shown that minorities admitted have improved graduation rates, and later earnings as well, suggesting that affirmative action policies are able to tap into student potential.

The benefits for equity in adopting affirmative action are recognized in other countries too. Country policies differ by targeted disadvantage group and whether a quota or multi-factor approach is taken in admissions. For example, Sweden pays special attention to gender, India to caste, and Sri Lanka to district of origin. In Brazil, the 2012 Law of Social Quotas required universities to set aside a percentage of spaces at public universities for black, brown, and indigenous students. Although some universities have seen greater diversity in the student body as a result, the quota system, which guarantees a percentage of spots for minority groups, has also come under scrutiny recently. The value of positions at the more elite, public universities and the practice of student self-identification has led some to cheat the system. Furthermore, in a country with a large number of mixed-raced individuals, some universities have reverted to unsavoury practices to verify minority status. It appears that a lesson Brazil can take from the United States it to move beyond quotas and use race as one of many factors in admission.

Even aside from the essential goal of achieving equity, there is also the other key benefit of any policy on affirmative action, which is to safeguard diversity in education.

The benefits of having diversity in higher education are widely acknowledged including for society in general, as we showed in the GEM 2016. They discover how to work within a cross-cultural team, grapple with difficult conversations and re-examine their own assumptions. The GEM Report feels strongly that this way of working – both in formal education, but also in all lifelong-learning experiences – is the only way we will find new solutions to unsolved problems.

Diversity is also crucial for addressing race relations and increasing the variety of rich educational experiences. It prepares students for the global and diverse world they enter into after university. So failing to prioritise the entry for some, therefore, can in fact impoverish the learning experience for all.

For now, the policy is still legally upheld by the US Supreme Court. It is also still highly valued by the general public. This may not be enough. However, with the root of the policy still unaddressed, we hold out hope that those able will act to ensure equitable access to higher education.

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By Betina Fresneda, Socioeconomic Analyst, Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE)

As Education Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean gather for a regional meeting in Bolivia from 25-26 July, a perspective from Brazil shows how countries can respond steadily to the unprecedented demand for more and better data.     

Back in April this year, Silvia Montoya of the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) wrote about the critical importance of education management and information systems for effective educational measurement. I was thrilled that she mentioned some of the work we are doing here in Brazil, as we are working very hard to generate the data needed to track our progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on education.

We are at a good starting point. This is a country with very well-established national statistical systems. We have regular household surveys investigating labour force, health and consumer expenditure, for example. We also have a regular population census. Our Ministry of Education monitors and analyses administrative data and the results of national educational assessments, and its statistical section is relatively well-staffed. In many ways, we are fortunate.

But even so, none of this is enough to meet the new demands for data placed on us all by the SDGs. Like every other country, we face unprecedented demand for more data, better data, and data on new areas and from new sources. In particular, we need to expand our focus to include more qualitative data production. We must track child development, but also adult functional literacy. We also need to gather information on whether young people and adults are acquiring skills on information and communication technologies (ICTs). At the same time, we need to improve our existing quantitative and qualitative official data to measure not only the proportion of children in school, but also whether children are learning what they need for a productive adult life. And, above all, we need more disaggregated data related to our municipalities.

This long ‘to do’ list presents Brazil with a few problems. First, we still have unfinished business on monitoring the basics: from the precise percentage of children with disabilities enrolled in school to the reasons why there are so many early school leavers. Second, we have more than 5,000 municipalities and our information on school attendance at this administrative level comes from our national census, which happens only every ten years. We have a well-established National Education Plan, which has much in common with the global SDG indicators for education, but they need to be better aligned.

Never has the need for data been greater. It is clear that no single agency or statistical organisation can do this alone. So the focus for Brazil is firmly on collaboration – on working with other countries and stakeholders at the international level, and working with others at the national level in a collective push for official national data. As a result of such collaboration, I am optimistic that we are making real progress.

At the international level, Brazil is a member of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and the Technical Cooperation Group on SDG 4 – Education 2030 Indicators (TCG), which is co-chaired by the UIS. We are, therefore, at the global table on the development of indicators to track progress towards SDG 4.

At the national level, my own organisation, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) has brought together national official data producers related to the 17 SDGs in a collective effort to construct the country’s SDG indicators, identify the crucial data gaps, and explore ways to close those gaps.

At the same time, the National Commission for the Sustainable Development Objectives, which aims to implement the SDGs in Brazil, is disseminating good practices to accelerate SDG implementation and monitoring, with technical advice from IBGE.

In May, we launched the first national online data platform with locally produced SDG global indicators as part of our mandate as a permanent technical advisory body to the National Commission. The platform organizes all the available data on, for example, SDG indicator 4.2.2 (access to school), 4.a.1 (infrastructure) or 4.c.1 (teachers). Indicators have standardised methodological sheets so the user can see how the indicator is calculated, the geographic spread, the regularity of the data and the concepts for the indicator.

The platform aims to be as transparent as possible, allowing the user to produce interactive maps to visualise what is happening. Over the course of 2018, we aim to populate the data platform with more national indicators, making it a one-stop data warehouse for Brazil’s national education data.

The launch of the platform coincided with a meeting with Brazil’s national statistics producers on how to align the monitoring of implementation of the National Education Plan with the monitoring of progress towards SDG 4 and – importantly – how civil society can contribute through, for example, in the definition of the national SDG4 indicators.

Before the SDGs, the focus in Brazil had been very firmly on getting children through school on time. And there is no doubt that Brazil has come a very long way, very quickly, on basic education access. The challenge now is to improve the quality of education and reduce educational inequality among students through investments in our public educational system. In addition, Brazil must also increase the percentage of adults with tertiary education, ensuring egalitarian access to universities.

Brazil may have to make some hard choices regarding data production. Should we, for example, focus on measuring ICTs skills when we still don’t measure functional literacy? Should we focus on lifelong learning when we still have major problems around early school leavers, as well as one of the highest repetition rates in South America?

I see one major opportunity: growing political commitment around data. The Sustainable Development Goals have provided a clear mandate for the pursuit of data. So we now have a unique chance to use the SDGs as our own mandate to map out what is already happening, what needs to happen, and what is missing from this equation, as we push for a quality education for every Brazilian.

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On June 19, Switzerland published the Swiss Education Report 2018. Fully in line with the GEM Report’s #MakeitPublic, campaign to ensure that all countries report back to their citizens on their progress in education, the new Report provides new analysis on the entire Swiss education system from primary school to adult education.

The report answers five hundred questions related to education in Switzerland, and examines differences in class size within cantons, stable and differentiated completion rates in upper-secondary education and the transitions between compulsory schooling and further education.

Published in four languages, the 2018 Report takes a deep dive into key trends in the field of higher education, such as high dropout rates at university level, and provides ongoing assessment of existing measures to ensure the highest standards in education. In the blog below representatives from Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) share their observations on the process of authoring the national education monitoring report and how this have been useful for identifying challenges and successes in education.

Tracing progress in education of the past over the past twelve years

The 2017/8 GEM Report showed that national education monitoring reports are a vital tool for transparency and accountability, and an important tool through which civil society and the media can hold governments to account. However, only one in every two countries have published a national education monitoring report since 2010, and most do not produce them very regularly.

Since the initial pilot in 2006 through to the 2018 publication, the Swiss Education Report has become a well-established point of reference and an indispensable tool for Switzerland’s education policy makers.

Let’s first have a look at the report from a systemic perspective. How does our country benefit from it?

As seen from this point of view, the report’s relevance may be summed up as follows:

  • It provides us with an up-to-date overview of our education system.
  • It is based on evidence and scientific rigor.
  • It helps us to better understand our education system as a whole and to assess its performance according to the economically and socially relevant criteria of efficiency, effectiveness and equity.
  • It contributes to establish and to continually improve transparency.
  • It creates a common language transcending different levels and sectors.
  • It serves as a basis for defining strategic objectives for the system’s development, to accordingly propose measures as well as to assess every four years the degree to which the objectives have been achieved.
  • It shows us gaps of knowledge and data. Migrants for example (32% of the 15-17 old have a migration background): we currently lack data about the languages they speak, their social background and the time of their presence in Switzerland.
  • It provides us with the possibility to better assess the system’s performance in the long run.
  • It spurs us to both intensify and diversify research on dysfunctions, causal relations, weaknesses and strengths of systemic relevance.

We shouldn’t neglect, however, the Report’s usefulness as seen from a sectoral perspective:

  • Launched in April 2018, the GEM Report’s #MakeitPublic campaign calls for all countries to report back to their citizens on progress in education.

    It permits the system’s different levels and sectors to view and understand themselves as interdependent elements of a system as a whole.

  • It helps different sectors and levels to mutually improve their knowledge about each other.
  • It facilitates cross-sectoral approaches and discussions of educational issues.

The Report also recalls us some of the main challenges ahead:

  • Keep in mind that the report is a tool. It doesn’t dispense politicians to take decisions and to be accountable for the system’s governance and funding.
  • Be aware of fake news and post truth politics. They may look more attractive than evidence based data and causal relations.
  • Don’t treasure only what you measure. It is impossible to quantify driving forces such as creativity, individual empowerment, trust and social responsibility. However, they are most likely to thrive in solidly funded educational systems based on accountability, efficiency, effectiveness and equity.

Launched in April 2018, the GEM Report’s #MakeitPublic campaign calls for all countries to report back to their citizens on progress in education. The campaign webpage is a virtual repository for all national education monitoring reports. Visit the site to find out how you can participate in the campaign and view our interactive map to see your country last produced a national education monitoring report.

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The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2018 (GHA 2018) was released last week along with UNHCR’s Global Trends Report. Just as there are more people displaced than ever before, levels of humanitarian assistance are also at an all-time high.

The GHA 2018 report shows that humanitarian aid has been growing now for four years, albeit by only 3% from 2016 to 2017. Not only is humanitarian assistance growing in absolute terms; it is also growing as a percentage of overall aid budgets as a result of the growing impact of conflict and natural disasters.

The GHA 2018 report also tells us that over 200 million people needed international humanitarian assistance in 2017, a fifth of whom were in just three countries – Syria, Turkey and Yemen. The fact that Syria has been in the first place for five years is a reminder that crises are mostly protracted. No fewer than 17 of the 20 largest recipients of international humanitarian assistance in 2017 were either medium- or long-term recipients.

The increase of humanitarian aid levels in recent years has now finally trickled down to education, as our policy paper showed last month. Global humanitarian funding to education reached US$450 million in 2016, of which US$301 million addressed humanitarian response plans.

However, the GHA 2018 report reminds us that there has been a 41% shortfall in the funds requested in UN-coordinated appeals. Many of the calls made by the education sector have therefore been left unanswered.  The share of education in total humanitarian aid was extremely low at just 2.1%. This is far below showed that even had the 4% target for education been reached, millions of people would have been left without assistance.

Why education isn’t higher up the agenda is a mystery. Especially when you know, as we showed in 2011, that conflicts in low-income countries have been lasting for over a decade, longer than most children and youth in these countries would typically spend in school. And that education is far more than a first response in crises: it is also a strategic partner for fixing the root of the problem. Education is still not seen as immediate and life- saving and is downgraded as a priority. Life-saving interventions are typically funded first, as the below graph from the GHA 2018 shows. Nor have attempts to link humanitarian and development aid been anything more than timid.

We are two years since the World Humanitarian Summit, when donors agreed to find a new way of working. It was then that Education Cannot Wait was launched, a fund established to provide education to children in crises aiming to collect $3.85 billion by 2020. As of March this year, the Fund had invested $81 million in 14 crisis-affected countries. Welcome, but not enough.

The GHA 2018 report suggests that the humanitarian aid landscape is not changing apart from a few tweaks around the edges. But education cannot wait. Where will the response we need come from?

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There’s a deluge of reports on migrants and refugees just out. The 2018 International Migration Outlook, OECD’s report on migration flows and policies was released last week. Reflecting the tone of the latest UNHCR report on the rise of the number of those forcibly displaced, the OECD Report shows that, last year, one in ten people living in OECD countries were foreign-born and around 5 million new permanent migrants arrived. In addition, levels of temporary foreign workers and international student numbers have reached record levels.

The Outlook concentrates on labour market integration, which is linked indisputably to education, such as the extent to which migrants speak the language of their host country or the qualifications and skills they arrive with are recognised. While it may be inadequate to paint a picture of inclusion simply by the extent to which a new arrival can access the labour market, the emphasis on ensuring that they do not experience frustration by having their skills wasted is an important one.

Language skills seen as crucial for integration

Across OECD countries, many countries focus on language skills to help newly arrived migrants and refugees integrate in their societies.  Adding to some of the country initiatives mentioned in the new report from the European Migration Network, the OECD report mentions others, such as Denmark, which sees language skills as so important that they are providing incentives for migrants and refugees to acquire them. Others, such as Austria, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Poland are, instead, making language tests a compulsory element for certain permit decisions.

Improve recognition of qualifications

Despite having relatively high education levels in comparison to natives in their host country, foreign-born workers in the OECD area are concentrated in low-skill occupations, often because their skills and qualifications are not being recognized. The Outlook tells us that, on average, one in three tertiary educated migrants is over-qualified. This is about 12 percentage points greater than for natives.

The recognition of formal qualifications ‘continues to develop’ in the region. Efforts in this regard pay off. It is pointless having qualified people sit in your country and not let them put their skills to use. In Luxembourg, for example, a new law simplified the recognition procedure and created registers of professional and qualifications titles. Similarly, several OECD countries, such as Norway, are now developing systems to help recognize vocational qualifications.

Help children join national education systems

Amongst the most vulnerable migrants are clearly children, which the Report says ‘can often have difficulties integrating quickly enough into school systems after arrival’. In order to prevent long periods of interrupted education, the third draft of the Global Compact on Refugees contains a lucid target on this issue: “More direct financial support and special efforts will be mobilized to minimize the time refugee boys and girls spend out of education, ideally a maximum of three months after arrival.”

Already setting an example in this regard, Luxembourg introduced changes in August last year that have extended multi-lingual education programmes to early childhood education with the help of care service vouchers. Similarly, Sweden introduced a new Budget Bill this year making preschool mandatory and is carrying out a review to look at ways of increasing the attendance of newly-arrived children.

In Norway, an amendment to the Education Act has been introduced, specifying that all children are entitled to primary and lower secondary education no later than within one month after arrival. And in Lithuania, an amendment in May last year helps asylum-seeking children to fulfil their right to pre-school and pre-primary education within three months of lodging an asylum application.

Countries are also taking additional steps to ensure that unaccompanied minors can access their rights.  In Chile, a no-cost special visa has been created to help children access education independent of their parents’ visa situation, for example. And there are moves to help those who have arrived late into their host country’s education system. Sweden has made several changes, including providing individual study plans for children that follow them from school to school.

But what this Report does not cover is what children are being taught and the extent to which education, per-se, is a given good. Speaking the local language and finding gainful employment may be a bonus but will mean nothing if there are discriminatory attitudes.

The next Global Education Monitoring Report, due out on November 20th, will be examining education systems around the world to see where the set up of schools and institutions is inclusive of migrants and refugees, and to ensure that these initial, more practical steps being carried out by OECD members in this report will bear fruit.  Sign up to receive it when it is released.

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Migration continues to be very high on the political agenda of high income countries. Europe is home to 30% of the total population of migrants. The Annual Report on Migration and Asylum 2017, a monitoring tool that reviews policy developments in 24 out of 28 European Union countries plus Norway, which was published last month by the European Migration Network, takes readers through a familiar menu of asylum procedures, border controls, family reunification rules and visa regimes.

But the report also devotes good space to education, in the context of ‘integration’ of migrants and refugees, which suggests that EU Member States increasingly realize that what happens in classrooms is key for their diverse societies, a message that the 2019 GEM Report on migration and displacement, due out on November 20th, will emphasize.

European countries see education as important for ‘integrating’ migrants

Measures to improve the education attainment of migrants and refugees have included making school or vocational training compulsory for all those younger than 18 years old in Austria, except for those with temporary residence; or legislating measures welcoming newly arrived immigrant pupils into schools in Belgium; and disseminating information about the national education system in the Czech Republic.

Many countries assigned priority to enhancing migrants’ language skills. In Estonia, an online platform was developed to help learn the language and language cafés and language and culture clubs were organised all over the country in 2017. France carried out online language courses and mapped language training opportunities. Germany doubled resources to support daily language education in day-care centres and started another programme to facilitate access to early childhood education and care for children who do not yet benefit from institutional child care. Luxembourg introduced pluri-lingual education in pre-schools. And the Netherlands focused on quality assuring language courses through supervisory visits.

Legal issues remain pertinent, with growing number of vulnerable groups that require protection, such as unaccompanied minors for which almost all countries introduced changes in legislation, policy or practice. In Norway, an amendment to the education act established that children shall have access to primary and lower secondary education within a month.

But these are only some examples in a patchwork of interventions that range from improvements in the recognition of occupational or educational qualifications of migrants and refugees to establishing intercultural education school networks.

Facilitating international student and researcher mobility takes up European governments’ interests

In addition to migration for work, migration for education is increasingly important, as European countries strive to strengthen their ability to attract global talent. Two in three countries adopted measures related to admitting and receiving foreign students and researchers. For example, Lithuania focused on increasing the limit of working hours, which is a factor that makes countries more attractive destinations for study. Likewise, students in Portugal were also granted more time to seek employment after graduation.

Other countries simplified the application process for international students. The Czech Republic, for example, shortened the time for prospective students’ appointments for visa applications in embassies and consulates, while the Netherlands set up a Housing Hotline to respond to accommodation shortage challenges. Some countries took measures to attract students from specific third countries: Finland carried out promotion activities in countries via social media for instance and Slovakia granted scholarships specifically to Syrian refugees.

What will it be like in 2018?

While these measures demonstrate the variety of approaches currently followed in Europe, they also suggest gaps and the fact that many of these measures are often not coordinated. By the end of the year, a report by the Eurydice unit will present more systematically policies aiming to integrate students with migrant background in European schools, which our report will place in the global context of voluntary and forced movements of people around the world. Education policy makers’ responses hold the key for making migration an opportunity rather than a challenge.

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