Education Post-2015: Re-Invigorating the Agenda, or Reshuffling the Lobbies? NORRAG Panel at CIES 2013

By Kenneth King and Alexandra Draxler.

This panel at CIES was organized by NORRAG as part of its contribution to the discussion about the policy directions and financial flows that are likely to make up the post-2015 international education environment. The exercise of setting the post-2015 agenda is currently dominated by institutions and individuals in the economically developed economies. From the ambitious platform of the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) (Jomtien, 1990) to the six EFA goals of the World Education Forum (Dakar, 2000) and then to the dominance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of universal primary schooling by 2015 and gender equity by 2005, the simplification of goals and targets has resulted in a narrowing of the vision for education. Will whatever emerges as the post-2015 framework come full circle to the broader Jomtien vision? Will the means of measurement attempt to capture a more ambitious set of aims? Will renewed attention to the functions of post-basic education for society as well as for the health of the education system itself be encapsulated in the education aims and goals?

There is no current consensus on what constitutes quality or relevance of education. There is no consensus on what skills can and should be fostered through formal or non-formal learning. We lack a description of what international goals could contribute to a narrowing of inequality. Teachers do not figure prominently among the perceived levers for change or the participants in policy dialogue. Where are the assessments of the successes, failures, opportunity costs and distortions brought about by the twenty years of international mobilization for EFA?

These are some of the questions raised by the presentations of Kenneth King (download PowerPoint), whose paper with Robert Palmer formed the background to his remarks, Alexandra Draxler (download PowerPoint / read blog) and Sobhi Tawil (read blog).

The ensuing dialogue enabled participants and panelists to engage in a lively disputation around some of these questions and many others. Participants confirmed that developing country initiatives to revisit education objectives and the tools by which to measure them have been modest so far. Indeed one encounters the observation that until the Jomtien and Dakar aims and goals are reached, revision might be unnecessary. Participation in on- and off-line consultations is dominated both numerically and ideologically by the North. Many questions are being asked about the seemingly unstoppable belief in and support for large-scale testing as a tool to track learning outcomes. Lobbies, it was claimed, are busy trying to ensure that a word or phrase will be included in any final education goals that can protect their  commitments, turf, and funding. The dominance of a few key funders on the formulation of education policy reform continues to elicit negative views. But whatever the questions, the many panels at CIES around post-2015 were among those the best attended, giving ample evidence of the interest among scholars and policy makers for “Education beyond 2015”.

>> Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference Site

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. Email: Kenneth.king@ed.ac.uk

Alexandra Draxler was an education specialist at UNESCO. She is now an independent consultant. Email: a.draxler@gmail.com

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