Ensuring Quality Education Globally, Nordic Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden

Dr Katharina E. Höne, paper presented at the 3rd Joint Nordic Conference on Development Research, Gothenburg, Sweden, 5-6 November 2015.

The full paper abstract is provided below.

What quality and whose assessment? The role of education diplomacy in ensuring quality education globally: Local voices, practices, and knowledge in the global discourses on measuring progress toward education in the post-2015 development agenda

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN General Assembly in September 2015, an ambitious education goal that emphasizes the quality of education is put on the global agenda. As the experience with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) shows, the SDGs are likely to mobilize considerable efforts and resources. Moreover, experience with MDG 2, focusing on universal primary education, also shows that the particular focus of the goal determines development cooperation in significant ways, with consequences for curricula and local teaching practices.

With regard to the SDGs, I am particularly interested in SDG 4, which calls for “ensur[ing] inclusive and equitable quality education and promot[ing] lifelong learning opportunities for all.” While Goal 4 broadly defines the scope of the global effort, the indicators used to measure progress toward the goal will be particularly important and will determine to what extent aspects of education that do not lend themselves easily to quantification can be preserved alongside more quantifiable education outcomes.

Consultations about SDG 4 and the indicators for SDG 4 have raised questions about measuring the quality of education (the following frameworks are notable: Learning Metrics Task Force [LMTF], Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network [SDSN], and Technical Advisory Group of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics [UIS TAG]). Next March, the Inter-agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) will decide on an indicator framework for the SDGs, drawing on previous debates. Parallel to these processes, there is a strong push from the World Bank in favor of results-based financing for education.

Building on these points, I explore how the voices of those emphasizing local and indigenous practices and knowledge have been included in the consultation processes and relevant outcome documents. The perspective of education diplomacy is especially important, as it allows me to focus on the consultation and negotiation processes in particular and highlight multi-stakeholder practices, their potential, and their pitfalls in the post-2015 development agenda.