This week the Global Partnership for Education launches the second call for proposals under its new fund for civil society – Education Out Loud, which is managed by Oxfam IBIS. Education Out Loud aims to support civil society engagement in education sector planning, dialogue and monitoring; strengthen transparency and accountability in education; and create a stronger enabling environment for civil society advocacy at global and national levels.
This new call for proposals is open from December 9th to January 31st for applications to support transnational advocacy.
Education Out Loud’s funding for transnational advocacy promises to open the pathway for better, more effective education advocacy, accountability and engagement by bringing together country-level and global-level actors.
The success of this new fund tops our wish list for the New Year: it has the potential to spark a 21st century campaign for learning equity – a campaign that re-establishes government and intergovernmental accountability for the right to education; and that inspires citizens, everywhere, to realize their right to learn.
Why should we care about advocacy?
GPE has a long history of engaging with civil society in the effort to strengthen national educational systems, to ensure that they are properly financed, and focused on learning equity and on the needs of the most marginal and vulnerable populations (Mundy 2012). Representatives from civil society - north and south, NGOs and teacher organizations – play an important role in GPE’s Board and governance at the global level, and in GPE-supported sector planning, joint sector reviews and dialogue at the national level.
Between 2009 and 2018, GPE became a leader in financing civil society education coalitions in over 60 countries, under the Civil Society Education Fund, a program managed by the Global Campaign for Education. It has also funded new approaches for engaging civil society, through a pilot initiative with Education International and UNESCO on engaging teacher organizations in sector dialogue; and through novel initiatives on out-of-school children and school report cards called Data Must Speak co-funded by UNICEF and Hewlett Foundation.
Citizen voices must be heard
Despite the strong engagement with civil society by GPE and other international actors, there is so much more to be done. As organizations like Civicus and Afrobarometer highlight, civic space in many parts of the world is closing, with governments narrowing basic freedoms of speech and association.
Information technologies – which can support rapid, wide engagement of citizens in monitoring and accountability – also can be easily hijacked leading to the distortion of citizen voice in national politics. With limited outlets for citizen voice, and ever larger global challenges, it is no surprise to see a rising wave of civic unrest and citizen protest around the world.
GPE’s charter and strategy express the ideal of “mutual accountability”; and civil society participation in national education policy dialogue forms a core element of GPE’s operational model. Yet GPE’s recent country evaluations and results reports tell us that although members of civil society are increasingly engaged in national education sector planning and joint sector review processes, sector dialogue and monitoring are too often ineffective. Education plans are not being translated into reality; and governments are often not held accountable for ensuring that all children realize their right to learn.
The result is that almost 75 years since the first United Nations commitment to universal education, many children are schooled but not learning; and the numbers of adults without foundational literacy remain stubbornly high.
That is why Education Out Loud’s support for transnational advocacy is so important. Innovative national social accountability experiments such as the People’s Action for Learning network, are supporting citizens to monitor education outcomes nationally. What makes Education Out Loud stand out is that it seeks to ensure that not only are governments more accountable to their citizens, but that global and regional policy agendas are also more effectively addressing the challenges and realities of people at the community level.