Recently, we had the pleasure of participating in the 19th International Conference on Education Research at Seoul National University (SNU) in the Republic of Korea. GPE was a cooperating organization to this year’s conference, which gathered education and development researchers and practitioners in Korea and beyond to discuss “Education for Democracy and Social Justice ”.
This theme fit within the broader and more recent shift in Korea’s development approach, toward a focus on peace, human rights and democracy. Many of the conference presentations examined education’s role in promoting peace and fostering global citizenship.
There were also discussions of the changing role of social media, and the need for students to develop critical digital literacy skills to help them navigate a 21st century global and increasingly interconnected digital environment. One compelling presentation by Sheldon Schaeffer, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood Education (ARNEC), reminded participants of the ongoing global crisis of access to and quality of education, observing that inclusive education is a “prerequisite to social justice.” With this in mind, Dr. Shaeffer’s presentation also attempted to reframe perspectives on why children are excluded from school, arguing that the global community should also share some of the responsibility.
As a cooperating organization, the GPE Secretariat was invited to speak on a panel on gender equality and girls’ education, along with the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Seoul National University and World Vision.
We were also invited to organize a panel on social accountability in education, a topic profiled in great detail in last year’s GEM Report and introduced in the panel session by Dr. Aaron Benavot, former GEM Director. Dr. Moon S Hong of SNU outlined how Korea’s recent focus on peace, human rights and democracy could have a long-lasting impact on development policy.
GPE contributions to civil society’s voice in education
The principles of mutual accountability and transparency are of course built into our strategy (GPE 2020), and integral to these principles is the role that civil society plays in education governance to ensure equitable, quality and inclusive education for all.
Our presentation focused on GPE’s past and future support to civil society advocacy and social accountability, through the Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) and Advocacy and Social Accountability (ASA) mechanism.
More information on the CSEF and ASA mechanism is available on this blog and in this report, so we won’t get too much into the weeds here. However, we know that active civil society inclusion, representation and engagement in education sector policy dialogue is an important factor in ensuring mutual accountability.
GPE’s support to civil society engagement and evidence-based advocacy through CSEF has led to policy and practice change in a number of countries over the years. Ranging from influencing strategies for special needs education in Malawi, to supporting increases in domestic financing in Sierra Leone and Indonesia, to raising public debate over the role of private education in Ghana, these case studies have been captured in a recent CSEF Learning Brief prepared by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE).
As ASA is launched in 2019, we hope to see even more of these examples of active and effective citizen and civil society participation to hold partners accountable for the promises of SDG 4. Equally important is to document good practices of social accountability, and ensure future support to civil society engagement learns and responds in kind to these lessons.
We were honored to be a part of this year’s ICER and hope to continue to see more discussions over the important role that civil society and social accountability play for achieving SDG4. For our part, GPE will continue to promote transparency and accountability in the education sector across the breadth of our partnership and encourage all of you to help us make sure we’re keeping on track.