Taking Ideas off the Wall and Into the Classroom

How everyone’s good ideas counted at the GPE replenishment conference

Children and teacher raise their hands. Malawi Primary School Credit: GPE/Tara O'Connell

At the GPE replenishment conference on June 26, 2014 in Brussels, a number of thematic sessions were held to discuss some of the key challenges facing the education sector. These sessions addressed subjects such as access to education and equality for the most marginalized, the quality of education and learning outcomes, and improving data and education management systems.

To both amplify the ideas from their sessions and tie them together with a common thread, the conference featured an Ideas Wall: a blank canvas on which participants were encouraged to post written and illustrative solutions to a series of thought-provoking questions related to the key education challenges.

Generating over 130 responses, the Ideas Wall challenged participants to think creatively. The five crosscutting themes raised at the Ideas Wall were: girls’ education, equity, education in fragility, education quality and resource mobilization. What follows are some of the ideas from participants at the conference for how to tackle some of these difficult barriers to quality education.

A short video of how the Ideas Wall evolved during the conference:

Girls’ Education: ‘If you could prioritize one intervention that would improve girls' educational journey, what would it be?’

This question elicited the most ideas from participants – indicating the appetite to urgently address this challenge and the crosscutting nature of girls’ education to all other areas of education.

Some ideas called for the link between health and education to be strengthened, particularly for adolescent girls. One such idea was:

“Health education! Teaching girls and boys about their bodies, nutrition, diseases will be key to achieving multiple development goals. Knowledge = power.”

A greater focus on sexual and reproductive health education, for both boys and girls, can tackle some of the common barriers to education (such as gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy and the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS) while also amplifying some of the positive effects of girls’ education (such as healthier adult lives, fewer and healthier children, and lower health costs for individuals and states).

Equity: ‘How do we know we are reaching the most marginalized children?’

Ensuring equity in education remains one of the sectors’ greatest priorities and challenges. It is also one of the reverberating themes of the discussion over the post-2015 development agenda. Some of the ideas asked to further explore what marginalization from education could mean:

“Rethink about who the marginalized are and broaden the idea on what basis people can be marginalized - language minorities, youth with disabilities, transgender, indigenous."

“We know we are reaching the most marginalized when every tribal girl child of scattered habitation even with a disability, is able to speak the mainstream language and has completed secondary education (with reading, writing, comprehension)” ". 

Education in Conflict: “What is the best way to ensure children continue to receive an education, especially in crisis?”

The ideas presented in response to this question showed the breadth of research and investment that has been dedicated to ensuring children in fragile contexts are not denied an education. Two common themes emerged: one around ensuring that schools are protected and safe from external and internal attacks, and the other around using innovative technology such as mobile phones and distance learning to ensure children continue to receive an education even without a formal classroom.

Resource Mobilization: “How can we ensure resources are used more effectively to advance governments’ education priorities?”

This was an important question since it directly linked with the reason d'être of the conference – increasing donor and developing country partners’ financing for education. These ideas are particularly relevant for the next replenishment period (2015 to 2018), as the $28.5 billion in financing committed at the conference will help realize tangible and sustainable impacts on the lives of children.

Ideas included the mobilization of alternative resources: 

“New funds and financial instruments such as Development Impact Bonds and Social Impact Bonds should be mainstreamed to provide additional capacity.”

There were also calls for greater transparency in the use of resources:  

"Recognizing that there is an accountability problem - corruption with regard to allocation of education funding. Implement supranational, not governmental efforts to ensure appropriate allocation of funding" and “Strengthen capacity [of governments] and contribute to approaches that promote accountability systems and capacity strengthening."

Education Quality: ‘What was most important in enabling you to learn in school?’

This question asked participants to remember their own education experience  and what elements enabled them to learn. . The resounding response was the importance of teachers. Not just well trained and well paid teachers, but teachers who are given the respect they deserve and the liberty to be creative and innovative in order to make learning both fun and relevant.

The second most important element was the role that parents and communities play in creating quality education systems. This message hit home with the visit of Ziuaddin Yousafzai to the Ideas Wall. Ziauddin epitomizes the crucial role a parent can play in their child’s educational experience, evident by the support he gave to his daughter Malala even when others were forcing her out of school.

Turning Ideas into Action

The ideas generated at the conference in Brussels and the conversations held in the formal session and corridors were just a beginning. What is more important is what happens next – how we ensure the solutions to some of the greatest barriers to education are realized. The entries at the Ideas Wall complement seven Calls to Action released and endorsed by organizations at the conference. These are:

  1. Because We Promised: Inclusive Quality Education for All Children with Disabilities
  2. Empowering Teachers
  3. Domestic Resource Mobilization
  4. Education Cannot Wait: Protecting Children and Youth's Right to a Quality Education in Humanitarian Emergencies and Conflict Situations
  5. Moving Beyond Access: Accelerating Progress for Girls' Education
  6. Strengthening Accountability in Education
  7. Investing Urgently in Early Childhood Care and Education

The signatories to these calls to action and other governments and organizations interested in taking these priorities forward will work together to ensure these ideas don’t remain on a wall, but they are implemented in communities and schools around the world so that children are given a brighter and more promising future.


Alex Geraghty is a 21 year old student who is a keen blogger, filmmaker and writer. He attended the GPE Replenishment Pledging Conference in June 2014 in Brussels, Belgium as one of 30 youth delegates. Alex is...

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