Transforming education: What’s the GPE approach?

How GPE is working with partners to transform education so that more children in partner countries realize their right to a quality education and be on their way to thrive and contribute to building a better world for all.

June 27, 2022 by Jo Bourne, Global Partnership for Education
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5 minutes read
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Ridaki District, School #181. Tajikistan, May 2017. Credit: GPE/ Carine Durand
Ridaki District, School #181. Tajikistan, May 2017.
Credit: GPE / Carine Durand

In 2020, GPE launched the GPE 2025 strategy and our new brand with the tagline “Transforming Education”, to signify a new chapter in GPE’s life. “Transforming Education” is also the name of the UN Summit that will take place this September to galvanize action around the achievement of SDG 4.

The ambition of education partners to transform education is much needed. The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the effects of climate change, conflict and economic slowdown, have deepened the learning crisis that existed prior to 2020.

We’ve also witnessed education systems adapting, teachers learning to use new methods of instruction, low tech and high-tech innovations to reach children. So, a bold approach is relevant and possible today.

As countries respond to the various crises they face, we want to help them seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make learning a reality for all their children.

A call to action as the cornerstone of the GPE strategy

But what does transformation look like in practice? And how do we ensure that it is not interpreted as islands of innovation, but rather as the development of modern, adaptable and resilient education systems, with the potential to reach all children and impact learning at scale?

The GPE 2025 strategy, which supports SDG 4, focuses on improving learning, equity and inclusion for the most marginalized children, including girls, children affected by crises and displacement, and children with disabilities.

To achieve our vision of “a quality education for every child” and realize our ambitions, we knew that we needed to shift from business as usual to a bolder approach, to shore up past gains and accelerate progress toward resilient education systems fit for the 21st century.

Moreover, our sharpened approach to transform education systems aims to enhance these systems holistically, based on a deep understanding of country context, coupled with evidence and a “learn and adapt" mindset during implementation (more on that below).

Education systems are complex, with many interdependent components and processes. Education actors – politicians, central and decentralized levels of government, teachers, communities, parents, development partners, civil society and private sector – all pulling in different directions can act as a brake on the delivery of results within complex education systems.

GPE’s new approach recognizes this complexity and challenges partners to prioritize the delivery of reforms that can catalyze and accelerate education progress.

Working in partnership, we aim to support countries to break through patterns of multiple priorities but weak implementation and have a more fundamental conversation on what it will take to unblock obstacles to delivery at scale and within systems.

A 3-step approach to system transformation

In supporting countries, GPE uses a 3-step approach to develop a country specific pathway to put system transformation into practice. As we pilot the approach with partners, we are adapting to different types of contexts, recognizing that one-size-fits-all is insufficiently sensitive to the dynamics, risks and opportunities that differ from country to country. Here are the three steps:

1. Assess and diagnose: At this stage, partners in the local education group, led by the ministry of education, review policy frameworks, sector performance, needs, gaps and existing evidence to identify the critical bottlenecks and priority reforms that have the potential to be truly transformational.

This process, during which GPE provides technical expertise, coordination support, and funding if requested, leads to a nuanced, context-sensitive analysis of the education system.

The analysis also includes an assessment of the country's performance under four enabling factors that we know are crucial to support system transformation: data and evidence; sector coordination; gender-responsive planning; and volume, equity and efficiency of domestic public expenditure on education.

2. Prioritize and align: The next stage consists of the development of a ‘partnership compact’, also led by the ministry of education, to align education actors, partners and technical and financial resources behind the prioritized reform, including the identification of key bottlenecks, proposed actions and how progress will be monitored.

The partnership compact is a new strategic tool in GPE 2025, to act as a stamen of shared intent and a tool to strengthen mutual accountability. Kenya, Tajikistan and El Salvador have already developed their compacts and we are learning from them and other pilot countries to adjust and share good practices with other countries.

GPE’s convening role has proven powerful to bring all actors around the table.

The compact discussions drive the country's focus on sector bottlenecks and the solutions to address them. The partnership compact also defines GPE's engagement and ensures that partners' financing is complementary and harmonized.

3. Act on evidence, learn and adapt. During implementation of any reform, it’s important to monitor progress in an agile way and course correct if something isn’t working. An ongoing approach to learning and adapting requires easy-to-use data and evidence and the openness and flexibility to act quickly to respond to opportunities and risks to the implementation of the shared priority. This increases accountability and allows evidence-based course correction if needed.

Cutting across all of these steps is a commitment to hardwire gender equality – identifying the specific gendered barriers that exist and systematically addressing them.

Adding support in key areas to enhance countries’ capacities

The GPE 2025 approach also includes a new offer to partner countries that we call “strategic capabilities”. Where partner countries identify a common gap in knowledge or capacity, or to connect with sectors beyond education that impact education outcomes, GPE brings in expertise from its wide range of partners and programs (in particular through KIX and Education out Loud) to fill this gap.

For the past 20 years, GPE has helped partner countries make significant progress in improving learning for hundreds of millions of girls and boys.

Now with our system transformation approach and the tools and funding to support it, we hope that even more children will realize their right to a quality education and be on their way to thrive and contribute to building a better world for all.

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