In times of austerity, public sector reform and budget cuts, multi-stakeholder partnerships are considered an important strategy to complement public education financing.
Private schools, private management of public schools and the production and distribution of textbooks are just some areas where public-private-partnerships are already active.
The Global Education & Skills Forum (Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 15-17 March) focused on how to develop an enabling environment for effective partnerships by allowing international leaders to explore how governments and the private sector could join efforts to prioritize education, in line with the UN Secretary- General’s Global Education First Initiative.
Opened via satellite by former United States President Bill Clinton, this two-day event was organized by UNESCO organized together with the Government of the United Arab Emirates, Varkey GEMS Foundation and the Commonwealth Business Council. Speakers and panellists included heads of government, ministers, chairs and chief executives of businesses, researchers, multi-lateral agencies and NGOs.
“UNESCO’s position is clear; education is a human right and a public good. The state plays an essential role as defender of this principle, setting standards and norms that guarantee quality and equality of opportunity. However in delivering education, the State should not be alone: it does so together with families, communities, civil society organization, the private sector and others. We need to do a better job of harnessing all of these stakeholders to improve the delivery and financing of education”, said Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO, at the inaugural session.
Among other topics, the plenary sessions addressed private education, educational content, technology and education delivery, and female advancement in education. The conference also featured regional insights on education and skills, along with discussions on fostering global citizenship, curriculum reform, entrepreneurship education and industry needs.
The session on education reform explored the success factors of partnerships including discussion of the need for a regulatory framework to ensure access, quality, relevance, effectiveness and, especially, equity. One concern was the need for proper monitoring and evaluation so that partnerships did not increase inequalities.
As Mr Tang reminded participants, UNESCO has already entered into a number of innovative partnerships in education with entities such as Procter & Gamble, the Packard Foundation and the Varkey GEMS Foundation.