At the 39th session of the UNESCO General Conference, two ministerial panel debates explored the different mechanisms established by governments to promote accountability and transparency, including public monitoring and reporting. The high-level event with Education Ministers examined how greater accountability can benefit funding for education, and move the Education 2030 agenda forward.
“The presence of so many Ministers, from so many parts of the world, testifies to the strength of the commitment to education we share,” said UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova. “Education as a fundamental human right […] to eradicate poverty, to empower people, to prevent violent extremism, to protect our planet.”
A presentation on accountability in education helped frame the two panel discussions by clarifying the notion of accountability in education, the diversity of approaches, as well as the critical issue of accountability in the financing of education. Accountability aims to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of education systems, to improve individual, social and development outcomes for all. It needs timely, reliable, and transparent data that can inform decisions to deploy funds and regulate education institutions.
“Accountability helps show who is responsible for what, and how problems can be fixed,” said Mr Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) during his presentation on Accountability in education. “Everybody has a responsibility in education, but accountability starts with governments.”
Accountability: A diversity of approaches
The first panel focused on the diversity of approaches in accountability and its aims to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of education systems, ultimately in view of improving individual, social and development outcomes for all. By featuring the multitude of approaches, policy measures, strategies and tools used by governments in the context of SDG, this panel discussion identified the enabling environments required for effective accountability across the diversity of contexts. The debate included the Ministers of Education of France, Finland, Estonia, Bolivia, China, Liberia and Palestine.
“Accountability provides a powerful tool for change,” said Mr Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD’s Directorate of Education and Skills, who led the panel debate. “To move education ahead, very significant progress is needed.”
Mr Dankert Vedeler, Co-Chair of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, emphasized the importance of efficient and credible monitoring mechanisms, with timely and relevant data at all levels, including at the UN level.
Accountability in the Financing of Education
The second panel examined ways in which improved accountability can improve financing, both domestic and international financing, for education. Financial accountability is key to the success of Education 2030. The two obligations are that institutions report on how resources have been spent and that institutions act in accordance with the rule of law. Ministers of Education from Canada, Slovenia, Cuba, Cook Islands, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh participated in the debate.
“Financing is one of the greatest challenges faced by the low income and middle income countries in achieving SDG 4 by 2030,” said H.E. Mr Nurul Islam Nahid, Minister of Education of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the E-9 Group. “Through “Dhaka Declaration” we, the E-9 countries, have reaffirmed our commitments regarding increased government funding for education and ensuring accountability through its efficient use.”
“Financing education matters to children and families,” said Ms Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, who led the panel on accountability in financing education. “They care about whether the financing that has been promised is being delivered.”
UNESCO’s 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report highlights the responsibility of governments to provide universal quality education and stresses that accountability is indispensable in achieving this goal. The Report warns that disproportionate blame on any one actor for systemic educational problems can have serious negative side effects, widening inequality and damaging learning.