Institute of Education

Research & Expertise to Make a Difference in Education & Beyond

IOE Scholars Contribute to UNESCO’s 2017/18 GEM Report on Accountability in Education

Researchers at the IOE Laboratory for University Development have been commissioned by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) unit to take part in drafting one of GEM’s latest massive studies, the 2017/18 Report on Accountability in Education. For purposes of this report, IOE's leading experts Dmitry Semyonov, Daria Platonova, Natalia Isaeva and Anna Kobtseva have prepared two background research papers taking national and international perspectives on various facets of university and student accountability.       

It is a well-known adage that everyone has their unique and important part to play in advancing education. A crucial factor in sustainable social integrity and economic growth, educational systems are complex living organisms whose streamlined development and well-being are conditional upon their stakeholders – students, parents, communities, institutions and policy agencies – all acting fairly and responsibly in a transparent environment of shared goals and commitments. To make sure this scenario is feasible, it is essential for law & policy frameworks to facilitate a well-justified and robust parity in the rights and responsibilities of such various parties in education, and this is where the mechanisms of accountability come to the fore.

As UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has put it, accountability is all about being able to act when something is going wrong, through policy, legislation and advocacy, including through ombudspersons, to protect citizens’ rights. A framework intended to help different societal parties, including in education, best deliver on the goals they have pledged to achieve, accountability means that every such actor should be held responsible for providing an impartial and definitive account of how they have been delivering on their commitments. Observing these principles, through various types of monitoring, evaluation and disclosure, is key to empowering cooperative multilateral environments of openness and mutual reliance, to ensure informed decision-making as groundwork for carving out the most appropriate, equity-centered courses of further action.

Cooperating with UNESCO marks an important achievement for our Laboratory, and we take great pride in having secured this opportunity to contribute to the GEM Report on Accountability in Education. This is yet further recognition of the efforts we’ve been investing in recent years to advance our international R&D agenda by leveraging frontline academic capital in higher education studies, including through promoting our partnership ties with the world’s leading research institutions and policy organizations. It is thanks to this proactive networking and collaboration that we’ve been able to implement a series of high-caliber cross-border research projects, including a large-scale study of post-Soviet higher education systems and several more. Our contribution to the UNESCO Report wouldn’t have been possible but for all the extensive international expertise we’ve accumulated in the course of these R&D endeavors.

Daria Platonova, Head of the IOE Laboratory for University Development    

Despite the general consensus about the strong progress that educational systems have made over the past several decades, with their ongoing expansion and growing participation rates worldwide, there are still many challenges and barriers to achieving Sustainability Development Goal 4. Many of these have been triggered exactly by poor accountability, which in turn has resulted in persisting conflicts of interests, political misalignments, lack of mutual trust, empty promises and other factors precluding a synergistic collective contribution to more equitable and higher-quality learning.

Examples of how accountability gaps – in global, national and institutional regulation as well as in civil society – have acted to disseminate educational malpractice and amplify social segregation, with various vulnerable groups suffering the most, are staggeringly numerous. We observe millions of children worldwide still significantly lagging behind their peers by the achievement in core living literacies, or even completely deprived of the fundamental privilege to obtain basic schooling. In many nations, biased state politics and cultural reversals have propelled acute gender inequity, with girls and ladies severely constrained in opportunities for decent schooling and academic careers. Also, there have been instances of school teachers sanctioned for student underperformance, harmful practices of pseudoeducation at for-profit institutions under scarce regulatory oversight, or acute education funding inequalities across national communities. All of such factors have inevitably eradicated social justice, undermined the quality of learning, and stunted sociocultural progress at large.     

The above affirms that designing, implementing and upholding robust accountability principles is an imperative to be shared among all the parties in education, for everyone to have, fully understand and abide by their clearly defined roles and areas of responsibility. Any single stumble or failure in the accountability chain may threaten to shatter the entire rationale of partnering for education. Catalyzing progress means monitoring progress on an ongoing basis, through access to relevant institutional, community, national and global evidence, to be able to timely identify the existing problems, to plausibly judge about any pitfalls and minefields that may transpire, and to deliver the most practical remedies. This emphasizes the role of stronger accountability mechanisms across stakeholder networks as the linchpin factor in better enforcing equitable rights to quality education for everyone.

Prepared within UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework by an international independent expert board, the 2017/18 GEM Report on Accountability in Education is intended as a mechanism for monitoring and reporting on achievements and shortcomings in delivering on Sustainability Development Goal 4, with a specific focus on the progress in implementing national and international strategies ensuring various stakeholders in education are held accountable for their commitments through enshrining and enforcing law & policy, and through promoting morals and appropriate civil attitudes among the broadest social cohorts.

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