Coordinated action to transform education – What’s in it for different education actors and partners?

A new GPE series of briefs looks at the potential gains, motivations and incentives for diverse education actors to coordinate their support for education system transformation in lower-income countries.

July 12, 2023 by Carmela Salzano, GPE Secretariat, Mylla Ramos, GPE Secretariat, and Janne Kjaersgaard Perrier, GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
Chhay Kim Hak interacts with her grade one students at Chambak Haer Primary School, Puok District in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Credit: GPE/Roun Ry
Chhay Kim Hak interacts with her grade one students at Chambak Haer Primary School, Puok District in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Credit: GPE/Roun Ry

In the education sector, strategies aimed at improving learning outcomes for all are often complex as they involve a broad range of actors with diverse perspectives, priorities, approaches and needs. This can lead to fragmentation and loss of coherence where leadership is under-invested or actors pull in different directions.

Coordinated action can help ensure that programming, resources and expertise align with country policy directives, reform efforts and priorities, and are also used efficiently.

Coordination draws a particular focus on equity, gender equality and inclusion issues when representatives of under-served, vulnerable and marginalized groups are closely engaged, as these actors dynamically contribute to education transformation processes.

Why coordination matters to GPE

GPE works with partner countries to navigate their education systems through the confluence of challenges arising from COVID-19 pandemic recovery and the global learning crisis. In light of continuing turbulence and massive education financing gaps, there is a tendency for multiplying bilateral engagements in problem-solving.

GPE believes there is an even greater value to having education actors come together as a cohesive education community, unlocking innovative solutions for education.

Through the partnership compact process, GPE supports ministries of education and their partners to critically examine their coordination practices to understand how mechanisms can best support and accelerate change in a priority reform area and how to remove any barriers to progress.

This is key, considering that reform efforts may require coordinated action at different levels (central, regional, local, school), in different forms (strategic, technical, informal) and across different sectors (climate, health, social and technological).

Partnership compacts offer a concrete vehicle for partners to work through coordination issues, when they allow partners to home in on specific bottlenecks, identify and agree on how to address and monitor practices.

‘What’s in it for me?’

What then might be some incentives and gains for closer coordination that outweigh any potential losses in decision-making control? Why should education actors engage in coordinated action when there may be added transaction costs, process challenges or partnership hurdles to overcome in building effective mechanisms?

The ‘What’s in it for me?’ brief series takes the perspective of specific education stakeholders to articulate potential incentives and interests for engaging in sector, sub-sector, technical or thematic coordination, and highlights the value that each group brings.

Acknowledging the variety of ways in which different actors already contribute to education outcomes through problem-solving, leadership and innovations in teaching and learning, the briefs:

  • propose arguments for WHY partners should come to the table, join forces and align their actions in support of countries’ education ambitions and transformation efforts.
  • foster a shared understanding of HOW individual contributions can be amplified through collective action, and the positive outcomes that can be achieved.
  • spotlight WHAT different partners can contribute in relation to each other while acknowledging their roles in the collective effort.
Gains and added value of different system actors through education coordination
Gains and added value of different system actors through education coordination.

Joining up and valuing partner efforts are critical to education system transformation

The level of complexity of the challenges teachers and learners face means that transformative solutions will not emerge from any individual government or actor in isolation.

Traditional actors such as governments, international development partners and nongovernmental organizations increasingly work alongside non-traditional actors such as private sector organizations, philanthropic foundations and technology companies. Still, many processes, perceptions and behaviors need to shift to achieve progress with greater speed, scale and inclusion.

Country examples in the ‘What’s in it for me?” briefs illustrate the power of cooperation and coordination, pointing to experiences where decision makers, civil society organizations, private sector entities, foundations, teachers, communities and international partners have co-created solutions for persistent education challenges, worked together to reinforce system components and identified opportunities to scale up innovative approaches to improve learning outcomes.

Realizing the specific value that each partner brings - be it experience, insights, influence, or technical and financial resources - is a basis for nurturing trust and enduring partnerships.

Explore the 'What's in it for me?' briefs and discover what's in it for you

The 'What's in it for me?' series fosters a connected, trusting and engaged education community. No matter the stakeholder group you are closest to or capacity in which you work, you can use these briefs to optimize your role in policy dialogue engagement and contribute to coordinated action.

Mainland Tanzania's ministry-led dialogue structures engage diverse education constituents. These exchanges were influential in the country's first attempt to align the plans and budgets of all implementing agencies in the context of the 2016/17–2020/21 Education Sector Plan. Through the development of its Partnership Compact in 2022, the ministry and its partners agreed on a key priority reform: improved inclusive student-based teaching for quality learning, and further reinforces alignment efforts in support of the current sector plan for 2021/22–2025/26.

In Nepal, there has been a push since 2020 to promote dialogue across digital training providers and teacher organizations to enable digital readiness and a learning culture across the teacher training system. This is with the aim of achieving both coherence between national ICT policy directives within the School Sector Development Plan as well as progress in digital transformation within teacher professional development.

In Cabo Verde, the participation of civil society organizations in sector coordination mechanisms has been central to pushing the policy environment toward more rights-based policy design and service delivery. The role that civil society organizations play in the local education group through the national coalition has brought benefits to their advocacy mission and to how they operate as well as partner with government.

In Lao People's Democratic Republic, joint measures to improve education dialogue are helping development partners respond better to sector challenges. The Education Sector Working Group has shifted from project-based dialogue to more dedicated consultations around policies, budgets and priority reforms. This shift has enabled partners to better understand key sector challenges and priorities.

In Uganda, where 1.5 million refugees and asylum seekers are hosted from surrounding countries, strong coordination across humanitarian and development partners supports education for refugee communities. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Education and Sports, and co-led by UNHCR and Finn Church Aid, the Education in Emergencies Working Group coordinates implementation of a comprehensive Education Response Plan.

In Senegal, the Mastercard Foundation has partnered with the government to support large-scale reforms to strengthen innovation and practice in secondary education through the APTE program. Thanks to the close association of other actors — including civil society implementers, unions and representative organizations – the APTE program has benefited over 30,000 students and embedded a strong element of policy dialogue in the sector.

In Sierra Leone, collaboration between Fab Inc. and the Ministry of Basic Education facilitated the creation of the digital school census, which has strengthened ministry capacities for equitable education planning, budgeting and teacher deployment. Since 2018, this collaboration has also helped to improve the ability of decision makers to access information about year-on-year education trends.

Governance, Sector planning

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