UNESCO urges government to provide universal quality education

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

The United Nations Environment, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s 2017/18 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, released on Tuesday and copied to the Ghana News Agency, warns that disproportionate blame on any one actor for systemic educational problems can have serious negative side effects, widen inequality and damage learning.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said “education is a shared responsibility between us all– governments, schools, teachers, parents and private actors.”

“Accountability for these responsibilities defines the way teachers teach, students learn and governments act. It must be designed with care and with the principles of equity, inclusion and quality in mind.”

Accountability in education: meeting our commitments,’ the second in the GEM Report series, which monitors progress towards the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4), looks at the different ways people and institutions can be held accountable for reaching that goal, including regulations, testing, monitoring, audits, media scrutiny, and grass root movements.

The Report said blaming teachers for poor test scores and absenteeism is often both unjust and unconstructive.

It shows, for example, that nearly half of teacher absenteeism in Indonesia in 2013/14 was due to excused time for study for which replacements should have been provided.

Similarly, in Senegal, only 12 of the 80 missed school days in 2014 were due to teachers avoiding their responsibilities. People cannot be held accountable for outcomes that depend on the actions of others.

“Using student test scores to sanction teachers and schools makes it more likely they will adjust their behaviour to protect themselves, which may mean leaving the weakest learners behind,” said Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report.

“Accountability must start with governments. If a government is too quick to apportion blame to others, it is deflecting attention away from its own responsibility for creating a strong, supportive education system.”

Whereas transparency would help identify problems, only one in six governments publish annual education monitoring reports. Strong independent bodies such as ombudsmen, parliaments and audit institutions are also needed to hold governments to account for education.

Lack of accountability opens the door to corruption. In the European Union in 2009-2014, 38 per cent of education and training tenders only had one bidder, compared to 16 per cent of tenders in the construction sector, indicating that the risk of corruption is higher in education than in the building industry.

Setting and enforcing regulations ranging from contract tendering to teacher qualifications are also crucial, the Report said. Fewer than half of low and middle-income countries had standards for early childhood education and just a handful had mechanisms to monitor compliance. There are no regulations on class sizes in almost half of countries.

Government regulations are often too slow to keep up with the fast growth of private schools and universities. In Lagos, Nigeria, only 26 per cent of private schools in 2010/2011 had been approved by the State Ministry of Education.

It said in countries with weak accreditation processes, thousands of students graduate with unrecognized degrees. In Kenya and Uganda, private schools were operating without qualified teachers and with inadequate infrastructure before regulations were put in place and courts shut them down.

 

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