The Puggle: September 2022 edition

In the September Puggle, we reflect on the landmark United Nation’s Transforming Education Summit (TES). We celebrate the work of many actors — including you, our readers — for securing collective acknowledgement that education is not a soft topic to be underfunded, or sidelined as has been the practice of the past. We then couple TES’s multiple exciting (but non-binding) calls to actions with key open-source resources and tools (see table below) to help carry this potential transformation forward.

For the first time in modern history, transforming education was elevated to the top of the global political agenda at UNGA.

For decades, educationalists have sounded the alarm bells, cautioning against the rising scale and severity of the educational crises; calling for a transformation of education systems.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of implementers, researchers, donors and advocates, global attention has finally arrived – with many rightly feeling perhaps it’s too little too late. Even in these uncertain times, we can’t help but find hope in the efforts of civil society to create this moment of recognition for education – a moment which holds particular salience for most marginalized children around this world.

September 2022 marked a pivotal shift to world leaders acknowledging that we have collectively squandered the potential of education. Governments have always been aware of the importance of education – what has changed in the wake of TES is global recognition that “Instead of being the great enabler, education is fast becoming the great divider.” Last month, the world finally witnessed a majority of world leaders acknowledge that it is time to transform education.

In addition to this conceptual shift, TES has also followed through with unprecedented political commitments to transform education at scale:

  • At the global-level, TES produced seven new worldwide initiatives to accelerate educational progress around learning poverty, inclusivity, climate change, gender equity and financing. To drive action, UNESCO is advocating for country leaders to move beyond words and instate targeted accountability mechanisms to monitor progress on these initiatives.
  • In tandem, TES generated 115 – 130 new national political commitments to “reboot education systems and accelerate action.” Initial analysis of these commitments outline “bold visions” to inclusively transform education systems and will likely drive public and private action within countries for the next few years.

While ambitious and exciting, it is important to remember that these commitments are not binding. Consequently, the actualization of these visions will require continued efforts from civil society.  And while we’re excited to get started transforming education systems, we’re also daunted by the sheer magnitude of the task at hand. 

Hence, we’re using this month’s puggle to pair TES’s multiple calls to actions with key resources and tools that could help to see this work through:

Transformative Commitments (Potentially)Key Resources and Tools
Why we’re excited:
75% of countries “underlined the importance of gender-sensitive education policies, programs, and/or approaches.

Why we want more: 
However, few articulated concrete measures to do so.
> Malala Fund’s Girls’ Education Report Card reveals how every country’s progress measures up against its commitments to advancing girls’ education.

> Pop Council’s EGER database provides open-source access to the most rigorous evidence on gender-sensitive (& gender transformative) approaches to education programming and policy.

> UNGEI’s Knowledge Hub collates key learning material for organizations “working to advance gender equality in and through education.”
Why we’re excited:
Over a third of countries committed to supporting the psycho-social well-being of students and teachers. 

Why we want more: 
However, few articulated concrete measures to do so.
> The World Bank’s Step by Step Toolkit equips teachers with tools to help students understand and manage their emotions in a developmentally appropriate manner from primary to the upper secondary level.

> Harvard University’s EASEL Lab makes it easy for users to explore the various SEL approaches used by practitioners and researchers around the world.

> In India, the Life Skills Collaborative offers an open-source workspace that includes a glossary of common terms in regional languages and forthcoming assessment tools.

> In East Africa, The ALiVE collaborative is bringing together over 30+ civil society organizations to develop contextualized, open-source tools to assess critical life skills. We encourage other local implementers 
Why we’re excited:
50% of countries will prioritize addressing learning loss and attainment of critical foundational literacy and numeracy skills

Why we want more:
There were few mentions of prioritizing linguistic minorities, despite extensive advocacy around local language instruction
>’s rapid global synthesis of Accelerated Education Programming documents practical, contextually relevant learnings for effective implementation from researchers and practitioners.

> The FLN Hub offers a repository of the world’s most effective tools to “help governments achieve their goals of foundational literacy and numeracy goals” 

> The Luminos Fund shares best practices and downloadable resources from its on-the-ground efforts to accelerate foundational learning in most marginalized communities

> RTI International’s The Science of Teaching shares how-to-guides for various proven approaches that improve FLN (structured pedagogy, Teaching at the Right Level, etc.)

> SIL International’s open-source Bloom Software enables users to write and print books in their local language, as well as adapt books from other languages.
Why we’re excited:
2 out of 3 countries will implement actions to offset financial and non-financial barriers to education for economically vulnerable communities through evidence-based programming (cash transfers, free school transportation, scholarships, etc.)

Why we want more:
Just 2 country statements mentioned specific measures to incentivize re-enrollment and / or mitigate dropout for students in rural or remote locations.
> UNESCO launched a new platform to monitor the number of children out of school. Not only does this platform fill important data gaps, but it is also disaggregated by gender at all levels.

> Sierra Leone’s free-free + radical inclusion policy has recently led to significant increases in grade completion at all schooling levels, largely driven by students from the poorest households.

> Recent research finds that exposure to midday meals has a positive causal link to learning outcomes for primary-school children. This study finds significant improvements in scores 3-4 years after exposure!

> Echidna Global Scholar Damaris Seleina Parsitau notes the increasing recognition that bicycle provision “can serve as an effective conditional non-cash transfer to help girls get to and stay in school”
Why we’re excited:
66 countries acknowledged gaps in education access + delivery for differently-abled children and committed to improved resourcing. These commitments were “expressed most consistently in LMICs and conflict-affected countries.”

Why we want more: 
Few commitments articulated concrete measures to achieve this.
> Save the Children’s Inclusive Education Resources & Toolkit offers the latest resources and guidance for implementers.

> RTI International has collated Disability Inclusion Guides for Low- and Middle-Income Countries to support the creation of inclusive education systems, classrooms and schools through policy advocacy and daily practice.
Why we’re excited:
2 out of 3 countries have committed “to universalize broadband internet connectivity and expand access to devices and connectivity among more disadvantaged learners and schools”

Why we want more: 
less than 5% of school-age children from low-income countries have internet connection at home. Without any binding agreements, it’s unclear whether governments will reach the last mile
Of course, there’s an app for everything, so we’ll just share some of our most favorite ones:

> Pratham Open School offers educational games, stories and video lessons + low tech resources for areas where access may still be spotty. We recommend Aakaaron ki Khoj (In Search of Shapes) for our fellow Hindi speakers!

> Check out Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids to access a free, world-class education anywhere where there is internet connectivity!

> Try Chimple to have fun while learning the alphabet and basic arithmetic
Why we’re excited:
Over a third of countries committed to meet the basic international education financing benchmarks laid out in 2015

Why we want more: 
Without any binding agreements, it’s hard to know if this will finally come to fruition.
> We’ve found momentary solace in the launch of The International Finance Facility for Education: an innovative financing mechanism to begin tackling the massive global education funding gap in LMICs. (explanation video)
Why we’re excited:
80% of countries have prioritized “in-service training and professional development” to better support teachers.

Why we want more: 
“Measures to address teacher shortages were almost entirely absent from Statements of Commitments,” even in countries where this is a pressing issue…
> Check out the Teachers for a Changing World: Transforming Teacher Professional Development Spotlight which reviews over 400 tech-based TPD programs from 80 countries, identifying 10 finalists for their impact and potential to scale.

> UNESCO’s Transforming Education from Within report provides a “contextual, data-driven overview of the key challenges facing teachers around the world.”

> Schools2030’s Educator Toolkit empowers teachers to identify root causes of learning gaps and design low-cost small-scale solutions that are relevant to local need.

What a list! Clearly, civil society has steadily been creating transformation at small-scale, as well as large, well before the conceptual shifts and unprecedented political commitments that came from TES.

Hence, we felt a celebration of educationalists such as yourselves was long overdue. Through decades of arduous and persistent innovation, collaboration, advocacy, research, on-the-ground action, etc. we have finally secured commitments from over 130 world leaders to transform education and accelerate action to end the multiple consequential crises that deny millions of children the opportunity to learn.

We’ve also secured the support of over 60 international education funders who “stand ready to contribute to the mobilization of resources and to support global and in-country efforts to transform education.”

Thank you, for all your efforts to bring us to this point. Now that we have these bold commitments, we look forward to working together to turn them into realities.