We’ve been told: your advice for the GEM 2017 on accountability in education


The consultation for the 2017 GEM Report on Accountability in Education is soon to close. This blog contains some of the suggestions made by commentators for the GEM Report to consider as it embarks upon the research. Full comments can be read on the consultation webpage.

Too soon to critique learning assessments? Noah Sobe advised that the team look at the negative effects of accountability mechanisms on learning and classroom experiences as well as its benefits. Duishon Shamatov refers to research that suggests a “Third Way” after the past, and the present push for accountability that the GEM 2017 could explore.

Andreas Schleicher, however, thinks that an overemphasis on learning measurement may be ‘out of place’, especially with “the paint only drying on the indicator framework.” Silvia Montoya questions the same, but continues to support the Report’s potential for making a persuasive case for a proper balance in the use of assessment results for accountability. The Report ‘should make the point that perpetuating a system with poor performance is a violation of rights’.

Put equity front and centre: A few points are made on the importance of equity in the Report’s narrative. Reuben Nguyo comments on Kenya’s experience, asking how people with disabilities’ rights are protected. Montoya asks what it is about accountability flaws that means the poor are always last? The monitoring section of the Report could explore this further, particularly by analysing the use of data on accountability mechanisms, a view supported by Francisco Gutiérrez Soto.

genderratioPut children and youth first:  Ray Harris, Deviram Acharya, Ishya Consulting and George Stanley Njoroge felt more emphasis needed to be put on the voices of children and students, who form the majority of stakeholders in education, and are those for whom the education system has failed the most. Care should be taken when talking about education being ‘delivered’ as if the children and young people ‘receive’ education as a commodity rather than being fully engaged in the process.

Analyse all forms of corruption: A few commentators made suggestions on the way that corruption should be treated. Sheldon Scheaffer advised that the recruitment and re-appointment practices of principals and headteachers should be examined; investigations into teacher accountability should also include looking at the processes of induction and probation, which are often ‘mere formalities’.

Stephen Heyneman urged that the analysis also look at non-monetary corruption, such as favoring one category of students over others, sexual favors in exchange for grades, falsifying research data and national efforts to cheat on international accountability measures.

Remember self-reflection: Silvia Montoya like Nelly P. Stromquist, thinks the Report should take care to interrogate its own role. They both think our self-analysis should stretch to NGOs, and agencies, including UNESCO, UIS, the World Bank and others to ask whether there are models of better behavior/coordination.

Anna Wilson goes as far as to suggest that the GEM Report could propose a code of conduct, beginning with all those fighting to promote education, including ourselves. Similarly, RB Singh suggests an ethics committee for all education institutions.

Andreas Schleicher and Silvia Montoya both wonder if the GEM should look to forge a stronger link to the SDGs and Education 2030 than the concept note suggests. The SDG 4 is inspired by, among other things, shared responsibility and accountability. “The GEM 2017 is an opportunity to unpack what this means in reality and how its achievement could be tracked nationally and internationally, ” says Schleicher.

Take care in apportioning blame: Prema Clarke advised us to distinguish between deliberate subversion of accountability and failure due to genuine constraints or implementation problems, including technical and managerial.

Clinton Robinson reminded us that conflicting accountabilities could lead to irreconcilable priorities left for schools, education providers, civil society, parents, communities and learners to manage.

teacherzCan teachers be held to account for damaged education systems? Education International provided substantial comments along the following lines: “It is particularly ironic that we are holding our teachers accountable, considering that it was not the teachers, but rather the public, school boards and the Congress that maintained for years a schools policy based on the use of cheap teachers, a policy that placed little value on teachers’ skills or mastery of subject matter, and deprived teachers of any hope of a real professional career in teaching and of any chance of gaining the kind of status enjoyed by high status professionals. The thesis here is that one cannot divorce the design of the accountability system for education from the gestalt of the entire education system, and, in particular, the way in which the system treats its teachers overall”. – Marc Tucker, Center on International Education Benchmarking

Accountability is harder in Higher Education: Cláudia Sarrico provided informative comments about the difference between higher education, on the one hand, and primary and secondary education, on the other, and the importance of treating each differently in our analysis. Autonomy has been increasing in higher education in many countries, for instance. “This fact, may make the need for accountability more pressing, but also more difficult to steer”. Her comments also recommended looking at performance-based funding, also now being introduced, which are less researched than university rankings.

Carlos Rodriguez Ruiz, also gave advice on ways to look at higher education in the Report, asking us to question how it is that the tertiary sector directs training and research towards the most critical issues within developing countries, how the financing of education is channelled so as to drive socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth, and which, if any chartered accountability types assess these issues.

Accountability in Non-formal adult education: Ian Cheffy and Clinton Robinson urged a closer look at non-formal education, especially as regards basic education for adults in low-income countries, and in which context accountability operates very differently than within formal education in industrialised countries.

Accountability in ECD: Sheldon Schaeffer and Ray Harris urged the team to look at ECD programmes and pre-schools.

Accountability in TVET: Hans Krönner supported the need for the GEM Report 2017 to include accountability for TVET, particularly for forms of TVET with significant involvement of private providers and actors.

Financial accountability: Nathan Byrd suggested that, within a private sector model, where schools are directly accountable to parents, a micro finance actor is the most effective way to channel finance to a large number of actors, and can provide an improved framework of accountability. Mathieu Brossard advised the team to consider joint sector reviews (e.g., in health and education), which are a way for ensuring accountability at country/national level, and especially for low income countries eligible for GPE funding.

We thank you for your comments, which we will take very seriously as we embark upon a year’s work on this subject.


Leave a Reply