Global Partnership for Education: Impacting Lives

In recent years, educational opportunities have expanded worldwide in ways that sought to include those who previously had been excluded (e.g. children, women, minorities). This expansion of opportunities and access has occurred not by chance, but through hard work by many governments, non-governmental organizations, private citizens, and institutions in an effort to better people’s lives through education (Cohen, Bloom, Malin, & Curry, 2006). Hannum and Buchmann (2003) pointed to six basic assumptions that underlie the effort to expand educational opportunities as a means to positively impact the development of society and the economy: productive citizens are educated citizens; economic conditions can be improved by educated citizens; more education reduces social inequality; better education leads to better health; education enables citizens to make the choice to have fewer children; and education enables democracy.

According to the latest Education For All (EFA, 2014) numbers, 57 million children around the world are not attending school. It seems that the goal of universal primary education will not be achieved by 2015; in fact, the project’s goals are at risk of not being achieved at all, as the rate of improvement has declined to “a quarter of the average between 1999 and 2004” (EFA, 2014, p. 2). Despite this failure to achieve EFA’s ultimate goals, there have been some success stories. Global Partnership for Education occupies a place of preeminence among efforts to improve people’s lives through education around the world.

Mission and Vision

As its name indicates, Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is a non-governmental organization that is global in its reach. GPE harnesses the potential of governments, institutions, individuals, businesses, and other interested parties and partners with them in funding and implementing cohesive and local plans of action that are subsequently monitored for progress.

GPE’s mission is “to galvanize and coordinate a global effort to deliver a good quality education to all girls and boys, prioritizing the poorest and most vulnerable” (About GPE, para. 3). Its vision is “a good quality education for all children, everywhere, so they fulfill their potential and contribute to their societies” (para. 2). GPE’s vision seems to be grounded on UNESCO’s Education For All initiative, as it includes the name of this effort in its wording; but because it focuses on the ultimate goal of improving society, it is also grounded on the six assumptions (Hannum & Buchmann, 2003) about the perceived positive impact of education on social and economic development.

The preoccupation with improving society and the economy through education is also reflected in GPE’s mission, as it clearly emphasizes equality and a focus on the underprivileged. By including both boys and girls in its mission, GPE is framing the educational improvement issue in the context of the United Nations’ second Millennium Development Goal (Millennium, n.d.) of achieving universal primary education by 2015. And by explicitly including young females in its mission, GPE is likely agreeing with the World Bank that “educating children—particularly girls—has the greatest impact on eliminating poverty” (Millennium, para. 3). By emphasizing “the poorest and most vulnerable” (About GPE, para. 3), GPE’s mission also seems to be grounded on the current global trend of emphasis on social justice (Scott et al., 2011).

Partners and Key Stakeholders

As a true global institution that seeks to ally itself with entities worldwide in order to fulfill its goals, GPE has a long list of partners and stakeholders. The main groups and types of partners are civil society organizations, developing countries, international organizations, local education groups, private sector companies and foundations, youth, and donors. Developing countries have a significant participation in GPE’s Board of Directors, occupying 6 of its 19 seats (Developing, 2014). GPE has sought influence over policy in developing and developed countries via civil society organizations (Civil, 2014) and also through the involvement of young women and men who organize regional councils and serve as advisors to ministers of education in various countries (Youth, 2014).

Three seats on GPE’s Board of Directors are reserved for key international organizations: UNICEF, UNESCO, and the World Bank (International, 2014). These three partners assist in supervising and implementing education programs worldwide. Along with these three key partners, local education groups play a very important role in developing, monitoring, and evaluating projects in a given country (Local, 2014). Recently, private sector think tanks and foundations were added to the Board of Directors in order to assist GPE with “strategic, technical and fundraising advice” (Private, 2014, para. 1). Finally, GPE has partnered with the Global Education First Initiative, a United Nations project that aims to “get all children in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship” (Global, 2014, para. 4).

Projects and Monitoring

GPE is active on multiple fronts and has numerous projects and partnerships in place at any given time. In order to focus its activities around its mission and its vision, GPE has chosen 10 different focus areas: aid effectiveness, children with disabilities, conflict-affected and fragile states, early childhood care and education, early grade reading, girls’ education, learning outcomes, numeracy, out-of-school children, and teachers. In order to help children with disabilities, for example, GPE has implemented its Data Strategy for Improved Education Sector Planning and Implementation as an integral part of projects involving children (Factsheet–Children, 2014). This initiative enables GPE to gather valuable data about children with disability and to share this information with key partners who can develop programs that will directly benefit these children.

In the context of 10.5 million children under 5 years old dying each year of preventable diseases in developing countries as a direct result of extreme poverty (Early childhood, 2014), GPE has provided grants to expand early childhood care and education programs that prove to be sustainable and quality-driven. This focus on quality requires monitoring improvements in “school readiness, learning outcomes, girls’ education, school enrollment for the most marginalized, and inclusive education” (Factsheet–Early, 2014, p. 1).

As indicated in the latest EFA Global Monitoring Report (2014), there are 57 million children out of school. GPE has identified three main reasons why it has been so difficult to achieve 100% enrollment in some areas of the world. These reasons include inadequate policies and strategies, lack of additional resources for students to attend school, and the fact that many schools systems have not properly focused on out-of-school children (Out-of-school, 2014). In an effort to remediate this situation, GPE has collaborated with partners to “develop improved instruments that accurately identify the number of out-of-school children and help understand the characteristics and the reasons why they remain excluded from education systems” (para. 11). GPE has also helped developing countries with specific policies that deal with out-of-school children, and has assessed how existing policies have addressed this issue. For instance, by accurately tracking the number of children in primary school, GPE is able to correctly identify the number of out-of-school children. Fortunately, that number has declined considerably in recent years (Factsheet—Access, 2014).

Teacher-related initiatives exemplify GPE’s successful strategies through serious planning and focus on quality and constant monitoring of results. Recognizing the crucial role that teachers play in keeping children in school and in providing a safe and nurturing environment to them, GPE has provided resources that enable schools to support teachers in several ways. For instance, GPE developing partner countries have trained over 300,000 teachers since 2004 (Teachers, 2014). Also, partner countries have dramatically reduced the number of students per teacher in the classroom, improving learning conditions for the students and working conditions for the teachers. Timor-Leste, for example, has reduced the student-teacher ratio from 47 to 31; Senegal reduced the same ratio from 48 to 33; and Cambodia reduced the ratio from 56 to 47 (A global partnership, 2014).

Aided by committees that help oversee its efforts, GPE implements multi-million (and in some instances, multi-billion) dollar projects around the world that require monitoring and tracking. Most tracking is done at the project-level (as indicated above), but there are also two committees that are directly involved with monitoring statistics and providing valuable oversight. The work of these committees gives donors and partners the confidence needed to continue contributing to GPE’s initiatives. Among other duties, the Country Grants and Performance Committee is responsible for tracking the progress of country-level grants and recommending actions based on their performance. The Governance, Ethics, Risk and Finance Committee oversees GPE’s finances and provides valuable advice to the Board of Directors on how funds are being used and how they might be used in more efficient and mission-oriented ways (Board committees, 2014).

A Continuing Success

Global Partnership for Education can be considered a success story in education that should be emulated in other areas of need in human society. Through its global reach and ability to work with partners of all kinds around the world, GPE manages to direct much-needed funding to efforts that help improve key factors in the lives of millions of children in regions that would otherwise not see this type of improvement soon. Its governance structure is impressive due to its robustness (relevant committees with transparent reporting and strict oversight) and its representativeness (those who need the assistance are well-represented in its Board of Directors).

GPE has had an enormous impact on education around the world, as evidenced by 10 results it achieved in its focus areas (Ten Key, 2014). On primary school enrollment, GPE has assisted partner countries in getting about 22 million additional children in schools since 2003. GPE partner countries saw their average literacy rates rise from 77% in 2003 to 81% in 2010. GPE helped its partner countries to increase girls’ school enrollment rates to 69% in 2012 from 56% in 2002. In the last 10 years, GPE has helped partner countries train about 300,000 teachers, build or equip about 53,000 new classrooms, and purchase or distribute about 50 million textbooks. GPE partner countries have seen an increase in the primary school completion rate from 61% in 2002 to 75% in 2011. Between 2003 and 2014, a total of $3.9 billion have been allocated by GPE in grants to education. A considerable number of partner countries have reported the achievement of gender parity in enrollments; they have also increased financing for education since joining GPE.

In addition to its robust governance, accurate tracking and monitoring, and impressive record of global initiatives, GPE’s success may also be explained by its focus on careful planning for the future. GPE’s planned initiatives and future planning indicate a commitment to clearly delineated actions that aim at fulfilling its mission and vision, abiding by its goals and objectives. GPE’s strategic plan (Strategic, 2011) is very detailed and based on solid, previous monitoring data. The vision outlined in the strategic plan is a reflection of past successes, but it also aims at an even greater success rate in all of its projects and a wider participation in educational efforts around the world. GPE bases its future decisions on lessons learned in the past, but it is ready to adapt and face future challenges head on. Any organization that is willing to do that is bound to be successful as long as it remains true to its mission and values—as GPE has proven to do so far.



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