Last week saw the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) latest Board Meeting in Berlin, Germany. It’s a time of massive change for the Partnership, which was relaunched at the end of last year and held a big replenishment drive raising approximately $2 billion more for basic education over the next three years, which will ensure that 25 million children enroll in school for the first time, train 600,000 teachers and reduce illiteracy in primary-school aged children. Now come the difficult decisions on how to make the most of that investment!
The main areas that the GPE will focus on over the next three years were set out prior to the 2011 replenishment: girls’ education, fragile and conflict-affected states, and improving the quality of education. During the run-up to the Board meeting the partnership has been putting more flesh on the bones, including giving an opportunity to organisations like RESULTS to feed back on the draft strategic plan 2012-2015.
The strategic plan was one of the main items of discussion at the Board meeting, and so far we have heard excellent news that an additional priority area of supporting ‘skilled teachers’ has been added. This is really important because the quality of teaching is one of the biggest factors affecting how well children learn. RESULTS also pushed for a stronger focus on equity in education, including specific targets to ensure that the most marginalised children (such as those in the bottom 20% poorest of the population, and disabled children) benefit from GPE initiatives. We’re looking forward to seeing the final version of the strategic plan, which will be published on the GPE website shortly, to see the results of this process.
While widely recognised as the most effective multilateral organisation focusing on education, and as having made very significant contributions to getting more children into school in the developing world, the GPE still has improvements to make. One area that it seems didn’t make quite so much progress at the board meeting was a review of the current organisational structure. Many commentators, including the authors of the mid-term review in 2009, believe that the fact that the Secretariat of the GPE is hosted by the World Bank is holding the partnership back. While recognising the important contributions the World Bank makes to the GPE as a partner, RESULTS has been pushing for increased independence for GPE for several years. The Board Meeting stopped short of putting this process in motion immediately, but has set up a reference group to decide benchmarks for improvements that need to be made in the relationships between the two bodies. This is an important step, but we don’t believe it goes far enough.
While there is clearly more to be done, we are encouraged at signs that the GPE is a much stronger organisation following the relaunch and replenishment last year, and we’re excited for the future! As German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel said when addressing the Board Meeting: “GPE’s achievements are quite impressive, such as the increase in school enrollment rates, particularly in Africa… Everyone can be proud of the results you are achieving.”