East Asia and Pacific: Better knowledge to strengthen education by learning with peers

By: Gita Steiner-Khamsi ,José Luís Canêlhas Posted: 14 July 2022

In this blog series, we highlight emerging results from the GPE Knowledge and Innovation Exchange that demonstrate how demand-driven evidence can be generated and mobilized to support education systems strengthening in the Global South. This blog draws on experiences from the KIX EAP regional hub – explore all KIX hubs here. 

This blog has also been published on GPE's Education for All blog.

Credit: KIX EAP

Learning cycles, developed by the KIX Europe, Asia and Pacific hub, help education stakeholders access knowledge and build on it to address their specific education challenges. Read how Viet Nam, the Maldives and Bhutan benefited.

Access to information is not the biggest issue policy makers face in strengthening education systems: they have access to a plethora of toolkits, guidelines, best practices and evidence freely available online. Rather, for all of this knowledge to be useful, policy experts in GPE partner countries must participate in producing such knowledge products and develop the skills required to improve the utility of global public goods by adapting them to their own national context.

This is where the KIX Europe, Asia and the Pacific (EAP) hub’s learning cycles come in.

Learning cycles are hands-on professional development opportunities where representatives from government, the research community and civil society have direct access to the mentorship and instruction of international experts. Over the course of several weeks, a series of workshops allows participants to adopt a “learn-by-doing” approach: country groups build on each other’s learning – and the expertise of instructors – to produce tangible, useful knowledge products that support the strengthening of their own national education system.

Among other topics, learning cycles have focused on making curricular reforms more systematic and tailored to the needs of the 21st century, as well as making better use of data in education policy and planning to address inequity, including the urban/rural divide. To make learning cycles as useful as possible, the EAP hub uses a targeted recruitment strategy to identify the most relevant government offices and reviews applications to build effective country groups. With over 300 applicants for only 165 available spots, the EAP hub has prioritized GPE partner countries that identify a topic as a reform priority in their current education sector plan or in their GPE implementation grant.

The strong interest from education stakeholders indicates the value of these opportunities: the course on Improving Equitable Access to Education with Geospatial Data taught by Amelie Gagnon and German Vargas Mesa from IIEP, enrolled 51 participants from 10 countries, 71% from government institutions. The learning cycle on Integration of 21st Century Skills in Curriculum, taught by Claire Scoular, ACER, admitted 69 participants from 14 countries, 43% from the government.

Learning cycles shaping policy in EAP countries

In this learning cycle, experts in Viet Nam from a government department, a civil society organization (CSO), and a government research institution collaborated on the analysis of the country’s national curriculum framework and developed a strategic plan for curriculum reform, incorporating the systematic development of 21st century skills.

Following the learning cycle, these participants continued sharing research among themselves and jointly reflecting on how to adapt it to the context of curriculum reform in Viet Nam. The collaboration between the CSO and the government department was productive to the extent that preliminary discussions have taken place on how to establish a joint steering committee and working group to review the current curriculum and define 21st century skills.

Participants from Viet Nam are not the only ones that developed useful knowledge products for further planning and policy. For example, the Maldives and Bhutan have also actioned their learning, this time from the learning cycle Improving equitable access to education with geospatial data.

Of the 1,196 islands that make up the Maldives, only 196 are inhabited and the population is unevenly distributed across them. The government of the Maldives is committed to ensuring equal access to schooling for all residents. The learning cycle on using geospatial data gave participants the tools they needed to map the location of secondary schools and identify bottlenecks in the provision of upper secondary education across the country. Through this exercise, national experts are able to clearly identify where to focus efforts in school construction and rehabilitation.


Maps developed using geospatial data, indicating travel time (on foot) to secondary schools in the Maldives.

In Bhutan, the five-member team highlighted the potential of using geospatial data for disaster risk management in education. They noted that by cross-referencing data on locations with natural disaster risk and school location, education planners could better address the complex issue of disaster management and prevention in the country.

In particular, they identified that creating a layer using the flood risk data and the school location data would help identify schools that are near flood risk areas. Ultimately, they believe this practice will contribute toward better safety of learners and learning environments.

Learning cycles present a useful opportunity for knowledge exchange not only across education stakeholders within any one country, but also between countries and with international experts.

Viet Nam, the Maldives and Bhutan represent just a few examples of how involving policy experts from GPE partner countries in the creation of knowledge products and helping them strengthen their skills to adapt global public goods to their own national contexts can support the uptake of evidence in education policy and planning.