Event Highlight - Global Public Goods and the KIX initiative: Opportunities and Challenges

19 November 2021
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Credit: KIX EAP Hub

On 16 September 2021, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) Europe, Asia and the Pacific (EAP) hub participated at the Education and Development Forum (UKFIET) symposium on “Global Public Goods and the KIX initiative: Opportunities and Challenges of Knowledge Production and Uptake at the National Level”.

The 90-minute symposium started with an introduction by the event chairperson, Tricia Wind, KIX Leader, IDRC, followed by the display of the KIX EAP Hub intro video and three structured blocks of discussions. The panelists consisted of the following:

Chinargul Dzhumagulova, Early Childhood Development officer, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan, & KIX National Steering Committee member for Kyrgyzstan

  • Dochu Dochu, Chief Planning Officer, Ministry of Education, Bhutan, & National KIX Coordinator for Bhutan
  • Gita Steiner-Khamsi, Director of NORRAG and of the KIX EAP Hub
  • Ian McPherson, GPE KIX Lead
  • Margarita Lopez, Senior Program Specialist, KIX IDRC
  • Nargiza Kuchkarova, Director, Teacher Training Department, Cabinet of Ministries of the Republic of Uzbekistan, & National KIX Coordinator for Uzbekistan

Tricia Wind stressed that while there is a wide availability of global public goods in education like international databases, reports, studies, toolkits, training manuals, and best practices, their use by countries is somewhat limited. Thus, the three rounds of discussion examined the following: why is the use of global public goods somewhat limited and how can we improve their use in practice and in public education policies? Secondly, what are the countries’ experiences with scaling innovations at the national level? Lastly, what kind of platforms are effective for “South-South transfers” of knowledge? Each round of questions was followed by a lively discussion between panelists and participants.

Surplus of global goods and lagging national acceptance

On the first topic of the limited use of global public goods by countries, Gita Steiner-Khamsi offered three key insights concerning the use of databases. According to her, there is a divide and imbalance between data producers and data consumers, with an overwhelming need to engage more data users in the process of knowledge production to ensure context sensitivity and practicality. Secondly, there is a tendency for international donors to focus on their needs for benchmarking instead of actual planning and policy analysis. Lastly, instead of “surfacing” knowledge and expertise at the local level, international consultants often overlook what is already on the ground. Hence, the importance of “meaning-making” and participatory approach is highly relevant when collaboratively working with databases. Adding to this, Ian Macpherson offers two reflections on how to improve the use of global public goods in practice and in public education policies. Firstly, the supply of global public goods should match the demands at the national level and, secondly, the supply of global public goods should engage meaningfully with national policymakers themselves. This inclusion will go a long way in responding to content, format, and curation issues.

According to Dochu, in Bhutan, global public goods are not fully utilised due to the existing technical knowledge gap between what is on paper versus what is needed to implement it. Chinargul Dzhumagulova discussed that international donors tend to invest in in-service training because they strive for quicker results whereas government initiatives tend to focus on pre-service level because they want long-lasting and sustainable solutions. Nargiza Kuchkarova pointed out the challenges associated with transferring successful international experiences to a local context. In her words,

Before we bring the international experience, it is very important to do research and baseline studies that should reflect what exactly is needed in a particular country and for what particular purpose” – Nargiza Kuchkarova, National KIX Coordinator, Uzbekistan

Scaling Innovations: challenges and opportunities

With regards to why many externally funded projects end up in the pilot stage and do not generate an impact at the national level, Gita Steiner-Khamsi pointed out that, in many instances, it is not only expensive to scale up projects at the national level but also challenging for national teams to fulfill international quality standards. Despite the challenges, there have also been positive examples of externally funded projects that were later scaled up to the national level. Nargiza Kuchkarova shared her experience from the KIX EAP Learning Cycle “Feasibility Studies on Scaling Innovation” where one of the Uzbek teams of experts analysed “EduMarket,” a digital learning platform for primary and lower secondary schools which aimed at developing skills on logical thinking, IT, and critical thinking, among others. The study’s success was illustrated in the Ministry’s interest to adopt and scale the project at secondary and higher secondary levels. Chinargul shared another successful story from Kyrgyzstan where preschool preparatory programs were developed by national experts, with support from GPE and UNICEF, to provide equal access and opportunity to children who did not get the opportunity to attend any preschool or alternative early childhood development centers. The project was scaled up at a national level and continues to operate to this day.

Knowledge production and dissemination at the national level and peer-exchange within a region

Finally, as to what type of platforms could be useful for “South-South transfer” or “East-East transfer”, Dochu reflected on his experiences from the recently concluded KIX EAP Learning Cycle with IIEP-UNESCO on “Equitable Access to Education with Geospatial Data”. According to him, the insights gained from this course will benefit Bhutan’s micro-level educational planning and school mapping. Additionally, another team from Bhutan participated in the KIX EAP Learning Cycle with the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on “Integration of 21st-century skills in curriculum”, and is currently developing Bhutan’s education roadmap post-COVID and reviewing 21st-century skills in their national curriculum and assessment. According to Ian Macpherson, immersive education exchanges like the KIX EAP learning cycles serve as an effective platform for inter-country knowledge exchanges. In the same vein, Margarita Lopez emphasized that exchange and dissemination of knowledge is in the “KIX DNA” as KIX supports the four regional hubs, as well as global and regional grants in GPE partner countries. A good example is the consolidation of a community of practice (CoP) by the KIX global grant Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) implemented by UNICEF. According to her, this CoP has been key to sharing discussions and solutions to the most common challenges to advance the integration of Early Childhood Education in educational planning.     

The roundtable discussion on global public goods and the KIX initiative brought to light first-hand experiences of both country representatives and experts working in the realm of education. It highlighted opportunities and ongoing challenges of knowledge production and uptake at the national level. During the panel discussion, questions were raised on whether preservice is sufficiently considered during discussions between the ministry and planning units when it comes to the whole system approach to teacher development. In the context of Kyrgyzstan, Chinargul noted that international donors are not interested in the preservice level because projects have a time limit, donors want quicker results and thus, end up investing in in-service training. Participants also asked why scaling? What are scaling complexities and why do we need to talk about scaling instead of working at a system level? Responding to this, Margarita explained that what KIX is aiming for is to bring innovation at an optimal scaling. In her words:

It [the idea of scaling] is not about enlarging the impact of the project… It is to find, define best projects, adaptable projects to different contexts or topics. Developing specific topics at different levels… we are really working on adaptation, adaptability and contextualization to have an optimal impact”- Margarita Lopez, Senior Program Specialist, KIX IDRC