Some perspectives on Open Data for Education and Development

Here is a quick whirl through some thoughts that relate to the Open Knowledge Festival in Geneva taking place on the 16th of September. I will be there attending a number of workshops and listening to some of the debates on development and open data work going on worldwide in different contexts. There is also a workshop on Open Education which will be connecting up with the work that Mozilla is doing and many others are engaging in on this.

But just to stimulate some reflection, here are some of my own thoughts on the topic of open data for education and development:


Large Scale Reforms in Ecuador

How is Ecuador moving away from Neoliberal educational solutions in its large scale reforms? (Tuesday - session 2)

Ecuador's large scale reforms include the removal of barriers that impede school access, changes to the legal framework of education, the focus on including citizens in higher education and to the wholes system in radical ways. They have increased the investment into school infrastructure and equipment and have invested greatly in programs for drop-outs, special needs programs, and for specific groups among others. The wide range of reforms, include measures to encourage the re-valorization of the teaching career and they have increased the wages for teachers, the establishment of a National University of Education, and a national selection system for teachers. The benefits have been that net enrollment in primary education has increased from 91.2% to 95.4% from 2006 to 2011 and in secondary from 47.9% to 62.1%. The researchers suggest that reforms show that a system can gain significantly regardless of where it starts from. One of the challenges is to ensure permanent economic resources for this change.

Some of the ruptures are intended to re-conceptualise education as a right of individuals and communities. They are aimed at a profound change in the structure of national education and at redefining the didactic triangle. Those that contribute to revalorization of the teaching profession are not yet clear in the evidence but time will have to tell, as this is a longer term change.

The country now has a very clear position that it wants to work with countries that have clear positions on more intensive technical assistance and in the areas of transfer of technology, knowledge innovation and what they explain as 'intensive technical assistance' which has far wider transformational objectives to break with the past which involves to some degree changing everything at the same time. It is also a system and system capacity and organisation re-design effort.

The paper that describes these reforms in more detail can be found online if you wish to find out more.

The question is how much of this change is driven from within. It had no plan before 2006 and developed a plan with very simple goals, and it was then passed through a popular vote which provided a very strong social basis to work on this problem. Afterwards, the popular consensus was then led by a radical group of educational thinkers and leaders, but they have been able to gain recognition in the short term and support for the government's plans has been very high. Another question is as to whether the more difficult quality issues will be resolved in the longer term.

Where does the extra money come from ? Ecuador was able to re-negotiate its petrol contracts and has been able to access loans from China to enable it to make new investments.

Thoughts On The Non State Sector in Education

Thoughts On The Non State Sector in Education (Tuesday Session 1)

Is another question that needs to be asked, not just what works in non-state education and what are the lessons we can learn from experiments with PPP's and innovations in different places, but also what conditions will make non-state education work in different places, is it being be supported by the government, elites, businesses, or the poor or different cross class combinations of these groups, so in short what a political economy analysis of an particular education system says about the role of non-state education as well - so do we need to consider a political if maybe not entirely ideological lens?

So we still need to confront the ethical questions and also the transparency questions around the data from private schools. We actually need effective data from parents and local bodies. BRAC's example shows that you cannot have a short-term solution and then just market that. There are always choices about how you go forward with systems. There are many opportunities offered by the private system, such as giving different people the opportunity to deliver and to involve everyone in the training, getting a wider range of bodies on board to a higher level, and finding new and innovative ways to work effectively alongside the government.

Another question is what do you do when the government no longer can be relied on to deliver quality assurance, proper support and effective governance. For example in the case of Pakistan. Also we need to ask what can you do when a voucher program expires, who will make it sustainable? So what are the best pathways between the state and non-state actors. In Pakistan and Bangladesh the governance issue is a critical one in dealing with non-state education.

On this point DFID will be releasing a research paper that systematically looks at the evidence on non-state schools.

A further question also is that non-state schools rely on partnerships and to a degree it depends on how much the government will help to facilitate the right kinds of partnerships.

Non-state education has a role to play in innovation, but what responsability towards equity do NGO's and international organisations have exactly ?

The macro-economic questions are also important, states can't deal with the explosion of youth and the increasing demand for education, these are partly also driving the need for non-state actors to take up different positions.