(21 April 2017) An international meeting on the use of evidence in education policy and programming has brought together leading researchers, academics and experts from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID), UNESCO and other education donors and organizations at UNICEF Innocenti this month.
The Building Evidence in Education, or BE2,working group meeting, hosted in Florence 5-7 April, aimed to promote better use of evidence in education programming, increased quality of education research and enhanced donor research collaboration. The BE2 donor working group is led by a Steering Committee composed of USAID, DFID, World Bank and a rotating UN agency, currently UNESCO’s International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP).
A major focus of the meeting was lessons learned on ‘results based financing’ – funding strategies that pay on the delivery of one or more outcomes with financial or other incentives based on verification that a result has been achieved. Participants addressed the question of whether the intended alignment of governance, financing rules, incentives, and management practices has led to improved accountability.
The three-day meeting also featured a policy round-table discussion on how to achieve impact through research in international development settings, held at the European University Institute (EUI).
Also presenting at the BE2 meeting were representatives from the UK government funded RISE programme – a multi-country research effort that addresses what works to improve education systems to deliver better learning for all at scale in developing countries. The new eight year joint program has expanded understanding of improving education beyond traditional ‘inputs’ such as infrastructure, teachers and textbooks.
“It was a real benefit for us to reflect on how research is applied in policy and programming in education and other sectors,” said UNICEF Innocenti senior education specialist Dominic Richardson.
“It was a valuable opportunity for us to keep up to date on issues in education policy and programming and the work of key agencies. The value of donors and funders getting together to improve the quality of education research can’t be overstated – it’s the bedrock of decision making and improving education policies globally. This meeting is recognition of that.
“We’re seeking collaboration and we will continue to work with others actors across education research. We seek to collaborate on the ambitions of BE2 to improve the quality and quantity of evidence to inform education systems.”
Sitting on the panel on achieving impact through research in international development settings was UNICEF Innocenti director Sarah Cook, who stressed the idea that knowledge generation through research should stimulate debate and even be provocative in some instances.
“We live in a world where we have so much data. We need to challenge the discourse about how data drives us and really get back to the question and problem of how data is collected and the quality of that data. We need a cautious interpretation of our data to open up spaces for conversations that are scientifically rooted and not just advocacy messages.”
Professor Luís Miguel Poiares Maduro of EUI in Florence, a former Portuguese government minister, said government agencies often worked in ‘silos’ and added that it was important for researchers to reach out to the public, not only policy makers, when trying to translate research into policy outcomes.
“If we want more evidence base in public policies, you need to convince not only policy makers, you need to convince citizens also. You need to start to engage them,” he said adding that policy makers were often resistant to change.
The panel also provided an opportunity for Prof. Pauline Rose of the University of Cambridge to present The Impact Initiative, a project that aims the increase the impact and uptake from two research programmes jointly funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and DFID.