Education Diplomacy Day, organised by the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) and DiploFoundation, took place on 7 October in Geneva. ACEI started developing the emerging concept of Education Diplomacy in 2009, and the concept is still under construction. The day-long event in Geneva helped to map the emerging field through presentations, discussions, and networking with relevant practitioners.
Very early in the discussion it became clear that education diplomacy includes activities at many levels, from local to global. In this spirit, Yvette Murphy from ACEI argued that Education Diplomacy needs to be understood as the ‘ability to navigate the interplay from the global to the national, to the local level.’ Further, participants discussed how education diplomacy is related to other forms of diplomacy such as city diplomacy and public diplomacy. City diplomacy is exemplary for the involvement of sub-state actors in global debates, across state boundaries. With regard to public diplomacy, we can note international education initiatives and exchanges.
Looking at the second Millennium Development Goal with its focus on universal primary education, presenters and participants agreed that the focus of the global agenda should be broadened to include further education and life-long learning.
Laetitia Houlmann and Mònica Serlavós of the Network for International Polices and Cooperation in Education and Training (NORRAG) argued that organisations such as NORRAG that act as knowledge providers are key players that need to feed into Education Diplomacy processes.
Data and information was also a key focus of the discussion with Dale Honeck, senior counsellor at the World Trade Organisation, and Dr Lichia Yiu, president of the Academy for Quality in Training and Education. Both argued for the importance of setting global standards and having quality measures in place that help to insure transparency and quality of education. Interesting, from a global trade perspective, is the fact that governments have made the fewest international commitments (as part of the GATS agreement) in the education sector, as compared to other sectors such as tourism, financial services, and telecommunications. Education Diplomacy definitely has a role to play when education shows up as part of WTO negotiations. It also comes in when we think about standard setting in education, and how local actors and civil society can have an impact on the standard setting process.
Dr Raymond Saner of the Center for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND) reminded us that as we move from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we are faced with the challenging task of bringing together social, economic and environmental concerns. With regard to the SDGs we still need to flesh out the details. In current drafts, education is the focus of the fourth SDG, but it shows up in other goals too as a cross-cutting theme. This approach to education goes way beyond the narrow focus on primary education of the second MDG.
Following this line and speaking as a practitioner, Lucy Strickland, a specialist for Education in Emergency with World Vision, warned that if we want to move ahead we need to broaden our horizons. We need to move from a focus on emergency to a focus on ‘education in fragile, conflict-affected places.’ In addition to advocating for wider access to education, we need to shift focus towards questions of the quality of education and childhood protection.
Although education diplomacy is a new concept, Diplo’s director, Dr Jovan Kurbalija, pointed out that the problems we face are all too familiar: we need to bridge the global-to-local divide, overcome the tendency for staying within our policy silos, find an evidence-base for policy-making, and promote cross-fertilisation between different policy fields seriously.
The day ended with an optimistic look ahead as the executive director of ACEI, Diane Whitehead, argued with regard to sustainable development: ‘Education Diplomacy is one of the movements to launch a new era.’
For more information on education diplomacy, please see www.educationdiplomacy.org You can consult the Education Diplomacy Day event programme, presentations, further resources, and a photo album at http://www.diplomacy.edu/calendar/education-diplomacy-day
The next global event will be the Institute for Global Education Diplomacy in Washington DC in March 2015. Learn more and register at www.acei.org/programs-events/institute.html Diplo and ACEI will be further cooperating to develop the first online course on Education Diplomacy, to be launched in the summer of 2015. For more information please check back at www.diplomacy.edu.
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