Promoting quality education for all.

Global Education’s Changed Reality, Community, and Governance - The Role of Education Diplomacy

by Yvette G. Murphy, 

by Yvette G. Murphy, ACEI 

While setting the stage for the topic of this blog post, Education Governance, I considered the frequent use of the terms “sunset” and “new era” to describe the transition away from the MDGs and the undertaking of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. I wondered what exactly we are leaving behind in the sunset and what exactly has changed in this new era. Despite great progress made over the last 15 years to ensure universal primary education, the road to 2030 for the global education community involves making quality education accessible to the 250 million children who lack basic numeracy and literacy skills, inclusive of the 124 million out-of-school children and adolescents. Indeed, SDG4, “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” has been widely acknowledged as more comprehensive and ambitious than previous education goals. As a result, new mechanisms and initiatives have emerged to hold governments and the international community accountable for achieving Goal 4 and its associated indicators. New collaborative relationships have also been forged to promote action and investment in specific areas - such as early childhood development and education in emergencies – and mobilize a variety of stakeholders.

A notable change that shaped the post-2015 process is the inclusion of diverse stakeholders. SDG17 states, “A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. These inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the center, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.” Although the participation of these groups is not new, innovative collaborations have been rapidly developing to achieve SDG4 by 2030, galvanizing action and support for global education initiatives.

Who is the global education community?

Like the large rocks in the proverbial jar, the groups mentioned above – governments, the private sector, and civil society — play a key role in the global education community. Also of importance, however, are the smaller rocks or pebbles that fill in the spaces —  the social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, venture capitalists, researchers, scientists, and everyone invested in education as a means to advance peace and promote human rights, dignity, and potential. In addition, because SDG4 is related to and interlinked with other goals, the community extends to those in other sectors, such as health, labor, economics, trade, and law/justice.

Indeed, in this “new era,” changes in the broader development community have proliferated and are “inexorable,” according to Devex’s founding president and editor-in-chief, Raj Kumar. He states in his Devex blog, “It’s time we drew a line in the sand and stopped talking about a changing development community, about traditional and nontraditional stakeholders; it’s time we acknowledge the reality of a new, changed industry.”

Global Education Governance

According to Katharina Höne, in her brief on the topic published by the Center for Education Diplomacy, “global education governance” does not refer to world government, but rather, citing Our Global Neighborhood:

"Governance is the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and co-operative action may be taken. It includes formal institutions and regimes empowered to enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions either have agreed to or perceive to be in their interest."

The diversification of actors and new forms of cooperation precipitates shifts in global governance.  The Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF) is a strong example of cooperation among diverse actors that, through dialogue, negotiation, and consensus, ensured that learning is emphasized in SDG4, in addition to access. . These newly enshrined education norms serve as the backbone for processes that will shape the global governance agenda in addressing assessment, regulation, financing, and new cooperative initiatives. Although the work of the LMTF is now closed, the network’s successor initiatives, the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning and the Assessment for Learning, will continue to bring together decision-makers, learning assessment experts, donors, and non-governmental organizations to promote accountability and investment in SDG4.

It is also worth mentioning the Education Cannot Wait Fund that was newly launched to address the specific challenges associated with ensuring the right to quality education during humanitarian crises, such as war, protracted conflict, and natural disaster. According to this Devex article, the greatest challenge of the fund will be bringing together the interests, priorities, and agendas of its diverse members to come up with a cohesive mechanism for funding and promoting quality education.

Education Diplomacy as ‘New Diplomacy’

The changed reality of the education community and the emergence of more dynamic cooperative initiatives contribute to the complexity of education systems at all levels – global, national, and local.  OECD’s report, Governing Education in a Complex World, highlights that as education systems become more complex, multiple actors operating at different levels become more fluid and open to negotiation. This signals expansion of both participants and modes of interaction in working toward agreed-upon education goals. Education Diplomacy shapes these modes of interaction.

According to the Center for Education Diplomacy, understanding Education Diplomacy as “New Diplomacy” requires moving beyond traditional notions of business conducted between states and presumes that we have indeed entered a new era of inclusive international cooperation that engages all members of the global education community. Knowledge and policies for what had once been considered “soft issues,” such as health, environment, and education, now have influence beyond national and cultural boundaries and shape intercultural relationships. Therefore, Education Diplomacy as New Diplomacy will continue to guide interaction among the global education community.

Education Diplomacy and Global Education Governance

Although Education Diplomacy and Global Education Governance are intertwined, they are not the same. Höne’s brief on Global Education Governance explains that governance structures evolve where the interests among involved actors sufficiently converge, while diplomacy involves the articulation and negotiation of those interests among involved participants.  “The role of diplomacy is to find these points of agreement and flesh out the details of a governance structure that can either continue on an informal basis or be institutionalized.”

Moving Forward

To move the 2030 Development Agenda forward, keeping education central to achieving the SDGs, Education Diplomacy will be more important than ever. As global education governance mechanisms proliferate, education systems will become more complex at every level.  According to the OECD, multiple actors will need the tools to not only navigate the system, but also participate in negotiations and dialogue to build consensus within diverse modes of interaction. Education Diplomacy requires the ability to negotiate, mediate, communicate cross-culturally, and employ other skills that facilitate creation and sharing of knowledge.

For an in-depth look at global education governance and education diplomacy, read Katharina Höne’s brief, “The New Era of Global Education Governance,” published by the Center for Education Diplomacy.

Yvette G. Murphy is the Director of Global Advocacy at ACEI

About the Center for Education Diplomacy and the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)

The Education Diplomacy concept was first advanced by ACEI in 2009. In 2013, the Center for Education Diplomacy was launched with the belief that education serves as a bridge to promote peace, prosperity, and sustainable solutions to complex human challenges.

ACEI is an international non-profit based in Washington, D.C., whose mission is to promote innovative solutions to education challenges and inspire action that creates positive, sustainable futures for children and youth worldwide. Throughout the last decade, the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) has been acutely aware of the changes in the global education space and the diversification of actors involved. These changes have, in part, prompted the organization to evolve and continue to promote the optimal education development of children in this changing world through interdisciplinary and holistic programs.

Other resources that contributed to this blog:

Anderson, Kate et al. (2016, May 16). At the dawn of Sustainable Development Goal 4, the Learning Metrics Task Force sunsets (Part I) [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Anderson, Kate et al. (2016, May 31). The sunset of the LMTF: Next steps in tracking learning for the SDGs (Part 2) [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Center for Education Diplomacy. (2015). A conceptual note on education diplomacy., Washington, DC: Author.

Burns, T. & Köster, F. (Eds.) (2016). Governing education in a complex world Paris, France: Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing.;jsessionid=150ejwhc8rshu.x-oecd-live-02

Dickinson, Elizabeth. (2016, June 03). Inside the launch of the Education Cannot Wait fund for crises [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Kumar, Raj. (2016, June 02). A new era [Web log post]. Retrieved from

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