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Strengthening education policies and systems

The two years covered here, from July 2013 to June 2015, were a period of transformation for the Commonwealth Secretariat as we worked to translate into practical action our Strategic Plan from 2013/14 to 2016/17. The Plan is a clearly signposted roadmap, following implementation of the most fundamental reforms for a generation, both of the work we do and of the way we do it.

Commonwealth Secretariat outcomes: Education

  • South Africa, Mauritius, Swaziland, Botswana, Kenya, Samoa and Maldives piloted the Secretariat’s Professional Standards Framework for Teachers and School Leaders. The framework was subsequently adopted by the Caribbean and Pacific Regions and part of the African Region
  • Barbados, Ghana, Malaysia, Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Singapore began piloting the School Leaders Capability Framework finalised by the Commonwealth Consortium for Education and the Secretariat
  • In partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning, the Secretariat carried out institutional quality reviews of higher education institutions in Pakistan and Sri Lanka
  • Kenya, Uganda and Botswana are developing policies based on the Guidelines for Quality Education Provision to Nomadic Communities for Africa and Asia prepared by the Secretariat
  • Following Secretariat-commissioned research on boys’ underachievement in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia and Jamaica adopted policy recommendations and launched national strategies to tackle the issue. Saint Lucia launched a three-year school mentoring programme for boys in 2014.

Education has long been an area in which the Commonwealth makes a distinct contribution. The Commonwealth Secretariat works to ensure that all Commonwealth learners, regardless of social background, benefit from equitable access to good quality education. The Secretariat supports member countries to strengthen their core education policies and systems. Special measures to improve equity address the specific needs of groups marginalised by education systems.

One of the clear advantages of the Secretariat is its connections with ministers and key policymakers. The Secretariat brings together ministers of Education from diverse countries to learn from each other’s experiences and best practices in systematically delivering education to globally mandated criteria. In June 2015, the Secretariat convened the 19th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in The Bahamas, which developed further the recommendations of the Commonwealth Ministerial Group on the Post-2015 Development Framework for Education, under the theme ‘Quality Education for Equitable Development: Performance, Paths and Productivity – 3 Ps’.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Secretariat contributed to collective Commonwealth efforts to shape the Post-2015 Development Agenda and mapped out the most effective ways of supporting the education of Commonwealth citizens. 

Pan-Commonwealth professional standards for teachers and school leaders

In 2013, the Commonwealth Secretariat completed the Pan-Commonwealth Framework on Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leaders, the outcome of a consultative and participatory process involving member countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The framework pulls regional experiences together into a resource that member countries can use to develop national frameworks for professional standards. Based on the framework, Jamaica, Maldives and Samoa developed national professional standards and are putting them into practice. Education ministers in the Caribbean community developed and adopted a Caribbean Framework on Academic and Professional Standards.

Recognising that in some member countries, school leaders have limited opportunities for professional development, the Secretariat developed the School Leaders Capability Framework. Finalised in 2013 in collaboration with the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management, school leaders in Barbados, Ghana, Malaysia, Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Singapore are piloting the framework.

Supporting institutional quality reviews The Commonwealth Secretariat collaborated with the Commonwealth of Learning to conduct institutional quality reviews requested by the Seychelles National Institute of Health and Social Studies, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Pakistan, and the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, to improve management practices, strengthen internal systems and enhance performance. The National Institute of Health and Social Studies, Seychelles, and Fatima Jinnah Women University, Pakistan, are implementing recommendations of the reviews and the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, is preparing a plan to implement recommendations.

Addressing educational needs of marginalised groups

Quality education for all Commonwealth citizens involves improving access to affordable primary, secondary and tertiary education, especially for girls, women and marginalised groups. Although access to primary education was until recently, improving greatly, there are still some communities that do not have access to education with some member countries experiencing setbacks due to difficulties in reaching the most marginalised communities.

Addressing these common challenges, the Commonwealth Secretariat produced Guidelines for Quality Education Provision to Nomadic Communities in Africa. In response, Kenya has set up a National Commission for Nomadic Education. Uganda and Botswana have adopted the guidelines and are implementing policies to provide education to nomadic populations. French-speaking countries have requested a translation of the guidelines. 

Addressing underachievement of Caribbean boys

Saint Lucia and Jamaica adopted policy recommendations of a study commissioned by the Commonwealth Secretariat that examined the reasons for underachievement of boys in the Caribbean. In June 2014, Saint Lucia launched a three-year school mentoring programme for boys.

Education in the Commonwealth