UNESCO-IIEP's 60th Anniversary Symposium explores how transparency and innovative financing benefit educational planning


On 8-9 November 2023, the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) celebrated its 60th anniversary with a two-day symposium that brought together over 1400 experts, policymakers, planners, and representatives from UNESCO Member States both in person and online.

The 60th Anniversary Symposium not only served as a platform to reflect on IIEP's significant milestones but also aimed to chart a path forward for the future of educational planning.

On day two of the event, a panel of experts explored the role of transparency and new forms of financing in enabling effective educational planning. The session was moderated by Alejandra Cardini, Knowledge Management and Mobilization Coordinator for the IIEP-UNESCO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Muriel Poisson, IIEP’s interim Knowledge Management and Mobilization Team Lead, and coordinator of IIEP’s programme on Ethics and Corruption in Education, launched the discussions by providing an overview of IIEP’s more than 20 years of experience in helping countries reduce corruption and increase accountability in their education systems.

Combatting corruption is a complex and often sensitive issue, which can only be addressed when actors have access to data and evidence about the risks, levels and impact of corruption. In this regard, she highlighted the institute’s role in supporting countries to conduct fact-finding and perception surveys or corruption risk assessments.

Addressing corruption also requires innovative solutions that address specific problems – such as funding reforms or teacher management systems. However, ensuring accountability also requires involvement from actors outside of the government. Muriel Poisson concluded by emphasising the need for open government processes that ensure the availability and transparency of educational data, combined with more systematic citizen engagement to hold public authorities accountable.  

The discussion then turned to Virginija Budiene, Director of Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, who shared her experience of building anti-corruption measures into an education system, based on her many years of work in both government and civil society in Lithuania. Ms Budiene, argued, firstly, that external influences such as the integration of Lithuania into the EU, NATO and other international organizations were integral in fostering moves toward openness, integrity, and the adoption of anti-corruption reforms.

This growing public awareness coincided with a number of high-profile corruption cases. As a result, a wide range of measures were successfully introduced to combat corruption challenges, such as the development of an EMIS system, the introduction of student basket funding, and reforms to higher education admission procedures. The Lithuanian experience shows that transparency in education remains an ongoing process requiring accountability at all levels - politicians, administrators and educational institutions - and the involvement of multiple stakeholders.

Jean-Claude Ndabananiye, the Lead of IIEP-UNESCO’s Education Finance Cluster then  made the link between transparency and more impactful budgeting in educational planning. He argued that even the best-designed educational plans will fail if policy priorities are not translated into budget allocations and executions. However, in a global context where education budgets are under constant pressure, governments must not only ensure that funding is well allocated, but also that budget execution is in line with planning, and that appropriate oversight is in place. A well-managed and impactful budget management system will include both internal monitoring, evaluation and learning processes, as well as transparency and accountability measures such as open data, reporting mechanisms, and appropriate incentives for ethical behaviour. 

Finally, Rukmini Banerji, Chief Executive Officer of the Pratham Education Foundation in India, shared her experience implementing ASER, the groundbreaking citizen-led assessments in India and other countries, to explore how “bottom-up” voices can influence education policy and practice. She highlighted how the project moved from community-generated evidence to citizen-led actions in order to show how citizens & governments can interact across the policy cycle: to detect problems that are otherwise invisible, to implement large-scale participation in diagnosing a problem, to advocate for actions to solve the problem, and to encourage government as well as community action. 

The panel's diverse perspectives and experiences provided a comprehensive overview of the multifaceted nature of transparency in educational planning. As the UNESCO-IIEP marks six decades of dedication to supporting countries in planning and managing their education systems, the panel session not only celebrated past achievements but also ignited meaningful conversations about the evolving landscape of educational planning, leaving participants inspired and equipped to face the challenges of the future.