Partnerships in education: collaboration, co-operation and co-optation

Partnerships and other forms of collaboration are viewed as essential to addressing global education challenges. Partnership is recognised as a stand-alone goal within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Cross-national education programmes often require external management, accountancy and evaluation partners, and collaborations within and across the spheres of education research, policy and practice, and across disciplines, are increasingly the norm.

Still, at times established systems clash with newly-established critical discourses sparking new dialogues and structures. While local and international collaborations in education practice and research are encouraged, the locus of funding in high-income countries, expectations for research outputs and the intensified international competition in Higher Education, among other things, can reproduce non-equitable partnerships. This can lead to skewed dynamics of financing and influence within the processes of production and application of knowledge.

At BAICE 2020, we aim to consider critically the changing relationships around how education is conceptualised, planned, implemented, provided, resisted, researched and communicated in various contexts. While recognising the potential value of collaboration, we intend to challenge the normative, aspirational pursuit of partnership. We are interested in how politics, power, priorities, culture and language are understood, recognised and navigated by different stakeholders in education initiatives as well as the processes of learning. We invite papers that reflect on past, present and future collaborations across a wide range of sub-themes to conceptualise joint ventures in comparative and international education more robustly.

Sub-themes:

Global-local nexus of education

This sub-theme covers issues of policy diffusion and adoption/adaptation. This may include how global priorities and influences (including the SDGs) play out in national and local contexts and how culture and local interests and agendas are incorporated – or not. Additionally, papers critical of global processes and case studies in which local actors reject, reconceptualise, or actively oppose global discourses/policies are welcome. This sub-theme also invites papers about the politics of educational partnerships, and examples of difficulties and potential resistance to partnerships at different levels of the system.

Partnerships beyond schooling

This sub-theme concerns partnerships and collaborations beyond schooling, including vocational training, apprenticeships, higher education, adult education, informal/ non-formal learning and parallel systems. The impact of global economic, political and social trends on the emergence of new societal challenges for education and lifelong learning will be analysed and discussed, as well as the capacity of collaborations between different actors, including social activism and grassroots movements, to question and transform dominant policy orientations and dynamics. Contributors are invited to reflect on how inequalities between individuals, social groups and countries are shaping educational collaborations and partnerships beyond schooling, especially when trying to address pressing global development challenges (i.e. poverty, work, health, climate, and conflict). The call is open to contributions from a wide range of disciplinary and methodological traditions, and it particularly welcomes innovative approaches that incorporate the voice and the knowledge from disadvantaged and marginalised communities. An explicit international and/or comparative angle in the papers is encouraged.

Experiencing education

This sub-theme focuses on experiences across the education spectrum. From multi-academy charitable trusts in the UK, to the global ‘Teach for All’ network,  to the outsourcing of public schooling in Liberia, increasingly the learning experiences people engage with result from the inputs of multiple stakeholders. But as the number of parties who invest their time and resources in education increases, what is valued and measured in education appears to be contracting. While narrowly focused learning metrics demonstrate the scale of challenges, and have helped to generate a powerful argument to focus the world’s attention on education, there is a risk that big data can distract us from the small stories that help us understand what is happening in classrooms and why. At worst, it can convince us that these are not worth engaging with. This sub-theme positively moves away from the notion of teachers and learners as data-points, and encourages research that explores and analyses education partnerships and practices as they are perceived, experienced, shaped and mediated by people on the ground. This sub-theme especially welcomes contributions that adopt a critical and/or creative lens to better understand and communicate different educational experiences.

Technology: realising educational potential and a new autonomy

This sub-theme welcomes papers which explore and critique the role of technology in supporting partnerships in comparative and international education. How does technology mediate communication in partnerships? What is the potential of digital and open education and how can organisations work together to ensure all people can access and benefit from educational technology? How do language and culture in education-technology partnerships influence how online educational resources are shaped and accessed? How might digital divides be equitably overcome in education? We particularly welcome papers which explore the tension in scaling education provision consistent with SDG4 and a growing global edtech encroachment on local educational autonomy.

Education partnerships in conflict, emergency and protracted crisis

This sub-theme welcomes papers which examine the complexities of initiating and implementing education in situations affected by violent conflict, displacement, and other types of emergencies and crises. Who steps in when an emergency occurs and why is action uneven across emergency contexts? Can partnerships help ensure rapid and high-quality responses in such situations? The sub-theme also invites papers that critically evaluate what constitutes an emergency, a conflict or a protracted crisis, and that examine issues of power, marginalization, and voice, or explore how initial efforts can be made sustainable in the long term.  Contributions are expected to engage with politics of education in conflict-affected and humanitarian settings that go beyond the narratives of access or enrolments to critique issues relating to national identity, language of instruction, teaching of history as well as the intersections between inequalities, education and peace.

Provision & financing of education

This sub-theme focuses on the role of new and existing actors in supporting education.  Can government provision alone lead to universal access and attainment in education? In particular, this sub-theme raises questions such as: what are the priorities and perspectives of different actors (international organisations, foundations, private sector, etc.) in supporting education? How are these actors integrated within the educational systems, at which levels do they operate, what are the financing mechanisms used, and what challenges do they face? Are there complementarities in their approaches, new forms of partnerships emerging, potential tensions? This sub-theme also invites papers that address the financing gap in education, innovative financing approaches, and disparities/challenges in financing for the most marginalised.