Yulia Nesterova and Queralt Capsada-Munsech

The new GEM report on non-state actors

To develop its 2021/22 report “Non-state actors in education: Who chooses? Who loses?”, UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) commissioned a wide range of papers from across the world, on all levels and types of education and training, and on all major non-state actors involved in educational provision. Ours was one of such background papers that contributed to drafting the part on technical, vocational, and adult education.

A diverse group of non-state actors – including commercially motivated (e.g., corporations), non-profit. (e.g., charities, NGOs, foundations), and hybrid (e.g., impact investing organisations) – has now become involved in and has influence on all aspects of formal education. This is not surprising as the state may not be able to deliver required education to all: public educational institutions may be scarce, may be of low quality, and/or may not meet the needs of children and communities they serve. Taking care of education of 350 million children across the world is just one example of the extent of non-state involvement; some others include developing textbooks, providing school transport and school meals, or offering skill training to youth and adults.

However, as the 2021/22 UNESCO GEM Report points out, there are a lot of concerns about quality, efficiency, innovation, equity, and inclusivity of services and programmes offered by these actors. Equity in financing, quality, governance, innovation, and policymaking is of particular concern, as the Report highlights.

State regulation of non-state actors thus becomes key to ensure no difference in quality and equity standards, information, incentives, monitoring, and accountability exist and that actors are supported the same way to, ultimately, build quality and inclusive education for all learners. The need to regulate non-state involvement in education was already outlined in the Abidjan Principles (adopted in 2019), that positioned state regulation of non-state actors as human rights obligations of states. Thus, the role of the report is to invite policymakers to question, re-think, and re-shape their relationships with non-state actors.

Our background paper on TVET and non-state actors

Read our paper National and subnational approaches to regulating non-state technical and vocational education and training: comparative insights from Asia and Africa in full here: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000380088  prepared by Dr Yulia Nesterova and Dr Queralt Capsada-Munsech

Our paper focuses on SHLC countries in Africa and Asia: Bangladesh, China, India, The Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, and Tanzania. In these countries, as in many others, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is viewed as one of the ways to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities in cities. After all, TVET equip learners with specialised skills and knowledge that can lead to skilled and decent employment. Yet, the public sector in SHLC countries would be struggling to meet the demand for TVET had it not been for non-state actors.

What we looked at in these countries was how non-state providers of TVET are regulated and governed by states to ensure quality and effective training, equity and inclusivity, and relevance to local labour markets. To answer this question, we analysed (1) key policies and legislation regarding TVET; (2) governing bodies and their responsibilities; (3) TVET actors and their responsibilities; (4) funding systems around TVET; (5) implementation, compliance, and accountability mechanisms; and (6) quality standards and assurance mechanisms.

Main findings

Here are some of the findings you can read more about in the report:

First, there is increased – and quite heavy – reliance on non-state providers to offer TVET opportunities in each country. However, the TVET system is centrally controlled by each state with limited opportunity for non-state actors to participate in governance and regulation of the TVET system.

Second, there are substantial gaps and overlaps in official documents that continue to limit efficacy and efficiency in the provision and regulation of TVET. The most glaring omission is the lack of (and even absence of) provisions and mechanisms for implementation of TVET.

Third, there is an issue with multiple government bodies at various levels competing for the same activities and responsibilities. In some instances, it is unclear who oversees each mandate and whose interests they serve.

Fourth is the lack of financial and technical support. Non-state providers tend to rely on self-funding for their activities as financial and technical support of non-state actors is limited. This particularly concerns and affects non-profit providers such as charities and NGOs that support marginalised learners but have no sustainable and reliable funding stream or support of capacity building.

On the positive side, TVET is increasingly integrated into the broader education systems, with TVET qualifications becoming part of national qualifications frameworks and quality assurance systems.

Policy recommendations

Based on our analysis and these findings, we provide a few recommendations that primarily concern with:

  • Streamlining of TVET regulations in each country to provide clear guidelines.
  • Simplifying governance structures of TVET and non-state TVET actors.
  • Offering incentives to non-state actors to improve and innovate and to ensure quality, equity, and effectiveness.
  • Strengthening non-state and non-profit provision of TVET through capacity development and better financing.
  • Encouraging and enhancing partnerships and cooperation among TVET state and non-state actors, especially to serve more disadvantaged areas and marginalised groups.
  • Placing more focus on supporting TVET in disadvantaged areas.