2023 - 2024
The OSC, through implementation of its 2023-2024 Programme of Activities, aims to fulfil its mission of promoting balanced and inclusive education in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE). The other three pillars of the OSC mandate covered by its biennium programme are transdisciplinary research, endogenous technology development and transfer and solidary finance for development.
The Organisation of Southern Cooperation (OSC) is permeated in its entirety by a systemic vision, and a consistent approach, with profound implications for programmatic design and implementation models. This systemic understanding of its mandate also underpins its management model for the provision of technical assistance and the delivery of its programmatic agenda.
The successful delivery of the Programme must, therefore, be measured against its mandated aspiration to impactfully contribute to the transformation of education and, by extension, developtment. To avoid the dilution of its overall impact and the corresponding failure to reach its expected results due to a lack of coherence of the pro-grammatic agenda when taken as a whole, the Programme –designed with the aforementioned systemic vision– is conceived through mutually-reinforcing lines of action, rather than as disconnected projects.
As such, in accordance with this systemic approach and in order to preserve the coherence and tangible impact of the programmatic agenda, the concerns for gender equality, minority rights, and collective self-reliance –which pervade the Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE) and the OSC Constitutive Charter– do not figure as specific lines of action. They are instead considered as transversal axes that permeate the entirety of the Programme, in order to ensure that the issues of gender equality, minority rights, and collective self-reliance are embedded in each line of action and integrated in their implementation.
Notwithstanding the wide recognition of the fundamental requisite of gender equality for a more just, prosperous, and inclusive society, and de-cades of efforts towards that goal, deeply rooted socio-cultural norms, attitudes, behaviours, practices, and power imbalances continue to disadvantage women and girls, both in the Global North and the Global South. Throughout its organizational policies and programmes transversally, the OSC will address, from an intersectional angle accounting for the compounding experience of oppression of women and girls, the underlying patterns, mechanisms, and patriarchal structures reproduced through curricula content, classroom practice, research biases, socio-cultural norms, and economic disparities.
Minorities are composed of two sets of people: communities that constitute a numerical minority in a given society, or in the world, and communities who, despite forming a substantial part of the population, are minoritised through discrimination, marginalisation, and exclusion due to their ethnic, cultural, religious, or other identities. The violation of the human rights of minorities and indigenous peoples is not only morally unacceptable, but it also negates their valuable contribution to society and to Humanity. The OSC, through its multi-dimensional programme design and interactional implementation processes will address minority and indigenous peoples’ marginalisation and exclusion through interconnected socio-cultural, educational, civic, and economic angles.
Building upon resources, capacities and insights of individuals, local communities, and institutions, the OSC will strive to systemically reinforce capacities, autonomy, and resilience at the local and national levels, whilst working with Member States to develop and build collective self-reliance strategies that pool intellectual, technical and financial resources together, transversally supported by implementation strategies for the OSC Programme ensuring active exchanges, solidarity-based cooperation, regional schemes, and collaborative action amongst Member States at the regional and international levels.
1. An education system is akin to an organism or an ecosystem, composed of different sub-systems (such as administrative offices, curriculum departments, and schools within a ministry of education), satellite systems (such as non-formal education centres and private schools), direct individual agents (such as teachers and students), and indirect agents (such as other government ministries and international development partners), which are in constant inter-retroactivity. In other words, the respective actions of an education system’s sub-systems, satellite systems, and (direct and indirect) agents influence the others and, due to the circular nature of a system, these same sub-systems that have influenced the others are, in turn, influenced back.
2. The performance of an education system is largely characterised by:
- Its vision, goals, and objectives as well as their corresponding implementation plans;
- Its agents: their competencies, their understanding of the manner in which the system operates, and their role within them – including agents of satellite systems that are not fully integrated within the public education system, such as non- formal education programmes, private schools, and tutoring centres;
- The way information, decisions, and feedback circulate amongst the sub- systems and agents, including the procedures and the internal culture pertaining to such a circulation;
- The way inputs are processed, and outputs generated and disseminated –in other words, a system’s aperture and porosity to its political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, and demographic contexts.
3. Challenges to reforms of an education system generally arise by the lack of alignment, coherence, and feedback loops between its sub-systems, its agents (both direct and indirect), and its context –in other words, through:
- A lack of clearly identified, understood, and shared vision and goals amongst (direct and indirect) agents;
- A lack of overall coordination with its sub and satellite systems to ensure coherence within the system when reforms are undertaken in certain areas;
- A lack of compatibility in the capacities of sub-systems – for instance, weaker capacities in teacher training would render the implementation of certain reforms, such as the integration of a competency-based approach within the curriculum and in teacher practice, impossible.
4. A reform should therefore not be understood as a change happening solely in a given sub- system (such as in the classroom, in the curriculum, or in teach training), but rather as a change entailing a transformation in the manner in which the education system as a whole is operating.
5. To avoid well-intentioned reforms from falling short of their objectives, transformative processes –or Systemic Governance– must be favoured over pre-set solutions to be implemented on an ad hoc basis. Rather than overloading the education system with additional tasks that are not aligned with the system’s internal dynamics, systemic governance identifies and fills gaps in information and competencies, and builds on the strengths of the system, reinforcing it where needed, to ensure coherence in the implementation of reforms.
6. To successfully enact an educational transformation, however, the short-term temporality that is often implied with the concept of “reform” must be substituted by an understanding of educational transformation as a continuous, permanent process of change, with the notable objectives of:
- Building resilience and adaptability in order for the education system to resonate with its context and be able to adjust to changing situations, whether unforeseen crises in the short-term (such as conflict or public health emergencies), or anticipated crises in the medium to long-term (such as climate change) and;
- Articulating, promoting, and enacting a vision of the future within the education system’s social, economic, cultural, and environmental contexts – namely, transitioning from re-activity to proactivity.
7. Within its first biennium, to reinforce systemic governance and streamline system enhancement in Member States, the OSC will support them in implementing efficient electronic management information systems, on the one hand, and developing a comprehensive, context-sensitive balanced and inclusive education system diagnostic, monitoring, and evaluation tool.
1. The Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE) promotes a transformative, systemic approach to inclusion and quality in education in order to attain social cohesion and justice, and to ensure the socio- cultural relevance of learning and its adequacy to local, national and global priorities as well as the synergising of inter-relations between learners, their schools and the communities to which they belong.
2. A critical component for the transformation of education systems towards balance and inclusivity is the curriculum. As a set of policies, regulations, orientations, and guidelines that govern teaching, learning, and assessment, the curriculum defines the vision of society to be built and of citizens to be edified through the education system.
3. Teaching practice and assessments are equally essential to the vision of the UDBIE, as teachers interpret, create, and recreate the curriculum as the praxis of its delivery to enable learners to acquire and develop the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes, and lead meaningful and productive lives, which requires assessment models that adequately reflect the fundamental shift in the education system’s orientation.
4. Such efforts include fully engaging and preparing teachers, because their instructional decisions and capabilities are crucial to student learning, as well as local communities that must co-own schools so that they become pro-active actors of their own development and which belong to them. It is therefore a complex and dynamic process, that could be qualified as curriculum alignment, which involves a range of actors and factors: curriculum developers, textbooks and learning material developers, teacher-training programmes and trainers, inspectors, heads of schools, teaching practice, and assessment models.
5. In practice, unless curriculum alignment has been sought purposefully, it is unlikely that the existing gaps between what is described in the written curriculum, what is actually taught, and what is assessed will be bridged. Identifying curriculum alignment gaps to lessen or close them becomes an indisputable path to an improvement in learning outcomes.
6. This process is of equal relevance to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) as an integral part of the education system as whole. Involving the same range of actors, TVET nonetheless faces the further challenge of being socially perceived as a lesser path of learning and one which should be avoided unless no other opportunities present themselves.
7. This additional layer of complexity requires a supplementary two-pronged approach:
- Increased employability and professional relevance –unless TVET results on better employment opportunities, the case for its expansion would be self-defeating. It is fundamental for TVET qualification frameworks to be not only developed with prospective employers, but also in line with the sustainable economic development orientations of the country as a whole, in order to ensure that TVET both responds to immediate market needs and to the pro-active shaping of such markets in the interest of collective development.
- Pedagogical and participator y communication –the resistance to TVET finds its roots in the sociocultural sphere. It is fundamental, therefore, for communication strategies to be developed with an understanding that they constitute a pedagogical process that must be, in order to remain consistent with the spirit of balanced and inclusive education, participatory in nature by listening and responding to community concerns. As such, the case for TVET cannot merely be economic– it must also be one shaped by community and national aspirations and demonstrably act, in consequence, as a lever for a participatory development that is understood as a collective effort requiring skillsets and competencies to be gained through TVET, so that it is no longer considered to be the path of the education system’s outcasts but, rather, a conscious individual choice to serve one’s own, personal development as well as a particular vision of society’s future.
8. Within its first biennium, to support Member States in achieving balanced and inclusive education for all, the OSC will, on the one hand, establish an institute at its headquarters to train Member States’ curricula developers, master trainers, and assessment designers in balanced and inclusive education; and, on the other hand, work with Member States to develop multi-stakeholder strategies to raise the social value of TVET and ensure its uptake as a lever of personal, local, and national development.
1. The role of higher education and research institutions in sustainable human, social, and economic development cannot be understated. Despite fundamental shifts undergone by societies, they remain indispensable to the transmission, production, and dissemination of knowledge in addition to the building of institutional, professional, and technical capacities.
2. Long perceived as neutral institutions acting as the custodians and transmitters of knowledge, higher education and research institutions are nonetheless subject to, and in many respects reflect and reproduce, the shortcomings and inequalities of society. From the socioeconomic and urban-rural divides in terms of access to higher education, to the urgent need for alternative solutions to the deep crises of dominant models of knowledge production, of socio-economic development, and of relations between human beings and nature, a critical global debate is ongoing across societies and within academia itself.
3. To leverage the potential of higher education and research institutions as effective catalysts of development, it is therefore fundamental to address the barriers hindering access to knowledge as well as its nature and relevance. Consequently, Article X of the Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE) advocates for an opening of (higher) educational institutions to align “their processes to development of solutions to local concerns and challenges” as well as embedding “cooperation with local communities, institutions, and civil society organisations in the formal and informal structures of [these] institutions”. Its further emphasis on the importance of transdisciplinarity, the integration of academic and non-academic knowledge domains, and multi-sectorial approaches also encourages the transformation of the paradigms currently dominating higher education and research.
4. As such, the present and emerging crises of the world, which in fact signal crises in the epistemologies of knowledge, provide countries of the Global South with a unique opportunity to revisit their endogenous philosophies, knowledges, know-how, and practices in view of building alternative epistemologies and interpretive frameworks resulting on new understandings of modernity.
5. The democratisation of higher education and research must hence centre around:
- Access: strategies and policies to ensure the quantitative and qualitive expansion of higher education to reach communities, both in rural and in economically marginalised areas, that have so far been excluded, as well as the provision to researchers of the means necessary to engage with and contribute to the global scholarly record and the latest publications;
- Nature: knowledge being itself a social construct, the integration of endogenous ideas, perspectives, and experiences through proper criteria and methodologies is central to knowledge democratisation as a form of positive appropriation;
- Capacities: condition sine qua non to ensure access and the re-framing of knowledge are the corresponding national capacities in terms of skills and expertise, as well as the existence of the adequate infrastructure, technologies, and conditions to both conduct research and disseminate knowledge.
6. The relationship between higher education, research, and the formal (primary and secondary) education system is inextricable, as it is through this triumvirate that educational theories that inform reform are also generated. Research in the Global South has in many respects remained underdeveloped, underrepresented in the international discourse (and therefore unable to shape it), and portrayed, at times, as lacking sufficient legitimacy when exploring alternative paradigms. Notwithstanding these challenges, endogenous research on education remains vital to the vision contained within the UDBIE as it is necessary to balance the influx of theories of education from the Global North, which translate into corresponding reforms, that are based on concepts tested in contexts which are, generally, incompatible with the myriad of contexts in the Global South.
7. Notwithstanding their importance as catalysts of sustainable and equitable endogenous development, the role of higher education and of research cannot be limited to that of mere instruments or technical processes whose only purpose is material development. They can and ought to also play a key part in the development of socio-cultural and emotional intelligence skills when conceived as enriching opportunities for collaborations and exchanges between researchers as well as between students. Whilst numerous schemes have been developed in the Global North and in certain sub-regions of the Global South, in addition to bilateral agreements between countries, in order to tap into this dimension of higher education and research, there is a gap and need for such schemes to be developed so as to ensure the mobility of students and academic staff across the Global South.
8. Within its first biennium, the OSC will support its Member States in the areas of higher education and transdisciplinary research by accelerating the democratisation of higher education –through innovative strategies for quantitative and qualitative expansion in addition to platforms for digital access to the latest in research–, reinforcing regional endogenous capacities to make research more contextually relevant, and strengthening the social, cultural, and academic ties across Member States through university pairings and the development of frameworks enabling the mobility of students and academic staff.
1. The advent of the 4th industrial revolution has not only profoundly altered Humanity’s understanding of the world and the manner in which it interacts with it, but it has also transformed societies and who they are, as individuals and as collectives. Having become a matter of strategic and vital importance, the use of technology as a tool to streamline, enhance, and hasten personal and national development is no longer in debate.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this revolution as the world, undergoing unprecedented national lockdowns and restrictions on both local and international mobility, became more dependent on digital technologies for work, social interactions, and basic necessities. Regardless of the accuracy of the multiplying predictions on the long-term impact of these development on post-pandemic society, it is indisputable that the paradigmatic overhauls that have been caused in all sectors are there to stay, and it is impossible to return –for better or for worse– to the pre-pandemic status quo. The societal debates surrounding technology have, in fact, irreversibly shifted from the conditional abstract to the practical: “when” to use technology, “how” to use it, and under “what” ethical and regulatory frameworks.
3. Education is arguably the sector around which the issue of technology use has crystallised during the pandemic –both in terms of its positives implications and its fundamental limitations. With over 1.5 billion students affected by school closures at the peak of the crisis, the availability of technology proved essential to ensure the continuity of learning. This simultaneously demonstrated, however, the importance of the social functions of education which can simply not be replicated through individualising virtual platforms. It also instilled a new sense of urgency with regard to the issue of bridging the techno- digital divide as millions of students did not have access to the internet or computers necessary for distance learning.
4. In order to leverage the potential of technology, and mitigate the aforementioned limitations, there is now an imperative need for the expansion of digital infrastructures (such as personal devices, internet connectivity, interoperable information systems, and cloud solutions), the design of appropriate digital learning resources, more adequate training of teachers in the use of educational technologies, and the development of technological skills and digital competencies in learners.
5. The principal challenge facing countries across the Global South remains the effective investment cost of ensuring connectivity, installing educational technologies, and providing digital devices in all school and, more widely, for the entirety of their populations. There are also legitimate concerns regarding the durability of technological hardware when implemented at the national scale as matter of public policy, given the velocity of the 4th industrial revolution, as well as preoccupations on the proper protection of the personal data of users, in particular that of minors.
6. Notwithstanding the ability of Member States to ensure connectivity at the national scale, in addressing educational technologies, especially from the perspective of balanced and inclusive education, the issue of the contextual relevance of technology and digital learning resources emerges. Despite the appearance of the contrary, technology is neither socially nor culturally neutral: the development of technology is neither a random nor independent process as it inevitably gains non-neutral properties as a result of its developer’s ends, their (conscious and unconscious) biases, and their sociocultural interpretive frameworks –and it is, ultimately, a tool that has the potential to shape the purposes of its users.
7. As such, to sustainably bridge the techno- digital divides –between the Global North and the Global South, between countries of the Global South, and within countries themselves–, the need for the development of endogenous (local, national, and/or regional) technologies arises. This is not only to afford the opportunity to countries of acquiring more affordable technologies which simultaneously stimulate and autonomise economies, but also to produce more contextually-relevant technologies that enable countries to be proactive actors and shapers of the 4th industrial revolution, opening the door to an exponential development factor, rather than a linear one, in certain sectors.
8. Within the first biennium, the OSC will support its Member States in the areas of innovative technologies and digital infrastructure, by facilitating the production of digital balanced and inclusive learning resources through contextually-relevant and free software, and assisting in the development of endogenous technologies through policy advice, strategic partnerships, and the promotion of endogenous technologies at the international level.
1. From climate change to global health emergencies, passing by the techno-digital divide and financing for education, the importance of concerted multilateral action in addressing the great issues of the 21st century is beyond dispute. Governments aiming to build equitable, inclusive, and effective education systems face serious challenges –calling for considerable investment of technical and financial resources, in addition to political commitment, over the medium and long term. Essential tools to achieve such goals and pool such resources are international platforms of cooperation amongst countries.
2. Article XIV of the Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE), in fact, not only affirms that “Humanity shares a collective, inextricable destiny”, but it also upholds the right of “all nations to benefit from true solidarity and equitable cooperation”, which naturally translates into “the principle of a mutually beneficial partnership of equals” that “acknowledges, respects, and abides by national priorities and local realities.” This particular approach to multilateralism carries within it three fundamental concepts:
- Multilateralism is not merely an opportunistic choice, but rather an unavoidable necessity due to the indivisible nature of the ultimate, fundamental interests of the collective that is Humanity;
- Not all forms of multilateralism are created equal, since the dynamics of multilateralism, unless conceived within a framework of equality (of parties), equity (in relations), and solidarity (rather than charity), will simply reproduce the very imbalances, injustices, and instabilities they purport to rectify and address;
- Multilateralism does not entail a disappearance of the national and local dimensions of development nor of the respective priorities and contexts of countries –on the contrary, the spirit of the UDBIE advocates the view that true universality emanates from and is built through the respectful and enriching encounter of the world’s particularities.
3. From its unambiguous, affirmative stance, the UDBIE identifies profound limitations to the predominant conception of multilateralism. These underlying flaws of current multilateral frameworks have most recently been illustrated by the failure of the international system to effectively ensure an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and of the liquidity injected to assist countries in mitigating the dire consequences of the crisis.
4. As such, there is a pressing need to address the inefficiencies and the inflexibility of multilateral cooperation frameworks, that must be repurposed and revitalised in the complexifying context of the 21st century. This demands the placing of the concerns, needs, and aspirations of countries and peoples at the centre of global policymaking and at the forefront of development efforts, whilst always respecting and adapting to respective national priorities, local aspirations, and socio-cultural contexts.
5. One major concern permeating the Global South, lying at the heart of policymaking, is the issue of securing the financing that is necessary for development, and which is intimately linked to the issue of unsustainable, rising external public debt burdens. Exacerbated by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, the issue of debt, in particular, and financing, in general, have become central to the agenda of countries of the Global South as they combat the economic consequences of COVID-19 –from calls for the full relief of debt to the more equitable redistribution of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) issued by the IMF in August 2021.
6. This indissoluble relation between multilateralism, education, development, and financing is recognised in Article XV of the UDBIE through the commitment to “create mechanisms of coordinated educational financing and solidarity which abide by national priorities, adapt to local realities, assist in achieving debt relief, and facilitate budgetary increases for education” as a means to ensure “the unalienable right of all peoples and nations to benefit from prosperous, humane, equitable, and sustainable development, of which education is the initiating spark.”
7. With this particular conception of multilateralism and the affirmation of the right to material and immaterial security, the UDBIE promotes a profound paradigmatic and epistemological shift to enable the realisation of the vision which it contains. Recognising, in Article XV, that the “Global South is constituted of vastly diverse countries, peoples, and cultures who simultaneously share systemic characteristics, challenges, and aspirations”, it advocates for them “to collectively construct and espouse a third, alternative, inclusive way of development emerging through and from education, founded upon the spirit of multilateralism, solidarity, and self- determination.”
8. Within its first biennium, the OSC will support its Member States in mitigating the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and in achieving their common aspirations for development through education, by establishing a Transregional Partnership in Education for Development (TPED) to strengthen and streamline coordination amongst intergovernmental organisations in education, establishing a Common Leveraging Union of Borrowers (CLUB) and a sustainable Public-Private Partnership evaluation framework –as collective mechanisms to achieve debt relief and secure more favourable financing terms for development–, and convening a Congress of the Greater South to collectively define and articulate a common, cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder roadmap and action plan for the construction of a “Third, alternative, inclusive Way of Development.”