Quality at the heart of education
Providing access to education for all (EFA) had been a global agenda for the past 15 years. Most countries in the Asia and Pacific region made remarkable gains in expanding access to education at all levels. However, progress on improving the quality of the education, particularly in terms of student learning and related teaching and learning conditions, was less impressive, resulting in this recommendation in the Report Card 2000-2015 for EFA Goal #6 on the quality of education: “Must try harder”. The Sustainable Development Goal 4–Education 2030 agenda – ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – reinforces the growing consensus about quality being at the heart of education to measure (i) learner’s cognitive development and (ii) education’s role in promoting values and attitudes of responsible citizenship and in nurturing creative and emotional development.
The interpretation of quality in education is dependent on many factors, including expectations from different stakeholders grounded in their respective values, cultures and traditions. While definitions and measurements are integral to any discussion about quality, the essence and elements of learning must also be understood to enable the development of comprehensive and effective interventions for quality learning in the 21st century and beyond. All considerations about the quality of learning will have to be viewed through the lens of the entire education system, including the curriculum, teaching and learning materials; teachers and their teaching practices; school environment and infrastructure; allocation and use of resources; school leadership and management; students, their families and communities; and the diverse socio-cultural contexts and conditions.
In light of these considerations, the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok, Thailand, is organizing the 18th UNESCO-APEID International Conference, In Pursuit of Quality Education: The Past, Present and Future to facilitate leading-edge discussions about the quality of education, and to identify gaps where more research and efforts are needed to achieve inclusive and quality education by 2030.