The Global Partnership for Education has shown us their vision of the future. Let’s pay attention.

by Sasha Alyson

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is one of several major, multinational organizations claiming to improve education for the world’s poorest children, especially girls. After a quarter century, however, the schools subjected to this endless meddling have gotten worse. (More at: Schools Are Getting Worse)

The photo accompanying the latest GPE news release is downright scary:

An announcement from the Global Partnership for Education shows girls marching in lockstep. The boys in back appear less enthusiastic about the lockstep thing.

Scary, because this is their vision: Girls marching in lockstep. They could have looked for a picture of girls reading. Or acting independently. They liked girls in lockstep.

Scary, to realize that the groupthink at GPE is so strong that nobody within the organization said, “Maybe this isn’t the right image for our Education news release.”

Schools for the world’s poorest children, under the influence of the U.N. and agencies like GPE, are joyless places where children learn to memorize the right answer – maybe. If they don’t, at least they learn to accept their fate as nothing more than beans to be counted on in the enrollment statistics, creatures to walk and think in lockstep, following orders sent from another continent.

Just a day before GPE published this picture and story, an outside evaluation of its 5-year, $100-million education program in northern Nigeria became available. Did that money do any good? We dunno. The report states that while “[c]ontributions from several partners in Nigeria have modestly improved education planning in Nigeria,” we don’t know if that planning achieved anything because “stakeholder appetite for monitoring has been low.” Why would “stakeholders” want to be monitored, when the money flows anyway?

The report concluded that “effectively the GPE theory of change is not appropriate for Nigeria…. This means taking a bottom up approach – starting with Nigeria’s specificity, rather than a top-down approach, starting with GPE global theory of change and grant-making and partnership structures.”

That sounds promising: They learned that top-down didn’t work, so next they’ll try bottom-up! But if GPE actually wanted bottom-up, it’s had 18 years to try it. The latest $386 million is being passed along (after taking out whatever salaries and overhead GPE requires) to the same top-down organizations – the World Bank, Unicef, Unesco – that for years have contributed to creating disastrously bad schools in the global South.

They all prefer top-down. That’s how everybody gets their salaries.

None of them want to pass control to the populations of Chad, Eritrea, and the rest. They know full well that people who are running their own lives do not do it in lockstep.

The Global Partnership for Education has shown us their vision of the future. Let’s pay attention.