IIEP staff voices: Amélie Gagnon on tools for educational planning

22 March 2019

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IIEP-UNESCO
Amélie Gagnon explains how to boost the relevance of tools and guidelines for more effective planning.

Demographer, educational planning expert, and savvy social media user – we are pleased to introduce you to IIEP-UNESCO’s Amélie Gagnon. After several years working in the technical cooperation team, she is now bringing together her diverse skill set to ensure that all of IIEP’s tools and guidelines respond to the realities of educational planners and managers today. She shares what is ahead in her new role at IIEP: 

Can you tell us a little more about your position?

I was appointed Senior Programme Specialist a couple of months ago, and in this role, I will coordinate the Development Cluster of the Research and Development team. 

The main purpose of this cluster at IIEP is to develop tools, guidelines, and methodologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of educational planning and management in UNESCO Member States, and to strengthen their capacity to implement policy reforms. This will be done with a specific emphasis on data: from data quality, to data use, and nurturing the data culture in educational offices in Member States. As a demographer, I am very pleased to be able to add this perspective to IIEP’s work.

How much variety and nuance is there in planning practices worldwide today? How do you address this in making tools and guidelines so that they respond to a variety of country contexts? 

The way I see it is that we can approach most planning practices through three dimensions. Once we understand how these different facets interact in a given context (national or regional), we can better respond to particular requests.

The first dimension is the way educational authority is shared: are we looking at highly centralized prerogatives? Is decentralizing or deconcentrating a priority for this administration?

Second, there are the time constraints and related pressure. Is the administration going through a steady round of policy reforms? Are they in the middle of a humanitarian crisis? Are there contextual uncertainties that are compromising longer-term planning or implementation?

Finally, there is the data culture. Contexts where education stakeholders are used to monitoring and reporting on their activities or progress in the implementation of the plan are very different from contexts where data collection efforts are scattered or irregular, subject to financial or human resources uncertainties, and so forth.

So our responsibility in the Development Cluster is to provide advice, tools, and guidelines that can be applied in as many different contexts as possible with a minimum level of burden, or conversely, present a sufficient number of scenarios so that any planner can find their context in the mix. In the end, planners are experts of their own environment, and we trust that they can adapt and adjust our materials to make it even more relevant for decision-making.

How can we make IIEP’s research more applicable to policy-makers and planners? 

Learning and sharing experiences from planners and managers around the world is key, as well as drawing from our specialized platforms and broadening our interactions through social media.

I want to ask for specific feedback from our audience, and even include odd questions like ‘what did you always wanted to know about your education system, and were too afraid to ask’ or ‘what would you need to do your job better’ – answers to candid questions like this can sometimes lead to very useful developments.

Practical tools – such as guidelines and methodologies – also help in this regard, as they take the results of applied research and feed it back to planners and managers in countries in ways that can have a direct impact on their decision-making.

(Want to answer my questions? you can get in touch on Twitter!

How do you keep in touch with educational planners today? 

Beyond institutional communications using emails, the newsletter, or our IIEP social media pages, I really like to keep in touch with educational planners through my personal Twitter and messaging apps. Our platforms, webinars, Strategic Debates, and other dissemination activities on specialized topics gather specialized audiences but the key question for us is how to keep the conversation alive. Every planner I have personally worked with can confirm that I take real pride in being available for any type of educational planning and management-related question or doubt. Now the question I need to answer is how to make sure that my personal network can both benefit from and leverage IIEP resources so that we can draw in a myriad of voices so that they further develop and evolve in tandem with the changing needs of planners today.

What are you most looking forward to? 

So far, every day has been so different and I have yet to find a balance between what is super interesting and what is important! I have been participating in many strategic discussions with different stakeholders, and I really look forward to turning these great ideas into practical and actionable results.

I am also really looking forward to meeting with colleagues who will be attending the European Development Days (18-19 June in Brussels) where we can explore synergies and common agendas to better serve educational planners and managers.