IIEP’s top education stories of 2021, and a look ahead

04 January 2022


Mhilmi Osman/Shutterstock.com
A group of university students in a science lab in Malaysia.

Over the past year, the exceptional crisis brought on by COVID-19 continued to disrupt education worldwide. Responses launched in 2020 continued to evolve as countries reopened schools and found new formats for blended learning. The pandemic is not over, but education systems are finding ways to maintain learning. However, significant challenges remain, both related to the pandemic and beyond.

IIEP’s top stories from the past year confirm the reality that education, as a multi-faceted sector, requires dynamic solutions and approaches related to equity, gender, innovation, planning, teachers, resilience and more. Take a look back at some of our biggest stories from 2021 and subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date as we move into 2022.

1.    Gender equality

We looked beyond the obvious to see how gender inequalities manifest in education, for both boys and girls. Sharing highlights from two Education Sector Analyses undertaken in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, this article explains IIEP’s intersectional approach to gender-responsive educational planning.


2.    Inclusive education

COVID-19 has renewed the urgency to address barriers to learning, especially for the most vulnerable. For learners with disabilities, this is especially important in contexts of remote or blended learning. Look at these inspiring initiatives from Bangladesh and Colombia and see how an online course has sparked transformation in countries like Eswatini.


3.    Regional expertise in Latin America and Africa

IIEP celebrated the 20th anniversary of its regional office in Africa this year, which was founded in 2001 as the first centre of expertise in education sector analysis in Africa. Take a look back at its accomplishments and get an early view on how IIEP will refine its strategy for Africa. With eight years to go to 2030, particular attention will be given to five key challenges present on the continent: funding for education, quality learning, demographics, inclusive education, and youth employment.

Across the globe, in Latin America and the Caribbean, policy-makers participated in the Regional Education Policy Forum in November 2021 to discuss the role of information systems in promoting more equitable and just societies through education. One key objective this interactive virtual event was to rethink the link between information systems and the different stages of the education policymaking cycle, from formulation, management, to monitoring and evaluation.


4.    Hacking EDplanning

In 2021, IIEP held its first hackathon, Hacking EDplanning. During 48 hours, teams prototyped six digital tools to address long-standing challenges in educational planning and management, from how to make use of learning assessment data to how to identify “ghost teachers” who remain active on payroll, but are absent in the classroom.


5.    Flexible learning pathways and skills

As part of IIEP’s global project on flexible learning pathways, researchers from Malaysia gave an inside look at how the higher education sector is preparing learners for the jobs of the future: cyber security, big data, and robotics. Important efforts are also being made to broaden access to higher education for vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities and single mothers.


6.    Teaching in refugee contexts: “We teach here”

This short film, produced in collaboration with Education Development Trust, shares the lives of three South Sudanese primary school teachers working in refugee camps in Gambella, Ethiopia. Using phone cameras to film themselves, the teachers share their stories and the essential role they play in shaping the future of young refugees, under challenging and fast-changing circumstances.


7.    Ethics and corruption

The year started off with the popular guidelines, Open School Data: What planners need to know, and the accompanying animated short film, and finished off with a policy forum on open government and the unveiling of a new ETICO site, the platform of resources on ethics and corruption in education. These resources are key to ensuring accountability in the sector, a prerequisite to realizing the Education 2030 agenda.


8.    Middle tier school leaders

Throughout COVID-19, instructional leaders have helped education systems adapt to fast-changing needs and circumstances. From Delhi (India), Rwanda, Shanghai (China), and Wales (United Kingdom), IIEP met some of these leaders to hear how they supported teachers and learners during these unprecedented times.

9.     Cities and Education 2030

Urban centres around the world are playing a growing role in both the planning and provision of education. In 2021, IIEP launched the international phase of its research on Cities and Education 2030 to five new cities on three continents. The Secretary of Education from Medellín, Colombia, Alexandra Agudelo Ruíz, shared her thoughts on how this research carries both local, and global benefits.

10.     Building resilience for a stronger future

Finally, to wrap up the year we revisit one of the biggest themes: building resilience in and through education. As many education systems began to re-open in-person learning in 2021, planners and policy-makers sharpened response and preparation plans to both respond to the crisis, and plan for the future. IIEP has provided support to ministries of education and also unveiled major new updates to its dedicated crisis planning portal, Education4Resilience.