Cities and Education 2030: Local challenges, global imperatives

Cities play a leading role in the urgent need to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and particularly SDG 4, which aims to ensure universal access to quality education. Through a dedicated programme, an IIEP-UNESCO research team explores the key role of cities in educational planning and management, as local elected authorities and privileged partners of ministries of education.

In recent decades, decentralisation policies in education – in many countries – have transferred responsibilities to local actors and cities, in particular.

In response to the growing challenges of local governance, this research aims to identify the advantages of cities and the major challenges they face in the implementation of educational policies and to stimulate the sharing of experiences and strategies between cities and countries.


Why focus on the role of cities in education?

From building schools to recruiting teachers, the range of cities’ responsibilities in terms of education is becoming broader. Educational planning thereby becomes a key component of the global urban development plan, conceived in collaboration with other sectors in cities – health, work, culture, etc – and with many external actors.

While there have been many studies on urban planning, few of them have studied and compared, on the global level, the way in which municipalities and their administrative staff plan and manage education in different contexts, depending on the size of the city, its geographical location, or its responsibilities at the decentralised level. This is precisely the gap that this research intends to fill.

While decentralisation reforms are gaining pace in many countries, it has become essential to study the way in which cities manage their responsibilities and their autonomy in terms of education, in coordination with school staff, parents, children, private companies or other local administrations.

Candy Lugaz and Chloé Chimier – Researchers at IIEP-UNESCO

This programme is the continuation of research conducted by IIEP since 2002 around the dynamics of decentralization in education policies. In particular, the Institute has studied the consequences of decentralisation reforms on the functioning and management of schools and local education offices in around fifteen countries in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. The theme of school grants is the focus of a dedicated programme.

Four questions about Cities and education

Our research “Cities and Education 2030” aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the responsibilities of local elected authorities in educational planning and management in the urban context; what are the profiles and skills of the individuals in charge of these questions?
  2. What are the characteristics of educational planning and management cycles in cities; what are the human, material, and financial resources at their disposal?
  3. How do local elected authorities coordinate with education professionals at the local level and with other sectors in the city? How do they work with parents, citizens, civil society, and private companies at the local level?
  4. What level of technical, human, financial or material support does the ministry of education provide to local elected authorities to ensure the transfer of responsibilities? How does it ensure the follow-up of their implementation and possible disparities between cities?


Our methodology and research areas

The research programme, “Local challenges, global imperatives: Cities at the forefront to achieve the Education 2030 Agenda”, is based on a qualitative and quantitative methodology, which includes:

1. A series of field studies, based on semi-directive interviews with different local actors in educational planning, conducted in two stages:

- A first phase conducted in four cities in France (read the policy brief):

- A second phase conducted at the international level in a group of towns chosen according to their size, their geographical location, their income level, and their experience in integrated planning, particularly in terms of education (ongoing research)

2. Research conducted in several dozen towns around the world, in different geographic and socio-economic contexts, in order to collect comparative data.

This approach will be completed with prior documentary analyses on national decentralisation policies and the range of education responsibilities transferred to cities.

How will our research help IIEP’s audiences and partners?

By deepening knowledge about local educational planning strategies, this research will contribute to enriching and updating existing training content on local governance and management of education offered by IIEP. This is particularly the case with the specialised course, Organisation and management of the educational sector: systems and institutions.

Depending on demand and need, tailor-made training courses could be delivered for municipal staff, responsible for education in cities, in order to strengthen their skills in educational planning and collaboration.

Technical support to states
This programme will enable the formulation of recommendations to shape policy in cities in UNESCO Member States with the aim of supporting the implementation of their educational strategies and strengthening the development of future decentralisation reforms.

This research project specifically addresses IIEP’s 1st and 4th priorities for the period 2018-2021.

Find out more about IIEP's 2018-2021 strategy

(In French only) IIEP researcher Candy Lugaz at the "Resilience, Innovation, Education, Territory" roundtable at the #ForumZeroCarbone in Bordeau, France (7 December 2021)