New UNESCO Report Explores Regulation Of Non-state Actors In Education


The landscape of education is evolving, with non-state actors playing a significant role in the provision of educational services worldwide.

The UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2021/2 on ‘Non-state actors in education: Who chooses? Who loses?’, found that more than 350 million children and youth worldwide are educated in the non-state sector and ‘governments financially support non-state schools in 171 out of 204 countries’.

In response, UNESCO and the Global Schools Forum (GSF) embarked on a collaborative research project to delve into the complex world of regulating non-state education based on key informant interviews with government officials and non-state education operators in five diverse low- and middle-income countries: Colombia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Uganda.

Building on the GEM Report 2021/22, the recently published joint report ‘Regulating non-state actors in education: Findings from a collaborative research project’ sheds light on how regulatory systems operate and the implications for shaping regulatory frameworks that uphold the principles of quality education, non-discrimination, and inclusion.

The report emphasizes that States hold the primary responsibility for overseeing their education systems, requiring not just adequate education budget allocation but also robust regulatory mechanisms.

However, the effectiveness of regulations varies among States due to disparities in capacity and resources, prompting a need for strengthening government’s regulatory capacity of non-state actors.

Quality learning rooted in human rights principles

Highlighting the importance of clear, quality education standards rooted in human rights principles, the report underscores regulations’ role in fostering equal opportunities for disadvantaged students in non-state schools.

In addition, according to interviewees, current regulations, often focused on registration and infrastructure, need a broader scope considering local contexts, education quality, and teacher challenges.

This echoes the findings of the GEM Report 2021/22, which noted, based on an analysis of 211 education systems, that “regulations are least likely to focus on quality or equity.”

The report advocates for education pluralism in national systems, emphasizing the balance between prescription and autonomy to uphold educational freedom and minority rights.

It calls for participatory approaches involving collaboration between government, non-state actors, communities, parents, and children in shaping regulations.

Acknowledging challenges in compliance, such as inconsistent implementation and political dynamics, the report calls for clear, unambiguous, and transparent regulations. Beyond enforcement, regulations are viewed as opportunities to support schools in their journey toward improvement, ensuring students’ and teachers’ interests are central to the debate.

In a rapidly changing educational landscape, the regulation of non-state actors is a critical endeavor. In providing insights on how regulatory systems operate, the report suggests implications for future work in navigating the complexities of regulating non-state education.

As the we envision a future where all children have access to quality education, ‘governments need to see all education institutions, students and teachers as part of a single system’ (GEM Report) in order to build a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape.

In the words of H.E. Hon David Sengeh, Chief Minister, Sierra Leone, and Chairperson of the GEM Report Advisory Board: “It shouldn’t matter to an education minister where children are educated. Governments must show they care equally for all children’s education no matter the choices made and to apply the same quality standards, monitoring and accountability mechanisms across all providers.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here