Interview with theme convenors of one of six 2023 UKFIET conference themes, ‘Planning, finance, technology and data’: Sally Rosscornes, UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, and Ellen Smith, Aga Khan Foundation.

What excites you about your theme?

This theme digs into the multi-layered and interconnected nature of the wheels and cogs that make an education system work and invites participants to examine what it means to work at system level. Planning, finance, technology and data all shape the way education is conceived and perceived – delivered and experienced – at local, provincial, regional, national and global levels. This theme is not only concerned with these vital aspects of any education system – but most importantly with how they can be harnessed and operationalised with social and environmental justice in mind. This is what we are excited to explore. Recognising that power is concentrated in the financing and planning stages, the theme invites us to look at the relationship between these two elements and how responsive they are to data about inclusion and equity. How are diverse voices included in the discussions and decision-making? Tech and data may be misunderstood, misused, or even missed out – in what ways might we use them for more equitable learning opportunities, and how do they feed into the planning and finance stages? 

How does this link to the overall 2023 conference theme?

If we are seeking as a conference to foster discussion on improving education systems to better tackle social and environmental challenges, we cannot do this without broaching the fundamental areas of planning and finance. Effective planning and adequate financing are pre-requisite to a well-functioning education system – so how do we maximise these processes for fairer outcomes and a greener planet? Whilst data gathering and analysis can sometimes be perceived as a burden, over-complex, distracting even, data also has the potential to inform teaching practices and curricula so that they correspond better to different learners’ needs, and align with the societal context and with the relevant labour markets. Similarly, technology can be used as an enabler in levelling education access and achievement. The areas covered in this sub-theme are therefore crucial to the conversation on designing education systems in ways which promote diversity, sustainability and responsibility. 

What kinds of papers/events would you like to see submitted under your theme?

We would like to see submissions that explore the full breadth of interconnectedness between planning, finance, technology and data and that prompt discussion about the competing priorities faced by education planners and stakeholders as they seek to make SDG4 a reality. This may include, for example, presentations about specific planning and finance models that aim to maximise education outcomes equitably, think pieces looking at the evidence for use of particular technology or representations of analysis and application of relevant datasets illustrating the power of data. We are particularly excited to hear about innovative and participatory approaches to planning and finance that showcase successful examples of cross-stakeholder collaboration, as well as submissions that reflect the transformative potential of holistic approaches to lifelong learning as crucial conduits to achieving social and environmental justice. 

Find out more about the theme