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The Gladwyn Lecture – Participatory governance: what’s that got to do with education?

On Tuesday, 4 December Commonwealth Foundation Director Vijay Krishnarayan delivered this year’s Gladwyn Lecture, an event hosted by the Council for Education in the Commonwealth at the Houses of Parliament in London.

Speaking at this event, Mr Krishnarayan demonstrated how the concept of participatory governance is relevant to making the education sector responsive to development needs.  

Referring to the Commonwealth Foundation’s relaunch and its focus on participatory governance, Mr Krishnarayan explained that this is not a dramatic change, but rather “a bend in the river” for the organisation. “If one is looking for a specific reference to education, health, urbanisation or food security in our new narrative you will be disappointed. Rather we have identified the need for governments and stakeholders to come together with the right blend of institutions, policies and capacities to shape responses to challenges in each of these sectors and indeed others.” 

Mr Krishnarayan stated that the concept of participatory governance is not new, and has sound roots in the education sector. Citing examples of communiques issued by the Commonwealth Education Ministers advocating for stakeholder participation in the delivery of education, Mr Krishnarayan suggested that this demonstrates a connection between participation and the quality of education outcomes which is particularly relevant to the post-2015 development agenda. 

However, despite giving examples of how participation of stakeholders can improve education outcomes, he said that leadership from governments and relevant ministries is essential in order to realise this potential. “This is a type of leadership that can unite diverse stakeholders around the achievement of better education outcomes. It is the type of leadership that creates spaces and makes information available because it can see that this will contribute to improvement.”

Mr Krishnarayan concluded by stating that participatory governance is a concept closely related to the development challenges face by Commonwealth citizens.  “[Participatory governance] is an idea that acknowledges the right of every citizen to engage with the institutions that shape their lives. This is what education is about and it is at the heart of what the Commonwealth stands for.”