This article includes a tentative definition of what educational planning consists of, a brief history of the planning of education systems during the last decades of the twentieth century, an overview of the main evolutions in educational planning in those years, a presentation of the main features of educational planning today, the identification of new areas of concern for the planning community, and suggestions concerning some foreseeable future perspectives in the field of educational planning.
1. Tentative Definition of Educational Planning
Planning is the development and statement of clear goals, and the design of efficient and effective strategies to achieve these goals (Davis 1994). It is a process through which scarce resources should be allocated as efficiently as possible, in order to better respond to specific needs, in this case countries educational needs. These are still huge in a number of countries, in particular developing ones.
Traditionally, educational planners are responsible for the building of new schools and institutions, the repair of existing ones, the forecasting of new enrollments, the allocation and (re)deployment of teachers, the projection of costs and budget estimates, and the planning of didactic materials. In each of these areas, they make thorough diagnoses, identify key problems, assess different policy options and strategies, present them to policy makers for decision, translate them into a number of programs and projects, and then monitor and assess the implementation of the latter. But these tasks have evolved considerably over the past years, and have become more and more complex, due to important evolutions in the general environment in which planners work. These will be dealt with below.
Among the various tasks of educational planners today one could mention (Caillods 1997): (a) participating in discussions about the political, economic, and cultural aspirations and goals of the concerned society that should be properly reflected in the objectives set for the education system; (b) developing, on this basis, an acceptable set of goals and objectives; (c) assessing the present state and past development of school systems, institutions, programs, and projects; (d) assisting, on this basis, in the design of policies, programs, organizational structures, and financial allocations for the next 10 to 20 years; (e) devising mechanisms for resource allocation according to specific criteria in line with policies; (f) identifying appropriate partners; (g) setting up the proper incentives and regulations so that the different actors identified take the most appropriate decisions; (h) monitoring the implementation of the designed policy; (i) ensuring a transparency of the educational markets; and (j) taking appropriate compensatory measures if needed (Ross and Levacic 1999).
As a consequence, for some people, educational planning is a technical exercise, based on the collection of a number of quantitative data, the creation of information systems, and the best use of research results. For others, it is a far more empirical process, involving policy making and implementation (Farrell 1994).
2. Some Historical Facts
The principles and methods of educational planning were first broadly developed in the former USSR and after World War II, in socialist states, mainly in Central Europe but also in other parts of the world. The ideological control that characterized those societies led to highly centralized, command-oriented education systems, with considerable attention paid to the control of the curriculum (Farrel 1994).
However, even if industrialized market-economy nations have always shown a strong desire not to be ideologically associated with the concept of planning, many have also participated to a considerable extent in the formulation of policies to regulate and control education. Plans, in that case, tended to be more indicative than directive, more decentralized, and more incentive-oriented. Centralized educational planning has also played an important role among developing nations, as from the 1960s. The UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, created in 1963, has been specifically designated to help these countries develop their educational plans, essentially through the training of central planners. In the 1970s, major donor agencies insisted on educational planning as a precondition for external aid.
As a result of strong government commitment associated with strong social demand for education, in the 1960s and 1970s, developing countries made impressive efforts and progress in education. But in the mid-1970s, and especially in the 1980s, it became clear that, in most cases, planning had not produced the expected results. First, despite the extensive development of education systems, many children were still out of school, and many others had not acquired the basic competencies that they required. Moreover, declining quality, imbalances between supply and demand for educated manpower, and continuing or widening gaps between rural and urban areas could be observed; the absolute numbers of illiterate adults had increased; and a rise in costs and expenditures was noted. Second, it appeared that planners were often incapable of adapting rapidly to changing environments. Reforms and policy changes rarely complied with the calendar set by the plan. Moreover, centralized planning often failed to introduce a reform at local and grassroots levels successfully, largely because of the lack of involvement and empowerment of those directly affected by the process (teachers in particular). Finally, the progressive multiplication of levels of intervention and of actors involved tended to limit the value of any planning exercise conducted by a single actor, even one as predominant as the central government.
All these problems were exacerbated by the financial crisis that hit most nations in the mid-1970s, following the oil shock. The collapse of the Central and Eastern European socialist states, interpreted by many as the failure of centralized and imperative planning, added to the questioning of the merit of central planning (Hallak 1990).
3. Recent Evolutions
The lack of confidence in all central planning that resulted from the economic recession and above all from the questioning of the role of the central government has nevertheless not led to the disappearance of national plans and programs. Quite the contrary, it is now widely recognized that:
(a) The traditional approaches used by educational planners (projection of a cohort, diagnosis, feasibility studies, etc.) are useful, as long as their range of implementation is limited to sectoral or subsectoral reforms, and to programs or projects affecting one particular level or category of education.
(b) Planning appears to be indispensable at a time when all countries have to face rapid changes, in a general context of globalization resulting from the worldwide integration of economic and financial sectors, and closely linked to the explosion of new information and communication technologies (Hallak 1998).
(c) The spreading of democracy in various regions of the world and the resulting decentralization process has called for more rather than for less planning at local, regional and institutional levels, and has highlighted the need for a new role for central authorities in promoting system-wide efficiency and equity (McGinn 1994).
(d) The challenges to be addressed by educational authorities are still of great importance: in 2000, more than 113 million children had no access to primary education; 875 million adults were illiterate; gender discrimination continued to permeate education systems; youths and adults were denied access to the skills and knowledge necessary for gainful employment and full participation in their societies, etc. (World Education Forum 2000).
A worldwide consensus thus seems to be emerging on the need for participatory planning that can take various forms according to the countries concerned and that should be applied not only at national, but also at regional, local, institutional, schools and program/project level (Govinda 1999).
4. Main Features of Educational Planning Today
Observing the worldwide trends in educational planning, one can note that there are still a number of countries where traditional planning is still currently in use and that in a few countries, long-term plans for 10 years duration are being formulated to guide policies and reforms.
However, as a result of the various evolutions described above, educational planning has undergone major changes over the past years, which can be summarized as follows.
4.1 From Centralized to Decentralized and Participatory Planning
The call for less central public, and, consequently, for more local public and private education supply, has led to the development of decentralized and participatory approaches in the field of educational planning. Hybrid systems of administration and management have been established, characterized by the devolution of responsibilities to those who are ultimately responsible for and affected by the results of planning, namely schools and various educational institutions (for routine management), local authorities (for experimentation and development), and the private sector (in the case, in particular, of vocational training programs (Atchoarena and McAr-dle 1999) and of nonformal educational projects). As a counterbalance, the need to assume new responsibilities at the central level has emerged, in particular as regards the design of a globally coherent framework and the setting up of coordination mechanisms, thereby ensuring that the educational goals established are achieved (Hallak and Poisson 1997).
4.2 From Quantitative to Qualitative Planning
A major issue for educational planners lies in systems inefficiency, and as a result increased attention has been paid to quality control and regulation. There is now a general feeling that matters of curriculum, pedagogy, educational materials, teacher training, assessment of educational outcomes, and accreditation of standards require much more attention than they are receiving, in particular on the part of planners and experts (IBE 2000). Particular attention should be paid to the four pillars defined by the Delors Commission; namely, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be (Delors et al. 1996, pp. 85-97). At the same time, there is a call for greater teacher accountability, increased emphasis on outcome rather than input, and more efficient control/regulation systems.
4.3 From Rigid Systems to School-based and Learner-centered Approaches
It is now widely recognized that planning processes should be tailored to the specific characteristics of individual schools, classrooms, and even pupils in order to accommodate the diversity of environments in which learning takes place in a single country. In addition, greater emphasis is needed on the effective implementation of measures taken at the central level. In that respect, school-based and learner-centered approaches are being developed that have important implications for the management of education systems at various levels. The new roles to be played by teachers (more as tutors than as speakers) must be carefully taken into consideration and encouraged, possibly through incentives.
4.4 From Standardized Planning Supply-driven to Planning Though Incentives More Demand-driven
The involvement of new actors in the field of educational management, together with the greater focus on outcomes rather than inputs have led to reflection on ways of stimulating the involvement of all the concerned stakeholders. Incentives have appeared, in this framework, as useful tools to influence the attitudes and involvement of teachers, of communities resistant to education, of pupils, of private actors, of employers, etc. (’incentives means here any reward or sanction, which has, as its effect, the modification of behavior’). These incentives can be simple financial rewards to a particular target group; legal arrangements encouraging or discouraging some initiatives and activities inside or outside the public sector; or any other nonfinancial rewards (such as awards, investitures, medals, affiliation with prestigious associations, etc.). The use of incentives is seen as particularly important in the case of teachers, as a means of stimulating their involvement in their work and their participation in teams, in the adaptation of new contents, and the implementation of new pedagogical methods, as well as in individual experimentation.
Among all the evolutions described, undoubtedly the use of incentives appears to be one of the most important, as it constitutes a way of promoting the desired behavior of key actors of the educational process, and, even more importantly, a means of reconciling regulation by the market with educational development monitoring and planning by the central government.
5. Areas of Concern for the Planning Community
As a consequence of the various evolutions detailed above, several areas of particular concern for educational planners can be distinguished.
5.1 The Need for Informed Environments’
Incentive-based planning requires very comprehensive, up-to-date, and operational information systems. Education Management Information Systems (EMIS), more and more associated with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) which combine statistical and spatial analysis should be modified in this sense. They should thus go on providing data used to secure or to allocate resources, as well as information about the rewards and penalties available to decision makers to encourage local authorities, institutions, and individuals to perform their tasks. They should also provide information about forms of alternative education and their costs and probable effects. The decentralization of data use, linked with the decentralization of authority and of incentives, constitutes a key issue to be addressed (Kemmerer and Windham 1997).
5.2 The Shift from Planning Toward Management
The design of adequate information models, the establishment of flexible budgets, the handling of qualitative aspects of education, the development of individual decision making through the use of incentives, the creation of proper certification and assessment mechanisms, etc. all imply a shift from a planning approach toward a management approach. This trend calls for a diversification within the planning profession and the involvement of new categories of experts (Caillods 1991). Additional disciplines, such as law, geography, etc., should be taken into account in strategic planning in order to enrich the planning methods. Training in planning should also target new categories, such as local administrators (in particular at city level), members of nongovernmental organizations, entrepreneurs, journalists, etc.
5.3 Renewed Tools for Educational Financing
The decentralization of the management of education systems necessitates cost-sharing schemes between both central and local authorities (which may mean drastic savings in salary costs for central administration), and public and private authorities. Fiscal reforms, cost-recovery mechanisms, etc. may also be required. In addition, grants-in-aid may be needed, in particular to support disadvantaged youth (among them, the disabled). Finally, learner-centered approaches could lead to an educational voucher scheme, consisting of allocating a capital of time, in other words, a study-time entitlement, that each individual should be allowed to manage freely.
5.4 New Opportunities and Mechanisms for Policy Dialog
There is a crucial need for proper mechanisms of consultation and policy dialog in order to make possible the active participation of the main partners in the educational development; namely, the education profession, teachers unions, families, communities, the private sector, the mass media, and various segments of the public sector (authorities responsible for health, for instance). This dialog should be organized in such a way that it is independent of party politics and the government of the day. Otherwise, if there is a frequent change of government policy, nothing long-term and solid will be able to take place. This may require certain social and political conditions in the country concerned.
5.5 The Fundamental Roles Played by Research and Experimentation
The provided adaptation of educational planning to today’s needs should be based on the results provided by appropriate research (forecasting and scenario models, microeconomic studies, determinants of school achievement, methods of public-sector management, mechanisms of assessment and certification, etc.).
6. Future Perspectives
The World Education Forum, organized in Dakar in April 2000, provided the opportunity to assess the achievements, lessons, and failures of education systems since 1990. It made use of the results of the Education For All 2000 Assessment, which included national assessments of the progress achieved since Jomtien in 183 countries. Its Framework for Action (World Education Forum 2000) provided broad orientations for future activities of all actors in the field of education for the ensuing years, in particular planners.
Among the main goals laid down in the Framework are: (a) expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children; (b) ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality; (c) ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programs; (d) achieving a 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults; (e) eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality; and (f) improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring the excellence of all, so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy, and essential life skills.
To reach all of the above-mentioned goals, participating stakeholders suggested that national plans for action in education be set up or developed. Their preparation should imply a highly participatory process taking place at country level, within a well-integrated sector framework clearly linked to poverty elimination and development strategies. The national action plans of Education for All may well constitute a new starting point for planning worldwide.