UNESCO launches a new simulation model for education

Hoping to improve their education systems, countries have used alternative policies and reform pathways aiming at boosting learning. However, results often fall short of the expectation. There are many reasons and among them is the lack of appropriately planned funding to ensure full implementation.

Translating a vision into a reality is a complicated process and it certainly requires commensurate resources. What happens if we want to ensure free pre-school education for all? What happens if we want lower secondary education to become compulsory? What happens if we want to raise teachers’ salaries to make teaching profession more attractive? How many students are we going to have in the system in the coming years? How many schools do we need to build? How many more teachers do we need to train?

These are some of the questions that have to be addressed when a country develops their education sector plans (ESPs) articulating policies, programmes, and targets for the coming years. ESPs must have a section in which the costs of their planned actions and the strategy to finance them, with domestic and external resources, are presented. Without such a planning exercise, countries face the risk of underfunding the ESPs, which leads to under- or no- implementation of policies and programmes.

UNESCO advocates for data-informed policy and decision-making in education. In the field of educational planning, data can help ground policy and programme strategies and priorities on the economic and demographic realities of a country. It is essential that educational policies and programmes be grounded on these realities so that they are achievable and realistic. To help countries to estimate the resources associated with implementation of their ESPs UNESCO developed the Education Policy & Strategy Simulation (EPSSim) model in 2001. Since then, EPSSim and its different versions have been used in dozens of countries around the world to support the development of ESPs and research on education policy and planning.

Almost two decades after the launch of EPSSim, the environment surrounding education policy and planning has changed substantially, especially with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), which emphasizes the importance of ensuring equity and quality in education and equitable opportunities for lifelong learning. In this context, UNESCO is launching a new simulation model, Simulation for Education (SimuED).

SimuED is an Excel-based education sector-wide simulation model covering every sub-sector in education. It also allows users to project the selected the key SDG4 indicators to facilitate national planning exercise. SimuED’s modular structure differentiates it from other simulation models, including the previous versions of EPSSim. While SimuED is still a “generic” model, its new modular structure prevents it from the rigidity of models of this type. More than hundred modules are already available and it is possible to create new modules. Its interface facilitates its use and ensures its integrity, preventing formulas from being changed or tampered – an issue often encountered with other simulation models. Now users can select a module from the “library” without entering or modifying complicated formulas in Excel. This simplifies the model development process and significantly reduces the time needed. This model also provides comprehensive guidance and help on its various functionalities, explaining in detail, for instance, how its formulas function, as well as the interdependencies across its different data fields through its built-in help function. It has been piloted in various countries including Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Cameroun and progressively developed reflecting the country needs.

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