Globe, the Geneva Graduate Institute Review
28 March 2023

The Institute's UNESCO Chair in Comparative Education Policy

On 21 February 2023, the Geneva Graduate Institute inaugurated the UNESCO Chair in Comparative Education Policy, created to strengthen policy research in education with the vision of amplifying the voices and promoting knowledge from the Global South.

Professor Gita Steiner-Khamsi, the 2017-2022 Academic Director for the Network for international policies and cooperation in education in training (NORRAG), will serve as the first Chair holder. Professor Chanwoong Baek, NORRAG’s current Academic Director and faculty member in the International Relations and Political Science Department, has been appointed as the Co-Chair. The announcement was made at the annual conference of the Comparative and International Education, held this year in Washington, D.C.

Why was the creation of this UNESCO chair necessary? What is its purpose?
Gita Steiner-Khamsi:
The main purpose of the chair programme is to strengthen policy research in education in ways that helps surface, amplify and disseminate expertise and scholarship from the Global South. The designation of the chair programme is in studies of comparative education policy. More often than not, reforms in education, or in other sectors for that matter, are designed in the Global North and then catapulted to the Global South. National experts are then reduced to local adapters and implementers of these imported reforms.

We attempt to tackle this asymmetry. In fact, there is currently a large gap that yawns in international cooperation between the international rhetoric of national ownership and the acknowledgement of national expertise. The study and research of policy studies at graduate level will help to bring to light and help “certify”, at the international level, the knowledge and expertise that already exists in Global South countries.

What actions will you take as Chair?
Gita Steiner-Khamsi:
UNESCO is known for its convening power vis-à-vis governments and government officials. In other words, governments lend their ears to UNESCO. Drawing on UNESCO’s unique position, the chair programme focuses on policy brokerage, that is, promotes the use of research evidence for policy decisions.

We will actively support scholars from the Global South to communicate their research effectively by preparing knowledge products in diverse formats and disseminating them through various channels, including video and social media. NORRAG brings substantive experience in this area and serves as an honest broker that bridges research and policy, the local and the global, and the producers and users of knowledge.

How will this Chair connect the work of researchers at the Institute with global actors?
Chanwoong Baek:
The Geneva Graduate Institute is situated in an ideal environment as it enables us to build a close collaboration with its researchers and centres. Indeed, many of the researchers and students study global governance and public policy, and closely work with IOs, governments, NGOs and academic institutions located in International Geneva and beyond, bridging knowledge production and uptake for policy and planning.

We will collaborate with the academic departments, programmes and centres not only to amplify the existing research, teaching and outreach activities but also to organise new initiatives that promote the right to education and explore collaboratively how education impacts other sectors such as, environment, health, migration, etc. For example, contributing to the recent efforts to strengthen education policy studies at the Institute, we wish to invite periodically a senior faculty member from the Global South to teach a course or a series of workshops online at the Institute. We also plan to encourage and organise the development of research projects and PhD/master projects that engage issues in comparative and international education policy.

This article was published in Globe #31, the Institute Review.