Unit 4:The UNESCO Approach to Quality Education

Welcome to Unit 4

In the previous unit you learned how important it is to clearly define or specify what is meant by quality education. You were also introduced to the UNICEF framework of quality as a set of Quality Outcomes with 4 Inputs to achieve those outcomes. We hope you read the full report to understand how the framework was created.

Remember also that this report was written in 2000 so was clearly available for any country trying to achieve the MDGs as part of their education strategy. It could have been used to give their strategy direction and a template for monitoring and evaluation along the way.

Throughout this unit we intend to focus on the excellent UNESCO report, EFA Global Monitoring 2005. Specifically we show many items from Chapter 1, Understanding Education Quality.

We respectfully acknowledge the work of everyone involved and this can be viewed and downloaded here: EFA Global Chapter 1

The opening words of this chapter are extremely significant and we highlight and acknowledge them here:

Why focus on quality?”

Although some of the international treaties, by specifying the need to provide education on human rights, reproductive health, sports and gender awareness, touched on educational quality, they were generally silent about how well education systems could and should be expected to perform in meeting these objectives. This remained true as recently as 2000, when the United Nations Millennium Declaration’s commitment to achieve UPE by 2015 was directly and simply set out without explicit reference to quality. Thus, in placing the emphasis upon assuring access for all, these instruments mainly focused on the quantitative aspects of education policy.

It seems highly likely, however, that the achievement of universal participation in education will be fundamentally dependent upon the quality of education available. For example, how well pupils are taught and how much they learn, can have a crucial impact on how long they stay in school and how regularly they attend. Furthermore, whether parents send their children to school at all is likely to depend on judgements they make about the quality of teaching and learning provided – upon whether attending school is worth the time and cost for their children and for themselves.”

More fundamentally, education is a set of processes and outcomes that are defined qualitatively. The quantity of children who participate is by definition a secondary consideration: merely filling spaces called ‘schools’ with children would not address even quantitative objectives if no real education occurred.”

To summarise and paraphrase these words, the MDGs made no reference to quality, full participation in education depends on quality, and quality will determine whether students complete primary education or not! So not paying attention to completion rates and only emphasising enrolment rates was a fundamentally flawed strategy. It makes the Nepal Ministry of Education admission of this in 2016 even more scandalous because this was known 5 years before SSRP was written.

The UNESCO-EFA 2005 Report conducted a thorough review of the many different traditions and approaches to education quality before outlining their framework and we outline them here. Please visit the document from the link provided above and take a few notes on each approach. You will need to refer to them later.

1.The UNICEF approach (Box 1.5)

This has been already covered in the previous unit but you should read and note the summary in the UNESCO chapter.

2.The Humanist approach (Box 1.6)

“Education should be learner centred, assessment is for feedback purposes, teachers are facilitators, learning is a process within social constructivism.”

3.The Behaviourist approach (Box 1.7)

“The curriculum must be standardised with clear objectives, assessment is an objective measurement using tests, the teacher is the expert who directs all learning using incremental learning tasks as reinforcers.”

4.The Critical Tradition approach (Box 1.8)

“Quality is based on education that leads to social change, learners are active in designing their own education/learning and the curriculum and teaching methods must encourage critical analysis.”

5.The Indigenous Tradition approach (Box 1.9)

“Education systems must be relevant to the country/culture in which they are applied, they should be designed within that culture and not imported from different countries and cultures.”


Based on your reading of these five approaches, make a list of the 5 most important features you believe are important for a framework of quality education at primary level. What sort of items should be in a good framework, can you list them?

Now let’s see the UNESCO framework from 2005:


The UNESCO Quality Education Framework


  1. Look at this framework and write some notes about it.
  2. What are your first thoughts?
  3. What is your opinion of its structure or organisation?
  4. What is your opinion of its content/sections?
  5. What do you MOST like about it?
  6. What do you LEAST like about it?
  7. How could you use it to develop a whole education system?
  8. How could you use it to develop a single school?

Please write your own views now, then compare them with your views earlier on the UNICEF framework. Keep them for later use in the next units.

In Summary:

This approach has a defined flow to it from left to right.

The student brings certain things into the system that are then developed using a number of enabling inputs, before leading to some desired outcomes.

This left to right process takes place within a defined context such as a specific country or culture with its own characteristics.

Now click here to move to the next unit to read about our Nepal research.