Project Details


The research builds upon an invited report prepared for presentation to Ministers of Education and senior officials at the 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2009. It draws upon these direct consultations and discussions, and upon a detailed programme of original research to:
revisit the pertinence of early Commonwealth work on education in small states,
examine the impact of changing global contexts,
document the changing nature and significance of recent and contemporary educational policy priorities,
advance the case for new and strengthened initiatives for small states, including those supported by the Commonwealth and other organisations.

Layman's description

This project brought together a team of researchers at the GSoE (Research Centre for International and Comparative Studies) and the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) in Paris.

Specialists with extensive experience in small states carried out in-depth studies of the impact and implications of changing global trends, agendas and events upon educational policy and practice in the small states of the Commonwealth.

These factors include: the global financial crisis, climate change, globalisation, the knowledge economy, migrations and the influence of international education agendas and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The research involved original statistical work, drawing upon government and international databases; field visits and in-depth qualitative interviews with key small states personnel (education planners, ministers of education, practitioners, teachers and researchers); consultative feedback processes; and theoretically informed and critical reviews of the international literature on education in small states world-wide.

The study was designed to generate new knowledge and policy advice in this strategically important arena for the Commonwealth, where the majority of member states are classified with small populations. Outputs from the research included invited reports for Commonwealth Conferences of Education Ministers (CCEMs) held in Malaysia (2009) and Mauritius (2012), an authored book published by the Commonwealth Secretariat (2011), a series of peer reviewed journal articles, website reports, and numerous invited presentations and keynotes (in, for example, Fiji, Mauritius, Sarawak, Maldives, The University of Hong Kong and the University of Oxford).

Key findings

Commonwealth small states are relatively advanced in progress towards basic education global goals and targets:

Most have achieved almost universal access to basic education.
Many have achieved or are close to gender parity in primary and secondary schooling. In some, the disparities lie in favour of girls. This is a distinctive priority for future attention.
Internationally agreed Education for All (EFA) and education Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) targets remain relevant, while pressing priorities often lie beyond those currently commanding attention of larger states and international development agencies.
Small States have an early pattern of shifting educational priorities beyond matters of access towards issues of retention, quality, equity, inclusion and skills training. This has generated much insightful and valuable experience from which others can learn.

The rise of the knowledge economy has underpinned an expansion and strengthening of higher education (HE), with related implications for harnessing ICT, creating quality-assurance mechanisms, and improving coordination, integration and regulation. Realistic application of ICT in small states can help transform future development, management and reach of HE.

Contemporary priorities concern how small states can respond to major external shocks and challenges within environment, economic, cultural and political domains...with education for sustainable development being highlighted as a key issue for urgent attention.

Findings informed the Communique for the 2009 CCEM, along with agency priorities identified in the Commonwealth Secretariat's 2010-2012 Education Plan and subsequent activities. Impact can also be seen in UNESCO/IIEP's policy to focus upon planning for tertiary education in small states, in the Commonwealth's prioritisation of Education for Sustainable Development in small states for and following the 2012 CCEM held in Mauritius, and in the increased attention to context sensitivity that characterises Commonwealth contributions to post 2015 Development planning for education.
Effective start/end date24/02/0924/05/11

Structured keywords

  • PolicyBristolEducation
  • PolicyBristolSocialChangeAndDiversity


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.