AQF Views & Voices: Policy & Practice


Exploring the Promises and Pitfalls of Public, Private, and Philanthropic Partnerships in Education: The 2018 Gulf Comparative Education Society Symposium

Susan Kippels


In its eighth year, the 2018 Gulf Comparative Education Society Symposium organizers are excited to convene scholars, policymakers, educators,

philanthropic sector leaders, and members of the public for three days of presentations and workshops. This year’s Symposium examines the theme, “Public, Private, and Philanthropy: Exploring the Impact of New Actors on Education in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).”  

Philanthropic support to education has been rapidly growing across the GCC region over the past two decades. However, there has been a shortage of research and discussions related to the implications of this increased involvement for the education sector.

  • As governments around the world seek new sources for education provision and financing, the notion that the state is exclusively answerable to its citizen for education provision has been evolving, with a movement toward greater engagement with the private sector. The Gulf States have been no exception to this global phenomenon, and they provide particularly unique case studies due to the large number of expatriate students who require education alongside nationals. With private actors, including philanthropic organizations, playing an increasingly significant role in shaping public policy, it is important to understand both the possibilities and challenges associated with such involvement.  

GCC philanthropic organizations are increasingly collaborating with public and private sector entities to impact education provision, shape strategies and policies, and influence knowledge generation. As of 2018, there are approximately 40 philanthropic organizations operating in the education sector across the GCC region. These philanthropic organizations are frequently able to innovate and pilot new ideas easier than traditional state actors. However, there are some challenges as well, as they are also often able to act without considering long-term impact, operate with little to no oversight, and directly align their focus areas with the interest of their benefactor or founding company, rather than that of stakeholders.  

The 2018 Gulf Comparative Education Society (GCES) Symposium will provide a space for examining some of the promises and pitfalls of embracing philanthropy in the education sector, as well as allow for reflection on current education trends and new partnerships forming across the region.  

Bringing together academics and practitioners from around the world, the Symposium will examine current education trends, including within the philanthropic sector. There will be more than 40 presentations addressing topics such as the rise of new education actors, the implications of community versus large-scale philanthropy in education, and the role of regulatory frameworks.  

The Symposium will feature prominent academics from the education field, including Professor Bob Lingard (University of Queensland), Dr. Megan Tompkins-Stange (University of Michigan), Dr. Antoni Verger (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), and Ms. Alexandra Draxler (NORRAG).  In addition, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), a UK-based organization that conducts education research and evaluation, will lead a pre-conference workshop focused on the use of international large-scale assessments. Specifically, the workshop will examine the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS), and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the implications that these have for education policy in the Gulf.  

As a platform for education and philanthropic actors to share their first-hand experience and knowledge, the Symposium will facilitate open discussions about the future direction of education in the Gulf region. These discussions are essential for developing inclusive, sustainable education and philanthropy practices for the region and beyond.  

Interested in joining us at this year’s GCES Symposium April 7-9 in Ras Al Kahimah, UAE? Register online or email for more information.