Key Ideas in the AGEE Framework
Drawing on the technical language of the capability approach, any evaluation of educational inequalities and equalities needs to consider both functionings, that is outcomes achieved (both educational functionings and other functionings enabled through education), and capabilities. Capabilities are the different opportunities or combinations of ‘beings and doings’ that people have reason to value. Evaluating capabilities, rather than only needs or rights, enables us to appreciate the diversity and complexity of what each individual may value. Documenting capabilities requires information about the level of freedom and opportunity diverse individuals have to convert specific resources (both material and non-material) into capabilities and functionings. Individuals differ in their ability to convert resources, such as years in school, into opportunities, and therefore we also need to take into account a range of environmental, social, political, and cultural relationships, often referred to as ‘conversion factors’. Evaluation and measures need to take into account the context, which affects the distribution of resources, the environmental, social, economic, political and cultural processes in play which may inhibit or enhance the expansion of opportunities or capabilities, and the choices that an individual makes from the set of capabilities or opportunities available to them.
The AGEE Framework comprises six interconnected domains that entail relationships between individuals, institutions and contexts and highlight the relationships between capabilities, functionings and conversion factors. For those with a close interest in the capability approach:
- Two domains (Resources and Opportunities) provide information on conversion factors and capabilities
- Three domains provide information on functionings (Participation in Education; Knowledge Understanding and Skills; and Outcomes)
- The domain of Knowledge, Skills and Understanding is concerned both with capabilities and functionings
- The domain on Values documents normative information concerned with rights, equalities, agency and adaptive preference
Participatory processes which aim at inclusive and critical forms of reflection are a crucial feature of reviewing any indicator framework, the concepts it deploys and the data that it uses. Our perspective, therefore, requires a continuous process of critical and participatory reflection, both on the Framework and the issue of gender equality in education. Data sources for all these fields have been identified at cross national and national levels, and discussions are ongoing on developing a composite indicator that would allow for cross-national tracking of these processes. We invite critical reflection on the Framework and dialogue with us on its key ideas.