Call for Proposals by UNESCO for background papers on theme ‘AI in Education’, including professional development and upskilling initiatives for workforce development

The UNESCO New Delhi office, as part of its mandate to support South Asian Member States in the development of robust, evidence-driven policies in the field of education, has launched a series of annual State of Education (SoE) reports for India. Each year the report focuses on a key education issue and provides actionable knowledge and promising practices on the related issue in India’s education context.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Education has been identified as the theme of the 2022 SoE report. The issues identified so far around this theme and that are likely to feature in the report include:

  • Current and emerging AI applications in learning (learning tools), teaching (tools for teacher support), evaluation (learning assessments) and management (tools for management of educational institutions) scenarios towards creation of ‘intelligent’, ‘adaptive’ and ‘personalized’ education systems; clearly highlighting promising practices for each of the above-mentioned scenarios
  • AI literacy’ efforts in India at all levels of education, including the efforts to enhance a) basic AI understanding and developing familiarity with algorithms and coding and other foundational skills needed for data analysis in schools, b) AI research in higher education institutions and c) professional development and upskilling initiatives for workforce development for acquiring new AI skills for career progression.
  • Gender dimension of AI in education; strategies to make STEM education in general and AI literacy in particular, more inclusive, equitable and gender responsive; highlight promising practices for enhancing the representation of women and other minorities (marginalized and displaced populations as well as ethnic and sexual minorities) in the conception, design and development of AI
  • Use of AI in the tracking of learning outcomes across different settings as well as assessing competencies, especially those acquired in non-formal and informal contexts
  • Short and medium-term impact of AI applications on the existing education system and actors, including on the changing role of teachers and teacher competencies required in an AI era and thus on learner agency
  • The role of AI in supporting life-long learning through continuous learning and assessments and recording of learning experiences and achievements; specific applications of AI in school to work transition, job matching, skills anticipation for improving labour market outcomes
  • ‘Value’ of AI investments for education vis-à-vis other more traditional investments and the impact of such investments in improving education outcomes; critically analyse the feasibility, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and social impact of deploying AI in the Indian context
  • Broader ethical implications of AI systems in relation to education and the school to work transition including career guidance; the need for ethical reflection, critical thinking, responsible design practices in AI development
  • Issues related to the design and use of AI algorithms including conscious and unconscious bias, gender and minority bias and the associated risks of negative impacts on the human rights of individuals; outline frameworks that may be applied to holistically address these issues such as UNESCO’s ROAM framework (‘Rights, Openness, Access and Multi-stakeholder Governance’)

UNESCO New Delhi is looking for recognized experts and researchers to develop 10 background papers (one of each of the themes outlined above) with the aim of informing and guiding the development of the 2022 SoE Report.

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The proposals should provide a rationale for selection of the issue(s), the framework to approach the issue(s) and the methodology for research. Only the shortlisted proposals would be invited to share more detailed information and eventually commissioned to develop the background papers.

Selection criteria

Research proposals will be selected according to their relevance to the overall theme as well as clear link to one of the sub-themes. Key factors for selection would be originality, relevance and applicability to the Indian education context, potential to influence the national/regional education agenda, and scientific rigour.

Proposals should aim to produce one background paper for the 2022 SoE Report. Preference will be given to proposals with a clear comparative element that can help create a narrative for the future policy pointers and recommendations for India. Gender, equity and inclusion issues are of priority and therefore should be highlighted and analysed in all sub-themes.

Ideally, the proposals should clearly indicate and utilize credible data sources (international and national/regional) and adopt an evidence-based analyses approach to the issues while bearing in mind the policy relevance and the implications thereof.


The research proposal should be placed within the context of SDG 4 and the international education goals but also be linked to the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of India, wherever possible. It should briefly describe the potential contribution this research will make to the field of education and to policy making.

Relevance to the 2022 SoE Report

A successful proposal will provide a strong rationale for how the work would contribute to the 2022 SoE Report work:
Explain the policy areas of interest, spell out the research and policy questions to be addressed, and indicate how the research will promote access, equity, inclusion, quality and learning in the context of the theme ‘AI in Education’

Data and methods

The proposal should describe:

the data that will be used to develop the background paper
the methods and statistical procedures that will be used to develop the background paper
The proposal should provide a feasible timeline not extending more than 3 months (maximum).

Selection procedure

Applications must be submitted in English. They will be reviewed and assessed by the UNESCO New Delhi Education sector team and any experts/editorial board members identified by UNESCO New Delhi.

Selection would be made based on the criteria outlined above and considerations related to quality, potential, and originality as well as the qualifications and track record of the applicant
Shortlisted applicants may be invited to discuss small adjustments to their proposal in a review meeting.

The UNESCO New Delhi team will not provide feedback on proposals that were not selected.


Deadline for proposals: 2 November 2021 (midnight, IST)
Announcement of decision with successful applicants: 12 November 2021
Review meeting (if required): 18 November 2021
Expected completion and submission of background papers: 15 Feb 2022

Applicants will need to provide the following information:

  • CV in UNESCO format
  • One page with brief project title, abstract (150 words), duration
  • Project proposal (maximum 3 pages / 1500 words) with the following information:
    -research and policy question(s) / aim of the background paper
    -relevance to the 2022 SoE Report
    -proposed data and methodology
    -timeline and team members

Support for background papers

The work (proposal and subsequently the background paper) will be carried out remotely.
Typically, once approved the background papers must be completed and submitted to UNESCO New Delhi within 3 months.
UNESCO New Delhi will offer 750 USD for the successful development and submission of each background paper. For any questions, please write