Thanks to the concerted effort of the international community to promote basic education, driven by the Education for All (EFA) goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), indices of education in Africa have improved dramatically since the 1990s. Although the access to schooling has improved, there are still issues of quality related to teachers, facilities, teaching and learning materials, and relevance of educational contents. Recently, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the focuses of educational policies of African countries have been diversified, to concentrate not only on quantitative and qualitative improvement of basic education, but also on secondary, tertiary, and technical and vocational education and training (TVET). One of the problems which critics point out is that, regardless of the massive expansion of basic education, learning outcomes of school leavers in Africa have not improved. It has also been remarked that school enrolment has not directly led to poverty-reduction or decent employment. Another side-effect of the expansion of basic education has been an increased dependency on aid. So, although there is a constant demand for higher and more education among the general public, aid-dependent expansion of the system is unsustainable. Before colonization by European powers, many groups in Africa had a tradition of oral transmission of knowledge, although there were some significant exceptions of societies which had formal educational institutions. With or without formal institutions, African traditional societies had their own mechanisms of transmitting knowledge across generations. However, Europeans overwrote such existing modes of education by introducing Western school systems. With the paternalistic conviction of their civilizing mission, they refined traditional cultures and practices which could be maintained and taught in school, while replacing other “barbarous superstitions” with teaching of European subjects. Resistance to such impositions of European education eventually led to nationalism, which accompanied the desire to find a uniquely African epistemology and teaching method. At the same time, the mechanism of recruiting African white-collar workers through schooling, which started during the colonial period, planted a strong hope for social advancement through gaining school certificates deeply in the mind of African people.
Gabriel Huddleston and Robert Helfenbein
Curriculum theory is shaped and held within the larger field of curriculum studies, but its distinctive focus on understanding curriculum as opposed to developing it places it is stark contrast with other parts of the larger field. This focus is further distinctive when curriculum theory shifts to curriculum theorizing. Curriculum theorizing emerged in the United States, principally at Bergamo conferences and precursor conferences, in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (JCT), and through scholars associated with the reconceptualization. It has spread internationally via the International Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies and its subsidiaries in many different countries and cultures. Some scholars hold that curriculum theory includes curriculum theorizing as well as normative and analytic conceptualizations that justify or explain curriculum decisions and actions. Curriculum theorizing attempts to read broadly in social theory so as to embody those insights in dealing with issues of curriculum, and can take philosophical, sociological, psychological, historical, or cultural studies approaches to analyses, interpretations, criticisms, and improvements. This approach has built upon what has become known as the reconceptualization, which began in the late 1970s and continues into the early 21st century. Increasingly, the field has taken up analysis of contemporary education policy and sociopolitical contexts as an outgrowth of its work. Issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, and dis/ability, and the ways in which their intersectionality impact the lived experience of schools, continue to motivate and direct the field of curriculum studies. In so doing, criticism, analysis, interpretation, and expansion of such issues have moved the focus of curriculum theorizing to include any aspects of social and psychological life that educate or shape the ways human beings reflect upon or interact with the world.
Any analysis of inclusive and special education in Asia, past and present, must account for the immense variation in what constitutes Asia and recognize that finding patterns in the development of inclusive and special education across this vast continent is difficult. The variations relate to geographic topography, historical experiences, and cultural values, as well as to contemporary socio-economic and political conditions. For example, although both Oman and Timor Leste struggle with issues of accessibility and providing services in remote areas, Timor Leste’s mountainous terrain presents very different challenges from Oman’s desert conditions. Similarly, the different cultural influences of, say, Hinduism in Nepal, Islam in Jordan, and Buddhism in Cambodia have significant implications for attitudes towards disability, while differences in economic development between Japan and Bangladesh, for instance, have rendered the former a donor of international aid that sets the inclusive education agenda and the latter a recipient of both aid and agenda. While efforts to identify patterns in inclusive education globally have also attempted to define the nature of development in Asia, these analyses do not always account for the unique intra-continental variations. Overlooking these variations in socio-political and economic contexts becomes problematic when attempting to find solutions towards providing culturally responsive and culturally specific services appropriate to these unique circumstances. Additionally troubling is the more recent development of a geopolitical climate which assumes that inclusive and special education could and should, in fact, be the same, whether in Bangladesh or in Japan. Embodied by international aid agencies, such as the World Bank, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), these expectations have been captured within global policies, such as the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education, the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and more recently, the 2015 Millennium Sustainable Goals, and furthered through UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s curriculum packages and professional development training on inclusive education. There is a nascent body of scholars in some Asian countries that is beginning to identify indigenous alternatives, which, if allowed to thrive, could contribute to the development of an amalgamated structure of services that would be more appropriate to the individual contexts.
Roseli R. Mello, Marcondy M. de Souza, and Thaís J. Palomino
Self-determination of the original peoples of any nation, preservation of their territories, preservation of traditions, and negotiation of customs facing national cultures are central themes in the debate about and among indigenous peoples in the world. School education is directly linked to such themes as an instrument of acculturation or self-determination and emancipation. As in other countries of the globe, throughout history, what happened and is happening in Brazil is not isolated fact. Current conditions are the product of colonization processes, the development of industrial society, and more recently of globalization. Such historical processes bring struggles, confrontations, transformations, and solidarity. In the legal sphere, international conventions, declarations, and treaties have influenced more or less directly the norms and laws on the subject: from the papal bull and treaties between colonizing kingdoms, to the Declaration of Human Rights, to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, the Brazilian indigenous issue, like that of many other countries, is also based on, supported by, or held back by actions, debates, and international interests. But what makes the case of Brazil worthy of relevance for thinking about indigenous education? Two elements make up an answer: the specific way the governors establish relations with the original peoples, and the fact that Brazil has the greatest diversity of indigenous communities.
Satoshi P. Watanabe, Machi Sato, and Masataka Murasawa
The aim of internationalization for Japan during the early postwar period, still emerging from being an ODA (Official Development Assistance) recipient nation, was to promote student exchanges and mutual understanding across nations. Japan then successfully shifted its role to that of an ODA provider in the 1970s, engaging as a responsible citizen in the international community. However, the nation’s competitive edge has slipped with a long-stagnating economy from the mid-1990s onward, the national target has shifted from the ODA provider role towards desperate attempts to regain the lost edge through public investment in research and development as well as promoting internationalization of the nation. As the notions of world-class universities and global university rankings have prevailed worldwide over the last decade or so, the recent policies established by the Japanese government in response to an increasingly competitive and globalizing environment of higher education have transformed to leveraging domestic universities to compete for placement in the global university rankings. Balancing the reputation demonstrated in the global university rankings and generated inequalities in the service and quality of education provided among these institutions seems to be critically lacking in the current debate and hasty movement toward internationalization by the Japanese government. These hastily made policies do have some strong potential to build Japan’s universities into stronger institutions for learning, research, and producing globally competitive graduates. However, thorough long-range planning, keen insight into the overall impact of the policies, and clear long-term goals will be critical in attaining success.
Any nation’s educational policies are forged in settlements that serve as a discursive frame, which is subject to inherent destabilizing tensions and contradictions bounded within identifiable historical and geographical periods. Vietnamese policymakers have viewed education as central to nation building, which was first realized through the forging of a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist educational settlement when independence was attained in 1946. Then a second settlement was achieved as part of its neoliberal Doi Moi policy pivot in the late 1980s, which has led to the nation’s global political, economic, and cultural integration. This pragmatic resetting, aimed at nation building through increased foreign investment and scientific and technical links with regional competitors and Western liberal democracies, swept aside past presumptions while retaining a strong one-party state. Vietnam’s initial revolutionary educational settlement was forged in the years prior to 1945 and 1954. One of its achievements was the use of Vietnamese as the principal language of instruction in education. Pre-independence, in the late 1930s, mass education drives were important influences on this new policy. The French colonial regime was compelled to use Vietnamese for translation and communication, replacing Mandarin as the medium of instruction in schools and the language of the previous feudal civil service. One of the first acts as part of the revolutionary educational settlement initiated in 1945 was to proclaim Vietnamese as the official language of the nation, which was expanded to North Vietnam in 1954 and later consolidated in the nation’s reunification in 1975. From its inception, Vietnam’s revolutionary educational settlement faced a legitimacy problem that undermined its nation-building agenda. It was mistakenly believed that economic advancement would follow revolutionary educational schooling. Voluntary mass education gave way to bureaucracy and careerism, and a traditional curriculum took hold; the Vietnamese state struggled to build and support schooling. A burgeoning young population meant it was difficult for state expenditures to meet the need for classrooms, qualified teachers, and quality instruction. Faced with challenges that were exacerbated by the collapse of the Soviet Empire, in 1986 the Sixth National Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party broke with its previous policy frameworks. Termed “Doi Moi,” this “renovation” realigned its command to a market economy. Subsequent related educational reforms overhauled preschool, general vocational, and higher and postgraduate education. In a radical departure from its past, these reforms established a dual system of state-built, -operated, and -managed public and private schools. Educational settlements are partial and tenuous. Just as there were tensions within its revolutionary educational policy settlement, so too the hegemonic nature of Vietnam’s current neoliberal consensus has its own stresses. Two are ongoing concerns about the quality of teaching and learning and the weight of a strong culture of centralism in decision making as an aspect of Vietnam’s revolutionary legacy.