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Women and Education in the Middle East and North Africa  

Shahrzad Mojab

Education as a right has been integral to a more than a century-long struggle by women for liberation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The region is vast and diverse in its history, culture, politics, language, and religion. Therefore, in the study of women and education in the MENA region, it is imperative to consider particularities of each nation’s different historical and political formation in tandem with universal forces, conditions, and structures that shape the success or failure of women’s access to and participation in education. Historically, the greatest leap forward in women’s education began from the mid-20th century onward. The political, social, and economic ebb and flow of the first two decades of the 21st century is reflected on women’s education. Thus, the analysis of the current conditions should be situated in the context of the past and the provision for the future. It is crucial to make references to earlier periods, especially where relevant, to anticolonial and national liberation struggles as well as modern nation-building and the women’s rights movements. The empirical evidence aptly demonstrates that in most of the countries in the region, women’s participation in secondary and higher education is surpassing that of men. However, neither their status nor their social mobility have been positively affected. Women’s demand for “bread, work, democracy, and justice” is tied to education in several ways. First, education is a site of social and political struggle. Second, it is an institution integral to the formation and expansion of capitalist imperialism in the MENA region. Last, education is constituted through, not separated from, economic and political relations. The absence of some themes in the study of women and education reflects this structural predicament. Topics less studied are women as teachers and educators; women and teachers’ union; women and religious education and seminaries; women and the missionary schools; women in vocational education; women and the study abroad programs; girls in early childhood education; women and mother tongue education; women and the education of minorities; women and continuing education; women and academic freedom; and women and securitization of education. To study these themes also requires a range of critical methodological approaches. Some examples are ethnographical studies of classrooms, institutional ethnographies of teachers’ unions, analysis of memoirs of teachers and students, and critical ethnography of students’ movements. The proposed theoretical and methodological renewal is to contest the tendency in the study of education in the MENA region that renders patriarchal state and capitalism invisible.

Article

Patterns, Trends, Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities in the Internationalization of Chinese Higher Education  

Xue Lan Rong and Shuguang Wang

A theoretical model of positioned, positioning, and repositioning is used to conceptualize the evolving process of the internationalization of Chinese higher education and answer the following three questions: (a) How have the quantitative trends of Chinese students studying abroad and international students studying in China changed over the past 30 years? (b) What are the differences between Chinese students studying abroad and international students studying in China in recent years, in terms of the host and sending countries, the level of study, and the fields of study, and what do the differences mean when compared to those in other countries? (c) What are the challenges, opportunities, and strategies in the years to come? To answer the first question, a compilation of descriptive quantitative data is used from numerous large national and international data sources, which reports a long-term upward trend (with some fluctuations) of inbound international students in China and outbound Chinese international students around the world over the past 30 years. To answer the second question, using general international mobile student profiles for context, data were compared of inbound international students in China and the United States in terms of both level of study and field of study. These revealed imbalanced patterns: Chinese outbound students are more likely to be in certain fields (e.g., STEM, business) and at graduate levels, but international students in China are more likely to be undergraduate students and non-degreed students in the humanities and language studies. Based on the data for the first two questions, the issues are synthesized in order to present the opportunities and challenges regarding the continuation of China’s internationalization of its higher education, especially with respect to inbound international students. In terms of issues and opportunities, economic and other impacts (such as political, financial, and pandemic related) are highlighted and call China’s attention to maintaining and expanding the strengths of its higher education system while considering competition from neighboring countries. Six major challenges are identified in this area, and suggestions are provided.

Article

Private Initiatives in School Reform in India  

Disha Nawani and Shinjini Sanyal

School education in independent India was recognized as an important priority for state support, as it was neglected under the colonial regime. However, due to perceived financial challenges, it was placed in the newly (1950) drafted Constitution under Directive Principles of State Policy, which were nonjusticiable. Although the state provided for school education for the majority of Indian children, there remained several limitations in terms of access, equity, and equality for children belonging to disadvantaged communities. As a result, in India, the private sector, both for profit and nonprofit, played an important role in providing educational access to children. Between 1950 and the 1990s, the government school system struggled, and several learning surveys reported poor learning of school children, especially those studying in government schools. Concurrently, the private sector spread its influence and work in spaces not just for the rich but for the poor as well, and profit became a legitimate central concern. In the mid-1990s, the state initiated a rather aggressive policy of structural economic reform, leading to liberalization, privatization, and globalization. All this was justified in a neoliberal environment where the state started to withdraw from social sectors like health and education, on one hand, and private sector participation was hailed, on the other, in the name of efficiency, accountability, and performance. Public–private partnership became the new buzzword justifying any kind of relationship between the state and private actors.

Article

A Critique of Neoliberalism in Higher Education  

Gerardo del Cerro Santamaría

Neoliberalism—the prevailing model of capitalist thinking based on the Washington Consensus—has conveyed the idea that a new educational and university model must emerge in order to meet the demands of a global productive system that is radically different from that of just a few decades ago. The overall argument put forward is that the requirements, particularly the managerial and labor force needs of a new economy—already developing within the parameters of globalization and the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs)—cannot be adequately satisfied under the approaches and methods used by a traditional university. Neoliberalism affects the telos of higher education by redefining the very meaning of higher education. It dislocates education by commodifying its intrinsic value and emphasizing directly transferable skills and competencies. Nonmonetary values are marginalized and, with them, the nonmonetary ethos that is essential in sustaining a healthy democratic society.

Article

History and Development of Education in Africa  

Shoko Yamada

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.

Article

Teacher Unions  

John McCollow

Teacher unions (or alternatively “education unions”) are organizations formed to protect and advance the collective interests of teachers and other education workers. What the collective interests of educators entail and how they should be pursued have been and remain active matters for debate within these organizations. Different unions at different times have responded differently to these questions, for example, in relation to the degree to which an industrial versus a professional orientation should be adopted, and the degree to which a wider political and social justice agenda should be embraced. Several ideal-type models of teacher unionism have been identified, as well as various strategic options that these unions might employ. A spirited debate is ongoing about the legitimacy and power of teacher unions. One perspective portrays them as self-interested special interest groups, and another as social movements advocating for public education. The status of teacher unions as stakeholders in educational policymaking is contested, and union–government relations occur across a spectrum of arrangements ranging from those that encourage negotiation to those characterized by confrontation and hostility. Internationally, education unions face significant challenges in the early decades of the 21st century. Neoliberal economic and industrial policies and legislation have eroded the capacity of unions to collectively organize and bargain, and the global education reform movement (GERM) has created a hostile environment for education unions and their members. Despite these challenges, education unions remain among the most important critics of GERM and of global neoliberal social policy generally. The challenges posed and the strategies adopted play out differently across the globe. There is evidence that at least some unions are now prepared to be far more flexible in adopting a “tapestry” of strategies, to examine their internal organization, build alliances, and develop alternative conceptions of the future of education. Researchers, however, have identified certain internal factors in many teacher unions that pose significant obstacles to these tasks. Unions face difficult choices that could lead to marginalization on the one hand or incorporation on the other.