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A Political History of Educational Development through International Organizations  

Olivia Scott Kamkwamba

International aid to African education is a complicated system involving thousands of organizations and billions of dollars. From global policy provisions to school block construction, the scale of educational development in Africa encompasses a range of solutions unlike those seen in any other region of the world. African classrooms are molded through local, national, regional, and global forces in ways unknown elsewhere. Understanding international aid to African education through a historical lens allows for an informed exploration of theoretical foundations and their impact on today’s realities. A political history emphasizes the oft-times hidden assumptions of aid and development while revealing necessary shifts for future disruption.

Article

Theories of International Development, Gender, and Education  

Xiuying Cai

Within the growing body of literature on global poverty and international development, researchers have examined varying degrees of poverty as well as different ways to measure it. Each of these approaches has generated different strategies for international development. While the gross domestic product (GDP) approach to economic growth and development is advantageous in its transparency and the ease with which it can be used to measure and compare experiences of poverty, researchers have noted problems and challenges. These, in turn, have pushed the international community to pursue the human development approach to studies on poverty, which emphasizes four integrative pillars of development: equity, sustainability, productivity, and empowerment. Women everywhere tend to suffer more than men, including those from the same ethnicity, class, and even family, from poverty and other issues related to global injustice. Attention to these specifically gendered aspects of poverty has led to feminist development theories. Due to different epistemologies, ethical beliefs, and political values, such feminist approaches have evolved into a variety of positions in terms of the relationships between gender/women and development: women in development (WID); women and development (WAD); and gender and development (GAD); postmodernism and development (PAD); women, environment, and development (WED); and the rights-and-capabilities approach. Each of these, in turn, have generated different development programs to achieve gender equity. Human capital approach and the capabilities approach have been most prominent in evaluating development, education, and gender. The mainstream development-related discourse tends to harness education to poverty reduction and women’s empowerment primarily in terms of its technological and scientific innovation and human capital development for economic production in the global knowledge economy. While putting “human” back into the international development agenda is an important step toward the human development approach, the mainstream human capital approach to education has been narrowed by neoliberal ideologies that put too much focus, if not their sole focus, on the quantifiable returns on investment in economic terms. It has hence obscured the intrinsic and ethical-political values of education. The capabilities approach can refocus education to address the global challenges of poverty, including those related to gender inequities. The capabilities approach offers a major critique of human capital theory by broadening what may be considered to be the good, or the forms of equality being sought when we mitigate the effects of poverty and gender inequities. Ultimately, it asks whether each person has the genuine opportunities to be, to do, or to become what he or she has reason to value. It conceptualizes poverty as capability deprivation and recognizes that while economic well-being is necessary, human flourishing depends on a range of dimensions of life well beyond the economic. Education, according to the capabilities approach, is not only one of the central capabilities but is also significant in promoting other capabilities and human flourishing. Thus, it takes into account not only the intrinsic value of education but also the instrumental value of education to promote economic growth as well as social change and gender equity.

Article

The World Bank and Educational Assistance  

D. Brent Edwards Jr. and Inga Storen

Since the 1950s, the World Bank’s involvement and influence in educational assistance has increased greatly. The World Bank has not only been a key player, but, at times, has been the dominant international organization working with low-income countries to reform their education systems. Given the contributions that education makes to country development, the World Bank works in the realm of education as part of its broad mission to reduce poverty and to increase prosperity. This work takes the form of financing, technical assistance and knowledge production (among others) and occurs at multiple levels, as the World Bank seeks to contribute to country development and to shape the global conversation around the purposes and preferred models of education reform, in addition to engaging in international processes and politics with other multi- and bilateral organizations. The present article examines the work of the World Bank in historical perspective in addition to discussing how the role of this institution has been theorized and research by scholars. Specifically, the first section provides an overview of this institution’s history with a focus on how the leadership, preferred policies, organizational structure, lending, and larger politics to which it responds have changed over time, since the 1940s. Second, the article addresses the ways that the World Bank is conceptualized and approached by scholars of World Culture Theory, international political economy, and international relations. The third section contains a review of research on (a) how the World Bank is involved in educational policy making at the country level, (b) the ways the World Bank engages with civil society and encourages its general participation in educational assistance, (c) what is known about the World Bank in relation to policy implementation, and (d) the production of research in and on the Bank.

Article

Gender Equity in Global Education Policy  

Karen Monkman

Since the 1990s gender has become a prominent priority in global education policy. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000–2015) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, which replaced the MDGs) influence the educational planning of most low- and middle-income countries, along with the work of the various actors in the field. The historical antecedents to this era of gender and education policy include international development research beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, the Women’s Conferences in Mexico City (1985) and Beijing (1995), and increasingly nuanced academic research on gender and international development in the early decades of the 2000s. What began as calls to include girls in schooling and women in international development programs has become a much more complex attempt to ensure gender equity in education and in life. A wide variety of key policy actors are involved in these processes and in shaping policy, including the World Bank, the UN agencies (primarily UNICEF and UNESCO), governments (both donors and recipients of international assistance), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), corporations and private entities, and consultants. Partnerships among various actors have been common in the late 20th century and early 21st century. Persistent issues in the early 21st century include (a) the tension between striving to attend to quality concerns while increasing efforts to measure progress, (b) gender-based violence (GBV), and (c) education for adolescents and adolescence. These challenges are closely linked to how key concepts are conceptualized. How “gender” is understood (distinct from or conflated with sex categories) leads to particular ways of thinking about policy and practice, from counting girls and boys in classrooms (prioritizing sex categories and numerical patterns), toward a more complex understanding of gender as a social construction (and so presents options for curricular strategies to influence gendered social norms). Men and boys are acknowledged, mostly when they are perceived to be disadvantaged, and less often to challenge hypermasculinity or male privilege. Sexuality and gender identity are just beginning to emerge in formal policy in the early 21st century. Gender relations and patriarchy remain on the periphery of official policy language. Equity (fairness) is often reduced to equality (equal treatment despite differences in needs or interests). Although empowerment is theorized in research, in policy it is used inconsistently, sometimes falling short of the theoretical framings. Two broader concepts are also important to consider in global education policy, namely, intersectionality and neoliberalism. Engaging intersectionality more robustly could make policy more relevant locally; as of 2020, this concept has not made its way into global policy discourses. Neoliberalism, on the other hand, is a strong influence in shaping policy in gender and education globally, yet it is seldom made explicit. Building policy on a stronger conceptual foundation would enrich gender and education policy.

Article

Asian Perspectives and Approaches for Developing Assistance in Promoting Human Capital  

I-Hsuan Cheng and Sheng-Ju Chan

The human capital theory emphasizes the importance of education and training to improve worker skills and productivity in the dynamic global knowledge economy and 21st-century capitalism. In Asia, development assistance modalities and contents required for human capital development, such as higher education projects and skill development projects, are implemented by emerging Asian donors alone and through their collaboration with international counterparts. According to the Asian experience, there are four key points. First, the various Chinese, Indian, and other Asian development experiences affirm that different developing countries require different combinations of basic and high skills in the 21st century. Accordingly, the distribution and mobilization of official development assistance (ODA) in human capital development must depend on culturally and contextually specific assistance projects designed for different developing countries. Second, all stakeholders in the skill ecosystem, which includes donors, recipient governments, education institutions, firms, and individuals, must assume responsibilities for not only balancing the skill demand and supply but also sustaining positional competition in the local and global job markets. Third, the system underpinned by innovative financing from the private sector, emerging donors, as well as traditional Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donors must focus on inclusive and sustainable economic development rather than economic accumulation and gross domestic product (GDP) growth only. Finally, higher education institutions should play a more critical and active role in providing international development assistance to empower skilled and competent individuals as change agents to work for/in, guide, and lead the skill ecosystem, which eventually will not only respond to economic demands in the short term but also promote economic transformation in the long run.

Article

Historical Developments, Influences of International Actors, and Education Reforms in India  

Shivali Tukdeo

The entry and prominence of international institutions in education have been striking features of policy development in the last few decades. A particular area of interest is India’s education system since independence, particularly in the context of the recent policy ideas steered by international actors. Once a strong marker of the British colonial legacy, formal education in India acquired different meanings post independence. The significance of education has been understood as an essential part of social transformation, a resource for mobility, and an instrument of empowerment. As the inherited system was domesticated, the following challenges emerged: equitable access, relevance of formal learning, and a fashioning of Indian national identity. Through a network of institutions, the enterprise of postcolonial public education was shaped in the mid-20th century and was deeply entrenched in the politics of class, caste, and gender. Mass education and schemes to enable access on the one hand, and the development of highly selective, technology-focused institutions on the other, became the route through which an extremely uneven landscape of education was established. A weakened public education system, growing private institutions, and the overall economic turn toward liberalization marked the Indian educational politics of the 1990s. Diverse international institutions, multilateral institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and national governments came together during the World Education Conference of 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand. For the developing world the policy process became globalized after the conference, and it expanded to include multiple actors and partnerships. Thriving since then, globalized education policy has become a space of solutions and authority. Given these changes at large, it is important to understand the politics of policy production, actual policy ideas, and how they acquire legitimacy.

Article

Inclusive and Special Education in Asia  

Maya Kalyanpur

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.

Article

Globally Minded Leaders  

John M. Heffron and Rosemary Papa

The pressures—economic, political, and cultural—on educational leaders to think and act globally have perhaps never been greater than they are today. However, although it may go without saying that we live increasingly in a world of interdependent causation, of interconnectedness (and not simply between the local and the global, but between people and forces everywhere), this fact alone fails to fully explain the need for globally minded leaders in education. When so much of today’s interdependence tends to favor the strong over the weak on an essentially uneven playing field, a favorite complaint of critics on both the right and the left, the ways and means and ultimate purpose for producing such school leaders lie elsewhere, beyond today’s competitive stance. It lies in identifying and providing an unshakeable moral foundation for universal norms of social justice and equity; it lies in a revolutionary new approach to the knowledge base required of globally minded educational leaders, one that turns for guidance to humanistic thinkers around the world, past and present, the only test of their relevance being a philosophical one, not a psychological, an empirical, or a purely practical one; and it lies in embracing the multifaceted yet singularly cognizant of the human at heart. All this because the aim first and foremost is to develop thinkers, and then and only then practitioners. Practice follows from theory and theory from abstract, almost mathematical logic, a dialectical process of reasoning and argumentation. Globally minded school leaders distinguish themselves as masters of the lost art of argument, engaging actively in public dialogue and debate that seeks information, not some false standard of objectivity in the betterment of the human condition. Finally, the anthropological attitude that pursues processes of meaning making and value creation—not limited to an understanding of indigenous cultures, but extending to human and social relations in all their infinite variety—is the attitude of the globally minded leader. Such a one, in this sense of the term, is never finished, but in a perpetual state of becoming, a learning organization bound only by the self-imposed limits of his or her own curiosity and imagination. But the nature of one’s convictions is especially important here; it determines one’s actions, which in turn determine our value as human beings and as citizens of the earth, in linking commonalities of thought to actions that matter. Where do our convictions lie? This is the question globally minded educational leaders, in their challenges to sovereignty at home and abroad, are continually asking themselves on this journey with their learners.