Experimentation and Innovation

Joel Samoff Part 2: No TEACHER GUIDE, No TEXTBOOKS, No CHAIRS: Experimentation and Innovation

 

Like much of education, this terrain is contested. As I have noted, Africa has also seen important experiments and innovations in education. In the late 1960s Tanzania rejected manpower planning in favor of education for self reliance. At independence the pressing national need, it was thought, was Tanzanians with higher level skills to fill the posts of departing Europeans and to branch out in new directions. Since available resources did not permit rapid expansion in all fields, allocations were to be directed by projections of specific skills needs. As the 1960s proceeded, Tanzania's leaders became increasingly critical of that approach, primarily because it constrained the expansion of primary education, that most visible of the fruits of independence. The country was focusing major resources on a small part of the population, Tanzania's president Julius Nyerere noted, creating an arrogant elite detached from their social roots. Scarce resources ought to be redirected toward those who had little or no education rather than concentrated on those who had the most, and the most alienating, education. Reversing the earlier orientation, Nyerere's widely read and cited paper, Education for Self‑Reliance, shifted the emphasis to primary and adult education." Schools were to become community institutions, intimately connected with the patterns and rhythms of the local setting. Schools were also to have farms and workshops, both to value directly productive activities and to generate supplementary income. produc‑ tion brigades in Botswana also sought to integrate learning and the local setting by creating community schools in which learners and teachers were also to be producers." In the effort to expand access rapidly, several African countries experimented with different models of pre‑service and in‑service teacher education. Others‑Zimbabwe's efforts stand out‑‑‑explored how to draw effectively on the local setting to develop lessons and materials for teaching science where laboratories did not exist or were poorly equipped. More recently, dispersed and locally managed teachers resource centers have proved to be an effective strategy for providing continuing support to instructional staff. Imaginative and energetic literacy campaigns brought rapid progress in several countries. Innovative community‑based non‑school education programs have emerged across Africa, often with the support of a local or international non‑governmental organization.

Though materially poor, several of Africa's higher education institutions have been intellectually very rich, exploring ideas and constructs with contacts and influences around the world. Ghana, for example, nurtured the rejuvenation of studies and debates about pan‑Afticanism. In seminars, in their research, and in major student holiday research projects scholars at the University of Dar es Salaam explored the claims and problems and refined the methods of oral history, thereby joining and advancing an international debated among professional historians.

Recognizing the importance of interchanges across Africa, especially since it has often been easier for African scholars to communicate with colleagues in Europe than with colleagues in a neighboring country, researchers have established several continent‑wide organizations. Among them, the African Association of Political Science, founded in Dar es Salaam in 1973, has regularly brought scholars together, published a journal, provided modest funding to assist participation in international meetings, and generally challenged Africa's political scientists to be critical and to cooperate. Two parallel networks link education researchers in West and Central Africa and in Eastern and Southern Africa, concerned especially with the role of research in making public policy. Several research institutes and centers have sought to provide a venue for critical research and debate and to support both established and younger scholars, among them the Council for the Development of Economic and Social Research in Africa (Dakar) and SAPES Trust (Harare).

The general point here is that across a parched and bleak landscape, education innovation and experimentation have periodically flourished in Africa. Some initiatives have had very wide recognition and influence. Most, however, have found it difficult to survive after the founders' departure or after the exhaustion of the initial funding. Although foreign funds have periodically supported reforms and experiments, rarely has that support been directed toward initiatives with strong local roots and effective organic local participation. Indeed, overall, aid dependence has generally discouraged experimentation, especially where proposed activities have been oriented toward broad national political and social goals rather than more narrowly defined instructional tasks.

Setting Education Policy

 

Education policy and agenda setting in Africa have taken many forms, from broadly inclusive to narrowly authoritarian." The inherited model was distinctly bureaucratic, oriented more toward control and management than toward innovation and development, a pattern that has been widely retained and reinforced. In some countries key individuals, often the education minister but occasionally the head of state, has played the central role in defining problems and charting directions. In other countries, select commissions, sometimes composed primarily of educators and other times of senior politicians, gathered evidence, commissioned studies, and recommended new policies. In still other settings, a major national conference (in Francophone Africa, etats‑generaux) provided opportunities for the diverse interests of the education community to present their views and construct coalitions to support particular policies. Some countries have employed several different strategies.

Policy is also made through practice. Indeed, as we consider education policy making, it is essential not to equate policy with official statements that may have little or no influence on what actually occurs. Most of the writing on public policy focuses on formal pronouncements by authoritative institutions. Since making policy is assumed to be the prerogative of those in power, that literature studies elites and formal documents. Most often, this perspective under, stands policy making as a sequence of activities and feedback loops, moving from vision to formulation to negotiation to policy specification and announcement to implementation to evaluation. This understanding of policy is widely shared and regularly asserted in Africa.

Yet, policy is made as much‑‑or often a good deal more‑in practice as by pronouncement. Consider, for example, policy on language of instruction. The education ministry may have formal rules, publicly announced and officially recorded, specifying that instructors are to use a particular language to teach certain subjects. Suppose, however, that an on‑site study shows that 90% of the instructors use other languages to teach those subjects. When asked, a school principal might say that "our policy in this school is to use the language that our students understand. To do otherwise will make their examination marks even worse." What, then, is the policy? From one perspective, the policy is what the ministry has promulgated, and what the teachers do is a deviation from official policy. From the other perspective, the actual policy‑that is, the working rules that guide behavior‑is what the teachers are doing. In this view, the ministry documents are just that: official statements that may or may not be implemented and certainly not guides to what people actually do. Stated policy may thus be very different from policy in practice.

Recognizing that policy results from practice as well as from official pronouncements helps us identify other major influences on education policy in Africa. Increased reliance on foreign funding has expanded the direct role of both the finance ministry, which generally manages all external aid, and the funding and technical assistance agencies, whose own agendas have come to guide and constrain education initiatives and reforms in Africa. Explicit conditions attached to foreign aid may require particular policies or priorities, for example attention to educating females. Even where there are no explicit conditions of that sort and where foreign aid is a very small portion of total national spending on educa‑ tion, external influence can still be decisive. Consciously or unconsciously, African policy and decision makers shape their programs and projects, and thus policies and priorities, to fit what seems most likely to secure foreign funding. As the Director of Planning in Tanzania's education ministry explained, planning had in fact become marketing." His task was less a process of exploring needs and developing strategies to address them than an effort to study the market of prospective funders, identifying its priorities and value points, and then to use that market knowledge to craft, adver‑ tise, and sell projects and programs. That was perhaps an effective coping strategy in difficult circumstances. Still, it entrenched the funding agencies' role in setting national education policies and priorities. As well, it reinforced the status and influence of a particular set of actors within the country, not those with the clearest or most dynamic educa. tion vision or those with the most solid national political base but rather those who proved to be most effective in securing foreign funding. In these ways aid dependence becomes a vehicle for internalizing within African education establishments externally set policies, priorities, and understandings. While human capital theory and treating education as an investment in the development of human capital have clearly external origins, among their most energetic advocates have become Africa's educators.

Education and the State

 

The state in Africa has come to play a major role in the processes of accumulation and legitimacy." Sometimes on behalf of an emerging indigenous bourgeoisie and often in the absence of local capitalists capable of controlling the national political economy and in the context of a continuing dominant role of foreign capital, the state in Africa assumes responsibility for fostering and managing the accumulation and reinvestment of capital that are essential both for economic growth and development and for the security of the tenure of the national leadership. In practice, that often requires the African state to manage conditions for accumulation that are largely specified externally (structural adjustment programs are the most recent example). As it does so, the African state must at the same time maintain its own legitimacy. As students of industrialized capitalist states have stressed, there is a necessary tension between legitimacy and accumulation.

Within a peripheral capitalist economy with fragile political authority, accumulation requires a relatively weak, poorly integrated, and politically disorganized labor force. A liberal democratic capitalist system requires even more: a state that can successfully present itself as universal, representative of the popular will rather than an agent of the dominant class(es). The policies the state pursues to maintain its universalist image, however, threaten its ability to manage, or even assist, accumulation. Each arena in which citizen participation is encouraged, and in which some degree of democratic choice is permitted, becomes a point of potential vulnerability for the state itself, and for the capitalist order. Promoting legitimacy through controlled democratic practice‑which surely has been occurring in Africa‑risks threatening the accumulation process. Empowered peasants may organize and demand greater control over both the organization of production and the distribution of wealth. At the same time, facilitating accumulation by constraining participation‑which has also occurred in Africa‑undermines legitimacy.

Accumulation is particularly problematic for the leadership of peripheral conditioned capitalist states25. As Fanon foresaw, the structural interests of Africa's post‑colonial leadership maintained and reinforced their dependence." Notwithstanding the rhetoric that accompanied decolonization, the agenda of most of those who assumed office at the departure of the European rulers was neither radical transformation of the peripheral economy nor the risk‑taking required for capitalist innovation. Fragile states with insecure elites were disinclined or unable to take a long term view of what national development would require and reluctant to make a continuing investment in a skilled, disciplined, and accountable public service. 27 One consequence has been a constellation of interests and power that found it difficult to create conditions conducive to accumulation and sustained investment in the development of new production and productive capacity. Another consequence has been a generally inefficient and not infrequently corrupt adminis‑ tration. For education, this situation has been manifested in ineffective use of the limited resources available. Facilitates are poorly maintained. Even when prepared and printed, instructional materials often do not reach students. Funds are poorly managed, both nationally and locally, with little accountability and reliable oversight. Inefficiency becomes normal, both expected and tolerated.

This tension between accumulation and legitimacy is regularly reflected in education policy, perhaps the most contested of public policies. Establishing and managing the conditions for accumulation favor regarding education instrumentally, primarily as a set of institutional arrangements concerned with preparing the future labor force, which includes developing both skills and work discipline. That orientation reinforces the inclination to link schooling with projected labor needs, to emphasize acquiring information, to regard teachers as transmitters and students as receivers of knowledge, and to rely heavily on examinations and other selection and exclusion mechanisms. The commonly asserted view that young Africans must be prepared for their roles in the global economy, that is that their jobs and the skills those jobs require are likely to be defined not within the country but at distant centers of economic and political power, bolsters the external orientation of this instrumental view of education. Schools, it is argued, need to prepare the workers who will, say, assemble automobiles as well and more efficiently than automobile workers elsewhere.

Legitimacy, however, is rooted in popular participation and consent. Maintaining the legitimacy not only of particular office holders but of governing arrangements more generally requires the active involvement of an informed public aware that it wields power and willing to use it. From this perspective, education must be concerned with, and must be seen to be concerned with, encouraging participation, redressing inequality, promoting social mobility, and fostering cooperation and non‑violent conflict resolution. This orientation reinforces the inclination to regard learners as active initiators, not passive recipients. As well, opening new schools throughout the country has been one of the clearest and most tangible manifestations of the provision of services to the populace.28

In short, as it struggles with its own fragility, the state adopts two different, at times incompatible, postures toward the education system. Most often its orientation is functional and technical. Periodically, however, its expectations for schools are more liberal and humanist. The appropriate institutional configurations, even spatial arrangements, for these two orientations also differ. The school‑as‑factory architecture so common throughout the world, classrooms with the teacher‑authority at the front, separated by buffering space from students in orderly rows, and hierarchical administrations within schools and school systems all reflect the instrumental role of schooling. Open classrooms, activity group seating patterns, and shared leadership responsibilities generally reflect a preference for the liberal and humanist perspective.

Note that I have pointed here to two related but distinct tensions. One is confronted in the political system as the state works to promote both accumulation and economic growth and at the same time to establish and reinforce its legitimacy. The second is confronted in the education system, which is charged both with preparing students for the world of work and at the same time with nurturing the development of individual potential, intellectual critique, and societal well‑being. Each with its own characteristics, participants, institutional configurations, and consequences, these two tensions are interdependent but not identical. While they intersect frequently and are often mutually reinforcing, neither fully determines the other.

Understood somewhat more broadly, education in Africa has a dual charter. Its major task is the reproduction of the economic, political, and social order. 29 For that, schools assume responsibility for developing requisite skills (train. ing). That in turn is generally assumed to require that students be assigned to ability groups (tracking). Schools then become the mechanism by which society selects which young people will proceed far in their education and which will not and certifying the accomplishments of those who succeed. Especially important at this juncture is the intemalization of the reasonableness of that certification. For schools to serve their reproductive role, students who fail must attribute their problems to their own lack of skill or application, or to circumstances beyond their control, or perhaps to bad luck. What the schools must avoid is the understanding that tracking, achievement, and certification, and their consequences for subsequent life chances, are planned and controllable outcomes of schools and schooling. (Consider for a moment teachers whose students all receive high marks. The immediate assumption is that the teacher must be doing something wrong, since the classes of teachers who behave appropriately have both successes and failures.) Schools must legitimize as well as track, select, and certify. Their assessments must be accepted as just and appropriate and internalized. Where there is significant unemployment and underemployment, lengthening the course of study, ostensibly to enable graduates to be better prepared and thus more employable, delays their entry into the work force. When they do not secure the jobs they seek, that emphasis on schooling as job preparation also functions to direct their frustrations away from the economic and political system that has not created sufficient jobs and toward the education system that has apparently failed to prepare them adequately.

Reproducing the social order in a capitalist world system, however, also requires critique and innovation. To survive in a fiercely competitive environment, national economies must have some people who reject the old ways of doing things, who insist on looking for better alternatives, who are willing to take the risks to criticize and innovate. Hence, schools have a radical as well as a conservative role. They must enable and encourage at least some students to ask difficult questions, to be impatient with the answers they receive, to trust their own judgment at least as much as their teachers' opinions.

The education system is thus charged with contradictory tasks in reproducing society: preserving and protecting the major features of the social order and at the same time challenging and changing them.' Commonly, education systems try to manage that combination by separation‑‑emphasizing the conservative role in most schools for most students and encouraging critique in a few schools, generally for elite students. In practice, that separation is difficult to establish and maintain. Each orientation is corrosive of the other. Critique and innovation have a momentum of their own. Schools become sites for rebellion, indirect (withdrawal, rejection) and direct (militant organization).

During the more recent nationalist and liberation struggles, militants emphasized education's critical role. As minority rule was dismantled and the new order emerged, nearly everywhere in Africa education has turned back to its conservative charter, more concerned with preserving order than with challenging common understandings and forging new paths. In the circumstances of the peripheral conditioned state and dependent legitimation, accumulation is deemed more important than redistribution.

 

Privatization

 

What, then, of the strong push for privatization? Historically, education in Africa has been understood primarily as a public responsibility. In recent years, private education institutions have proliferated at all levels, both with and without government encouragement. The arguments for this transition toward an expanded role for private education are several. The most compelling is that they can expand access, since even with the most optimistic assumptions, government education systems cannot meet the demand for education in most African countries. Since they are likely to be better funded, private schools can also improve the quality of education, it is argued, and in doing so challenge public schools to improve their quality. Explicitly or implicitly, it is often assumed that private schools will be more efficiently managed than their public counterparts and that they will achieve comparable or better results at lower unit costs.

Historically, private schools have functioned to reinforce and protect inequality within Africa, usually in racial terms but more recently in terms of socioeconomic status. More affluent families can send their children to schools with higher fees and thereby increase the likelihood that their children will succeed them in higher level and better paid posts. Not surprisingly, reactions to the pressure for privatization are mixed.

On this, the data are muddy. One confusion is that the category "private school" is often applied both to entre. preneurial, for‑profit schools and to schools established and managed by churches, other community or non‑governmental organizations, or even district or local government. A second is that countries and organizations use different definitions of "private." As well, while in some African countries private schools do seem to provide stronger academic programs, in other countries it is the government schools that are the most highly regarded. Since the categories obscure important differences in schools and in their impacts on their societies, the aggregate data on this issue are problematic. The percentage of learners in private schools seems to have declined in precisely the era of very strong pressure to privatize. In 1970, private schools enrolled 21.9% of Africa's primary school students, but by 1990 only 7.3%. At the secondary level, the percentage of all students enrolled in private schools declined from 25.3% in 1970 to 12.2% in 1990.3 'At the same time, scattered case study evidence suggests that significant additional private instruction, often in the form of special fee‑based lessons offered by school teachers, is widespread in many countries.

Combined, those observations suggest that privatization may have had a particularly perverse effect in Africa. On the one hand, perhaps with a few exceptions it may not have generated the additional education revenue and expanded access widely expected to result from encouraging the proliferation of non‑governmental schools. On the other, privatization may have reinforced the disparities within education and inequality in society more generally.

 

Decentralization

 

The widespread sense of crisis in education in Africa combined with the perceived failure of central institutions has fueled a fascination with decentralization. 32 A late 1980s World Bank report on education exemplifies the widespread optimism by declaring "decentralization ... the key that unlocks the potential of schools to improve the quality of education. "33 The rationales for decentralization are multiple. Greater local autonomy is deemed inherently desirable on human, societal, and intellectual grounds, emphasizing the development of human potential and the intrinsic‑as contrasted with instrumental‑value of democracy and thus citizen participation in governance The devolution of authority is deemed essential to maintaining and expanding political power or control, or, from the opposite perspective, for challenging and reforming the political system. Decentralization can permit expanded access to decision making arenas. Decentralization is also expected to lead to improved decision making, reduced bureaucracy, and better administration.

Experiences with decentralization in education have been mixed, often disappointing." Expected benefits, have proved illusory. In part, the rhetoric of decentralization has not in practice been accompanied by real transfer of authority. In part, regarding decentralization primarily as a strategy for improving administration and implementation has itself been self‑limiting. Decentralization is inherently a political process concerned with specifying who rules in broader or narrower settings. Indeed, there is no absolute value in either central direction or local autonomy. Both are more or less important at different moments. Both must coexist. Notwithstanding the common assertion that decentralization empowers citizens, especially disadvantaged groups, in their relationship to large, bureaucratic, and distant government, neither centralization nor decentralization necessarily benefits the disadvantaged. Where privilege is maintained by strong central authority, increased local autonomy may create room for some groups to transform their circumstances. Where inequality is maintained by local authorities, however, disadvantaged groups may seek intervention by the national government to constrain the action of local institutions. Hence, it is not surprising that ostensibly similar institutional arrangements can serve very different goals and move in very different directions.

Indeed, decentralization can have very perverse consequences. To the extent that decentralization strengthens local interests and their institutions, it obstructs redistribution. Parents may be willing to pay more for their children's education. But except in unusual circumstances they are generally reluctant to see their increased school fees used to improve the schooling of others' children elsewhere. As recent experiences in South Africa have shown, local control thus permits advantaged communities to entrench their privilege and resist change.

South Africa

 

Until recently, South Africa's experiences were generally excluded from discussions of education in Africa. The extremism of apartheid and South African politics more generally were reflected in the extremism of its education. Though extreme, South Africa was perhaps never as unique as was commonly thought. The use of education to structure economic, political, and social roles‑in South Africa, to segregate and subordinate‑is common throughout the world. Central to the maintenance of minority rule and organizing and managing a sharply differentiated society, education was at the same time also an escape valve for a selected elite. Education has as well been a sharply contested terrain, manifested repeatedly in South Africa, including students' uprising in Soweto in 1976. Indeed, several of the themes addressed here are as relevant to South Africa as they are to other settings. The delayed and very dramatic transition to majority rule in South Africa combines with its more developed productive capacity and infrastructure, and therefore available national and individual wealth, to extend and entrench South Africa's influence across the continent. Let us note briefly several of the major currents in South African education.35

Like colonial education elsewhere in Africa, education in apartheid South Africa sought explicitly to structure roles and relationships in society. Especially as the education philosophy was elaborated and articulated by the National Party government that came to power in 1948, most Africans were to receive little education, if any at all, focused on the basic literacy, numeracy, and other skills deemed necessary for the labor force in the country's industrializing economy. Educators were cautioned to avoid raising students' expectations that education would lead to "greener pastures." At the same time, a small segment of each subordinate group was to have access to more advanced education, to provide the administrative staff, the teachers, the nurses, even a few doctors and lawyers, that the system required. Hence, a few Africans were admitted to elite schools, generally church or other private institutions. As elsewhere in Africa, then, from that elite came both the lower level officials and administrators of minority rule and the activist leaders who militantly opposed it.

Where education is primarily concerned with structuring roles, it is the experience of schooling that matters, not learning. As the critics of apartheid education highlighted its shortcomings, they sought also to shift its emphasis from schooling to learning. That distinction was posed especially sharply in the debates on strategies for addressing the education of older and younger adults who had never been to school or whose schooling had been truncated by apartheid and the anti‑apartheid struggle. In the midst of repression and challenge, a wide range of community groups developed programs intended to enable adults to continue their education in diverse non‑school settings. As the antiapartheid struggle intensified, education also became a mobilization strategy, concerned with raising political consciousness and enabling disadvantaged groups to seize the initiative and reclaim their rights as citizens. In this domain, too, South African experiences paralleled those in other countries. During their struggles, for example, Zimbabwe's, Mozam‑ bique's, and Namibia's liberation movements recognized the importance of education as mobilization and politicization. Schools in war zones were mobile community centers concerned with confronting not only the military power of their opponents but also the internalization of subordination within the African population. In the initial years of majority rule, however, the emphasis has perceptibly shifted from learning and mobilization to schooling. Schools are the markers of modernity. Formerly shut, schools are the entry gates to desired futures, the fruits of the defeat of the old order. With a long history of attention to examinations and certification, the education system and its officials are more comfortable dealing with schooling than with learning. The widely heralded efforts to restore the culture of learning have in practice had more to do with reestablishing the discipline of schooling than with nurturing and harnessing curiosity and the intrinsic rewards of the learning process. Like other African countries in an earlier era, South Africa has apparently moved from education as politics to education as administration.

In part, the marginalization of political initiatives for education reflects a shifting center of gravity in political leadership specific to South Africa's setting. Primarily concerned with the education of exiles, earlier the African National Congress education department did not play a strong role in the formulation of post‑apartheid education policy. Student uprisings in the mid 1970s and protests and boycotts continuing into the 1980s seized the initiative in education away from the apartheid state. But critical as these were, they were unable to set and lead a new agenda for transforming education. With the formation of the National Education Co‑ordinating (formerly Crisis) Committee (NECC) in 1985, a student‑teacher‑parent anti‑apartheid education alliance with strong community roots, this protest became focused, coordinated and directed at the establishment of an alternative, democratic, critical, empowering, non‑racist, and non‑sexist education. Unbanned early in 1990s, the ANC eventually eclipsed and marginalized the NECC. As it did so, the ANC both reflected and led the transition from the focus on opposition and then policy to an overarching concern with planning. Relatively rapidly, the ANC education department itself ceased to play the active leadership role, deferring to decision makers and planners, primarily those within the reorganized Department of Education.

Following the majority rule election, the new education leadership did not assume the mantle of radical and militant educators. Whereas the period before the majority rule election was marked by the energy, dynamism, populism, and urgency of the education democratic movement, the immediate post‑election period was remarkable for its uncertainty and the absence of a visible, energetic, and purposive leadership. That became even more consequential as South Africa struggled to decentralize responsibility for education, a constitutional compromise forged to secure broad participation in the majority rule election. That is, notwithstanding the earlier expectation that the multiple, racially differentiated education authorities would be integrated into a strong national ministry, all but higher education became the responsibility of the nine new provinces. Since only a few of those provinces had the infrastructure, staff, and experience to manage an education system and since no one had experience with decentralized education authority, the initial consequence of this extensive decentralization was to blunt still further the radical education initiative. As people scrambled to implement the new pattern, it became clear that decentralization has provided an extended lease on life for the old education authorities and offered to advantaged communities a new framework for preserving privilege.

At the same time, the inherited inequalities combined with the commitment to national reconciliation, in part manifested in a post‑apartheid government of national unity, to generate a financial crisis for education in a relatively affluent country. The general agreement was to expand access without reducing quality, understood to mean maintain­ing spending in elite schools and affluent communities. The recognition that there were limited available resources for a reform agenda fueled an inclination‑as in the rest of Africa‑to seek external funds. With those funds came ideas about what is desirable and appropriate for the country's post‑apartheid education agenda and how to achieve it.

Education had been at the center of the anti‑apartheid struggle. Its task, everyone agreed, was social transformation. As the new government assumed power, responding to both general and specific pressures, it moved from mobilization to planning to implementation. As elsewhere in Africa, its principal concerns were expanded access, desegregation‑ and the redress of inequality. In the context of a constitutionally required fundamental decentralization, education debates were less focused on learning and liberation increasingly concerned with schooling and examinations and more generally with education as preparation for the world of work. Surprisingly quickly, education's conservative charter was once again becoming paramount.

 

From Education as Social Transformation to Education as (and for) Production

 

Let us take stock. African countries came to their independence with high aspirations and expectations. For capitalists and socialists alike, education held the promise of national development, community improvement, and individual social mobility. Nearly everywhere schools mushroomed and enrollments increased. Community centers, radio, television, and village newspapers were employed in efforts to enable older learners to participate in the march toward education for all.

In much of Africa, the rate of education expansion could not be sustained. Facilitates deteriorated, worn out textbooks were not replaced, libraries had few books, laboratories had little equipment, and gross enrollment ratios stagnated or declined. Measures of education quality, of school efficiency, and of teacher and learner satisfaction showed similar distress. By the end of the Twentieth Century, spending per pupil in affluent countries was 40‑60 times higher than comparable spending in most of Africa. There continued to be imaginative experiments, but in general promising innovations were localized and often did not survive the departure of their founders.

As they confronted this education crisis whose roots lay in poverty, the international division of labor, fragile dependent states and deteriorating public service, African countries turned increasingly to foreign funding. Innovation and reform, and in some countries even textbooks and desks were assumed to require external support. With the foreign funding came ideas and values, advice and directives on how education systems ought to be managed and targeted. While the external resources amounted to a very small portion of total spending on education, their direct and indirect influence on policy and programs was often substantial. Notwithstanding a wide range of approaches to setting education policy, their imprint on education agendas and priorities is clearly visible across the continent. As external agencies undertook research as well as providing funding and development advice, their perspectives on scholarship and science shaped approaches, methodologies, and the definition of universities' missions and more generally the scientific enterprise. Throughout Africa, unable to find local support, education researchers became contracted consultants. As they did so, those understandings of research, from framing questions to gathering data to interpretive strategies, were internalized and institutionalized, no longer foreign imports but now the apparently unexceptional everyday routines of universities, research institutes, and indeed informed discourse.

We see here international convergence at several levels. Increasingly, the specification of education quality is presumed to be universal rather than nationally or culturally or situationally specific. As such, it is amenable to mea. surement through the sorts of standardized assessments that seek to compare, say, reading ability among fourth grade students in England, Korea, and Zimbabwe. Similarly, notions of effective schools, of good school management, of community participation are also treated as universals.

It is in a context of persisting poverty, aid dependence, increasing debt, and powerful pressures from within and without to adopt a particular understanding of development, that African governments have been inclined to empha­size accumulation over legitimation. Similarly, though pockets of innovation and radical reform persist, the trajectory of education policy and practice in Africa has generally been to discard or devalue education's role in economic and social transformation in favor of education's role in maintaining particular patterns of economic, social, and political organiza. tion. In practice, the productivist and conservative charter for education contributes to entrenching still further the conditioned state and Africa's dependence, and within Africa to acquiescing in, even seeing as necessary fundamental societal inequalities and the politics they breed.

Consistent with that conservative role for education, attention has increasingly focused on efficiency, quality, and school improvement, often modeled on approaches and experiences elsewhere. Notwithstanding the rhetoric of liberation and empowerment, the commonly held view is that education must enable Africa to run faster as it tries to catch up with those who are ahead rather than to forge new paths or to transform the international economy and Africa's role in it. Scrambling to catch up always leaves those presumed to be in front to determine where they, and thus everyone else, are going.

 

Notes

 

1. An earlier version of this paper appeared in Robert E Arnove and Carlos Alberto Torres, editors, Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local (Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), pp. 393‑431.

2. J. E Ade Ajayi, Lameck K. H. Goma, and G. Ampah Johnson, The African Experience with Higher Education. Accra, London, and Athens, OH: Association of African Universities, James Currey, and Ohio University Press, 1996), p. 145.

3. As we shall see, beyond the mystification and exoticism associated with the "dark continent," the terminology commonly employed regularly structures the discussion in ways that are not immediately apparent even to careful readers and active partici‑ pants in policy debates. The specification of what is "Africa" is an instructive case in point. Nearly all World Bank and many other documents on Africa include a note that indicates "Most of the discussion and all of the statistics about Africa in this study refer to just thirty‑nine countries south of the Sahara, for which the terms Africa and Sub‑Saharan Africa are used interchangeably" (this example is from World Bank, Education in Sub‑Saharan Africa, viii; emphasis added). That is, "Africa" is not the Africa specified either by geography‑countries on the African continent and its adjacent islands‑or by African states themselves‑‑membership in the Organization of African Unity‑but rather a subset of those states grouped to reflect the foreign policy interests and categories of the World Bank, the United States, and other countries of the North Atlantic. Unfortunately, there is currently no straightforward resolution to this dilemma. Much of the most readily available data on education in Africa come from publications of those organizations, and to date apparently no one has systematically revised those data to include North Africa or reorganized other data that do include North Africa to make them directly comparable. In this discussion, other than explicitly noted exceptions, my comments generally refer to the entire continent.

4. World Bank. Priorities and Strategies for Education (Washington: World Bank, 1995), 14.

5. For a fuller discussion of these understandings of education, see Joel Samoff, "Institutionalizing International Influence," in Robert E Arnove and Carlos Alberto Torres, editors, Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local (Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), pp. 51‑89.

6. 1 have addressed this problem in more detail in "The Facade of Precision in Education Data and Statistics: A Troubling Example from Tanzania," Joumal of Modem African Studies 29, 4 (December 1991): 669‑689.

7. The country is Tanzania. UNESCO, United Republic of Tanzania: Education in Tanzania. Volume I, Overview (Paris: March, 1989), p. 15.

8. UNESCO, World Education Report 1998, Regional tables 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 (the categories are those defined by UNESCO).

9. Inter‑Agency Commission, World Conference on Education for All (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank). Final Report. World Conference on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs. New York: UNICEF, 1990.

10. Unfortunately, there have been few systematic studies of aid to African education and especially of its volume and its impact on the direction of capital flows. For South Africa in 1993, foreign aid was estimated to account for less than 1.5% of total spending on education. See Baudouin Duvieusart and Joel Samoff, Donor Cooperation and Coordination in Education in South Africa (Paris: UNESCO, Division for Policy and Sector Analysis, 1994).

11. World Bank, Priorities and Strategies for Education, 113.

12. UNESCO, World Education Report 1998, Table 4. The broad age range of enrolled students permits figures greater than 100%.

13. UNESCO, World Education Report 1998, Tables 6 and 8.

14. Adhiambo Odaga and Ward Heneveld, Girls and Schools in Sub‑Saharan Africa: From Analysis to Action (Washington: World Bank, 1995), 14.

15. See Joel Samoff, with N'Dri Therese Assie‑Lumumba, Analyses, Agendas, and Priorities in African Education: A Review of Externally Initiated, Commissioned, and Supported Studies of Education in Africa, 1990‑1994 (Paris: UNESCO, 1996).

16. Immanuel Wallerstein, "The Rise and Future Demise of World‑Systems Analysis," Review XXI, 1 (1998):107.

17. Severine M. Rugumamu, Globalization, Liberalization and Africa's Marginalization. Harare: African Association of Political Science, Occasional Paper Series v3, nl, 1999, p. 5.

18. The Challenge to the South: The Report of the South Commission (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 277‑278, quoted in UNESCO, World Education Report 1993, p. 17.

19. 1 draw here on discussions of education and relevance in two major Namibian policy statements, Toward Education for All (Windhoek: Minis" of Education and Culture, 1993), and Investing in People, Developing a Country: Higher Education for Development in Namibia (Windhoek: Ministry of Higher Education, Vocational Training, Science and Technology, 1998).

20. Julius K. Nyerere, Education for Self‑Reliance (Dar es Salaam: TANU, 1967); reprinted in Julius K. Nyerere, Freedom and Socialism / Uhuru na Ujamaa (Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1968), 267‑290.

21. Ingemar Gustafsson, Integration Between Education and Work at Primary and Post‑Primary Level‑the Case of Botswana (Stockholm: University of Stockholm, Institute of International Education, Working Paper Series No. 95, 1985). For a parallel effort in Zimbabwe, see Ingemar Gustafsson, Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production. ZIMFEP A Follow‑Up Study (Stockholm: Swedish International Development Authority, SIDA Education Division Documents, No. 29,1985).

22. Two recent collections of case studies address education policy making in Africa: David R. Evans, editor, Education Policy Formation in Africa: A Comparative Study of Five Countries (Washington; USAID, Bureau for Africa, Office of Analysis, Research, and Technical Support, Technical Paper No. 12, 1994), and Association for the Development of African Education, Formulating Education Policy Lessons and Experiences from sub‑Saharan Africa (Paris: Association for the Development of African Education, 1996). 1 draw here as well on Joel Samoff, "Education Policy Formation in Tanzania: Self‑Reliance and Dependence," in David R. Evans, editor, Education Policy Formation in Africa: A Comparative Study of Five Countries (Washington: U.S. Agency for International Development, 1994), 85‑126

23. Joel Samoff, with Suleman Sumra, "From Planning to Marketing: Making Education and Training Policy in Tanzania," in Joel Samoff, editor, Coping With Crisis: Austerity, Adjustment, and Human Resources (London: Cassell, 1994), 134,172.

24. Since an extended discussion of the state in Africa is far beyond the scope of this paper, I limit my attention here to the tension between accumulation and legitimation and its implications for education. For a more extended development of these and related themes, see Martin Carnoy and Joel Samoff, Education and Social Transition in the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), especially Part 1, and Martin Carnoy, "Education and the State: From Adam Smith to Perestroika," in Emergent Issues in Education: Comparative Perspectives. Robert F Arnove, Philip G. Altbach, and Gail R Kelly, eds. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992, 143‑159.

25. Martin Carnoy, "Education and the Transition State," in Martin Carnoy and Joel Samoff, Education and Social Transition in the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, 63‑96.

26. Frantz Fanon, "The Pitfalls of National Consciousness," The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove, 1963).

27. The World Bank and other external agencies have recently focused major attention on problems of governance and administration, though generally without addressing the structural roots of managerial inefficiency and the lack of transparency and accountability~ For example, see Mamadou Dia, A Governance Approach to Civil Service Reform in Sub‑Saharan Africa (Washington: World Bank Technical Paper Number 225, Africa Technical Department Series, 1993), and World Bank, Sub‑Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth (Washington: World Bank, 1989).

28. Hans Weiler explores what he terms "compensatory legitimation" in "Education and Power: The Politics of Educational Decentralization in Comparative Perspective," Educational Policy 3, 1 (1989): 31‑43.

29. Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis have developed and refined the notion of the correspondence between school and society. See "Education as a Site of Contradictions in the Reproduction of the Capital‑Labor Relationship: Second Thoughts on the 'Correspondence Principle,'" Economic and Industrial Democracy 2 (1981): 223‑242.

30. Carnoy and Levin characterize this tension as between education as a democratizing force (social mobility public education as an equalizing experience, instruction on the democratic ideal) and education as a mechanism for reproducing capitalist inequalities (class, race, or gender division of labor, unequal access to knowledge): Martin Carnoy and Henry M. Levin, Schooling and Work in the Democratic State (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985).

31. The 1970‑1983 data are from the World Bank, Education in Sub‑Saharan Africa, Table A‑13 (weighted means); the 1985‑1990 data are from the World Bank, African Development Indicators 1994‑1995, Table 13‑16.

32. The literature has mushroomed. For an overview of major issues, see Joel Samoff, "Centralization: The Politics of Interventionism," Development and Change 21, 3(July 1990):513‑530.

33. Marlaine Lockheed, et al., The Quality of Primary Education in Developing Countries (Washington: World Bank, 1989), 1.

34. For an overview or problems drawn from Latin America, see Juan Prawda, Educational Decentralization in Latin America: Lessons Learned (Washington: World Bank, Human Resources Division, Technical Department, Latin America and the Caribbean Region, 1992).

35. Among recent sources on education in South Africa, see M Cross, and Z. Mkwanazi Twala, editors, Unity, Diversity and Reconciliation: A Debate On the Politics of Curriculum in South Africa. (Cape Town: Juta, 1998); G. Gisher, "Policy, Governance and the Reconstruction of Higher Education in South Africa," Higher Education Policy 22, 2‑3 (July 1998): 121‑140; Clive Harber, "Markets, Equity and Democracy‑Structural Adjustment and the Tensions of Educational Change in South Africa," International Journal of Educational Development 18, 3 (May 1998): 247‑254; Jonathan Jansen, "'Essential Alterations'? A Critical Analysis of the State's Syllabus," Perspectives in Education 17, 2 (July 1998): 1‑11; Peter Kallaway, Glenda Kruss, Aslarn Fataar, and Gari Donn, editors, Education After Apartheid: South African Education in Transition (Cape Town: UCT Press, 1997); John Pape, "Changing Education for Majority Rule in Zimbabwe and South Africa," Comparative Education Review 42, 3 (August 1998): 253‑26.

 


 

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