Recent Phases of Education Reform

Recent Phases of Education Reform

The previous chapter discusses the process by which education systems became institutionalized and developed their distinctive characteristics. The shape of the first modern education systems were developed in six core modern nations to serve the nation-building interests of the respective ruling classes. While these first systems differed signifi- cantly in many features, they represented an acceptable fit (or at least a winning accommodation of the various interests) in their respective contexts and the issues that were salient at the time of their creation.

Over the subsequent course of development, modern education1 has been diffused to new settings. At the risk of oversimplification, we argue in this chapter that there have been six approaches or phases to this diffusion, focusing on distinctive models of education develop- ment/change.2 Five of these models are sequential: (1) the original modern models and the colonial and neocolonial models exported by the core nations, (2) the postcolonial centralized (or state-led develop- ment) model(s), (3) decentralized regionalization models promoted by multilateral agencies; (4) neoliberal decentralized–sectoral reform models also promoted by multilateral agencies, and (5) emerging com- munity- (and school-) based models. Finally, a sixth approach has per- sisted throughout the period in a transformative model, an approach that questions the dominant models of change and seeks, instead to reform, to transform the education system and the society. We seek in the pages below to review these models in terms of:

• Where they are most prevalent; • How they are organized, administered, and financed; • What the main characteristics of their education delivery are, such

as buildings, curriculum, instructional materials, teacher prepara- tion, stress on student mastery;

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30 CHAPTER 2

• What their implications are for bringing about change in develop- ing country education systems.3

We see the evolution of models of reform as an ongoing process of trial and error. Each new model developed in reaction to perceived problems with the previous models. As a result, a great deal more is known about what is less likely to work than what could be successful. Typically, failed approaches are examined, failures diagnosed, and new strategies adopted to overcome the limitations identified in past approaches, but without systematic evidence—evidence which would be counterfactual at best—that the new approach will work better. Each dominant approach is based on the prevalent ideas at the time.4 Need- less to say, none of the efforts has been perfect, as illustrated in chapter 4, but like all ideas, most efforts have fit best in the settings where they were first developed and less well in other settings.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SIX APPROACHES TO EDUCATION REFORM

Prior to the modern era, education was primarily provided by parents and religious/social groups. The Jesuit and Franciscan orders of the Catholic Church were noted for their education activities in the geo- graphic regions where the Catholic Church was prominent. The Angli- can Church was active in the United Kingdom. In areas where Islam was prevalent, local rulers and communities supported madrasah and pesantren to provide religious instruction to young men. And in East- ern Asia, widely prevalent Buddhist temple schools introduced young people to religious principles and practical skills, while Confucian schools focused on the principles of governance and leadership.

Core Nations and Their ‘‘Metropolitan’’ Models

With the emergence of the modern nation-state in Western Europe, these various forms of religious education were significantly trans- formed and even suppressed out of a conviction that they taught tradi- tional and irrational beliefs. The modern school sought to focus the attention of young people on the new agendas advanced by their

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 31

national leaders, including the promotion of national identity, industri- alism, and world empire. The modern schools were first developed in the core nations as described in chapter 1, and subsequently exported, often in reduced form, to the colonial territories of the core nations. Colonial schools in French territories closely resembled the schools of the French motherland, the colonial schools in British territories closely resembled those in the United Kingdom, and so on. The main aim of colonial education was to serve the colonial government and the metropolitan motherland. Rarely was colonial education well organized to serve the leadership or development needs of colonial subjects. Still, just as there were important differences in the schools of the core nations, so also were there important differences in the schools in their colonies.

After World War II, the vast majority of the colonial territories gained independence and hence autonomy in the management of edu- cation. Initially, the new countries perpetuated the education systems they had inherited from the colonial era. The current governments of former colonial regimes supported this inclination, arguing that the new states deserved the same quality of metropolitan education as the old states. Bilateral assistance also tended to sustain the old models. France directed the majority of its bilateral assistance to its former col- onies, much of which was used to pay the salaries of French nationals as teachers in the former colonial schools. Similarly, the United King- dom, the United States, and Japan directed much of their bilateral assis- tance to areas where they had once been dominant. With the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States directed assistance to areas where they were seeking an increase in influence. Newly independent countries often found it worthwhile to continue in the familiar tradi- tions, while former colonial rulers supported practices with which they were accustomed. These practices, having been institutionalized in the former colonies, likely seemed to colonial leaders to represent ‘‘good education practice.’’ In these ways, the practices and beliefs of the old system were effectively sustained by leaders in the new system, and bilateral assistance served to perpetuate colonial patterns of education rather than to sponsor radical new initiatives.5

A particular interesting case, in showing the persistence of colonial features, is the Cameroons, which was formed through the consolida-

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32 CHAPTER 2

tion of geographic areas formerly under the British and the French. Even to this day the education system of the Cameroons is comprised of two systems, one taught in French and the other in English, one with a structural nomenclature similar to that in contemporary France (cycles, lycées, etc.), and the other with English nomenclature (forms, ordinary level and advanced level exams, etc.).

In these ways, colonial schooling, though formally ending with inde- pendence, has continued to persistently influence the subsequent devel- opment of education. On the positive side, metropolitan models have provided relatively coherent models of education, linked via curricu- lum, language, and other ways to the global system. On the negative side, the metropolitan models, like all colonial institutions, were trans- plants, seldom top of the line and often culturally invasive. Colonial models neither fit the varied context of the colonies, nor served their developmental needs. Continuing dependence has constrained natural adoption and adaptation of international models of education. Instead, metropolitan models remain intact, often ill-fitting, yet vested in the national economy and social order.

Multilateral Assistance: Centralized (State-Led Development) Models

Following World War II, a large number of colonial territories gained independence from the former colonial powers of France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Holland, and Japan. With more than one hundred new states being recognized within two decades, the sudden emergence of new states led to a scramble to build new systems for governance, law, and the delivery of social services. The United Nations, established in 1945, took the lead in this new challenge of nation building. Among the main priorities of the UN, as expressed in its charter, was the promotion of education as a human right.

To help the new nations in the development of their education sys- tems, the United Nations established the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1946 and asked the French government to host this institution. For a variety of reasons, UNESCO, from its very early days, promoted a centralized, state-led approach to development of education, an approach that closely paral-

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 33

leled the centralized Francophone model. Likely reasons include UNESCO’s Paris location and the special responsibility of the French government for launching UNESCO, the widespread belief at the time in the efficacy of central planning, the prevailing optimism of educa- tion planning that development could be substantially led by invest- ments in education, and the ‘‘natural’’ focus on newly independent central governments as the locus of policy and planning for national development. One feature, for example, of the Francophone model was a uniform curriculum for schools through the nation with a common set of textbooks for every grade of every school. An early UNESCO initiative recruited a large cadre of subject specialists to work with edu- cators in the new states to develop such a curriculum. Another feature of the French system was the systematic planning of school construc- tion and support based on annual school surveys and reports. UNESCO developed guidelines for school construction of a six-room primary school that it presumed would be appropriate throughout the develop- ing world. UNESCO established the special International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) to assist the new states in developing their planning and monitoring capacities. Over time, IIEP trained a large proportion of the staff in national ministries of education. As outlined in the introduction, rational planning—characterized by centralized, state-led, inputs-driven strategies—became the dominant approach to education reform.

Generally speaking, the centralized model assumed developing countries’ education systems lacked technical expertise, funding, and the variety of materials, things and, systems requisite for a functioning education system—high-quality textbooks, modern ideas of pedagogy, appropriate pay scales, and so forth. This deficiency model led to a clear role for international funding and assistance agencies, to help developing countries acquire the know-how, funding, material inputs, and systems they needed. Given this emphasis and the importance devoted to planning, centralized approaches paid considerable attention to institution building and, of course, to the provision of inputs.

Despite limitations, the centralized model represented several advances over metropolitan models of reform. However influenced by metropolitan institutions, the new systems were run by national offi- cials. Central governments assumed a rightfully (in our view) central

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role in providing and organizing education to their citizens. No one else had the charter, or the capacity, to do so. In poor countries, it made sense to focus scarce management resources where they could do the greatest good for all. Rational planning, despite its shortcomings, rep- resents a substantial improvement over nonrational approaches to pol- icy—tradition, favoritism, and so forth. As a result of various efforts largely carried out under the centralized approach, school enrollments increased dramatically throughout the world during the period of the 1950s through the 1970s. More children than ever before in history were attending school.

Still, several decades of state-led education planning suggested shortcomings. Centralized models were premised on the dubious assumption that the new modern states had their foundation in compli- ant societal or national groupings that sought a common national iden- tity. An implicit assumption, among others, was that all people within the geographic boundaries of Indonesia wanted to be Indonesians or all within the boundaries of Nigeria Nigerian, but the majority of new states contained long-standing ethnic and religious divisions. Initial centralized education plans largely ignored these divisions, proposing instead a common education in a particular language, agreeable to some while foreign to others. Additionally, the initial centralized mod- els assumed new school entrants had a level of intellectual preparation similar to young people in Western Europe, or perhaps elites in newly independent nations. Consequentially these misguided pedagogical assumptions led to high repetition and dropout rates in the newly estab- lished schools, especially in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.

Over this same period, the reputation of international agencies formed to promote national development waxed and waned. UNESCO began as a modest institution with an eminent director and high-quality staff. By the 1960s, it had grown to be the UN’s largest special agency, employing over 20,000 staff around the world. While UNESCO claimed to use high standards for recruitment, it also was committed to regulations ensuring proportional representation of its member states. Over time, critics saw a decline in staff performance, with over half the staff working out of Paris as contrasted with the field. For these and other reasons, many came to perceive UNESCO as ineffective and inef- ficient. In 1981 the conservative Reagan and Thatcher governments of

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 35

the United States and the United Kingdom, both key funders, with- drew, thus undermining the preeminence of UNESCO.6 During the same period, centralized planning assumed a certain disrepute as influential governments around the world adopted neoliberal market policies. Moreover, the successes of central planning were often over- whelmed by other forces in the development experience, including weak and corrupt indigenous governments, domestic conflict fanned by neglected minority groups, declining revenues for agriculture exports, rapid population growth increasing the demand for social services, increased borrowing from donors to cover the provision of social ser- vices, mounting national debt, continued domination by external econ- omies, and dependence in the global economy The case of Indonesia, as summarized in Box 2.1 below, provides an illustration.

Finally, centralized models often assumed an unrealistic role for central government in the planning and provision of education. In its purest form, overly centralized systems made virtually all decisions at the center, or top, of the system. The knowledge and potential agency of local school officials, community members, and others outside the center was not utilized. In a number of countries, overly centralized systems collapsed under their own complexity and expense. When sys- tems couldn’t keep up, they tended to fail, starting with peripheral peo- ples and areas and moving inward to the core. Higher education and elite secondary education were often preserved, but the basic education system suffered along with poor and other marginalized people. Overly centralized systems are inclined to front-load, putting most of their energy into the development of the best blueprint possible. Implemen- tation and formative evaluation are less valued. Centralized systems tend to lecture rather than to learn.

Thus, in many new nations, an initial decade or two of optimism in the possibilities of education was followed by a period of despair. In all fairness, the multilateral centralized model may have never had a chance. Given the poverty of most developing country treasuries, and the multiple development needs of government, education arguably has never been funded at sufficient levels for effective work. Was the fail- ure of centralized models a failure of funding, or a failure of the model? An academic question, at this point perhaps, given the costs and subse- quent macroeconomic developments.

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NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN INDONESIA

Indonesia is an island nation of great geographic and cultural diversity. Java, the central island, has been formed from a series of volcanic erup- tions (several of which are still active), with a rugged topography and exceptionally rich soil. While the majority of the population lives on this island, the nation is composed of several other large islands and over 1,000 smaller islands. To the west is Sumatra, which among other assets has rich oil reserves. And to the east are numerous islands some- times known as the spice islands because of their extensive export of various spices. Across hundreds of islands there is considerable cultural diversity with hundreds of ethnic groups, at least 14 major languages and many dialects. While the majority of the people adhere to Islam, most of the inhabitants of Bali are Hindu and many in the eastern islands are Christian.

Following long periods of Portuguese and British presence, the Dutch colonized Indonesia in the mid-19th century. Their primary con- cern was resource extraction through plantation farming and mining. Thus they invested modest resources in infrastructure development (few roads or railways) or in social services. Distinct from the colonial education system, the Muslims established madrasah, and Christian missionary work led to the establishment of many schools in the east- ern islands. With the conclusion of World War II, an independence movement that engaged in a fierce struggle with the Dutch emerged. The movement finally succeeded, and the new Republic of Indonesia, first proclaimed in 1946, was widely recognized by the international community in 1951.

The new government proposed a constitution celebrating unity within diversity, and declared the trade language of Bahasa Indonesia as the national language. With this language as the common medium of instruction, efforts were launched to establish a national education system. During the first decade, Indonesia attempted a democratic form of government, but experienced much strife. With rapid population growth and limited economic success, education and other social initia- tives faltered. The national debt soared. Separatist movements emerged to challenge the government, and in response President Suharto encouraged a shift toward communism.

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 37

This was reciprocated by a military coup leading to a strong military government and the firm implementation of new policies in all spheres. Population growth was slowed and the economy began to show an upturn. Education and other social services also improved. But there was much underlying tension. While the New Order persisted for 30 years and Indonesia overall prospered, many inequities emerged and became foci for controversy. Moreover, as time passed, the New Order government began to bias its policies to the majority group, exacerbat- ing ethnic and religious tension. To respond, the New Order govern- ment encouraged a limited decentralization of government services. For example, basic education was delivered in local languages, and the various provinces were encouraged to add local content to the national curriculum. But these and other measures were insufficient to appease critics.

Ultimately the New Order government was toppled in the mid-1990s and a new cycle of nation building has ensued. A key focus of the cur- rent political dialogue is increased autonomy for the various regions. Indonesia most reluctantly allowed East Timor its independence in the late 1990s and now is facing similar demands from Aceh, the western- most province. In the education sphere, community-based models are being encouraged, though still under considerable central control.

Multilateral Assistance: Decentralized Models

Concurrent with the decline of UNESCO, other multilateral actors became more interested in education. Most notable was the World Bank, which from the mid-1960s began to argue that education was a sound investment with a return equal to or greater than investment in physical capital. (This argument was later refined to say that, among the different education investment alternatives, primary education yielded the highest social rate of return, and was therefore the best investment.) From the 1960s the World Bank began to make loans in education. Over time the bank’s loans to the education sector occupied increasingly large shares of its portfolio and of total donor expendi- tures on education. Similar trends can be noted in other international banks, notably the Asian Development Bank.

At first the World Bank followed the UNESCO model in program-

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ming its loans, and on many occasions relied on UNESCO as a subcon- tractor. However, from the early 1980s the World Bank began to express increasing concern with the weaknesses of the centralized approach—associating centralization with ‘‘bloated’’ national bureau- cracies, for example, or with programs that were unresponsive to local needs. Gradually, the World Bank moved to a more decentralized model, sometimes with a market-orientation. Representing a broad range of strategies, decentralization is unified by the movement of gov- ernment functions away from central government toward multiple local units, and often, to markets. Decentralization models have taken sev- eral forms.

The Decentralized Regionalization Model

On the one hand, in some large diverse countries, decentralization was promoted in the form of what might be called regionalization, whereby geographic regions often concurrent with cultural groupings were allowed considerable autonomy in some aspects of education decisions. Such moves accorded well with governments facing regional challenges to national authority. In addition, one problem with the international funding agencies taking a decentralized approach is that the World Bank, for example, is required to have a formal government partner that can take responsibility for a loan. Bilateral agencies such as USAID (United States Agency for International Development), JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), and GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) have more flexibility, but agreements are nonetheless made between (central) governments, thus posing a problem for decentralizing reforms. In many cases, this shift essentially meant that the locus of attention shifted to regional as contrasted to national governments. Once the World Bank began such practices, other important multilateral actors and a number of bilateral agencies followed suit. Thus, in large countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan, a familiar recent pattern of donor support emerged in which the World Bank supported education development in certain states/ provinces, while other donors, notably the Asian Development Bank, or USAID, focused attention on other states/provinces.

This so-called decentralized approach has the advantage of promot-

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 39

ing capacity building at the regional or state level. Also, the major inputs such as curriculum development, textbook production, and teacher training can be prepared in the official languages of the respec- tive states.

At the same time, while the content of education is potentially more sensitive to regional variations, regionalization may not change the underlying hierarchical nature of relationships within the education system. The actual approach to the delivery of education may continue to be top-down, with regional governments identifying the sites for school construction, building schools with the standard grades 1–6 (or in some countries grades 1–8) designed with a single classroom for each grade irrespective of the likelihood of attrition, and posting teach- ers trained in the urban centers to schools throughout the region. In sum, without other changes, the ‘‘decentralization’’ achieved by this new multilateral approach is no more likely than ‘‘centralized strate- gies’’ to reach deep enough to address the felt needs at the grass-roots level. Table 2.1 outlines implications of these approaches in terms of decisions about the delivery of education.

The Decentralized Sectoral Reform Model

Decentralization also took the form of sectoral reform, for which a brief background is useful. Around this time, many (though hardly all) economists concluded that export-oriented economic and structural reform strategies offered the best hope for economic development among poor countries. Governments were encouraged to implement structural adjustment packages, as preconditions for economic assis- tance from the global financial institutions. Typical among recommen- dations was a reduction in the size of public sector spending, with dramatic implications for sectors such as health and education. Central government, generally, was understood as less efficient and effective than decentralized government units and markets. Market mechanisms were promoted in the social and other sectors (without a great deal of evidence, we would argue, of their effectiveness).

These larger conditions, combined with the weaknesses of central planning discussed earlier, led to development of decentralized-sec- toral approaches to education reform. Sectoral approaches emphasized

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 41

the institutional restructuring of relationships between groups within government and with institutions, that is, civil society and the market outside government. On the one hand, the role of central government was to be reduced through decentralization and restructuring. In a typi- cal decentralization initiative, a number of functions were moved away from central government to lower levels of the system, in an effort to promote responsiveness and efficiency.

At the same time, sector-wide approaches have promoted compre- hensive development and funding strategies for the entire education sector, thus giving central government an even more central coordinat- ing (though not necessarily provisionary) role.

Sectoral approaches developed, in part, from awareness of the limi- tations of centralized approaches. The natural emphasis of centralized approaches on provision of inputs and specification of processes led to unwieldy central bureaucracies attempting, at their worst, to microma- nage local processes, albeit with insufficient local capacity to do so effectively. Specification of project inputs and processes sometimes took place at the expense of consideration of outcomes or of education agents and units working outside the center. A project was judged suc- cessful according to whether inputs were provided and processes fol- lowed as planned, rather than according to improvements in outcomes. Moreover, the natural impulse of external aid agencies to help countries meet deficiencies led to a multiplicity of development projects in many countries that failed, it appeared, to improve the overall systems of edu- cation. Education programs in some countries had become so donor- driven that education ministries spent most of their time managing external projects instead of developing their own strategic priorities.

The operating assumption in the decentralized sectoral reform approach is that developing education systems need to change the way they carry out their operations, a ‘‘deep’’ conception of education improvement. It is in this sense that the word reform appears so fre- quently in recent education development discourse. While decentral- ization and restructuring, sectoral reform initiatives, and market mechanisms all aim, in slightly different though resonant ways, at basic changes in how education systems operate, these changes are wrought indirectly, by structural changes to the institutions, incentive structures, locations of power, and to the ‘‘rules of the game.’’ Decentralized sec-

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42 CHAPTER 2

toral reform approaches spend relatively little time building planning and policy-making institutions, detailing how goals are to be reached, or assisting implementers in reaching program goals. Instead, efforts focus on the desired objectives and incentives, leaving the means to implementers. Although working well when micromanagement by government is the primary problem, decentralized sectoral reforms are much less effective when implementers and implementing organiza- tions lack the capacity to achieve specified targets.

The decentralized sectoral reform model was born in the financial crises of the 1980s, when the multilateral finance agencies, in particu- lar the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the regional banks, made structural reform—including openness to mar- kets, reductions in public expenditures, balancing of budgets, relax- ation of currency and price controls, and so forth—a condition of continued financial assistance. Given the economic dependence of developing countries, this assistance, and hence structural adjustment, was essential to continued economic and political viability. Debt was rescheduled, loans and aid packages were negotiated between govern- ments and the World Bank/IMF, with funding disbursed in several increments subject to fulfillment of certain conditions of ‘‘reform,’’ conditionality.

Adapted and applied to education and other sectors, the rationale for decentralized sectoral reform was the following:

1. Education reform needed to be approached in a systemic, not piecemeal fashion. Therefore, a sectoral rather than project-cen- tered approach was preferred. Ideally, the sectoral approach would involve a country developing an overall analysis of its entire education sector, along with a statement of deficiencies, prioritized objectives to overcome those deficiencies, and a coor- dination of external funding and technical assistance efforts within the government plan.

2. National systems needed to develop the capacity and ownership to manage their own affairs. Therefore, the management and leadership of reform were to be located in the host country gov- ernment, as opposed to being managed or overly advised by external agencies and experts. Technical assistance would be pro-

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 43

vided as necessary, but the purpose was to enable governments to take over as soon as possible.

3. Measurable reform objectives, both outcomes and intermediate outcomes, would be negotiated by government and donor. Fund- ing would be provided to the host country government, to help it reach its objectives, and subject to achievement of the negotiated intermediate process objectives and longer-term outcomes.

While showing some successes, Sectoral reform strategies are vul- nerable to the problems associated with front-loaded plans, the diffi- culty of specifying meaningful intermediate and outcome indicators of reform, and the vagaries of international funding (see Moulton et al., 2002). Sectoral strategies have been developed largely on theoretical grounds, grounded in neoliberal readings of neoclassical economics. Sectoral strategies make explicit attempts to revise the ‘‘rules of the game,’’ the institutional roles and authorities of different actors, and to bring new actors such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), national and international, into a more active role in the education sys- tem. The attempt is either to weaken the central state, or reduce its rela- tive power in relation to other stakeholders. The introduction and use of a variety of market mechanisms in education in contexts that have previously been a near government monopoly have had important effects. NGOs, for their part, have come, in many countries, to assume a significant role in education.

‘‘Decentralization,’’ in its various meanings, has attracted a great deal of interest, appealing to what has been called the ‘‘democratic wish’’—to break up concentrations of power in the distant unrespon- sive center; redistribute it to disbursed agents closer to beneficiaries, consumers, and ‘‘the people’’; and to create ‘‘civic space.’’ As we have suggested, whether or not the people gain a greater voice is not auto- matic but likely to depend on the particular form and manner of decen- tralization. Decentralization is particularly appealing, we would argue, to U.S. and U.K. sensibilities. It resonates with the culture of their inherited models of education, its efficacy perhaps more a matter of belief than of evidence. Nonetheless, the apparent weaknesses of cen- tral approaches, coupled with the rhetoric of decentralization, have given fresh impetus to community-based models of education, dis-

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44 CHAPTER 2

cussed more fully in the following section. At the same time, the top- down, unduly hierarchical nature of many education systems has meant that neither local education agents nor the communities and parents of schoolchildren have had authority under centralized or regionalized systems to participate actively in schooling. Decentralization has been used, among other things to rebalance these relationships, or at least to talk about it.

Community- (and School-) Based Models

While the rhetoric of the 1980s emphasized neglected areas and peripheral groups, the strategies mobilized by the major bilateral and multilateral actors proved inadequate. As noted, less-central govern- ment offices were often as unresponsive as national governments to the needs of peripheral groups, local schools, and communities. Top-down organizational cultures typically value authority over ‘‘customer ser- vice.’’ The lack of focus on schools, communities, and peripheral groups is a natural consequence of centralized approaches, which emphasize central bureaucracy, planning, provision, and standard inputs over ‘‘field’’ sites, variable needs, implementation, utilization, and outcomes. Decentralized and sectoral approaches, while speaking of the redistribution of power and systemic solutions, often did not reach ‘‘down to’’ communities, schools, and peripheral groups. Sec- toral approaches emphasized outcomes, but stayed out of the ‘‘busi- ness’’ and location of the production of outcomes, thus never quite getting into the school or community. As a consequence, perhaps, and as a result of declining public expenditures on education due to weak economic growth and structural adjustment, the record of education improvement over the 1980s was disappointing.

Recognizing the stagnating situation and seeking to reignite the global commitment to education reform, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank teamed up with a variety of other education actors to convene the World Conference on Education for All at Jomtien, Thailand, in late 1991. Drawing on UNICEF’s experience with mass mobilization for childhood immunizations, the conference produced a clear confession of past inadequacies. Detailed estimates of the numbers of children and young people that had been deprived of

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 45

schooling were developed, noting that young girls, minorities, and those in peripheral areas were most neglected. New partnerships with private and nongovernmental organizations were called for as part of a grand strategy to provide basic ‘‘education for all’’ by the year 2000.

Justifying the focus on education, the fundamental developmental role of education was discussed in terms of its contributions to fertility decline, improvements in health, economic competitiveness in a global economic terms as well as traditional economic growth, and national development (see, for example, McMahon, 1999). Lawrence Summers captured the tenor of the times in his statement that education of girls was the most ‘‘influential investment’’ a developing country could make.

Among the many important themes of the Jomtien conference was the recognition that alternate, often indigenous, models for the delivery of education had great potency for reaching neglected groups, which sometimes included millions of people. Jomtien featured presentations by Escuela Nueva and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), both innovative alternative forms of community-based educa- tion. Following Jomtien, donors began to channel some of their devel- opment funds to local and international NGOs to further alternate indigenous and community models. Over time, there has been a blos- soming of new endeavors in virtually all continents of the developing world.

These community school models have many characteristics in com- mon. Schools tend to be small and thus can be located close to the children’s homes. They rely extensively on local community planning and support, often in the construction and maintenance of schools, sometimes in management and finance. ‘‘Community schools’’ favor a flexible schedule tailored to the various obligations of young people; they encourage a relevant, sometimes indigenous, curriculum; the classes tend to meet in existing buildings or those of low-cost construc- tion. Often recruited locally, teachers may lack extensive preservice training, but are supported by highly skilled consultants, who ease them into the instructional routine. Teachers adhere to careful proce- dures for monitoring the progress of each student. Sometimes the instructional schedule in these schools is more demanding than the schedule in nearby public schools, though the range of subject matter

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46 CHAPTER 2

varies. Disadvantaged students, previously poorly served by public schools, often make rapid progress in their studies, for example, com- pleting as much in three years as a public school completes in four. Especially notable are the high completion rates at these community schools and their ability to ‘‘reach’’ many of those children that stan- dard public schools do not attract. In some contexts, notably BRAC in Bangladesh, community schools have achieved what the regular system has long been unable to obtain.

The theory underlying community- (and school-) based approaches is simple: interventions should begin at the level of the system where the essential mission is enacted, that is, the school or community, and work backwards from there in providing support.

Community schools, though not necessarily low-cost when all expenses are included (Tietjen, 1999), provide modest levels of educa- tion to peripheral children previously unreached by schools at moder- ate cost, by shifting expenses from one domain, for example, extensive preservice teacher training, to another—extensive supervision and instructional support. Community schools have highlighted rigidities in the overstandardization of schooling, and demonstrated alternatives, in terms of teachers, infrastructure, curriculum, instruction, access, achievement, community participation, and so forth.

At the same time, several questions have been raised about commu- nity schools. They typically offer only lower primary grades. Higher level instruction requires more highly trained, and better paid, teachers. Transition to the formal, public school sector can be problematic, and community school students may lack the language skills to perform well in traditional schools. Investments in community schooling do lit- tle to enhance the capacity of the formal system and may undermine or drain resources from the regular system in favor of a parallel system of arguably lower quality. Some community-based schools are truly indigenous to their communities, while others are imported by interna- tional NGOs, who largely take on the role of donors. Then too, devel- opment of a multitude of community schools may enroll great numbers of children in basic schooling, but does a mass of schools comprise a coherent system? What about the higher-order skills and knowledge necessary for global competitiveness? When government is weak,

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 47

NGOs can substitute for government rather than increasing the avail- ability of services.

Supporters answer that the current formal system, despite its noble intent, has failed to provide even basic education to vast numbers of the world’s children. At current rates, many nations are not on target to reach even the revised Education for All targets for 2015 (see discus- sion in chapter 4).

Alongside and resonant with community-based school approaches are what might be termed school-based models of reform, strategies that work at the school level to bring about reform. The most extensive site of school-based reforms is in the industrialized nations of decen- tralized persuasion, that is, the United States and the United Kingdom. Adherents include a number of well-known educationists including Michael Fullan (1991), Thomas Sergiovanni (2003), and Richard Elm- ore (1982) in the U.S. context and Ward Heneveld and Helen Craig, and others (1995) internationally. Though not as strong a tradition internationally at this point as other reform models, school-based ini- tiatives are influential and sometimes introduced in conjunction with other approaches. Their common characteristic is their persistent reminder of the need, in any education endeavor, to focus explicitly on what happens in the school. Like community-based models, school- based approaches do not explicitly address the larger system. Unlike decentralization models, school- (and community-) based reforms devote substantial time to building the capacity of schoolteachers, officials, and community members and truly local organizations.

Though growing from different roots, community- and school-based models are resonant with complexity theories, which emphasize the ‘‘self-organizing’’ nature of ‘‘complex adaptive systems’’ (see, for example, Byrne 1998; Lewin et al., 1982). Complexity theories empha- size the difficulty of controlling the direction and nature of change in a complex system. Complex systems are systematic but not organized or directed by a central authority. They can be influenced, with an under- standing of ‘‘leverage points’’ but the final consequences cannot be planned in any definitive way. Table 2.2 below contrasts some of the education characteristics of the community-based models with those of centralized and decentralized-regionalization models.

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48 CHAPTER 2

Table 2.2 Approaches to the Delivery of Education

Decentralized- Centralized regionalization Community-based

School organization Sequence of Sequence of Can be a multigrade graded classes that graded classes with class, or a single cover full cycle of some schools common grade basic education focusing only on class, sometimes

lower grades several grades

School Size Minimum of Based on children Circa 30 students in 180–200 students the locale per class

Location Tend to be near Each region Where there are 30 central government decides on school eligible students, offices sites teacher

Permanency of Solid structure, Solid structure, Simple structure, school building often brick or ferro- designed locally may be of local

concrete according and built with local wood or bamboo to donor plan materials

Curriclum theory Public schooling Target normal pat- Every child can targets the normal tern while recogniz- learn, at their own pattern of develop- ing diversity of local pace ment cultures

Language of National language Regional language Often vernacular instruction

Instructional mate- Primarily textbooks Primarily textbooks Likely to be modu- rials in national language in local languages lar, with extensive

reliance on local examples; Highly structured; Basic subjects

Teacher recruitment Teachers recruited, Teachers recruited, Teachers recruited And posting posted nationally, posted regionally locally

generally not to home areas

Teacher preparation Attendance at nor- Attendance at nor- Possibly only a mal school; Full cer- mal school, or on short course, for tification the job outstanding primary

cycle graduates generally not certi- fied, though may work toward

Monitoring student System end-of-year State test or class- Continuous assess- progress/promo- tests with high repe- room teacher tests ment, master learn- tion to next grade tition rates ing so all move

forward at same pace

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 49

Transformative Models

Alongside these dominant models of reform have been persistent calls for much deeper and broader change, leading to transformation of the education system and the broader society. What we are calling transformative models represents a variety of more radical critiques of education and their roles in reproducing or transforming social inequal- ities and the domination of some groups and countries by others. Tradi- tional education plays a pivotal role both in legitimizing oppressive economic, social, and political systems and in spreading ideologies that mask oppression. Dominant reform strategies work either to focus attention on less salient dimensions of the system or to further the oppressive cause. Neoliberal policy is particularly dangerous in this regard, for it seeks to reduce the public good nature of education, weaken the potentially protective role of the central state, and open the education and other systems up to markets and global forces. From such a perspective, even apparently bottom-up initiatives such as com- munity schools serve the larger, but hidden, interests of making the world safe for the accumulation of capital. Traditional education, from this critical perspective, serves the function of domestication, whereas liberatory education works to heighten the critical consciousness of the oppressed, helping to realize their role as subjects in the building of the social order (Freire, 1993). Transformative models have played a relatively minor policy role in recent years. However, they informed a number of national experiments in education in socialist countries: Cuba, Tanzania, Guinea-Bissau, and Nicaragua (see Carnoy & Samoff et al., 1990), as well as helping to inform the ideology of resistance to apartheid in South Africa and Namibia. Though not widely imple- mented, the transformative model provides a vision of true change and, perhaps more importantly, a critical counterbalance to totalizing views of education and development.

Table 2.3 contrasts the six models in terms of their approach to the process of reform.

SUMMARY: EVOLVING UNDERSTANDING OF REFORM

Over the decades following World War II, several distinctive education visions have emerged. The initial vision was simply a perpetuation of

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 51

the education practices of the former colonial powers. Subsequently, multilateral donors first devised a model following many of the assumptions of highly centralized systems, especially the French. This was followed by a more decentralized model that reflected greater sen- sitivity to the heterogeneity of cultures and interests within national boundaries, which did little to change the top-down relationships of system managers with communities and school-level personnel. Over the last decade, a more ambitious decentralization variant has devel- oped, one which seeks to restructure relationships and broaden partici- pation within and outside the education sector. Around the same time, indigenous and international nongovernmental organizations have demonstrated considerable success in devising a variety of new models that draw on the aspirations and resources of local communities. At the same time, the focus on local conditions of education has fostered a greater appreciation of school-based dimensions of reform. Finally, transformative models question the real purposes of education: to fill students with knowledge or to help them become active subjects of social transformation, to accept and fit into the social order or to chal- lenge it.

In a given country, two or more of these visions may coexist, serving different constituencies. For example, in the Cameroons two neocolo- nial models, British and French, coexist, serving different regions of the country. In Bangladesh, the centralized model generally prevails in the more urban areas, whereas in the rural areas NGOs are fostering their distinctive community-based models; perhaps the most notable is that sponsored by BRAC, which currently reaches out to several mil- lion children, primarily young girls, in peripheral areas throughout Bangladesh. A given reform initiative may seek to combine the insights of different of these models of reform.

Though the promoters of the respective models might not agree, each of these models has strengths and weaknesses. The neocolonial as well as the centralized models may have the greatest potential for pro- viding a high quality of education geared to enabling young people to succeed in the upper grades of modern schooling. Unfortunately, these models are relatively insensitive to the needs of young learners and hence foster high repetition and dropout rates. Moreover, it is difficult to deliver education along the lines of these models to children in the

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52 CHAPTER 2

more isolated peripheral areas, or to children who are, in one way or another, out of the mainstream. The decentralized-regionalization and especially the community-based models are most effective in reaching out and providing an education experience that harmonizes with local cultural needs. When carefully monitored, the community-based mod- els can also deliver high-quality education at least through the early grades, but there are few effective examples for the later grades of schooling. Sectoral models provide the hope of systems transformed, but it is difficult to see, in fact, how such proposals will play out. The community-based models may involve less expense in some areas, but they place a greater burden on beneficiaries and thus in that sense are less equitable. School-based approaches highlight the essential nature of within-school processes, but lack of systemic vision. Transformative models keep the focus on equity but are difficult at this point to see being implemented on a national scale.

As suggested, we believe we are between paradigms, as it were, well aware of the limitations of past models and of the requirements for a new approach to reform but not yet possessed of a coherent vision of what such a model might look like. Chapter 3 continues the discussion of context and process by focusing on internal contexts and theories of change. Before moving on, however, we take some time to discuss broad trends and indicators of success in education reform.

ANNEX: THE CONCEPTUAL HERITAGE OF EDUCATION REFORM INDICATORS

Educators have proceeded through several phases in the systematic planning and analysis of education systems, generating a complex and sometimes contradictory (or at least counterintuitive) language for dis- cussing accomplishments.

Early Developments

Systematic efforts to provide education on a national scale were first begun in the 18th century, most notably in Sweden and Prussia. At that time local governments were the primary units in national plans, and national governments were concerned with providing at least one

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 53

school for each administrative unit. Additional schools were allowed and subsidized if enough children enrolled to justify such a move, but these early efforts failed to take into account those areas outside the de facto jurisdiction of local governments—nor did they concern them- selves with those children who did not seek schooling. Central authori- ties prescribed a curriculum outline but provided only minimal supervision and instructional support.

Progressivism

From about the turn of the 20th century, particularly in the United States and under the leadership of the ‘‘progressive’’ political reformers who sought to de-politicize and rationalize public services, education planning acquired a more systematic character. Principles of scientific administration (inspired at least in part by the engineering models of Taylorism) were applied to examine the efficiency of schools, primarily relating the actions of school personnel to efficiency in graduating stu- dents. This approach highlighted such problems as dropouts and repeti- tion, with less attention to such goals as quality and values education. Various forms of psychological and achievement tests were devised to help education administrators in their work, but these tests had little direct impact on planning.

At the same time, reformers such as John Dewey in the United States and a number of educators in Europe and Japan sought to humanize and democratize education. A variety of alternative approaches were developed to educate children, especially those of preschool and pri- mary school age. Efforts were made to attend to the holistic needs of the child.

Socialist Planning

Concurrent with and a derivation of Taylorism was the development of systematic planning in the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Committed to mass education and faced with a vast territory and population, the socialist educators also developed a vocabulary stressing efficiency. On the one hand, they focused on issues of internal efficiency, that is, the strategies that would enable

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children to complete school in a minimum amount of time, thus provid- ing room for new cohorts of children; such strategies included auto- matic promotion, the use of tutors, and instruction in local languages. On the other hand, the socialist planners were concerned with placing every graduate in a productive job—external efficiency. This led to extensive studies of the relationship between education and the needs of the labor market. One practical outcome was the development of various forms of vocational and technical training for many of those youth who had completed a basic education course. Ultimately tech- niques of manpower planning emerged, and external efficiency mea- sures of the degree of fit between education experiences and labor market needs were proposed.

Access and Mobility

Refinements of these engineering models of schooling were still dominant in education planning through World War II, and left a strong imprint on early UNESCO work in developing national planning capa- bilities throughout the world. The main concern of many of these agen- cies was to develop measures of internal and external efficiency.

An additional refinement, in view of the United Nations declaration and the increasing acceptance of children’s right to education, was the development of measures of access, initially crude, through dividing the number of children in school by some measure of total or school- aged population (typically developed by another agency). During the 1950s sociologists became increasingly interested in questions of access and began to investigate the relative openness of education sys- tems cross-nationally. They then related this education openness to the relative openness of occupational systems, attempting to understand the extent to which education contributed to social mobility. These studies concluded that education promoted social mobility when nations expanded their industrial sectors. However, when economies remained stagnant and primarily agricultural, education expansion led primarily to educated unemployment. Refinements of early mobility studies included the development of education attainment models.

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 55

Returns on Investment in Education

As nations expanded their education systems to provide mass and universal access, education budgets grew, and planners began to inves- tigate the cost-effectiveness of these expenditures. Their efforts were accelerated by the increasing interest of economists in the relationship between education and overall processes of development. Whereas the earlier language of efficiency had generally been phrased in terms of physical ratios, by the late 1960s new financially based measures had gained prominence.

A focus of these studies were calculations of the private and social rates of return to a nation’s investment in education. Studies suggested that such rates were surprisingly high, compared with investment in the industrial infrastructure, for example. Primary education generally yielded a higher social rate of return than secondary or higher educa- tion. A second focus involved an examination of the relative returns on different types of education investments such as expenditures on teach- ers, textbooks, and school buildings.

Education Quality

During this period, some analysts began to argue that the task of providing access to schools and even of developing relatively efficient education processes had essentially been achieved. The question arose of whether children were learning anything, especially in systems with automatic promotion. Were children receiving a ‘‘quality’’ education? Increasing attention came to be devoted to determining what children learned in school and what features of the overall process were related to their accomplishments. One severe limitation in this new area of effort was the scarcity of reliable measures of learning. While reason- able measures for such subjects as language, mathematics, and science could be devised, though infrequently used, researchers experienced difficulty in developing measures of other desirable skills or values. As a result, determinations of quality came to be based on traditional academic subjects. In many countries, national assessments have only recently been undertaken to determine the extent to which children are

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acquiring the intended curriculum. Instead, most countries have relied on national examinations almost exclusively as a means of selecting students for higher levels of education.

In the 1960s James Coleman conducted an influential study in the United States that concluded that minorities and poor children received a lower-quality education than did members of the majority group, and did not fare as well on tests of achievement. Coleman also observed that differences in the quality of education inputs were not the most important factor in explaining the lower achievement of minorities and poor children. Instead, he pointed instead to various ‘‘out of school’’ factors such as the home environment and family socioeconomic status (Coleman et al., 1966). Coleman-type studies have been widely repli- cated both by individual researchers and in the International Education Achievement (IEA) survey; various analysts, comparing the pattern of findings from these numerous studies, reported that school factors have had a much greater impact in developing countries than in industrial- ized nations. Recent research suggests, however, that the Coleman effect may be spreading and that differences in school inputs are more weakly associated with differences in learning outcomes than found in the 1960s (Baker, Goesling & Letendre, 2002).

Effective Schools

While Coleman’s and other such studies focused primarily on the relationship between academic achievement and what went into schools (parental background, teachers, textbooks, buildings, etc.), educators in recent years have urged that greater attention be given to what happens inside the schools. They point out that certain schools, while objectively no different from other schools in terms of these inputs, nevertheless have a much greater impact on children’s academic achievement. These educators have sought to detail the features of these effective schools, and suggest that such factors as leadership, clear goals, a positive school climate, and discipline make a difference. A recent theme has been to suggest that schools that have considerable discretion in managing themselves tend to achieve greater effectiveness than those whose actions are circumscribed by large bureaucracies.

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RECENT PHASES OF EDUCATION REFORM 57

Community Participation

While the mainstream of education planning focuses on formal units within the governmental structure and education bureaucracy, a coun- tercurrent has always urged greater attention to the concerns of the recipients of education. Leading spokespersons for the increased involvement of parents, communities, and NGOs stress the rigidities and limitations of bureaucracies and the vital importance of capitaliz- ing on the wisdom and energy available in traditional organizations (Korten, 1980; Shaeffer, 1992). This participatory tradition relies pri- marily on qualitative evidence to illustrate its proposals and recommen- dations.

These traditions, the problems they address, and the data they use to answer their questions can be summed up in Table 2.4.

Over time, education planners have multiplied the criteria employed to evaluate education systems. Early criteria were relatively easy to measure, while those proposed in more recent years are more complex, requiring greater care and expense to realize. At the same time, increased calls for accountability have led to an increased reliance on

Table 2.4 The Heritage of Indicators

Problem Indicator

Bureaucracy How many schools are there? Basic statistics

Progressivism How well are they run? Internal efficiency

Socialism Are graduates working? External efficiency

Access Who gets in? Enrollment ratios

Does education increase an Social mobility individual’s chances? Mobility rates

Should the public support Economic returns education? Rates of return by level

Which inputs are most Costs, quantified benefits, Costs–benefits beneficial? measures of effectiveness

Education production Do schools make a difference? Student achievement

Why do some schools do Effective schools better than others? Aspects of school climate

Who controls schools? Who Measures of parental attitudes Participation pays? and satisfaction

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indicators of individual and system performance and process. We would argue that our capacity to measure, limited as it is, still outstrips our capacity to manage accountability.

NOTES

1. We use the term modern school to refer to formal schooling based on the ‘‘Western’’ model, consisting of formal, graded schools, offering credentials and serving as a prerequisite for entry into higher levels of schooling (Wil- liams, 1997).

2. While this volume emphasizes the development of education systems according to a limited number of patterns, other scholars emphasize the con- vergence of education institutions (see, for example, Chabbott, 2003; Meyer & Hannan, 1979; Fuller & Rubinson, 1992).

3. Throughout, the discussion refers most directly to basic education in the formal system, though there are implications for higher education as well.

4. We use the expression publicized to highlight the politics of good ideas. Interested organizations and stakeholder groups are rarely neutral with regard to how change should be approached. Those with more access to publicity are more able to promote their ideas as the best available.

5. Despite the general tendency to retain much of the colonial system, a number of governments made conscious efforts to break with the past: Tanza- nia, China, Guinea, Ghana, Cuba, Nicaragua, for example. These efforts were more or less successful, though all encountered resistance, and all, with the possible exception of Cuba, have retreated from their most revolutionary claims (see Carnoy & Samoff et al., 1990).

6. Still, UNESCO has continued to play an influential advocacy and techni- cal assistance role, though overshadowed somewhat by the bilateral agencies and multilateral banks.

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