NN39, January 2007

China's Educational Partnerships With Africa: Towards A New Best Practice In South-South Cooperation?
Pages 92-94



Keywords: Sino-African educational partnerships, approach, institutional practice

Summary: Educational cooperation was perceived to be the key to the sustainable development of Sino-African political and economic cooperation under the FOCAC framework. Although human resources development, higher education, technical and vocational education and training are higher on the FOCACA agenda than basic education, a holistic integrated cross-sectoral approach of cooperation emphasizing mutuality, equality and two-sidedness has been adopted in developing educational partnerships. In response to it, a new pattern of institutional practice, characterized by an institutional strategy to develop academic, research and consultancy capacity to meet both institutional and national development goals, is taking shape among Chinese higher education institutions.
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Education has been an important part in Sino-African cooperation since China first established diplomatic relations with Egypt 51 years ago. The main modalities of earlier Sino-African educational cooperation include exchange visits, student and staff exchange, government scholarships, dispatch of teachers, joint academic and research projects, supply of educational equipment and facility, etc. Such initiatives and endeavours varied, however, with the changes of the international geo-political landscape and the development of Sino-African relations. Education did not become a priority until very recently, when educational cooperation was perceived to be the key to the sustainable development of Sino-African political and economic cooperation under the FOCAC framework.

Different from the western focus on basic education, human resources development, higher education, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) are the fields perceived to be high priorities for cooperation under FOCAC. This does not mean a deliberate deviation from the MDGs. The pledge to support 100 rural schools by the Chinese government at the Beijing Summit in 2006 can be understood to be closely associated with the MDG of universal primary education. The FOCAC educational agenda has developed from academic exchange, government scholarships, dispatch of teachers, cooperative higher education and research projects, and human resources development to cover TVET, distance education, educational establishments, the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language, the dispatch of volunteers, the mutual recognition of academic qualifications, etc. The modalities and areas of cooperation are constantly growing but are systematically related, representing a holistic approach towards development cooperation in the education sector.

Education does not stand alone but represents an integral part of the "Cooperation in Social Development" (under the FOCAC framework). The integrated cross-sectoral approach of cooperation is both practical and strategic in that it makes educational endeavours relevant to other development goals and in that it makes educational cooperation sustainable under a structure.

For China, interaction with African countries in education provides a new means of capacity building and development. This partly explains why in the policy discourse ?educational cooperation/exchanges? is preferred to ?educational assistance/aid?. As partners, China does not single out any region in Africa or any African country but take the continent as a whole. However, it is mainly the idea of ?cooperation for mutual development? that leads to an approach emphasizing the mutuality, equality and two-sidedness of cooperation in the education sector. Such an approach is also determined by the very nature of South-South cooperation between China and Africa, with China as the largest developing country on the one hand and Africa being the continent with the largest number of developing countries on the other.

In response to the changing role of education in Sino-African relations, a new pattern of institutional practice can be identified among Chinese higher education institutions. It is an integrated approach to supporting the capacity building of the institutions involved. Academic partnerships with African education are no longer simply taken as political missions assigned or sponsored by government. Rationales are becoming more diversified and such endeavours are internalized or institutionalized, making them part of the institutional strategy to gain expertise and comparative advantages in the domestic higher education arena. Beyond the active participation in educational cooperation with African countries, Chinese higher education institutions are developing academic, research and consultancy capacity to meet both institutional and national development goals. In addition to the founding of a centre for African education studies at Zhejiang Normal University following its years of involvement in educational activities in Africa, similar research infrastructures are developing in some other big players like Tianjin University of Technology and Education (with the establishment of a research center for African vocational and technical education) and Nanjing Agricultural University (with the establishment of an institute of African agriculture). As a matter of fact, Zhejiang Normal has already started to provide consultancy to education institutions and businesses going to Africa. This has led to the inauguration of a full-fledged Institute of Africa Studies at Zhejiang Normal in September this year.

We owe the provocative title of this issue to Denise McKeon - see article by King
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See the history section on the Norrag website: www.norrag.org/history.php
I still recall the President of the IDRC, David Hopper, saying to the RRAG team at their first meeting in 1977: "Your job in the education sphere is to make three stalks of wheat grow where there was only one before".

Many of these research findings were from production functions (see McGinn in NN39).

Sometimes the particular good practice country is named in the title of the delivery mechanism; and sometimes the relevant country or countries are mentioned in the text (in which case I have included them in brackets).

Each of these good practice examples is illustrated and explained in a paragraph.
These environmental changes include changes in the internal environment of the Bank's understanding of service delivery, as well as the external environment of changes in schooling systems.


References

UNAIDS, 1997: Children orphaned by AIDS p.4
Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which was first launched in Beijing in 2000.
(See www.fmprc.gov.cn/zflt/eng/zyzl/hywj/t280369.htm).