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Five Questions about Education and Development post-2015

By Simon McGrath.

12345Following on from earlier posts reflecting on the UKFIET-DfID event in December, I’d like to share five questions that I left that discussion with.

1. What is our model of development? Angela Little has already asked what should be the supergoal for development and I want to stress this point in a slightly different way by suggesting that part of the problem with the MDGs, EFA and the various post-2015 ideas on offer is that most of these are unclear about what their ultimate purpose is. Like Angela, I favour some version of human flourishing, but my main issue is that the issue of ultimate purpose is not being addressed in ways that make for coherence and increase the likelihood of achieving any “supergoal”.

2. What is our model of education? Following on from this, there continues to be a lot of discussion about education goals that implicitly maintains two fallacies. First, that education equals schooling and, second, that schooling is always a good thing. Yet, we know that neither is true. So, it is vital that we are more explicit about what education we want.

3. What role does education play in development? … [click here to read full post]

>> Read full post on the UKFIET Community of Practice website, originally posted on 24th January 2013.

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1 Response

  1. Mike

    I knew this philosopher in Sydney who, on being invited to give two public lectures, choose ‘God and the Universe’ as his topic for the first and then had difficulty in deciding what to deal with in the second. And I’m experiencing a similar predicament, with all this talk about ‘Education and Development’ leaving me wondering what – in the view of the questioner – would be addressed in ‘Education and Everything Else’.
    Some two thousand years ago, another philosopher, in his Nicomachean Ethics, introduced the word eudaimonia which is nowadays translated as “human flourishing” or ‘the innate potential of each individual to live a life of enduring happiness, penetrating wisdom, optimal well being, and authentic love and compassion’. I like it very much but I’d be surprised if there is a consensus across governments, donors and educational economists about its being the ‘model of development’. Nothing of this nature cropped up in any of the hundreds of project and programme proposals that I’ve encountered over the last half-century, for example.
    In response to Question 2, I’d add a further fallacy: that education is preparation. So, in response to Question 3, I note with pleasure in passing that the human capital position is increasingly recognised as indefensible and untenable. To quote a paper of mine (UKFEIT, Oxford, 2005):
    “Attempting indirectly to create individual and communal well-being – through economic growth – brought about by increased productivity – by means of a better educated workforce – is a remarkably roundabout route to human happiness. Yet this is often the grand strategy of educational planners, donors and developing country governments. Rather than giving the donkey a carrot, the wretched beast is placed in a mind-numbing maze and, just possibly, should it eventually emerge from that lack-lustre labyrinth, there might conceivably, but not necessarily, be half a carrot awaiting it at the exit.”
    Moreover, even the ‘human rights perspective’ comes across in my eyes as a trifle myopic. Surely each Right embodies something good for the now and not just a potentially forthcoming Right. To quote myself again:
    “…as a fundamental Right of the Child – learning should be fun. Because life itself is meant to be pleasant, and as formal education occupies a significant proportion of people’s lives, then the years spent as a student should surely be congenial. However, the axiom that children should enjoy their schooling is virtually ignored by planners, researchers and many practitioners. …facts, concepts and processes related to the world of work increasingly encroach upon classroom activity… pleasure should be the primary purpose.”
    To my mind, the positive health, family size, labour market prospects, good citizenship and other consequences related to being well-educated – or well-schooled – and as indicated in Question 4 – are pleasant spin-offs but not what education is essentially about.
    So by Question 5 – the meaningful goals – I fear that, after a very encouraging start, we have drifted back to regarding education as no more than instrument for development, and to a rather narrower definition of development than ‘human flourishing’ at that. The discussion is no longer pointing towards eudaimonia nor do I sense that national or global targets related to, for example, ‘enduring happiness’ or ‘authentic compassion’ are about to emerge.
    Back then to my Sydney philosopher. If we take away ‘Education and Development’, what would be that ‘everything else’ in his second lecture wherein he is to cover ‘Education and Everything Else’? It wouldn’t be about life skills or socio-economic progress or enhanced capacitation. But it might well address the stimulating and underwriting of each child’s enthusiasms, whether they be for mapping the village or composing Petrarchan sonnets or being fascinated by prime numbers or bowling the perfect ball at cricket. In short, the child’s right to fun. So, if we’re looking for a post-2015 Development Goal, how about ‘Children Are Loving Learning’? Let’s proceed to the objectively verifiable indicators.

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