PCF5: Commonwealth Connections in Education

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Title of session

Connections in Commonwealth Education: Part 1 – A holistic approach to education in the Commonwealth

Session details

  • Date: July 16
  • Time: 1400-1530
  • Room: Committee Room 1

Session papers

  • Role of HEIs in Development: Strengthening education to play a key role in the alleviation of poverty and attainment of the MDGs. (At the moment only in form of Powerpoint presentation) by Narciso Matos.

Key Issues that arose in the session

  1. Education has a key role to play in achievement of all the MDGs – a role that is particularly well attested in the case of women’s education. But education will only play that role effectively if its form, content and mode of delivery are grounded in the realities of local society and culture and if the ‘messages’ and ‘advice’ come via those who are recognised local leaders and decision makers on the issue in question. An important role for university research in developing countries is to improve understanding of social processes at local level: and this is research that can only be done in-country.
  2. In addressing the issue of access to learning, we should not focus solely or primarily on access to other people’s knowledge and learning: but should seek to help people to unlock, better understand, and validate the knowledge that resides in their own societies and cultures.
  3. There is a role for all levels and forms of education in advancing development and poverty alleviation: they complement and reinforce one another. The role of higher levels of education in preparing teachers for lower levels is most frequently cited but the roles of research and intellectual leadership, and of providing motivation/opportunity to continue one’s learning are extremely important. Universities also have a key role to play in promoting a democratic culture – offering different interpretations of phenomena and exploring different policy alternatives.
  4. Higher education is thus essential, but admittedly comparatively expensive (on a cost per place comparison basis). Each country must make choices in the light of its own circumstances and should not allow pursuit of global targets in an externally set time frame to dictate action against its own better judgment about what is realistically possible. Less costly modes of learning (ODL, part-time etc), self-help and voluntarism, tapping appropriate private sector contributions, generous untied external finance may all contribute to easing constraints: but will not make it possible to avoid choices. Recognising the holistic nature of education does not imply the rapid and unrestrained expansion of every level and type of education simultaneously.

Points for future action (Policy, recommendations, commitments etc.)

  1. The ODL community should complement its interest in sharing recognised existing knowledge with attention to the challenge of charting, validating and disseminating forms of knowledge residing in indigenous cultures and society.
  2. In commissioning consultancies in partnership with developing-country governments, international development assistance partners should nurture the local research community as far as possible.
  3. Recognising the holistic nature of education systems, and the likely distortions that can arise when excessive attention is given to any particular level or type of education, governments should make their own judgments about appropriate strategies and realistic development objectives for their own system. If severe dilution of quality at secondary and higher levels, or in TVET, was the consequence of striving to attain the education MDGs, it could be an unacceptable price to pay.