Policy & Practice - A Development Education Review



Development Education in the Formal Sector
Autumn 2016

Guest Editorial: Round Pegs in Square Holes? Development Education, the Formal Sector and the Global Knowledge Economy

Niamh Gaynor

Education is at a critical juncture.  While its role and effectiveness in nurturing a sense of values, critical enquiry and civic engagement have been debated for centuries (see, for example, the celebrated work of John Henry Newman, 2013), such debates have been eclipsed in recent years by the new language and exigencies of the global economy.  Talk of civic values, justice, transformation, and flourishing has been replaced with talk of efficiency, performance, competition, and employment.  A range of new forces, influences and technologies has entered the field and the work in rewriting the scope, ambition and mission of our schools and colleges, together with that of their students, is almost complete.  As the contributions to this volume ably demonstrate, this new vision for education – one that places it at the service of the global economy rather than society more broadly, building ‘knowledge economies’ rather than ‘knowledge societies’, poses significant challenges to development educators.  Attempting to introduce development education, with its critical and transformative approaches and practices, into these formal spaces is akin to attempting to drive a round peg into a square hole.  There are scrapes and splinters.  At times the peg does not fit at all, yet at times it finds its way.  And, as many of the articles in this volume demonstrate, driving the peg through requires considerable imagination, determination and ingenuity as well as an acute appreciation of the precise parameters and context within which manoeuvre is possible.

Round pegs and square holes: The challenges of development education in the formal sector

The challenge of carrying out development education within the formal sector is an all too familiar experience for many readers of Policy and Practice.  And, as the years progress, it has not become any easier.  As Khoo and McCloskey (2015: 9), reviewing ten years of development education, have recently noted:

“‘Education’ has… narrowed, not widened in scope. Education has come under increasing global pressure to define itself in terms of a direct instrumental economic role, and to relate its role to narrow and generalised understandings of ‘poverty alleviation’.”

This trend is also noted by Bryan (2011: 4) who points to:

“an inherent tension between the goal of development education – which seeks to develop active citizens who can respond to pressing global issues – with a more dominant instrumental approach to schooling which views the primary purpose of education as to prepare students for competitive employment in the global marketplace”.

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