Final Glance Back to #ET821, My Final MAODE Module

Today was the submission deadline for the final paper (EMA) in ET 821 (Education for Development), my elective and final (!) module in the MAODE programme at the UK Open University.

submission note EMA of ET821

submission note EMA of ET821

The course followed a somewhat different structure than earlier modules, structured as a series of case studies, each dealing with a different aspect of the relation between education and development:

  • Teacher education in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • ICT in education in Latin America
  • Non-formal adult education in South Asia
  • Education in conflict areas, the case of Sri Lanka

For the EMA we needed to develop a case study and link it with the main themes of the course. I chose to focus on Early Childhood Education, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. It’s one of the three core themes in VVOB’s portfolio and nicely illustrates some of the themes in the course:

  • Relations between research and policy
  • Role of western-dominated international organisations in setting development agendas.
  • Role of aid in ‘developing’ poor countries.
  • Role of public and private players in education.
  • Economic vs Human-right based aid discourses.
  • Role of local vs. ‘expert’ knowledge.
  • Etc.
course structure ET821 (c) OU

course structure ET821 (c) OU

But on to my short evaluation of this module. For me, the positives include:

  • well-balanced “course design” with a combination of practical ‘cases’ and commentary readings.  The latter are more general or theoretical papers, outlining the main positions in the debates on aid, education and development. I found it a great selection, not limited to the usual suspects (Freire, Sen, Easterly, Collier…), but including some inspiring writers (Samoff, Thomas) that were unknown to me.
  • selection of cases: variety of debates in education and development, supported by a variety of resources (donor publications, academic papers, videos…)
  • regular updates: Materials seem to be updated regularly, including the introduction of new case about education in conflict areas this year.
  •  nature of EMA: design your own case.  I found it a well-though assessment task, aligning with the course outcomes and the type of activities in the module.
  • synchronous tutor-led sessions. As I argued before, I find this an important element in an online course. It creates a link with tutor and fellow students and gives you the feeling you’re doing a course together, rather than being engaged in some process of self-study.
  • detailed and constructive feedback on the TMAs. Extensive, constructive and actionable feedback by an experienced expert definitely gives an added value to a course.

No course is perfect.  Some negatives include:

  • lack of interaction with peer students.  It’s a bit a shame that with such a diverse group of people, many of them active in development and education, not more interaction and collaboration took place. There was little interaction on the forum, online tutorials were rather sparsely attended and few (if any) were blogging or active on Twitter.
  • collaborative activities didn’t work out well.  Salmon’s model of online interaction was confirmed here in the sense that planning collaborative activities without first investing in building an online community is unlikely to work.  Secondly, the assessment should reflect the time spent on various activities in the course, implying that some part of the overall score should be based on the collaborative activities, as in H800.

Suggestions

  • Why not let students peer evaluate each other’s.  Getting the opportunity to read and give feedback on others’ papers would be interesting for myself (assuming the paper is good), would improve my feedback-giving skills and may improve cooperation among students.
  • That this was not a module provided by the Institute of Educational Technology and it was shown by the lack of any use or stimulation to use Web 2.0 tools.  Bookmark  sharing, blogging or Twitter were not introduced or stimulated, whereas they could have had an added value for the module.
  • Finally, as much as I like the tutor system of the OU, I do think that some interaction with course team members would benefit the quality of the course.  Papers from various course team members were read and discussed within the module.  How interesting would it be if an online tutorial could be set up with the authors?

This was my final module (for now) with the OU.  I’d certainly like doing any other modules with the OU with the future, but their course fees and lack of offer in some domains (economics, international politics) mean it won’t probably be for a few years.

 

 

#ET821 What kind of education for what kind of development?

This is the first blog post for activity 1.1 in ET821 (Education for Development) at the Open University (UK).  Comments are, as always, warmly appreciated.

Development is a broad concept that may mean different things to different people.  It can be interpreted as a vision of a desirable society (‘developed nation’), as a historical process (‘development of a country’) or as a series of actions (‘doing development in a country’) (Thomas, 2000).  Most people would agree nowadays that industrial development and economic growth are cornerstones in the development of a country. On how this can be achieved opinions diverge.

The traditional debate between neoliberalism (popular during 1980s) and structuralism (popular during 1970s) focused on the need for capitalism versus state planning to achieve economic growth.  Current debates centre more on the degree and form of state intervention.  Keynesian policies to prop up demand, create employment and restore confidence in times of crisis. Protecting nascent industries from external competition through import tariffs or state subsidies.  Creating a welfare safety net for those who lose in the capitalist jungle.  Or limiting negative effects on externalities such as environmental quality.

However, economic growth (or GDP per person) is arguably not the only determinant of development. The UN’s Human Development Index takes life expectancy and mean and expected years of schooling into account.  Sen (1999) argues that these are not just important because of their positive effect on economic growth, but as constituent elements of development themselves.  Development for him is the expansion of substantive freedoms through elimination of sources of un-freedom such as lack of access to health or education, and political and social barriers.   Education not only serves to promote economic growth, but has positive effects on other freedoms such as health, political freedom and social inclusiveness.  Moreover, access to education is a freedom in its own right, helping people to fulfil their potential.  He distinguishes human capital (productive abilities) from human capabilities (ability to lead different types of lives), the latter being the fundamental aim of development.

I would argue that expanding these freedoms requires a strong form of capitalism, creating a ‘level playing field’.  The problem in Cambodia is that political and business elite distorts capitalism through monopolies, price controls, import tariffs, lack of good quality public education and health systems, rejecting juridical and media independence etc.  For example, good quality education is only available in expensive private schools (and abroad), protecting high-quality jobs for the happy few who can afford such an education.

The vision on development has implications on the kind of education system we want. An education system that primarily supports economic growth focuses on employable knowledge and skills, standardisation and early classification of pupils.  A system that focuses on empowering people’s potential will have a broader curriculum, invest in non-employable skills such as arts, support differentiation and give special attention to pupils with disabilities.  It’s hard to say which one is best.  Cambodia has been growing at rates close to 10% for the last decade, society is changing at breakneck speed and living standards between what parents and children have been used to is enormous.  In that regard, it might not be surprising that students tend to see business, marketing, ICT and engineering as the only study options, rather than humanities or exact sciences.  They take extra lessons to improve in skills that they hope will improve their chances to participate in the growth rollercoaster such as English, Korean or Mandarin, and presentation skills.

References

  • Thomas, A. (2000) ‘Meanings and Views of Development’ in Allen, T. and Thomas, A. Poverty and Development into the 21st Century, Oxford, OUP and The Open University, pp. 23–48.
  • Sen,A. (1997) Editorial: Human Capital and Human Capability, Word Development, 25(12), pp. 1959-1961
  • Sen, A. (1999) Development as Freedom, Oxford, OUP, pp. 3–12