Education in Small States: Policies and Priorities (review)
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Reviewed by
Crossley, Michael, Mark Bray, and Steve Parker. 2011. Education in Small States: Policies and Priorities. London: Commonwealth Secretariat Press. 85 pp. $24.95.

Because of their small population size, small states in Africa and elsewhere have always encountered complex challenges in education that larger nations overlook or take for granted. In Education in Small States: Policies and Priorities, Michael Crossley, Mark Bray, and Steve Parker have teamed up to provide readers and researchers with an excellent overview of such scenarios. Furthermore, the book underscores how financial markets are intrinsically linked to a nation’s educational system and how recent global economic downturns have invariably affected small states at a larger rate than larger ones.

This publication emerged as a study commissioned by the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat. It attempts to address issues for the educational advancement and development of small states, pointing out that for most small states, educational priorities are no longer the provision of basic education and no longer include increased access to education for girls, but are aimed, rather, at ensuring sustainable development and providing high-quality higher education.

The book “draws upon socio-cultural perspectives in the field of comparative and international education that are sensitive to cultural and contextual differences, and to the nature and influence of global policy trends and trajectories” (p. 2). An important query is: how did the authors arrive at such insightful and pertinent issues particularly of importance to small states? This book elaborates on a researched paper that was presented to ministers (or cabinet members) and senior officials at the 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers, held in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia.

The book contains seven chapters and five appendices, which detail the statistics of the British Commonwealth’s small states, their education indicators, and other information relevant to the conferences of Commonwealth Ministers of Education. Fourteen diagrams (or boxes) and four tables give the reader an in-depth knowledge of the topics under discussion. The diagrams and tables are very informative, as they augment the flow of the text. For example, Bacchus (in a 2008 study) calls for greater flexibility in the approach of small states to the development and utilization of their own human resources. This book complements the analysis laid out by Bacchus, in that it assists in clarifying the fact that small states cannot do much about their size, but they can improve their development prospects by skillful planning.

The first chapter, “New Challenges and Opportunities,” briefly presents the global issues faced by small states and how these issues affect their economic and educational systems. The next chapters bring to the fore what constitutes small states and point us to the fact that, although small states have populations below five million, they are still struggling to achieve education for all and the Millennium Development Goals. The chapters go [End Page 106] on to explain why this is occurring in such small states: it highlights migration, climate, financial, and other issues that compound education in the small states.

Because the book includes real-life situations as examples in the chapters, readers can assimilate the contents of each chapter while relating it to specific policy implications in small states. Another addition for the reader is the abundance of relevant tables clarifying aspects of the presentations. However, not as many solutions as possible to the countless problems of small states were presented. This could reflect the fact that each and every small state has a considerable number of problems that have to be solved individually. In a 2008 book, Mayo, Pace, and Zammit discussed the specific case of adult education in Malta and its myriad of challenges. They effectively used the concluding chapter to “advance the case for new and strengthened educational initiatives in and for small states, to be supported by Commonwealth organizations and in partnership with other strategically placed agencies and personnel” (p. 55).

Finally, the book meets its objective of acting as a “stimulus for policymakers and other analysts concerned with or engaged in the shaping of educational priorities and strategies for small states” (p. xiii). However, as it is published, the publication can...


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