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Reviewed by:
  • International Education Systems and Contemporary Education Reforms
  • James F. Fisher
International Education Systems and Contemporary Education Reforms Adel T. Al-Bataineh and Mohamed A. Nur-Awaleh , eds. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005xiii, 178 pp., $45.00 (cloth)

In all countries of the Third World central planners agree on the need for bigger and better educational efforts. A good educational system can shore up the fragile self-confidence of embattled elites, and it can distract from whatever other catastrophic events or trends—political, economic, or cultural—may be going on or that threaten to appear on the horizon. In addition, education is supposed to inculcate those skills that will help the population develop an industrial, processing, and diversified agricultural economy, as well as to produce a modern nation of dedicated citizens from a population of peasants who have small experience and understanding of civic, consensual, or mobilization politics. A less charitable way of putting this is to say that education can produce the kinds of citizens political leaders want, believing the sorts of things that will make it easier for the leaders to lead.

Statistical surveys document the achievement of these objectives (though the statistics are often more fanciful than factual), detailing the number of school-age children in school, the availability of instructional materials, and the rate of literacy. When compared with other, less tangible aspects of Third World rural and town life, village and town schools and universities are institutions that are conspicuously organized, related to the national matrix in definite bureaucratic ways, and subject to central-planning efforts.

But it is a mistake to think of educational systems as static. They are subject to changing demographic and economic conditions, and they are also subject to the various kinds of reform movements that are periodically generated by educational thinkers and planners. The main goal of International Education Systems and Contemporary Education Reforms is to assess and shed light on some of these attempts at reform. The editors, Adel Al-Bataineh and Mohamed Nur-Awaleh, have assembled ten chapters that take aim at issues of reform from a variety of policy angles and in widespread geographic locations.

Rick Breault sets the stage by arguing the need for historical context in any examination of reform. He outlines the series of educational reforms from 1945 to 1960 in the United States as a necessary prelude to understanding reforms of the past twenty years. Moving farther afield, in their chapter on Morocco, Abdechafi Boubkir and Abdenour Bouksamhi stress the importance of a multiplicity of actors in moving a traditional educational system off its base. They emphasize the need for not just the government but also civic society more generally and the private sector specifically to become involved. They conclude that the reform under consideration in Morocco—the National Charter for Education and Training—will be successful because of its widespread support. In Morocco and in Guatemala there has been a shift toward more democratic educational systems. Martha E. Mantilla discusses the ways in which a centralized, urban, dominant-culture system in Guatemala has been transformed into a more decentralized, rural, and Mayan Indian–oriented one. In the process top-down discussions and procedures have been replaced by bottom-up and side-to-side communication. Darrell P. Kruger juxtaposes both history and contemporary developments in his discussion of Curriculum 2005, South Africa's ambitious and essentially standards-based new educational program. The contrast between apartheid education and that being currently proposed could not be more pronounced. It is a sea-change challenge to bring about such dramatic changes in such a short period.

Ghana is one of the oldest independent nations in Africa. Laura Dull therefore has well over half a century of educational development and reform to consider. She looks particularly at teacher education, noting that some 9 percent of Ghana's annual education budget is funded by international donors. One of the biggest educational concerns has been with "discipline"—in the classroom, certainly, but also out of it, in the culture at large—the need for honesty, hard work, and social and political stability. These are values that need to be inculcated in the schools. The attention paid...


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