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  • Educational Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: Paradigm Lost?
  • Peter Kallaway
Jeanne Moulton, Karen Mundy, Michel Welmond, and James Williams , eds. 2002. Educational Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: Paradigm Lost?Contributions to the Study of Education, 82. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. 234 pp. $95.00 (cloth).

This collection provides essential reading for anyone concerned with the research and understanding of the momentous developments of African educational reform in the last fifteen years. This work is of great significance to comparative educational studies in the Third World in general, and serves as a window on the world of donor and agency strategies. It provides a potential template for reform for a new generation of scholars, whether policymakers or historians of education. It is an attempt to probe systematically the nature of the postcolonial educational reform in Africa—in particular, the reform undertaken since the era of Education for All (1990) and the neoliberal turn in macroeconomic policy (Structural Adjustment Policies) in the 1990s. It reveals many of the strengths and weaknesses of the educational-reform agendas. In short, what are the gains to education from the transition to a "managed economy" and multiparty democracy in the cases dealt with here?

It is a grim tale of the consequence of a staggering educational failure of postcolonial states with authoritarian or dictatorial systems—whether [End Page 141] driven by Marxist ideology or African patriarchy or nationalism—and the inability to grapple realistically and successfully with urgent issues relating to the relationship between development and education. It is the story of the mixed consequences of international and agency intervention during the 1990s, when these countries were beginning to emerge into a new political era. The study foregrounds the actions of USAID and the World Bank, in particular, in relation to the plans for systemic reform or rehabilitation of education. It notes the extent to which these agencies talk to and talk past the local ministries, and reveals the strengths and weaknesses of systemic approaches to reform in underdeveloped-policy contexts. It also notes in places how local elites or local political dynamics circumvent technocratic solutions to question of educational delivery.

The focus of the work is on the aftermath of the seminal World Bank Policy Study of 1988 on Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policies for Adjustment, Revitalization and Expansion and the commitments made at the Education for All conference at Jomtien (1990) to donor and government action to remedy the situation of "deterioration and despair" that had been identified.

The five countries that serve for case studies in the volume are Benin (Michel Welmond), Guinea (Michel Welmond), Ethiopia (James Williams), Malawi (Karen Mundy), and Uganda (Jeanne Moulton)—countries where there has been a degree of common experience in the engagement with educational reform. In each case, the educational reforms are engaged with as part of a "historical political transition" (p. 87), which is both generally characteristic of the times, and unique to the specific national context.

The collection recounts the variety of structural-level policy changes proposed for these poor African states with various degrees of cooperation and agreement. The collection emphasizes the structural context of the changes sought—in every case, the aid of donors being tied very tightly (in form, if not always in deed) to the implementation of structural-adjustment guidelines to macroeconomic policy imposed by the donor or by the IMF, though the specific economic conditionalities are perhaps not always sufficiently emphasized. The three kinds of reform identified by Michel Welmond for Benin are extremely useful categories for reviewing all case studies: systemic reform, preservationist reform, and rehabilitative reform. The agencies favor the first, the local ministries and pressure groups often focus on the last, and the actual experience gained through the case-study research seems to indicate that educational outcomes are often strongly influenced by varieties of preservationist agendas (hidden or overt) in the process of translating rhetoric into reality.

This means that the package of reforms arranged for each context needs to be linked and understood in the context of a wide range of policy changes—from the expansion of access to basic primary education (UFA), the reform of secondary and tertiary education, curriculum development, teacher...


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