International Academy for Leadership
Encouraging Innovative Spaces, Ensuring Inclusion and Progress
As a parent sending their child off to school, distance and mode of travel from home become some of the important things to deliberate. This is especially relevant in densely populated and large countries such as Indonesia, South Africa, and India where heavy traffic occupy many cities and safety is thus a highlight. The placement of public schools, however, may not have been enough to reach out to low-income families to fulfill the need, by and by triggering drop-outs of students. In such a case, the low-cost private school becomes an alternative.
School distance is yet only one among many others that opens up to discussions on how Education should be implemented—should one rely fully on the role of the government in providing institutions of learning for all? Besides accessibility, what are other manifold challenges faced by the education sector throughout the world? What policy reforms could be made to overcome these challenges and further ensure inclusive and quality education? Why does education become important to secure progress and freedom?
These discussions took place back in Gummersbach, Germany, on 4th-16th November 2018, where I attended the workshop “Education in Crisis: A Liberal Way Forward” held by the International Academy for Leadership (IAF) of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF).
The workshop was attended by 24 participants from 16 different countries including the aforementioned ones, Morocco, Nepal, Ukraine, Philippines, Lebanon, and Honduras. The eleven-day workshop, which included an excursion to Cologne and Munich, was facilitated by Manali Shah, an independent facilitator who has worked with civil society and political organizations on various issues, and Dr Stefan Melnik, a Cambridge academician with expertise on economic and social history.
The diversity of the participants thus brought a vast plain of perspectives on the topic.
“The problem of accessibility to education is also compounded by the social, economic and environmental concerns that keep the children away from school and standard education,” said Zeeba Hashmi, a participant from Pakistan.
In one of the sessions, Ekta Sodha, CEO of Cadmus Sodha Schools (India), shared her success story in establishing and growing low-budget private schools to overcome the challenge. Going broader, it turns out that such positive impact is found in other countries such as Kenya, where in fact pupils in private schools have had better attainments than those in the public—as mentioned by Professor James Tooley, education policy professor from University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (who also happens to be CIPS’ advisor in Education Research), who shared his findings on the second week of the workshop.
Meanwhile, Sandra El Hadi, a participant from Lebanon, revealed that over half of the schools in her country are, in fact, private, and they seem to be more popular—unlike all other countries being presented. The standards of public schools are said to have fallen after the civil war, and the private provided stronger curricula.
Coming from Venezuela, a country that was still in conflict as of 2018 as we attended the workshop, Pedro Urruchurtu Noselli points out that a school’s delivery contents, including debates, activities, and study books “must come from something broader than the simple vision of a ruler, instead of ending up turning education into indoctrination”. ‘Edupreneurship’, a term rooting from entrepreneurship in education, is yet still kept to the minimum in his country.
Curriculum was indeed one of the several main aspects that the workshop’s discussions also underlined. Different methodologies were implemented which kept the participants on their feet and stimulated them to contribute to the discussions. In another one of the sessions, ‘Curriculum’, ‘Regulation’, ‘Policy-Making’, ‘Regulation’, ‘Teachers’, ‘Delivery’, ‘Finance’, ‘Assessment’ were each pinned on a board. In small groups, participants were asked, ‘Who is most suited to deliver the various key items in education and to what extent?’, with the answers ‘State’ vs. ‘Civil Society’ each on the ends of a linear scale. After pinpointing using circle stickers and briefly jotting down their thoughts, a round of presentations followed (as took place in most of the sessions) to further generate exchange of views.
The result of this particular exercise more or less reflects summary thoughts that the participants commonly expressed during the workshop:
The long, wide table of creative space and the laboratory of innovative developments need to be passed on to the civil society still much more than they may already have in many countries. As such, the society is to also gradually realize, rely on and regard the progress being made by their own. The state, on the other hand, should see itself as a facilitator, keeping a ‘framework of governance’ to a certain extent. It must recognize the necessity for various learning spaces, and bear the voices of all willing stakeholders.
In such a way, then, not only are interested circles of the society given the opportunity to explore different learning spaces, but also freedom of choice for the people are extended—just as CIPS recommends in its work in education. The paths on which different needs are catered to are provided more. Progress and life-long learning are hence better secured for all.
*This contributed article is written by the Indonesian Delegate for IAF Seminar, Ms. Patricia Kandou who works as Program & Activity Officer at Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS).