Global educational expansion: historical legacies and political obstacles

Global educational expansion: historical legacies and political obstacles

Lessons from the past and the future of universal education

This booklet consists of two essays:

  • Chapter 1: lessons from the past - a comparative socio-historical analysis of primary and secondary education (by Benavot and Resnik)
  • Chapter 2: political obstacles to expanding and improving schooling in developing countries (by Corrales)
Chapter 1 explores the historical bases of the idea of universal education and of efforts to realise this goal, as well as the conditions that facilitated (or hindered) these in different times and places. Lessons that can be learned from this comparative socio-historical analysis include:
  • the historical development of universal basic education was an uneven and highly contingent process
  • comparative historical scholarship of the emergence, systemisation, and expansion of universal education remains underdeveloped and downplays the diverse origins and meanings of mass schooling
  • the models, policies, and recommendations of international actors and organisations were de-contextualised from their historical roots
  • religion, cultural diversity, and local institutions are often neglected in policy recommendations
  • political actors and processes, as well as local economic institutions, are disregarded in international educational programmes
  • international educational models are often inadequate and irrelevant in local contexts.
Chapter 2 reviews political science literature for the concepts and facts that shed light on the obstacles to educational expansion and ways of removing or circumventing those obstacles. The author argues that incentives and pressures for states to expand education and improve educational efficiency, particularly for the poorest and most remote populations, are weak and sometimes perverse. On their own, states in developing countries are unlikely to achieve sufficient institutional capacity and political accountability to establish universal primary and secondary educational coverage. Weak incentives and pressures however, can be augmented. For this, states will need extra help and extra funding. The involvement of both external and societal actors seems unavoidable, though potentially polemical.