Emergent Educational Development Models In Africa Lewis Levenberg

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Emergent Educational Development Models In Africa

Lewis Levenberg
Dr. D. Linda Garcia

CCTP-754: Networks and International Development

The central problem is this: How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings,

participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation?  – Paulo Freire

Two models have long dominated educational development across Africa. Although there are many ways of referring to these two models, for the purposes of this essay, “formal” and “non-formal” will suffice to summarize their basic structural and cultural characteristics. Together, these two ideas have formed a dichotomy from which it is hard to break when thinking of educational institutions on the continent. However, the purpose of this essay is to describe a third alternative, based on several “emergent” ways of teaching and learning that have arisen around Africa over the past several decades. These emergent models exist at every level of education, and have the potential to affect students from before primary school through and beyond university-level study. By increasing the effectiveness of educational institutions, and their interconnectedness across the continent, Africans can work towards a far stronger position in the global political economy.

This essay aims to apply an historical and theoretical perspective to the problem of education in Africa, in three broad turns. First, by revisiting the cultural, linguistic, political, and economic factors in education development around the continent leading into the contemporary era, the essay seeks to clarify the complex historical context of this problem. Also important for this aspect of the problem are the feedback loops and reinforcing mechanisms that have structured the course of economic and educational development. Next, a comparative network analysis of several cases of emergent educational institutions will reveal some of the inadequacies of both formal and non-formal models today, as well as introducing the reasons why these emergent models have such rich potential for change. Finally, the essay will trace a strategy for a development outcome that rests neither on a dominant, hegemonic narrative, nor on a radical, hypothetical futurism.

Formal educational institutions are a function of colonialism in Africa. These involve schools, standardized curricula, textbooks, accreditation, training for teachers, disciplinary rules and regulations for students, monolingualism, grades, exams, and a centralized, bureaucratic structure. Since schools, as physical institutions, were introduced by colonial powers, education became both privileged and exclusive. The children of French, British, Belgian, German, Dutch, and other European conquerors were sent to schools which continued the legacy of education in the Enlightenment mold, transposed into the colony in which they resided. This privilege was extended to only a few African children; almost always, the lucky recipients were the sons of chiefs local to the school building. The exclusion of the vast majority of Africans from the educational institutions was the beginning of a deeply rooted cultural lock-in to poverty and conflict which continues today.

As Africans began building schools for themselves, on those colonial models, their curricula and practices took the European forms as well. English and French were the languages of instruction. The textbooks were those used by Europeans, just as the classroom design, teacher training programs, standardization of grades, centralization of districts, and emphases on literature, math, philosophy, and pure sciences were offshoots of what was taught (and how it was taught) in the Europeans’ schools. Also evident in these African versions of European schools were the gender and class iniquities, which mirrored those of Europe in that girls and poorer peasants were still excluded from learning. These models are the standards of contemporary African education, against which all alternatives are measured.

Non-formal educational forms are often equated to pre-colonial ways of teaching and learning. Commonly, children from a similar age group were instructed by a group of their elders, and much instruction took place in one-on-one sessions. The subject matter ranged from traditional and religious topics like cultural histories and ritual to practica like farming, health, and trade skills. In the late twentieth century, non-formal educational models were championed by some developmental theorists as the primary means by which African education could become independent from the Eurocentric, colonial models. However, contemporary non-formal education has its own risks and drawbacks, especially their vulnerability to systemic underdevelopment. Because such models do not focus on the material needs of teachers and students, they are often excluded from funding and institutional support structures.

The sociocultural roots of non-formal educational institutions are as varied as the groups which have practiced them. What binds these institutions loosely together are their locally economic focus: non-formal education in West Africa, between the decline of the Mali empire and colonialism tended to rely on local elders collectively teaching age-groups of students. This collective socialization worked in tandem with a widespread apprenticeship system, which paired up individual tradespeople from all kinds of work with individual youths. This balance between collectivist and individual networks was firmly rooted in local groups, defined on a complex basis that could include language, geography, religion, and economic interaction.

Once colonialism re-drew the political borders on the continent, however, the diffusion of educational models took a different path. Instead of arising from local networks, the practice of education was dictated from the top down, by the colonial powers at the national level. As educational institutions became formalized, following the European models imported by those powers, the physical structures and materials involved in those practices were offered only to the social elite, and withheld from those without such status. This process of privilege and exclusion permeated the production of knowledge, and the indicators of education were deeply affected. For example, literacy rates were no longer tied to knowledge of indigenous languages, but rather measured against the colonial languages, especially English and French. In terms of both ideology and practice, African education became an extension of European institutions.

Even after political independence, these institutions remained locked into these cultural patterns. Today, much of the production of knowledge in Africa is still tied to the demands of European academia. Evidence for this comes from the publishing and patent industries, in which Africa still lags behind not only Europe and North America, but much of Asia as well. A strong argument can be made that this underdevelopment is strongly linked to the thinness of these educational institutions. Without a reliable connection between urban and rural areas in Africa, at the levels of infrastructure as well as intellectual production, it has been extremely difficult even to reform these institutions. Thus, one area that needs to be addressed is the ways in which formal and non-formal educational models relate to one another.

Interaction between formal and non-formal modes of education has been limited at best. This schism draws on three major factors: linguistic, sociocultural, and economic. Linguistically, while much non-formal education relies on indigenous languages, nearly all formal education takes place in either English or French. This causes a problem of translation between the two systems, since knowledge that is generated in one of the models must be restructured grammatically, phonetically, and stylistically in order to be codified and exchanged with the other. One way to address this issue is by promoting tri-lingual education, involving an indigenous language, a Pan-African language like Swahili, and a global language. This strategy will become important later in this essay, as well.

Socioculturally, the divide between formal and non-formal education is also extreme. An inescapable impression of formal systems is that they “westernize” their students. This is not universally true, since Islamic madrassas might also be considered formal systems, but the effect is the same, whether it is called westernization or colonialization or non-African socialization, or any other name. By contrast, non-formal systems are undisciplined by formal standards, and the training they provide to their students seems incompatible with the demands of formal institutions. Thus, while non-formal systems produce social actors who are unable to deal with a global society, formal systems produce social actors who are unable to deal with local and traditional issues. One way to address this aspect of the split between these systems is by focusing on the regional scale when planning an educational development strategy.

The economic factors on mutual exclusivity between formal and non-formal systems are particularly tricky to navigate. In the formal models, knowledge is a commodity, the production of which can be made more or less efficient and useful by institutional changes. The current formal models, especially at the university level, follow the form of multinational corporations, and are funded largely by states and Euro-American educational institutions. The demands for knowledge products from Africa are dictated by those actors, and the materials come from them as well. Thus, Euro-American textbooks are used throughout formal (secular) schools, and students are trained to produce work in the fields of liberal arts/humanities, pure sciences, and social sciences. On the other hand, non-formal models rely on informal knowledge economies, which provide most of their support and structure, and follow the form of the bazaar. The demands on these systems come from local communities, calling for knowledge reproduction and the skills to continue traditional ways of life. One way to approach the economic problems of alienation between the two systems is by changing the capital flows that enable each system to continue as it exists, for example, by promoting private investment in educational initiatives.

The split between formal and non-formal systems has had two major sets of consequences. Theoretically, these linguistic, sociocultural, and economic factors have all contributed to an overwhelming sense that educational strategy must choose between formal and non-formal institutions. This persists despite the obvious flaws with each system. For example, formal models consistently result in a brain drain, wherein highly educated Africans leave the worst-off areas and move either to major cities on the continent, or off the continent completely, thus depriving the impoverished areas of valuable human and social capital. Non-formal models continue in failing to account for the globally interconnected society and economy, and thus they fail to prepare their students for interactions in that world. Nevertheless, developmental theorists, when faced with the challenges of education on the planet, seem to continue to feel compelled to select either a formal or a non-formal system by which they can promote their agendas. This is the dichotomy noted earlier.

Practically, the schism between these systems also has deep structural consequences. Each type of educational model has a clear, if complex, historical background, which has reinforced the behaviors and practices that distinguish between the two. This reinforcement does not act only along one trajectory, though. There are powerful feedback loops, engendered by the two systems, which serve to deepen and reinforce each of their unique characteristics, as well as the structural hole that divides them.

For example, as formal educational institutions were modeled on European schools, they produced students who could take part in European society, but who were somewhat cut off from their local African societies. This led to generation after generation of students who had no use for their education at home, but whose skills and training were undervalued in Europe and elsewhere around the globe. In this way, many graduates of African formal schools had little choice for work but to become teachers to another generation of students, who would suffer the same paradoxical consequences. By contrast, non-formal education, without addressing globally basic skills like mathematics or technological literacy, underdeveloped their students, which led to adults who could never escape the poverty for which they had been trained. Without the money to send their own children to “better” (more formal) schools, they had to thus rely on those children’s successes in the same types of unfunded, non-formal institutions, and so the cycle of poverty continued. From a long-term historical perspective, the theoretical and practical challenges here begin to become obvious.

To make matters more complex still, these internal structural holes coincide with larger economic and social problems of underdevelopment that have afflicted Africa for a long time. Education is only one part of these problems, and, some would argue, a relatively minor part at that. Issues of food (in)security; urban overcrowding and rural drought; shelter and infrastructure; sanitation and disease; instability, conflict and exploitation along lines of politics, religion and natural resources; barriers to trade and exchange within the continent and between Africa and elsewhere; macrocephalic imbalances of cities with outlying rural agricultural regions; piracy, terrorism, and climate change are other, perhaps more pressing issues. If the foregoing historical gloss of the situation has revealed anything, however, it is that the legacy of dehumanization and isolation which penetrates and structures the contemporary situation in Africa is an underlying force that must be managed in order to correct its wrongs and create new rights. Education, above all else, can provide that managing counter-force for humanization. Its promotion and development forms much of the foundation, and incentive, for other developments at every scale from the local to the global.

The returns to education are manifold. We learn from network theories of society and development that multiple small changes to critical parts of a network’s architecture can have cumulative effects, even resulting in a broad restructuring of that architecture. We also know that education increases the social capital of individuals, and thickens institutions locally and regionally. By describing the emergent educational models in Africa today, we begin to lay the groundwork for a development strategy that targets the existing structural holes, and seeks to link the local, regional, national, international, continental, and global levels, culturally, economically, and socially. These emergent models are especially effective because they provide a basis for well-rounded, locally grounded education for the youngest Africans. They can also increase local access to higher-level education, thus encouraging the development of local and regional infrastructures, good governance, and innovative capacity. By situating disparate local areas as semi-peripheries rather than peripheral or marginalized, these institutions can redirect the global flows of capital, ideas, and people through those formerly ignored districts. Finally, these models of education can encourage significant gains in African agency in global markets, especially since they seek to develop the multidirectional weak ties that are latent among underdeveloped African regions and between Africa and other continents.

In describing these emergent models, we can apply many theoretical lenses. World systems theory and network theory are particularly salient, but contributions from institutional economics, political economics, cultural deconstruction, comparative educational analysis, organizational communications, social geography, and materialist historiography will all be useful to make sense of these new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. To illustrate the structural and cultural characteristics of these models, this essay will analyze four case studies: the African Virtual University; the African Education Project; the International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa; and the Educational Support Initiative for Africa.

Several factors will be considered for each of these examples, including their sources of funding and materials, their relationship to geographical settings, technical requirements and capacities, interrelationship with one another and with formal and non-formal models, and how they compare to the linguistic, sociocultural, and economic characteristics of those models, described above. One area, for which data is still lacking, however, is the relative effectiveness of each of these examples, in terms of how they affect innovative capacity. This might be measured by the amount of patents and publications produced by students, faculty, and graduates of these programs. Still, we can begin to outline the common traits that loosely bind these models together, and to sketch some possible effects of their continued adoption as educational innovations.

The International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in 1999. Located in Dakar, Senegal and Pretoria, South Africa, the institute is a small organization with only about two dozen people on its staff, but its outreach is broad. Its programs focus on building individual, institutional, and cultural capacity for education. The funding for these projects stems from the United Nations’ economic network. These funds are invested into programs like teacher education, cost-effective use of information and communication technology, educational policy, and improvements of non-standard educational structures and topics.

This last effort targets issues of nomadic groups, one-teacher schools, post-conflict areas, and HIV/AIDS. The work of the institute includes establishing a network for teachers across the continent, from which they can draw ideas, inspiration, and resources. The IICBA works with other institutions around the globe, from other UNESCO projects and UN organizations to academic networks, governments, and independent programs. This institute relies on both online and in-person interaction, forming a bridge across huge structural gaps in the educational networks of Africa. By engaging its constituents and partners in their own languages, targeting sociocultural areas that need the most help, and providing economic as well as organizational support, the IICBA is a good example of the emergent mode of educational development, as it begins to diffuse into African educational networks on a wide scale.

The African Education Project is a non-governmental organization, funded by private donations. Its focus is more local and targeted than the IICBA, engaging in northern, rural Togo. The goals of this project are threefold: to increase the literacy rate, increase the number of sustainable farms, and improve public health in the region. To this end, the project works to establish models for each of these goals, employing local families, farms, villages, and regions that exemplify their ideals. The literacy classes they offer are small, but they reach out to new students every semester. The project links model farmers with others in the area, who can learn from and diffuse the techniques of sustainable agriculture.

By employing model families and model villages, the African Education Project promotes basic hygiene, diet, health care, and AIDS prevention tactics to first raise awareness of these goals, and then to take advantage of the economics of agglomeration and preferential attachment, encouraging others to practice these ideals. The African Education Project works in these ways to reduce the opportunity costs of individuals and small groups as they transform their educational, agricultural, and social institutions. Those who have been helped by the program are in a position to contribute to its growth both financially and with their own expertise. It serves as an example of the emergent model of education as it takes place on the ground, at a small scale, with limited funds, and yet with a concrete, achievable plan to grow and develop from its own returns in human capital.

The Educational Support Initiative for Africa is a project of the Centre for African Resources, Research, and Development, an independent think tank. Acting at a macro level, the initiative coordinates and supplies teaching and learning materials like textbooks, journals, and computer equipment and software to other educational institutions around Africa. This initiative operates primarily as a standards organization, and thus it is the most similar of all these cases to the formal educational institutions of the colonial era. This similarity is reinforced at the level of capital flows, since the source of its funding and the materials it provides is the United Kingdom. The initiative also serves to connect African educational institutions (again, focusing mainly on existing formal systems) with UK institutions.

However, much of the collaboration engendered by the ESIfA takes place online, including its design as an access portal to research databases for African institutions. This focus on technological skills and educational techniques extends to the initiative’s collaboration with African governments and NGOs, including lobbying for educational standards, establishing scholarships and endowments, and organizing events like conferences. All these activities are important intra-systemic ways of resisting some of the contemporary problems in the formal educational system in Africa, like brain drain. Thus, although the ESIfA does not share all the characteristics of other emergent models for education, its work as an institution’s institution places it in a strong position to influence systemic change across the continent.

The African Virtual University is funded by the African Development Bank, which is a subsidiary of the World Bank. Just as this project was being founded in Washington in 1995, World Bank researchers were concluding that school-level factors needed more attention in primary educational programs designed by the Bank together with African governments. “Schools Count” became the clarion call of the AVU’s founders, though their project was and remains a secondary, university-level organization. Its focus was honed into the establishment and development of information communication technologies for education across the continent, and its headquarters were moved to Nairobi, Kenya. Most importantly, the AVU began to focus on building a network of relationships across educational institutions at the secondary and tertiary level, which continues to encourage infrastructure development. A critical factor to the architecture of this network is multilingualism – the AVU must operate in English, French, and Portuguese. Although these are all colonial languages, this model sets a precedent for trilingual communication to be embedded in these emergent structures.

Despite the prevalence of high technology for much of the AVU’s projects, its design accounts for much of the disparity in access to that technology faced by its constituents. Because of these inequalities, its curriculum spans a wide spectrum of educational practices, including face-to-face learning along with print- and computer-mediated programs, distance learning, and virtual classrooms. It is significant that these options are not dictated to the learners, but rather that the needs of those who are to learn dictate what technology should be used. Such a focus marks this organization as one of the most intuitive and bottom-up structures of these emergent models, despite its position as a university-level system. The model of the African Virtual University, as an international, inter-linguistic, intercultural, inter-technological, and interactive framework, funded from the top but structured from the bottom, emphasizes the possibilities for such a model to effect drastic change over the long term, across much of the continent.

The emergent models for educational development discussed here are widely divergent in their economic and sociocultural characteristics, as well as in their relations to their geographical, social, and institutional surroundings. However, we can draw out some of the ties that link these together, in order to form an idea of what their continued adoption and expansion might mean for education and its returns in Africa. One important trait that all these models share is their flexibility. Another is their focus on filling structural holes, or interstices, in the existing educational structure. There is a recurrent, pervasive focus on long-term, systemic changes that can be achieved by laying the conditions of possibility for positive externalities. Finally, the network architecture of each of these models is somewhere between an institution and a movement; we might call the emergent mode of educational development “semi-institutional”.

Flexibility is a key factor in the success of each of these instances of emergent educational development models. Rigid adherence to a limited goal is nowhere to be found, unlike the formal models, which produce graduates in the mold of European schools, or non-formal models, which produce individuals suited only for a certain traditional occupation. Rather, the framework of each of these projects is designed with multiple, interconnected goals in mind for their constituents or students; by pursuing several of these programs at once, the models hedge their bets against some failures or setbacks crippling the system as a whole. Thus, those projects which are designed for virtual education also incorporate capacity-building; those which are targeted at sustainable growth also work to improve literacy rates; and those which build thicker relationships between educational institutions also support institutional creation where it does not yet exist. This flexibility allows these models to work like interstitial forces, focusing on interim, small-scale efforts at the same time as they move to affect larger structures.

The structural holes in the educational system across Africa have persisted despite efforts from both formal and non-formal models to fill them. These holes include inadequacies of infrastructure, technology, materials, and standards that are based on the needs of African students. As these emergent models have shown, those inadequacies can be addressed by innovative methods, a variety of sources of funding, and constant attention to the importance of inter-generational, inter-institutional, inter-linguistic, and international relationships. Fostering the bridging or weak ties that have long lain dormant between language groups, states, and especially between the formal and non-formal models themselves, the emergent models have positioned themselves directly in those structural holes that have had the most disastrous effects on long-term African educational development. They have great potential to effect change on political, social, and economic structures as a result of that position.

That potential has not gone unnoticed by the designers and administrators of these models. A strong focus on long-term systemic changes, based on creating positive externalities like technological and ecological training, is characteristic of each of these emergent forms of education. Although each of these organizations works to meet goals on a realistic scale, they have chosen their goals precisely for their potential to generate increasing returns on successful outcomes. Thus, for example, increasing innovative capacity for African universities is not an end in and of itself, but also a call to tap into human capital and digital resources from around the globe, to make more efficient and sustainable use of the natural resources and technological infrastructure available, and to increase pressure for other areas of economic development in order to pursue growth, development, modernization, and independence. The same focus on the possibility for systemic changes leads each of these organizations to work hard towards their own social incorporation into the geographic and cultural milieus they occupy. We can say that diffusion is a familiar strategy to the emergent educational development models.

Finally, these organizations are largely similar in terms of their network architecture. While none of them are fully grass-roots style movements in their funding or operations, neither are they quite the same as institutional structures. Even the Educational Support Initiative for Africa does not have an institutional structure, since its role is to coordinate between institutional organizations, like a portal. We might say, on this basis, that the emergent model for educational development is “semi-institutional”. This allows these models to capitalize on unique, local assets, especially informal knowledge economies. However, their institutional links allow them to also make use of capital flows or fundraising initiatives from the developed world. We find more evidence for their semi-institutional structures in their balance between activities online and those on the ground. This emergent organizational form may have implications of deep structural for the division of labor in education and in other fields as well.

Just as the two models of formal and non-formal education have dominated theoretical and practical thought about educational institutions and development in Africa, so have two major models fundamentally structured debate about strategies for implementing developmental models. Hegemonic narratives of progress and tradition have clashed with hypothetical visions of a radically futuristic break from contemporary ways of life. These two approaches also form a profound dichotomy, but, just as we have shown with emergent educational models, there is an alternative strategy to both of these. Before laying out the strategy for constructive change in African educational development, it is worth understanding the dichotomy of hegemony and futurism against which this essay is arguing.

Hegemonic narratives of African development are those of the states and governments that control much of the wealth in their countries, including the management of natural resources. These narratives rely on the notion of steady progress and growth, building on the power structures that are already in place. As such, they tend to privilege those whose interests are already being served, positioning its actors as central cut-off points in the national network of relations. These narratives begin, historically speaking, during the age of independence, and yet they do not tend to condemn colonialism or the cultural and economic disadvantages that still affect Africans because of those occupations. Rather, colonialism is treated as a closed chapter in these narratives, while the privileges and exclusions that characterize those power structures are reinforced at the same time.

These narratives seek to give the governments legitimacy, in order to justify their control of the resources of the state. Thus, hegemonic narratives include the dominance over educational practices, and their goals for developmental strategies for education tend to be minimal, if change is even acknowledged as necessary. In the short term, the hegemonic narrative serves the interests of the powerful by keeping those without skills or knowledge underprivileged, without access to education or agency to change their positions. These narratives favor the unequal development that is typical of capitalism. Under these narratives, formal school systems should produce more civil servants, and non-formal educations do not require any economic support whatsoever.

Hypothetical futurism, by contrast, is the representation of a radical break from the contemporary network of relations. This strategy seeks to position its actors as outliers in that network. When it comes to development strategy, futurism advocates tearing down the old systems and starting over anew. In short, this is the thought of revolution. However, this futurism also fails to account for the cultural and economic embeddedness of the institutions against which it seeks to struggle. Its recourse is often to militant opposition. Thus, this strategy tends to become stuck in the phase of resistance, and its dedication to struggle is often wasted, without making even small gains towards positive reforms.

In order for this hypothetical futurism to move beyond its idealistic and destructive first phases, it relies on victory, on gaining control over the resources of the state itself. The paradoxical end-game of futurism is to replace one hegemon with another, and thus to replace one narrative with another. Strategies from hypothetical futurism for educational development tend to involve a redistribution of wealth. Formal systems, as extensions of the previous oppressive regime, are targets to be abolished or replaced. Non-formal systems are viewed as a vestige of antiquated, traditional ways of life, and are often abandoned in favor of a more cosmopolitan, global ideal for education. The skills and knowledge needed to participate in the project of revolution are very different, though, from those which are required in order to rebuild society after the fact. Military training and dedication to ideological struggle, and the institutions necessary for their inculcation, do not necessarily translate into forms of education which provide for skills like literacy, scientific and mathematical knowledge, technological proficiency, or the understanding of the interpenetration of the local with the global.

The alternative to these two ways of thinking is a strategy which aims for a gradual, realistic shift of trajectory. Maintaining a long-term perspective, and recognizing the importance of the network of relations among individuals, local communities, institutions, nations, and global markets, this strategy seeks to create small, but critical changes in the structure of education. Large, systemic shifts are likely to follow if the right interstices of the current network are targeted. Starting from the level of local schools, and expanding to the regional and then to the global levels, this strategy works to create incentives for change within the power structure.

Focusing at the local level, specifically, on schools as units of analysis, for the youngest age groups, this strategy seeks to build strong bases in literacy, mathematics, sciences, art, technology, ecology, and traditions. Proficiency in more than one language is, perhaps, the most important factor for each school to encourage. At least three languages seem to be important – an indigenous African language, a pan-African language, and a global language. The indigenous language can be determined by the location of each school; the pan-African language will be a function of the school’s region; the global language may be European, English, or Asian. The most important point to this part of the strategy is that it focuses on the needs of the students, and their local cultural and economic contexts. This kind of focus should increase cooperation, and help the students, teachers, and administrators to forge a common cause along with a cohesive local identity.

Sequencing is crucial to this project, so the next stage in this strategy is to consider what the prospects of these students will be as they grow older and take their skills from primary schools into their adolescences. In order to stave off macrocephalic urban overdevelopment, and a “brain drain” of educated people out of the worst areas, it is crucial to increase access, at the regional and local levels, to higher-level education. This access may largely depend upon the concurrent development of regional and local infrastructures, especially the telecommunications networks. However, by promoting the successes of the emergent, semi-institutional models of education at the secondary level, this strategy provides an economic incentive for those in power to support such development. If more local residents have access to higher education, then there is a thicker (semi-)institutional network of those educated residents. This thickness can lead to a more productive local area, and to a regional industrial district which is not tied to the economic demands of one city alone.

As the interconnectedness of the local with the global, seen from a long-term, holistic perspective, becomes clear, this strategy would begin to promote the adoption of its next phase. Once local schools and regional networks are on the way to increasing their innovative capacities and thickening their knowledge structures, they can begin to attract flows of people, information, ideas, technology, and capital based on what they will be able to offer in a global market for knowledge. As these flows begin to pass through the areas under development, the benefits of agglomeration will continue to lower the costs of keeping valuable resources, including knowledgeable people, local. All this should lead to increasing returns on the basic standards of living for the people of these areas.

Certain ideas that have been put forward in this essay present opportunities for further research. First, it is crucial to recognize that a very broad strategy has been outlined here. The specific actions that should be taken in order to change the direction of educational development are radically contingent upon the local context in question. Therefore, any implementation of this strategy should presuppose careful evaluation of the specific cultural, economic, historical, and social features of the area in which it is proposed. Second, there is a great deal of uncertainty as to the long-term outcome of the emergent, semi-institutional models for education which have been described above. These should be followed carefully, and perhaps evaluated on the basis of their relative efficacy in terms of increasing innovative capacity.

This essay has demonstrated, first, that emergent educational models provide an alternative to both formal and non-formal educational systems in Africa. Second, it has shown that these semi-institutional models have the potential to radically restructure, over a long period of time, the educational network and the trajectory of economic development across the continent. Finally, this essay has laid out a strategy by which structural changes might be accomplished, engaging with network theory, institutional and social economics, and developmental theory. The strategy laid out in this essay seeks to avoid either hegemonic narrative, or hypothetical futurism, instead working to establish critical, concrete goals for small but structural effects.

30 June 2009 – Georgetown University

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