Development and the uniform school
Ryan, Anne (2004) Development and the uniform school. In: Unsettling the horses: Interrogating adult education. MACE, pp. 125-136.
Development is, in the Foucauldian sense, a particular discourse which does not reflect but actually constructs reality. In doing so, it closes off alternative ways of thinking and so constitutes a form of power (Kiely 1999: 31). What do schools and McDonalds have in common? Both are powerful symbols of modernity… Each has a global profile… You will recognise them no matter where in the world you find them because they each follow a set format… Both are defined more by this formulaic sameness than by their geographic location… Should we be reassured by this sameness or alarmed? This chapter has nothing to say about hamburgers but raises serious concerns about the tendency to reproduce the same school design irrespective of the prevailing local conditions. This chapter case studies the educational initiative of a large indigenous NGO in Bangladesh (BRAC1) that breaks the mould by making the school fit the children rather than the children fit the school. The initiative is noteworthy in its own right but perhaps of most significance here is the lukewarm response it has generated among those whose business is development. The chapter argues that in line with the quotation above, the dominant discourse on education within the development arena is such that initiatives of this nature are not welcome because they do not fit the constructed reality embedded in an unquestioning allegiance to conventional schooling. By neglecting to harness the fundamental principles that inform this initiative the western donors and the government of Bangladesh are exercising their power to effectively silence an alternative way of approaching primary education. In global terms every silencing makes the McDonalds/school analogy more real.
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