DfID buying votes again

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I've taken this from the most recent Think Global newsletter:

The Global Learning Programme, funded by DFID, has been awarded to The Development Education Consortium which comprises the following organisations: the Geographical Association, the Institute of Education, Oxfam, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), SSAT, Think Global, co-ordinated and managed by Pearson Education.

Quite a constellation.  Think Global goes on ...

In response to DFID’s terms of reference, this five-year programme for schools in England focuses on learning about development at Key Stages 2 and 3.  It will primarily focus on key subjects (English, Geography, History, Mathematics and Science – alongside Citizenship and Religious Education) and provide whole-school opportunities too.  The programme aims to ensure that more school leavers have a thorough knowledge and understanding of developing countries, the basic elements of globalisation and different ways of reducing global poverty.  The programme will also identify ways that learning about global and development themes can contribute to school improvement, and will provide accreditation opportunities for schools.

The programme will include the following elements:

  • Provision of support for schools to have a lead practitioner in development education.
  • Accredited programme of professional development.
  • Subject specific support and whole school opportunities.
  • A website including resources, guidance for schools and information on where and how teachers can get support.

The real purpose of all this, of course, is to buy public support for DfID's Overseas Aid spending, something I noted before.  I do hope that the "different ways of reducing global poverty" include lowering barriers to trade, maintaining the rule of law and an indepedent judiciary, respecting property rights, bolstering a free press, and educating youngsters to think for themselves – especially about overseas aid.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • Your last point is key, Bill. I think most development education practitioners put critical thinking about development issues at the centre of their practice. However, when the funding comes from a government agency with a particular agenda, that's where problems can arise. I'm certainly pleased that DFID is moving forward with this program (as opposed to eliminating all funding for development education), but it remains to be seen how these organisations will stay true to their own missions while hitting targets for their funder.

  • I share your concerns about the DfID funding 'education' work when their remit is entirely political. However, I think it is more subtle and concerning than just buying votes. Together with the likes of Oxfam and Think Global, they promote a contemporary Western viewpoint of 'sustainability' and 'social justice' in the classroom, which has more to do with changing values and attitudes than education. Effectively, their work and development education is underpinned by neo-colonial assumption about the right to intervene in the affairs of non-western countries. It is the modern-day equivalent of Halford Makinder celebrating the promotion of the British Empire in schools in the early 20th century. I recently published a book on this topic: The False Promise of Global Learning, Why Education Needs Boundaries. Happy to share more thoughts.

  • Irksome, nay frustrating, to find the focus still relentlessly on schools rather than on teacher education. A PhD submission I've just read points to differences with Spain where i. teachers can learn about international relations and political-economic structures rather than the youthful attention to 'gang violence and drugs' which are appropriate for school work. This cross-case analysis also records ii. how bland terminology like 'global learning' risks diluting any activist intention, and iii. the inconsistency of claims of neutrality in INGDOs. More theoretical understanding by professionals, less emphasis on implementation, could yield long-term praxis.