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Popular Approaches to Educational Planning in Developing Countries Essay

Educational planning is a worldwide practice found in both developing and developed countries. The developing countries and indeed all countries have placed a premium on education because of the persistent belief that formal education holds the key to national development and economic growth. In the light of this, the modern conception of educational planning has attracted specialists from many disciplines with each of them tending to see educational planning differently.

In view of this attraction, the traditional approach to educational planning could no longer hold sway. In an attempt to find a most suitable approach to educational planning, different models have been developed by scholars. These include the social demand approach, the manpower approach, the cost-benefit approach and other remerging models. The choice of model to adopt is usually predicated on the peculiarities and other prevailing factors in a country. Generally however, scholars have tried to classify approaches to educational planning based on the level of development of a country. And this probably explains why some are called developing countries and others are developed countries.

A thorough understanding of these approaches however requires some background information or knowledge. In doing, this we shall adopt the definition of the concept of educational planning as provided by Coombs (1970), identify key planning questions, trace the history of modern approaches to educational planning, and bring out most important planning issues in developing countries with example and illustrations.

Educational Planning Because of the ubiquitous nature of education and educational planning, several scholars have offered different definitions. For example, Coombs (1970) in a UNESCO Publication titled “What is Educational Planning “. says that: “Educational Planning, in its broadest generic sense, is the application of rational systematic analysis to the process of educational development with the aim of making education more effective and efficient in responding to the needs and goals of its students and society “. Arising from this concept of educational planning are a succession of interdependent actions namely:

i. Clarification of educational objectives ii. Diagnosis of present conditions and recent trends iii. Identification and assessment of alternatives iv. Translation of plans into action and v. Evaluation and adjustment.

This analytical process to educational planning entails preparing and subsequently evaluating a set of decisions or future actions aimed at achieving specific set of goals. Educational planning therefore is a fundamentally technical activity related to decision making process. Its purpose in the context of national educational programme and overall developmental objectives is to assess the implications of alternative sets of policy and thereby help decision makers choose that set which is most appropriate to the specified objectives. Events in the recent years have witnessed an increasing emphasis on the need to design educational policy in relation to overall set of objectives for economic and social development. Thus in addition to being a fundamental end in itself, education is now also viewed as an important means or instrument for increasing a nation’s economic and social welfare. This relationship makes it necessary to consider a variety of factors that previously may have appeared irrelevant.

The most important of this is to evaluate whether the size of structure of the educational system is appropriate from the perspective of national development objectives – or conversely to determine the educational capacity that will be required to permit a nation to reach its development targets. The second important characteristic of a new interest in educational planning is that it has focused attention on the structural interdependence and efficiency of the educational system.

History of Modern Educational Planning A background history of the modern educational planning will greatly enhance our understanding of the emergence of the different approaches to educational planning in the developed and the developing countries.

Prior to the Second World War (1939 – 1945), educational system everywhere was simple, less complex in structure and content, smaller in size and less intricately tied to the total life of nations. The only exception is probably the Soviet Union which in 1923 made an attempt to use educational planning to help realise a ‘new society’ through what is commonly referred to as the First Five Year Plan of the young Soviet Union. Before the war, the typical kind of educational planning had the following features a. It was short range in outlook (i.e. plan period was short, usually a year, rarely spreading beyond) b. It was fragmentary in its coverage of the educational system, the parts of the system were planned independently of one another. c. It was non-integrated in the sense that educational institutions were planned autonomously without explicit ties to the evolving needs and trends of the society and the economy at large; and d. It was non-dynamic kind of planning which assumed an essentially static educational model that would retain its main features intact year in and year out.

However shortly after the world war (especially from 1945 to 1970), educational system and their environment all over the world were subjected to a barrage of scientific and technological, economical, demographic, political and cultural changes that shook everything in sight. The next twenty five years subsequently took Europe (industrialised nations) through four phases of development namely:

i. The reconstruction phase ii. The manpower shortage phase iii. Rampant expansion phase and iv. The innovation phase.

Europe and indeed the entire world including the developing countries emerged from the Second World War with their educational system seriously disrupted and facing a heavy backlog of educational needs. Nations everywhere quickly settled for reconstruction and in the process it soon became evident that the conventional pre-war educational planning would not suffice for these reconstruction tasks. This arose because the recovery process was fast (partly on account of Marshall Plan assistance from the United States) and by the early 1950s these rebuilt economies had fully absorbed the available supply of skilled human resources; hence, manpower bottlenecks began to loom as the major obstacle to further growth.

This led western economies to become more power minded and to look at educational planning through new eyes. No longer was education seen merely as a non-productive sector of the economy which absorbed consumption expenditure. It was now viewed as an essential ‘investment expenditure’ for economic growth.

But as obviously important as manpower needs were finally conceded to be, they paled before another force that soon began to dominate the educational scene and gives sleepless nights to the political authorities and educational planners throughout Europe and North America. This other force was the explosive increase in popular demand for education which led to the rampant expansion phase. Virtually everywhere, the dominant thrust of strategy was to expand the pre-war educational needs as rapidly as possible – curriculum, methods, examinations and all with a view to accommodating a larger number and proportion of the youth population. These eruptions forced the educational system of industrialised nations into yet a fourth post-war phase called the innovation phase. This phase prompted the formulation and adoption of new planning concepts and tools which are now in use and taking shape.

Educational Planning in Developing Countries Much of what was said above applies with even greater force to developing countries shortly after the European experience. There educational needs were even larger and more urgent but their educational systems unfortunately were less relevant and less adequate to their needs. It will be recalled that most of the developing nations of Africa were colonies during this period and were gradually fighting for political independence. During this period, the missionaries that introduced western type of education were not focused on rapid expansion of education. The colonial masters too had other pre-occupation. Formal western education was therefore at low ebb. At the same time, the armies and the soldiers including a few educated nationals of these countries have had exposure to Europe and North America and were therefore fairly acquainted with educational system in Europe and North America.

Given this background, and starting from the 1950s, the developing countries responded similarly to their new circumstances with an educational strategy of linear expansion. Support was also received from global organisations like United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), International Institute of Educational Planning in this direction. At a series of UNESCO conferences early in the 1960s education ministers of Asia, Africa and Latin America set ambitious regional targets for educational expansion in their respective regions. These targets were widely adopted by individual nations.

They called for 100% percent participation in primary education by the end of the target period and sharply increase participation in secondary and higher education. This expansion strategy manifests the adoption of the social demand approach to educational planning in some of the developing countries. A good example of this is the free education policy adopted by the Western and Eastern regions of Nigeria in the 1950s. Same goes for Nkrumah’s Ghana which introduced education for all policy in 1952. We shall examine this in greater detail later.

In the view of Coombs (1970) the case for a manpower approach was particularly strong in developing nations because their overall development was conspicuously handicapped by shortages of all kinds of specialised or skilled manpower. Thus, it made sense to give initial priority to educating the most needed types of manpower for economic growth, for without such growth the desired long run expansion in education and other major social objectives would simply not be possible.

Unfortunately, the developing countries were not equipped to do the kind of educational and manpower planning that the situation required and worse still, the rest of the world could not do much for them because the global supply of basic knowledge and experts for this kind of planning was acutely scarce. It is noteworthy however that UNESCO and other agencies played active and supportive role to assist.


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