P164 – Travelling Models of Basic and Higher Education and the Circulation of Reforms in Africa
9 July, 16:00-17:30

Fichtner Sarah / LAM - Sciences Po Bordeaux
Park Sung-Joon / Institute of Anthropology, University of Leipzig


This panel deals with reforms in basic and higher education in Africa: their origins, components and trajectories. Over the last two decades, attempts to reform education sectors in African countries have been intensified enormously by globally circulating models; New public management techniques, learner-centred approaches and instruments to make curricula comparable, have been introduced all over the African continent. However, analytical approaches from the broader field of social sciences offering a critical understanding of the wider transformations in the fabrication of knowledge are largely lacking. This panel proposes to ask more generally how such reforms alter the production, distribution, and certification of knowledge. Where, how, by whom and in which institutional contexts are these reforms conceptualised, implemented, and turned into “best practices” or failures? How are actors and networks mobilized in the transfer of these models? How are these models legitimated or give rise to contestations? This panel aims to explore different analytical concepts (travelling models, diffusion, borrowing and lending) and their contribution to a better understanding of the global circulation of educational reforms by inviting presentations that combine ethnographic and comparative case studies focusing on policy-making processes and the development of curricula with broader theoretical debates in anthropology and the sociology of science studies in Africa.

Modèles voyageurs en éducation élémentaire et supérieure et la circulation des réformes en Afrique

Ce panel porte sur les réformes de l’éducation élémentaire et supérieure en Afrique, sur leurs origines, leurs composantes et leurs trajectoires. Au cours des deux dernières décennies, les réformes des secteurs éducatifs ont été multipliées par les modèles globaux circulants. Le nouveau management public, l’approche par les compétences et les instruments qui rendent les programmes éducatifs comparables, sont introduits dans l’ensemble du continent africain. C’est à travers une approche analytique, bien souvent absente en sciences sociales, que nous comptons aborder ce phénomène afin de proposer une compréhension critique de la fabrication des savoirs. Ce panel se propose d’interroger la manière dont les réformes modifient la production, la distribution et la certification des savoirs. Il s’agira de se demander où, comment, par qui et dans quels contextes institutionnels ces réformes sont conceptualisées, mises en œuvre, et déclarées comme meilleures pratiques ou comme échecs. Comment les acteurs sont-ils mobilisés dans le transfert des modèles? Comment ces modèles sont-ils légitimés ou donnent-ils lieu aux contestations? Ce panel vise à explorer différents concepts analytiques (modèles voyageurs, diffusion, prêt) en laissant la place à des présentations qui articulent, études de cas ethnographiques et comparaison sur les processus de « policy-making » et du développement des curricula avec les débats théoriques de l’anthropologie et de la sociologie des sciences.

Paper 1

Rey Jeanne / Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)

Higher education and religious transnationalism in Ghana

Recently, an increasing number of Pentecostal churches in Ghana have launched their own Universities and programs of superior education. While major Pentecostal churches have already had their ministry programs to train their own pastors, the recent change is significant because these new Universities offer secular programs and are open to students from all religious backgrounds. Yet, the project and the implementation of Universities have roots in both religious practice and transnational / translocal social fields. In this paper, I will address some aspects of the creation of a University in Ghana by a Pentecostal church. In particular, I would like to stress the role of the diaspora and the transnational processes underlying its development. The foundation of the University is embedded in different logics, which are all strongly transnationalized: the neo-liberal tertiary education reform project; a developmentalist approach involving NGOs and supported by the local chiefs; and a religious project of evangelisation in line with dominion theology. Finally, I will highlight that raising the necessary funds for the foundation of the University was made possible by the rhetoric of prosperity gospel, which allowed to collect donations from the diaspora across North America and Europe through transnational church networks.

Paper 2

Babyesiza Akiiki / BIGSAS, Universität Bayreuth

Entrepreneurial universities and university-owned enterprises in Eastern Africa

The idea of New Public Management has become a global model of higher education reform. This holds especially true for universities in African countries, where international and multilateral organisations serve as transmitters of higher education reform trends.
New Public Management inspired reforms have led to the rise of the entrepreneurial university as a global model. This global model is widely used – by scholars and politicians alike – as best practice model for the university in the 21st century. Universities in Africa are partly adopting this model by establishing private companies to compete in the non-academic marketplace.
In the paper I will present an international comparative research project with a focus on the entrepreneurial university and university-owned enterprises as “organized forms of entrepreneurial science” (Braun-Thürmann, Knie, Simon 2010) in Eastern Africa. The objective of the study is to analyze the self-image of university organizations, how local actors ascribe meaning to the global model and subsequent changes in the mode of scientific knowledge production. Data will be generated by Q-methodology, narrative interviews, an analysis of organisational documents and participant observation during field research at three universities. The theoretical framework for the project is the concept travel of ideas developed by Czarniawska & Joerges (1996).

Paper 3

Eckl Frauke Katharina / Goethe University Frankfurt am Main/Africa’s Asian Options (AFRASO)

Living and Breathing Best Practices? South Korean Development Experiences in Ethiopian Higher Education

In the past years many African countries have established major programs for economic growth and development, with Ethiopia being one of the most ambitious countries among these. Most recently, this has found its expression in the higher education sector, where several reforms and measures inspired by South Korea`s development experience have been adapted.
Widely discussed as part of a “South Korean model”, certain actors accompany the implementation of education policies and programs as mediators. High-profile, retired South Korean professors are assigned by the Ethiopian government to key positions in Ethiopian universities. Their mandate is not only to help restructure the system, but surprisingly also to “change the mindset” of staff and students. The professors themselves have lived through the rapid socio-economic changes in South Korea that took place between 1950 and 1990. Therefore, they ought to have first-hand knowledge of how to achieve a certain modernization. Beyond “merely” transferring technical skills, their envisaged purpose lies in teaching their own experiences. Essentially, they come to Ethiopia as living and breathing best practices. Based on interviews conducted in Ethiopia, this paper examines discussions around the South Korean experiences: how they travel to Ethiopia, why the label as a “model” is contested and what it means to teach an experience.

Paper 4

Fichtner Sarah / LAM-Sciences Po Bordeaux

What’s in the gap? The travel and appropriation of learner-centred and competency-based education reforms in Benin

Learner-centred and competency-based approaches to teaching and learning have become central aspects of education reforms worldwide. First conceptualised in North America in the late 1960s, then transferred to Australia and Europe since the 1970s and to a number of African countries since the 1990s, they represent travelling policies par excellence. A growing body of literature exists on their origins linked to socio-constructivism; their strengths and weaknesses; their narrative framing as tools for democratisation processes, economic growth and quality education; as well as on their implementation problems – the gap between policy goals and realities. In my presentation based on 11 months of ethnographic research, I intend to not only point to this gap, but to focus on school actors’ references to and arrangements with the gap, in order to understand what actually happens inside the gap as policy is practiced. For this it is particularly fruitful to move from classroom observation to situations, in which teachers discuss among themselves good, bad and best practices as in peer teacher training units and collective grading sessions. My analysis of the travel and appropriation of learner-centred education policy, practices and outcomes and their intimate connections and contradictions in everyday school life, helps to understand processes of travelling policy enactment beyond (and between) the polarising view of a conflict between a global model and a local context.

Paper 5

Forje John W. / Department of Political Science, University of Yaounde II-Soa

Rethinking the Models of Human Capital Development As The Anvil for Africa’s Sustainable Transformation. Challenges And Prospects

The paper takes a critical look at factors underscoring the poor process of the continent’s transformation from a backward into a modern society. It argues that spoliation system of education manufactured by the colonial powers was designed to keep Africa as an underdeveloped polity. Therefore, the fabrication, development and proper utlitilisation of knowledge has been basically lacking from the colonial to the present period.
Departing from these premises, Africans must seriously undertake constructive reformation process of the education sector, equip its citizens with appropriate tools and skills that foster creativity, innovation, entrepreneurial knowledge and productivity to transform and give added advantage to its vast natural resources as veritable for development. Hanging on the colonial form of education and given the penetrating forces of neoliberal development pattern, Africa has shot itself in both feet and risk immobilising its entire body almost completely if it continues to depend on the advice of Euro-centric approach to profound development import. Though Africa has made monumental improvements in the world of education that can be seen as impressive, something is lacking somewhere that impedes its transformation when compared with countries in the East-Asian region, for example. A comparative and analytical process is adopted.

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