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The concept of development in adult education literature : Nigerian and Jamaican perspectives, 1976-1986 Bonson, Anita M. J.


Over the last few decades, adult education literature has indicated an increasing interest in the topic of national development. However, in general this literature's conceptualization of "development" is unclear, since it rarely analyses the concept within any explicit frameworks. One purpose of this study was therefore to bring more clarity to the discussion of development as it relates to adult education. An examination of literature on development thought and on the development/education relationship indicated some reflection by the latter of shifts in development perspectives, though the coincidence was by no means exact. Overall, a shift away from the advocation of a linear, Eurocentric development model focussed on economic growth towards more indigenous-based conceptualizations and a greater emphasis on equality was noted. However, this was by no means complete or universal. Because of the suggestion that indigenous approaches to development are likely more relevant, a second purpose was to deepen understanding of the development/adult education relationship through an examination of its conceptualization in the adult education literature of a specific context—that of West African and Caribbean English-speaking nations. A hermeneutic approach was used to interpret selected literature from Nigeria and Jamaica (considered exemplary of the two regions of the context). The four main questions addressed to the literature were concerned with the emphasis on: literacy education; consistency of national and adult educational goals; reducing inequality; and the need for structural change. It was found that literacy education was accorded much importance, as was the necessity of harmonizing adult educational with national objectives. Neither inequality nor structural change was emphasized, and consideration of both was most often indirect. Little autonomy for adult education was indicated. Since the differences between the two sub-contexts seemed as numerous as the similarities, and since none of the existing development or development/education frameworks seemed totally adequate to either, the importance of indigenous approaches seemed to be confirmed. However, the persistent influence of Western development values and goals (particularly modernization) was also very evident in the literature. This suggested a tension between the more recent trend to indigenous approaches and the continuing pervasiveness of Western models. Further exploration of the nature and effects of this tension was therefore suggested.

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