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Education for all and the educational aspirations of Malawians Chiwaya-Kishindo, Emma Catherine


This case study examines the phenomenon of education in Malawi in its real-life context. It is based on the Free Primary Education policy that was implemented in 1994 as a response to the World Conference on 'Education for All' (WCEFA) held in Thailand in 1990. WCEFA emphasized education as a human right and key to uplifting living standards of the poor in developing countries. The research inquiry focuses on whether Education for All (EFA) serves the best interests of people in developing countries, and examines the potential of Malawian schools to prepare children for active participation in a global economy. The children's perspectives and those of their parents on the role of education in their everyday lives are also examined using the human capital and modernization theories, and Serpell's (1993) Alternative Metaphors for Schooling. Data was collected following a mixed-mode research design (a survey, interviews, focus group discussions, and study of documents) in 2001 and 2003 from a convenient sample of teachers, in- and out-of-school students, parents, and from archival documents. The findings show that faith in the efficacy of education is entrenched in most Malawian minds. However, the current schooling conditions are inadequate for preparing children for active participation in a market economy, be it at home or internationally. Further, the study highlights the discrepancy between proposed educational practices and the lived experience of teachers, children, and parents in Malawi to the extent that the application of a general universal education philosophy such as EFA, while admirable, in some instances stifles people's resourcefulness in finding solutions to their everyday problems. The conclusion I draw from doing this study is that faith in education in itself, or a professed desire by governments for education for all, is not enough to help improve the human condition in developing countries. A more appropriate investment in human capital for developing countries should include school experiences that develop skills that are useful even in the absence of paid work such as leadership and creative problem solving skills rather than solely focusing on modern sector jobs which are hard to find in many developing countries.

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