Development Education in United Kingdom

Development Education

Historical Background

Education of public opinion in the UK about problems in the Third World, and issues of North-South interdependence, dates back to the Freedom from Hunger Campaign of the early 1960s and the work of the early Aid agencies founded in the 50s and 60s. It has since become a focus of concern and activity for a broad coalition of interests including more than 150 development NGOs (NGDOs) and Development Education Centres (DECs), youth organisations and school-based programmes, voluntary sector projects, church groups, local authorities and educational institutions, trades unions and womens groups, as well as numerous individuals throughout the UK.

The late 60s and 70s saw the rise of Action For World Development (AWDF), and the subsequent organisation of local action groups through the churches and voluntary commitment. In the UK, the law defines what activities can be presented to the public by registered charities through appeals for funds and support. Certain kinds of political activity are not accepted as charitable. So, for many development agencies with charitable status, this has meant separating certain kinds of campaigning activities and political lobbying from education work, humanitarian aid and development co-operation. For AWDF, it resulted in the creation of the World Development Movement (WDM), as a separate, political lobbying organisation. A network of local WDM support groups introduced many people to Third World development and campaigning activities in the 70s.

The term `Development Education' (DE) has been used in many countries, but began to be used more commonly in the UK following the establishment of a DE Fund in 1977 by the left of centre Labour Government. The late Judith Hart, as Minister for Overseas Development, encouraged the Fund as a means of combating widespread ignorance about Third World issues which a national survey had revealed. Hart noted that:

"Too many attitudes are still moulded almost entirely by irrational feeling, misconceptions and prejudice".

The Fund's objective was to increase public understanding, by formal and informal means, on all issues affecting the economic and social development of the South and their consequences on Britain. For activists, the crucial thing was that the government was finally validating this area of work and these concerns in partnership with NGOs and individuals.

Four main strands of grassroots DE activity developed during the 70s and 80s:

Activities were developed and sustained by hundreds of voluntary workers, in some instances supported by paid staff in the Aid Agencies or established DECs.
The four strands formed alliances and shared membership with local peace, environmental and human rights groups; a multi faceted network of activists in local communities that still exists fifteen years later. This constituency was predominantly white and middle class. It tended to be `fed' with information and strategic thinking, to a large extent, by its `parent' national bodies.
Its objectives broadly reflected those of the government DE Fund but there was a fruitful cross-fertilisation of disarmament, anti-arms trade, human rights and environmental concerns impinging on the priorities of Aid Agencies which stressed issues of aid, trade, and alleviation of poverty.

A key element for the success of grassroots DE was the notion of working in partnership; with people developing their own agendas in the South, and with teachers, youth workers and those involved in education in the North.

The formation of NADEC (the National Association of Development Education Centres) in 1979, encouraged the idea of local meeting places and a national structure for relatively isolated local groups. "Within the first seven years, NADEC made significant gains in raising the public profile of DE. Both the scope of its work and size of its membership rose rapidly from 6 to 46 Centres throughout the UK, and from 30 to over 100 affiliated organisations". (?)

NADEC's annual conference became a major focal point for grassroots DE. It raised contentious and topical issues, and developed the capacity to set agendas for grassroots work. For example, the promotion of equal opportunity policies and good practice, anti- racism and Black DE worker representation in DE organisations and structures, or the issues of citizenship and class conditioning on people's sense of control over their lives.

A climate of public support for broad DE concerns was demonstrated by the mass anti-nuclear demonstrations and Third World lobbies of Parliament in the late 70s and early 80s and the Anti-apartheid rallies of the late 80s. The constituency for involvement in global concerns was widening.

Mainstream DE became firmly lodged in the opposition camp to the right wing Conservative Government, both in the DE Movement's sense of identity and in the mind of the Government. This alienation was precipitated by the axing of the Government fund for DE by the Conservatives when they gained power in 1979.

Influences and Trends

During this period, DE's internal process included assimilating pedagogical influences with regard to content, analysis and methodology, particularly in the production of education materials. This growing professionalism was translated into educational programmes adapted to the learning environment and organisational structures of both the formal and informal sectors. In particular, formal sector (schools) work, involving close working relationships with teachers and Local Education Authorities (LEAs), has been very effective.

Within the constraints of Charity Law, DECs and development agencies have attempted to define and interpret active principles, methods and themes to sustain a relevant, international education for the late 20th century. Such education aimed to empower and respect individuals while giving them access to knowledge and skills development which would help them define the changing, interdependent world they inhabit.

In the wider political field, DE was able during this period to contribute to the debate that was re-examining relations with the South in the post-colonial period. Classrooms and libraries in the late 1970s were still full of textbooks and reference material that described the Third World through the frequently racist language and patronage of Empire; nation states as providers of raw materials for British industry and public consumption, and different cultures as interesting and exotic but hardly modern. DE workers publicly questioned the messages received by students and teachers from the use of these out-of-date texts, and demonstrated through publishing alternative and topical materials, new ways of thinking about the South and the dynamics of change and development on people's lives. This debate influenced the growth of multicultural education and anti-racist education strategies adopted by many local education authorities.

At the level of community involvement, whether in cities, towns or villages, the process of enabling people to feel competent to address global issues from their own starting point was greatly advanced with the growth of Town Twinning and Community Linking schemes throughout the country. The experience of linking brings DE alive. By involving communities in the organisation of active links with other countries and through listening to one another, development issues are personalised and demystified. In the UK, there are now over 200 active community links with the South, involving people, young and old, in a wide range of activities- through schools, training, visits and local projects.

An influence rarely acknowledged in the development of practical skills among DE workers was the government- funded Manpower Services Commission's Employment Programmes in the early to mid '80s. These made funding available to local voluntary groups to provide short term work for unemployed people of a "socially useful nature, in the local community". It was a short- lived scheme! But while it lasted, grassroots DE was shaken-up by an influx of large numbers of highly motivated, risk-taking young people, from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds who had nothing to lose by doing what all education is supposed to do. . . raise questions, expand their knowledge of the world, and develop useful skills. Certainly, in NADEC, this was the time that `equal opportunities' came to the head of the agenda.

Throughout this period, grassroots DE was establishing democratic, organisational structures, moving towards equal opportunity work practice, and using inter- active teaching and decision-taking methods.

The role of the development/aid agencies (NGDOs) in formulating the content and activities of DE has been very significant. Their continuing support for grassroots development activity in the struggle to alleviate poverty and injustices in the South, has provided them with a wealth of experience. They have monitored the impact of socioeconomic and environmental factors on ordinary people's lives over many decades, and witnessed the reorganisation of a world emerging from a world war and European imperial influence. DE programmes and activities have tapped this experience in many ways, and NGDOs remain a primary source of information, contacts, and source material for DE.

DE has also benefited from the commitment of increasing numbers of volunteers returning to the UK after working overseas in rural or urban communities. They have examined what they have learned from their experience and how it might link with awareness raising amongst the UK public. VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas), RVA (Returned Volunteer Action) and other volunteer organisations developed induction and training programmes which channelled returned volunteers' interests towards development activities.
But writers about the national DE scene during the formative years of the 70s and early 80s tend to support the view that " DE lacks a clear definition and there is no wholly consistent usage of the term" (idem !). Definitions ranged from bland statements about spreading knowledge of interdependence to- analyses of maldistribution of resources. However, grassroots DE activists tended to adopt the NADEC definition, which is given at the end of this report.

Images and Messages

The famine in Ethiopia and Sudan in the mid 1980s marked a watershed in the positioning of NGDOs in the UK. Their income and support more than doubled in a 2-3 year period. The famine, through extensive media coverage, caused an upsurge in people's awareness about the cause and effect of what were once seen as natural disasters. Since then few would consider famine as an `act of God', or simply a climatic phenomenon.

People related to the tragedy in almost personal ways. It inspired very imaginative and generous acts; and these influences have prevailed on all our thinking since then.

Live aid, Band Aid, Comic relief - all kinds of Aid- received wide-spread popular support and drew on the commitment and participation of the rich and famous- particularly from the world of entertainment. It became `cool' for rock musicians and new-wave comedians to be identified with development, particularly in Africa.

Media coverage and responsibility for the presentation of popular images and public understanding of disasters became prime DE concerns, not least because ideas about Africa became graphically stereotyped through the repetition of harrowing pictures from Ethiopia and Sudan. A large number of projects and training programmes were organised on visual and verbal images and messages. This activity included the multi-national `Images of Africa' project and still continues with strategies to implement the EC NGDO network's Code of Conduct on Images and Messages produced in 1989. Many NGDOs subsequently adopted codes of conduct or guidelines on the use and publication of visual and written material describing people and their situations, particularly in the South. Grassroots DE reflected the same concerns in active work in school classrooms, exhibitions and public education.

The Ethiopian famine brought into the open the conflict of interest between simple, heartrending images of need (the starving child) to raise funds quickly for famine relief, and the use of images in context so people understand and respect why a famine occurs, who it affects and what local people are doing about it.

Funding and Resourcing of DE

The Labour Government's original grant funding programme for DE helped define working criteria for DE, and established a process for grant aiding local and national projects. Many of these projects involved the establishment of operational centres dedicated to the promotion of development cooperation North and South, and to DE activities in the public sector.

After the virtual extinction of the DE grants fund by the Conservative Government in 1979, the EC co- funding provisions became vital elements in sustaining programmes and organisations. The major NGDOs, Oxfam, Christian Aid, CAFOD (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development) and War on Want also established DE grants funds to help maintain the embryonic DE movement, and to stimulate new thinking and projects. The churches, including the Methodists and United Reform Church, continued to contribute their support, both moral and financial, to anti-poverty campaigns, DE and Third World development issues.

Substantial European Commission funding was secured by UK development educators during the 1980s for developing 3 year projects, primarily in the formal education sector but, also, in trade union education, gender and development projects and the Farmers World Network. The EC has since become the major contributor of DE funding in the UK, and crucial to the survival of many DE organisations as well as to the evolution of new thinking in DE activities: In addition, the Development agencies: Oxfam, Christian Aid, CAFOD and UNICEF (UK) have provided essential co- funding of EC supported DE projects as well grant funding of salaries and programme core costs of many DECs and other small DE organisations.

NADEC secured a major grant from the EC in I 992 to cofund and develop a project called `Building from Strength' which aims to support grassroots DE initiatives in schools and community sectors, organise workshops, produce resources and promote DE to a wider network of organisations. The project also reinforces the need for a national coordinating body to promote De in the UK.

The relationship of the Conservative government and other political parties to NGDOs is a critical element for DE in the UK. The negative effect of lack of official support for DE has been felt most acutely on the funding side, particularly by grassroots DE organisations. Loss of official status has also restricted the potential impact of DE, but it has forced the grassroots DE movement and the donor agencies to make best use of available resources and to build a solid base for DE through strengthening the national network of DE activities and organisations. It has also freed DE to take up `unpopular' issues such as gender and anti- racism without government restrictions. Since 1979, the official governmental response to DE has been in favour of a degree of information activities only. Hence continued funding of two Centres: SEAD in Scotland (Scottish Education and Action for Development) (see below) and CWDE (the Centre for World Development Education) now called Worldaware, which distributes materials from the ODA (Overseas Development Administration) together with resource materials produced by all levels of NGDO DE activity in the UK.

The government modestly funded the 1988 Council of Europe North-South campaign and recently funded a Schools North-South Linking programme. Apart from these instances, the government consistently rejects requests to fund DE: a stance at odds with the position of a majority of EC governments. In contrast, the Labour Party as the main opposition party has developed a strong manifesto in support of DE. It quotes a 1989 Harris poll for the Commonwealth Trust and CWDE which revealed that 82% of British adults believe it is important that we know what is happening in developing countries but 42 % think that at present they are not well informed.

Within the formal institutions of Local Government (for example, IULA, the International Union of Local Authorities, and the UK Local Government International Bureau) there is a formal recognition of the need to support grassroot DE. The Cologne Appeal to all Local Authorities in support of development initiatives, has been effectively invoked by grassroots DE/DECs to gain support at local level. Twinning and Linking are now accepted as main stream activities within IULA and Towns and Development fora; with many towns having institutionalised European twinning since the end of World War II.

In practice, however, Local Education Authority (LEA) support for DE in schools, public or youth work sectors is undermined by lack of funds. Spending is constrained both by central government and through cuts in local authority budgets, compounded by the impact of Local Management of Schools (LMS) on LEAs whereby schools now control their own budgets and decide on their own priorities for expenditure.

NGDO-EC Liaison Committee: Development Education Group