Education and rural community development: a conceptual model and Jamaican case
Rural citizens in developing countries are becoming the focal point of social, economic and political development efforts. These people traditionally have been left out of the developmental process. National leaders have now realized that the citizens of rural areas have the potential to contribute significantly to developmental efforts of their nations.
One important part of most developing nations' strategies for social and economic development is education. The principal form of education has been that of formal education, the trappings of which were borrowed from the nations' former colonial masters. The education systems increasingly have been seen as working against national development objectives, particularly in rural areas.
Educational planners and policymakers have found an alternative in non-formal education, whereby rural people theoretically obtain the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to initiate their own development projects. However, developing nations lack the human, financial, and material resources needed to concurrently offer both formal and non-formal education programs. Outside funding sources have been sought pursuant to United States foreign policy. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has given impetus to experiments in non-formal education in some 60 countries of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.
The purpose of this dissertation is to examine relationships between education and rural community development, particularly as these relationships have been reported in underdeveloped nations. The methods of inquiry involved:
a substantive analysis and synthesis of the development literature, and
a detailed case study of non-formal education and rural development in Jamaica.
The dissertation develops a thesis, namely that three general relationships may be observed between education and rural development. They are:
Formal education is intended to raise rural children to literacy and productivity in the development of their native areas. Instead, it tends to raise students' expectations towards employment in urban centers, thus bleeding rural areas of trained skills. Formal education has become an entrenched system both as a monopoly of central government bureaucracy, and as the one road recognized by rural adults as leading to a better life. There is a conflict between expectation and delivery, complicated by lack of realistic means for appraisal and change.
Alternatively, certain forms of non-formal education may hold promise for improving the quality of living in the rural areas of developing nations; however, the conditions necessary for a definitive test of non-formal education in rural community development are not likely to be developed under the sponsorship of the education establishment of the developing nations, even when such test is stimulated and heavily supported by outside agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development.
Moreover, the idiosyncratic policies, organization, and funding practices of USAID, the principal source of financial aid for development projects among developing nations, themselves influence the design and outcome of development projects in ways that mitigate against successful development.
Clearly, this poses a dilemma for those governments that seek to develop their rural areas. Traditional institutions and programs have been used to improve conditions in rural areas. Yet these very institutions and programs may be part of the development problems. International development literature is replete with theoretical and promising new programs that cannot be fairly tested. There is no indication that national governments could or would assimilate these programs into standard practice, moreover, the status quo is supported by rural populations.