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Global poverty and education Essay

In recent years, the transnational agencies launched a number of initiatives aimed at reducing worldwide poverty and improving international security. Criticizing the modernism and development theories which were used previously, the scholars made attempts to explain the major causes underlying the failure of the development efforts of the previous half a century.

Refocusing on education development as the dominant discourse helpful for achieving the rest of the development goals is one of the most decisions made by the transnational agencies recently.

This paper will discuss the criticisms of the development theories, the historical context of development efforts, the role of international and non-governmental organizations in multilateral education and solutions offered by contemporary scholars to enhance the effectiveness of the launched programs.

Current sociocultural perversion marginalizing the poor

In modern world, all governments make efforts to not only protect their citizens but also to ensure their access to the basic services, including those of safe drinking water, health care delivery and education.

Regardless of the fact that a wide range of domestic state institutions, international agencies and non-governmental organizations launch projects to benefit the poor, the poor perceive formal services as inaccessible and ineffective.

The politics of representation of the Third World has had a significant impact upon the development discourse and formation of culture and subjectivities in developing countries. Escobar (1995, p. 215) noted that the very existence and status of the Third World is currently negotiated. The term of the Third World was created as an opposite of the First World denoting the countries which consider them as developed.

The term has a negative connotation and remains an important construct used by those in power. Notwithstanding the chosen definition of modernity, the Third World should not be perceived as a uniform entity, but rather as a fragmented and polarized combination of diverse regions.

Since the 1980s, resistance to development expressed by the grassroots movements was one of the strategies through which the Third World made attempts to construct their unique identities. This struggle against the intervention of international organization aimed at modernization and globalization into the domestic affairs of the Third World was fundamentally cultural (Escobar, 1995, p. 216).

Another approach used for negotiating the development of the Third World was a concept of hybridization of local cultures and modernity to receive a new entity. However, this biological interpretation cannot be applied to discussion of hybrid cultures as a combination of long-standing cultural practices and an incoming element of modernity integrated into the local cultures by transnational forces.

With the advent of cyberculture and the global economic restructuring, the technologic gap between rich and poor countries has been dramatically increased. Consequently, rejecting to use some of the innovative technologies, countries of the Third World undergo the risks of becoming irrelevant to the world economy.

Even though certain regions are involved into the processes of global economic integration, they remain marginalized from it benefits. As a consequence of the current state of affairs, this phenomenon is referred to as sociocultural perversion.

The solution offered by Escobar (1995, p. 222) is a social reform for the Third World regions to reach the goals of technological modernization and competitive participation in the world economy with a special emphasis put upon the educational policies in these countries.

Historical context and trends in multilateralism and education

The development theories have a significant impact upon the strategies implemented by transnational agencies and non-governmental organizations in relation to education policies for the developing countries.

The combination of state-centric, transnationalist and structuralist theories clearly demonstrates the variety of theoretical approaches to be considered to understand multilateral cooperation and the controversy over the objectives, processes and outcomes of education.

The policy setting in UN education is a rather controversial and complicated process. According to Jones (2005, p. 23), the UN education process lacks harmony and consistency because of the multitude and diversity of educational issues around the world. Historically, education concerns were included into the UN charter during a conference in San-Francisco in April – June 1945.

The lobbyist delegations from developing countries and the US-based groups were pressing for the education case, which was expected to contribute to international peace and security. Whereas the process of integrating the education concerns into the UN charter was rather smooth, the question of whether to establish a specialized agency focusing on education remained doubtful.

In the year 1948, education was included into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a part of the UN program aimed at promoting peace and interdependence between the states on the global level.

The entry of education as a multilateral concern into the programming of transnational agencies resulted in economic justification of education and consideration of the correlation between poverty of specific regions and the quality and accessibility of education programs there.

Political multilateralism and economic multilateralism are the two major lines of thinking which had a significant impact upon the UN education programming. The goals of the global economic integration and governance were central to the multilateralism pathways chosen by the UN for promoting peace and security in the world. The links between material progress, security and modernization strategies have become explicit.

Jones (2005, p. 31) stated that the circumstances on the international arena were favorable for this way of thinking. Since the mid-1980s, neo-liberalism theories influenced educational theories and became significant concerns in educational policies and practices.

Discussing the issues of the complexity and diversity of educational system, Jones (2005, p. 42) used the term of structured anarchy to emphasize the collaboration and competition among the variety of the UN education agencies.

The main principles which were prevalent in the organization of the UN education since the year 1945 when education concerns were included into the UN chart included globalization, security and multilateralism. The complex interplay of these principles was responsible for the education for all movement.

The international organizations in construction of multilateral education

Within the recent decades, the multilateral agencies, including those of the World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNDP, have been playing an important role in structuring the world education agenda. These agencies played a dominant role in formulating the International Development Targets (IDTs) and following Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which became the basis for the education policymaking.

According to Rutkowski (2007, p. 244), the main reason for which the international organizations had impact upon the education agenda on local, national and global levels was softness of the implemented strategies.

At the World Conference on Education for All which took place in 1990 in Jomtien (Thailand) invited 155 national delegations from different countries a framework on providing access to primary education for citizens of all countries was shaped.

According to King (2007, p. 379), the themes raised during that World Conference focused mainly on basic education associated with primary schooling. Moreover, regardless of the precise goals and time-bound target, the Jomtien Declaration and Framework were not prescriptive and were not shared by all countries.

Ten years later after the World Conference in Jomtien, in the year 200, the World Forum on Education for All was held in Dakar. By this moment, it became clear that the target of achieving the universal primary education as it was outlined by Jomtien Framework within ten years was unrealistic.

Six Dakar Targets were formulated at this Forum for expanding and improving access to primary education for children belonging to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged categories and ensuring gender equality in education. Just a few months after Dakar Forum, eight Millennium Development Goals were formulated at the global summit in New York.

According to King (2005, p. 386), the peculiar feature of the Millennium Declaration was formulation of strict timelines for the targets related to the south and the absence of any time limitations in resolutions related to the north. The Millennium Declaration did not pay proper attention to the financial basis necessary for the realization of the offered targets.

With its financing impact and the political force, the World Bank can be regarded as one of the strongest players in the sphere of multilateral education. Regardless of the fact that the World Bank as a UN specialized agency is better understood as a financial institution dedicated to borrowing and lending money, its political influence on the development strategies is obvious.

Regardless of the fact that education is only a minor concern of the World Bank and the annual reimbursements dedicated to this area do not exceed 10 percent of the overall expenses, it addresses a wide range of education issues and is prominent in multilateral education.

A significant contribution made by the World Bank to the global education agenda was the resurrection of interest in higher education which can be seen from the joint initiative of the bank and UNESCO, referred to as the task force on higher education and society (TFHES) (Jones, 2005, p. 135).

Notwithstanding the significance of the World Bank and other international agencies, these were only a few players affecting the multilateral education agenda.

The role of non-governmental organizations in realization of development projects

The Western definition of modernity, according to which certain societies are recognized as more modern and developed than others and obtaining resources and knowledge to assist other less developed nations in achieving modernity, has criticized as Western universalism.

Elu and Banya (1999, p. 183) stated that this definition was used by the north or the so-called First World for inclusion of the southern societies into the north-dominated world. In the context of post-modern critiques, the diversity and complexity of the global development activities has increased resulting in proliferation of external and internal non-governmental organizations.

As it has been mentioned earlier, regardless of all the efforts to reach the most disadvantaged groups of population, the formal services are still perceived as inaccessible by the poor (Narayan, 2000, p. 120). It is one of the reasons for which a growing number of aid agencies were turned into non-governmental organizations which can be more useful for launching the development projects and leading the resources to the poor.

The other reasons for these changes are the growing interest among agencies in strengthening the developmental roles of institutions outside the public sector and the demonstrated potential of non-governmental organizations to reach the poor more effectively than the public agencies do.

Therefore, the popularity of the non-governmental organizations as cost-effective alternatives to public development resources has grown.

Elu and Banya (1999, p. 187) stated that Northern non-governmental organizations were frequently used for transferring the cultural awareness, values and patterns from the countries providing technical and financial assistance to the developing countries as recipients of this aid.

Applying this perspective to the estimation of the role of non-governmental organizations, it can be stated that these establishments are frequently perceived as products of governments using them as temporary mediators for achieving specific political goals and expanding their influence.

However, as it can be seen from the example of African voluntary development organizations, southern countries do not remain passive recipients of the aid provided by northern states but create their local non-governmental organizations as a response to the African needs. Then, the question of theoretical and practical relationships between external donors and the locally-based organizations is posed.

According to Elu and Banya (1999, p. 190) a partnership between the northern and southern non-governmental organizations would be the most appropriate approach to enhancing the effectiveness of initiatives launched by both parties. Regardless of the obvious benefits of potential collaboration, the partnership between the rich north and impoverished locally-based organizations is associated with a number of dilemmas.

Because of the inequality of resources, expectations and motivations of the actors, the effective partnership between the north and south non-governmental organizations is not achieved even though in theory the organizations agree that mutual relationship would be advantageous for them.

Effective solutions for the education agenda

The ineffectiveness of the initiatives launched by multilateral organizations can be explained with the lack of attention paid to the specifics of the education sectors in developing countries. A detailed education sector analysis can be an effective tool for empowering reform and development through the vast majority of studies did not address the issues of the sector structure in the context of the aid relationship.

The need to simultaneously address multiple high priority goals, including those of improved healthcare and education appeared to be an unresolvable tension for Africa and other developing countries. Insufficient analysis of the specifics of situation in different countries significantly reduces the effectiveness of the programs and initiatives.

According to Samoff (1999, p. 270), the main conclusion made by studies addressing the problems of education in postcolonial Africa is that the educational system is in crisis without specification of the underlying processes and the most influential factors affecting it.

The limited national control over the education sector analysis and insufficient sense of national ownership reduce the credibility and opportunities for the practical application of existing studies.

The implementation of development strategies in specific locations can have a number of unexpected and even paradoxical consequences. For example, according to Pigg (1997, p. 259), the development implementation in Nepal was rather complex and had a number of local quirks.

Thus, the highly trained Nepalese health care practitioners were unwilling to work in the countryside, whereas by providing training to the village practitioners, the development strategy increased their ambitions and enabled them to move to the urban areas.

These unexpected consequences were not predicted before the launch of the initiative and prove the importance of conducting a thorough research of the local setting before the development implementation.

Similar concerns were raised by Demerath (2003, p. 137) who pointed out at the shifts in the social attachments and ideologies of individuals after their enrollment into the training programs which are a part of development initiatives. In other words, a careful sector analysis can be an effective tool for enhancing the effectiveness of the education agendas and other development programs.

Analyzing the main reasons for the failure of the global development efforts over the decades, it can be stated that the enhanced partnership between a wide array of aid organizations and a more serious consideration of the peculiar features of certain settings is important for eliminating the deficits in the programs and enhancing the effectiveness of initiatives.

Coxon and Munce (2008, p. 148) stated that external aid donating organizations can threaten the local ideas of what education programs should be. For this reason, indicating global patterns of power and influence, policymakers should consider the specifics of local cultures and pay more attention to the opportunities of enhanced partnership among the different aid donating organizations.


Analyzing the criticisms of the main development theories and initiatives, it can be stated that the lack of attention to the specifics of the situation in developing countries and lack of partnership between different agencies are among the main underlying causes of the failure of the development efforts of the previous decades.

Therefore, the emphasis on education-development relationship, education sector analysis and enhanced partnership between different agencies are essential for improving access to education, reducing the world poverty and enhancing international security.


Coxon, E. and Munce, K. (2008) The global education agenda and the delivery of aid to Pacific education. Comparative Education, 44(2), pp. 147 – 165.

Demerath, P. (2003) Negotiating individualist and collectivist futures: Emerging subjectivities and social forms in Papua New Guinea high schools. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 34 (2), pp. 136 – 157.

Elu, J. and Banya K. (1999) Non-governmental organizations as partners in Africa: A cultural analysis of North-South relations. In K. King and L. Buchert (eds) Changing international aid to education: Global patterns and national contexts. Paris: UNESCO Publishing, pp. 182 – 206.

Escobar, A. (1995) Conclusion: Imagining a postdevelopment era. In A. Excobar Encountering development. The making and unmaking of the third world. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 212 – 247.

Jones, P.W. (2005) Education, multilateralism and the UN. In P.W. Jones The United Nations and education. Multilateralism, development and globalization. London and New York: Routledge Falmer, pp. 94 – 136.

King, K. (2007) Multilateral agencies in the construction of the global agenda on education. Comparative Education, 43 (3), pp. 377 – 391.

Narayan, D. (2000) Can anyone hear us? Voices of the poor. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-126.

Pigg, S.L. (1997) Found in most traditional societies: Traditional medical practitioners between culture and development. In F. Cooper and R. Packard (eds) International development and the social sciences. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 259 – 290.

Rutkowski, D. (2007) Converging us softly: How intergovernmental organizations promote neoliberal educational policy. Critical Studies in Education, 48 (2), pp. 229 – 247.

Samoff, J. (1999) Education sector analysis in Africa: Limited national control and even less national ownership. International Journal of Educational Development, 19, pp. 249 – 272.

This Essay on Global poverty and education was written and submitted by user Brooke C. to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Brooke C. studied at California Institute of Technology, USA, with average GPA 3.38 out of 4.0.

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C., Brooke. "Global poverty and education." IvyPanda (blog), September 20, 2019.


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C., B. (2019) 'Global poverty and education'. IvyPanda, 20 September.

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