What makes good education?
• Is it well-trained, knowledgeable and sensitive teachers who understand the uniqueness and contexts of children?
• Is it a joyous learning environment free of fear and reprimand?
• Is it well functioning Parent-Teacher Associations?
• Is it allocation of adequate human and financial resources?
Arguably, a good education incorporates all of the above and more as discussed by the participants of the ATD FourthWorld conference on ‘Building the Post 2015 sustainable development agenda with people living in extreme poverty’ in New York last month. The opinions of the diverse group coming from the global south, the inner cities of New York and Boston and from the hinterlands of Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, etc. were dialoguing the issue of ‘education for all that promotes cooperation among children, teachers, parents and communities’.
So, even as the teacher-child-parent axis of education is important, the bigger question is ‘what is the outcome we want from education for all?’
• Is it to maintain status quo, widen the gap or help build a more equitable society?
Education for an equitable society, not for the market
While all the participants were unequivocal that education must contribute to building a more equitable society, views on achieving this differed. Delegates from Burkina Faso expressed it as the role of education in building solidarity. Others expressed it in the Freirean pedagogy of education as a tool to raise ‘critical consciousness’. Though Paulo Freire spoke of it in the context of colonial suppression, participants felt that it is probably even more relevant in today’s context of subordination of education by market forces.
There was unanimity that education is not a value neutral global good. It is heavily weighed towards the needs of the market (often at conflict with the good of the society) and the resource rich. As it stands, it is aiding the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor and the Post-2015 agenda must recognise this and include effective steps to structure and resource education to make it a tool to build a more equitable society.