DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION SUPPORT CENTRE (DESC) AND THE OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION PROGRAMME
The official Development Education Programme is organised and funded as a component of Official Development Assistance by the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is a public awareness programme designed to inform the Irish public about development issues in Third World countries and Ireland’s involvement in them. Spending on this programme, which was quite small up until 1985, has risen to over £500,000 in 1986 and is due to expand further in 1987. As part of this expansion, the Department of Foreign Affairs has this year provided funding to St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, to set up the Development Education Support Centre (DESC) as a means to strengthen the professional support and delivery system for official and non-official development education activities. The first Director of DESC took up office on 1 June, 1986, and the full setting up of DESC is underway at present. DESC has been set up for a trial period of three years and its activities will be subject to an extensive review and evaluation towards the end of that period.
THE ROLE OF DESC
The official Development Education programme is principally a funding programme for development education activities carried out by agencies outside the Department of Foreign Affairs, such as non-governmental organisations with links to Third World development and various community and non-formal educational agencies. These agencies devise and plan development education projects, submit these to the Department of Foreign Affairs for funding (frequently part-funding), and implement them accordingly. The Department itself carries out only a small number of development education activities, consisting principally in the publication and dissemination of information on the Bi-lateral Aid Programme.
The current expansion of the Development Education programme will add to the current operation of the official Development Education Programme in two ways. Firstly, it will attempt to expand the range of agencies and institutions, involved in disseminating development education, focussing particularly on schools, colleges, the media and non-governmental organisations in fields such as youth-work, sport, trade union activity, etc. Secondly, DESC will assist and support agencies in designing and implementing development education projects, particularly those agencies and institutions which have a role to perform in this area but are lacking in appropriate experience and skills. In this way the quality of development education will be sustained while the quantity is increased.
These additions will not affect the basic character of the official Development Education programme as a funding programme for activities carried out by independent agencies. DESC’s role in this programme will be to act as a support to agencies that are already active in the development education field or that have a potential role to play even if they are not currently active. It will not be primarily either an implementing or a funding agency in its own right. Rather, it will promote development education by working through central “provider agencies” within the existing educational and communications structures, and by encouraging and enabling those agencies to incorporate development education material into their existing educational service.
The support provided by DESC will be in the form of professional resources, skills and advice rather than finance. DESC will not be the source of funds for specific development education projects or programmes and will remain distinct from the funding agency (direct funding to the DESC will cover its own administration needs only and will not contain funds for projects). As far as the official programme is concerned, the Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to be the direct funding agency for individual projects, though it might choose to delegate some of the decision-making on funding to associate bodies (at present, for example, for projects implemented by Third Level Colleges, the Department seeks the assistance of HEDCO Development Education Committee in reaching funding decisions). The Department, or any body it nominates, will continue to receive and assess applications for funding for projects from the implementing agencies. Where required the implementing agencies will be assisted by DESC in planning and designing the projects which will be submitted for funding, and the Department might seek information or advice from DESC in assessing applications.
THE STRUCTURE AND ORGANISATION OF DESC
The DESC has been set up in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and will have a regional office in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. The regional office is intended as a step towards decentralising development education activities and towards enabling DESC to provide a truly national service. St. Patrick’s and Mary Immaculate will house the DESC offices and will provide certain facilities but otherwise the DESC will be organised as an autonomous unit separate from the normal duties and functioning of the two colleges, with its own management structure, staff routines, secretarial services, accounts system and so on.
DESC will be governed by a Steering Committee and will have a full-time staff of eight. Its management and staffing structure will look something like that outlined in the chart overleaf.
MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE AND STAFFING OF DESC
NOTE: Numbers in brackets refer to staff grades.
STAFF GRADES - ST. PATRICK’S COLLEGE EQUIVALENTS:
A RESOURCES CENTRE will be developed as part of the main office of DESC in St. Patrick’s College. This centre will gather together development education materials for use in schools and among the wider non-specialist public (it will not be geared to serve the needs of scholarly research in development studies), and will provide expert advice to teachers, youth workers, adult educators, etc. on the development and use of development education materials. It will be open to the public and will provide a national distribution service for development education materials, particularly as a backup to development education activities run as part of the official programme.
Discussion Paper, 14 July 1986.
Prepared by: Development Education Support Centre (DESC)
DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION PROGRAMME FOR THE POST-PRIMARY TRANSITION YEAR OPTION
The present outline contains a preliminary set of ideas about a Development Education Programme which it is hoped to initiate over the coming year. The early planning and design of this programme will be supported and partially carried out by DESC, but it is intended to approach established institutions in the education field, particularly the post-primary teacher-education institutions, with a view to having the main work of the programme taken up and carried forward by them. (Brief discussions with two of these institutions have already taken place and these will be developed further as soon as possible).
These ideas, at this point, are those of DESC alone and they have yet to be discussed and developed with the agencies and institutions which might take part in implementing them or which might have views to offer on how they should be developed. The present outline is intended as a starting point for such discussion, and comments and reactions will be welcomed from any interested parties.
The programme as outlined here is envisaged as a programme of assistance to schools running a Transition Year Option. It will be designed to encourage and support those schools towards incorporating a module or block on development issues into their Transition Year programme. The proposed assistance would consist in (a) the preparation (by the providing institutions) of a general set of appropriate materials and guidelines on development issues for use in Transition Year programmes, and (b) an in-service training programme to equip teachers to adapt and use those materials for the Transition Year programmes in their own schools.
The outline is based on a view of the Transition Year Option as an attempt to provide pupils in post-primary schools with an alternative to or break from the book-based, examination oriented style of education which predominates in the main part of the post-primary curriculum. It is also based on the view of Development Education as a content area and a set of pedagogical techniques which can provide material that well matches the intentions of the Transition year Option. As more and more schools adopt the Transition Year Option, the opportunity would seem to be there to insert a significant block of development education into the curriculum of a substantial proportion of the country’s post-primary schools, to the advantage alike of pupils, teachers and those concerned with promoting a wider and more informed understanding of development issues among the Irish public.
2. PREPARING MATERIALS:
The first component of the programme is the preparation of materials and resources for Development Education in the Transition Year. Because the development education field is so broad, the amount of material available for use in it so large and the possible contents and approaches it could draw on so varied, it is necessary to help schools manage the area by narrowing down and imposing some order on the possibilities in advance. This imposition of order would not be designed to restrict the range of options available to schools but to enable them to make rational choices from a very large field.
The exact nature of this preparatory work remains to be decided but some general indications of what might be involved can be suggested here.
As one of a number of possible approaches, preparatory work might focus on a range of thematic options relating to development issues, each option being accompanied by a set of appropriate resource materials and guidelines on methods. These options would need to be flexible and adaptable and capable of fitting into a wide range of different school situations, particularly since the Transition Year content as a whole, as a school-level construct rather than a system-level construct is likely to vary greatly from school to school. Ideally, much of the curriculum development work in this area would be done by teachers themselves in their own schools but in practice many teachers and schools lack the resources to carry out such work to a sufficient extent. In effect many teachers may have the resources only to make suitable adaptations to material or guidelines made available from outside the classroom.
In these circumstances, the Development Education material prepared for the programme might consist, for example, of a largish range of units (say, five or six) from which teachers might choose to use two or three, either in the form supplied or in a form adapted by the teachers according as their own interests and the circumstances of their own schools dictate. Given the emphasis of the Transition Year on non-traditional content and teaching styles, the units would need to contain a good deal of innovative educational methods and materials. Activity learning methods among pupils would seem the most appropriate, and informational content would need to be built in as background to projects or activities that might be carried out in class. Such projects could also attempt to utilise local resources (such as local agencies or individuals with Third World experience or connections) and to develop links between pupils and the adult world outside the school.
The formats of such activity would vary from school to school but some standard patterns could be suggested. Thus, for example, the development education units might build together into a module taking the form of three or four weeks of intensive classroom activity culminating in a Third World Week which the Transition Year class would mount for the rest of the school or indeed for the wider community.
The preparatory work needed to provide the back-up material for such options would be substantial and would be carried out by curriculum development group (s) working closely with the implementing institutions and with advisory panels of teachers and other interested groups. It is not envisaged that extensive new materials should emerge from this effort, rather that a selection and combination from the extensive range of existing materials be put together in the form that best suits the requirements of the Transition Year. Given a group with some full-time expert staff at its disposal, it should be possible to produce an initial coordinated set of packages for this purpose within a six to twelve month period, though the assembly of a complete and properly tested range of material could be expected to be a longer-term task.
3. TEACHER PREPARATION:
An adequate system of teacher preparation and support is the key to making a successful transfer of development education into the classroom, particularly in the innovative circumstances of the Transition year option. There would seem to be at least three minimum requirements in this area: (1) a broad introductory or foundation course for teachers on Third World studies (the content element); (2) guidance and assistance for teachers on the adaptation and use of Development Education materials and methods in their own classrooms (the methods element); (3) some follow-up mechanism to support teachers over the longer term as they attempt to incorporate development education into their everyday teaching work (the follow-up element).
The truly challenging part of the programme would be to meet these requirements in a satisfactory way with teachers involved in the Transition Year Option in schools in all parts of the country. The following are some suggestions on how this challenge might be met.
To reach teachers dispersed over the country, this element might feasibly be handled by distance education methods. Following approaches by DESC, RTE has expressed interest in broadcasting a “Third World Studies” course based on Open University material, with suitable additions to reflect the Irish point of view. This course would utilise broadcast material, packs of print material and group tutorial sessions organised at a number of local centres around the country, preferably in conjunction with colleges that could provide the skilled personnel to act as course tutors. (RTE has already piloted a model for this approach in its series “Adults Learning” which was transmitted earlier in 1986 and given tutorial support by the Centre for Adult and Community Education in Maynooth College).
If current plans proceed, it may be possible to initiate a Third World studies course next January or February and thus have it available as a component of an in-service course for teachers for the first half of 1987 (the course would also be open to non-teachers and so might attract the numbers that would make possible a good spread of tutorial centres around the country).
The methods element, by means of which teachers would put together ideas, methods and materials as units or modules in development education for use in their own classrooms, would require a participatory, workshop approach. This element might best be organised as a series of intensive Saturday or weekend sessions at appropriate points in the school year, or as short intensive summer schools, or as some combination of alternatives that would best suit participating teachers. Ideally, this element would follow the content element and might be based on groups of teachers who had come together as members of local tutorial groups for the introductory Third World Studies course.
This element will be concerned with curriculum development and teaching methods and will be oriented to classroom practice and to the requirements of teachers and pupils in the Transition Year rather than to academic education. The teacher education institutions such as the colleges of education and the education departments in the universities, as well as other agencies such as Curriculum Development Units and Teachers’ Centres, would provide the professional expertise and back-up for this element and play a major part in its design, organisation and implementation.
Follow-up would take place in conjunction with the implementation of development education activities by teachers and their pupils in schools and would emerge from the teachers’ own identification of need for further support and development. It would attempt to respond with advice, support or improvements in materials to the difficulties and obstacles teachers experienced in using development education materials or mounting development education activities in the classroom. This element would be based on formally organised opportunities for teachers to review their work in this area and to identify the kind of further assistance they needed.
Local networks of teachers involved in development education would provide a useful organisational format for such activity and the members of such networks might go a long way to identifying solutions as well as identifying problems in each other’s classroom work. The fostering of such groups at a local inter-school level might be taken on as an aim of the earlier in-service training stages of the programme and so be ready-made for follow-up activity when programmes reach the stage of classroom implemention. In these circumstances, follow-up might be organised both as a response to teacher demand and as an input determined by external review and evaluation groups.
4. OTHER DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
In designing a programme along these lines, many considerations will arise which cannot be dealt with adequately at this early stage. However, some of the considerations that are likely to arise are evident and it may be useful to indicate some of these in a preliminary way here.
4.1 Credit For In-service Work
The central part of the programme proposed here is a system of appropriate in-service training for teachers and it seems reasonable and desirable that teachers who participate in such training get appropriate recognition for their efforts. One form of such recognition is the award of appropriate academic credit to those who successfully complete the programme. At present, no academic or professional institution in Ireland confers a recognised academic credential for precisely the type of programme envisaged here, but it may be possible to have individual components of the programme validated for the award of credit towards further professional qualifications.
Some interesting possibilities in this regard exist at present, though these have yet to be followed through. Suffice it to say at present that DESC would consider it desirable that appropriate academic and professional recognition be available for teachers who complete in-service work on development education and DESC will explore possibilities with appropriate academic bodies to see if that recognition can be brought about.
4.2 Costs and Finance
A key question in the design of the programme is the question of costs and finance. Given the scarcity of financial resources in the education system, the official Development Education budget is likely to be the major funding source for the programme, though it is hoped that at least a small portion of the funding may be provided by participating schools or may come in the form of nominal fees from teachers who attend in-service courses.
The precise amount of funding that will be available from the official Development Education budget will be determined only when a detailed programme, with full estimates of costs, has been drawn up by the implementing institutions in conjunction with DESC and has been submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs for funding approval. However, it is expected that the scale of funding, while modest in relation to the level of need in this area, will be significant enough to allow worthwhile activity to take place.
4.3 The Role Of The School
The central aim of the programme is to have an impact on the content and methods of the Transition Year Option. Since the Transition Year Option is a school-level construct, teachers who participate in the programme should as far as possible have the backing of the school in pursuing their development education interests, so that their work in this area is part of the work of the school rather than simply an outcome of their own individual interests.
At a minimum, this requirement suggests that information about the programme and encouragement to participate in it should be directed at the staff, principals and boards of management of schools rather than at teachers as individuals. Ideally, decisions about participation should as far as possible emerge from a consultative or joint decision-making process involving teachers and management within each school, and a continuing briefing process should be maintained within the school to keep staff informed of and, one would hope, supportive towards the activities of teachers participating in the programme. It would also seem desirable that at least two teachers from each participating school (preferably two teachers from different subject areas) should have close contact with the development education programme. Such an arrangement would enhance the interdisciplinary element of the programme and would allow participating teachers within each school to provide mutual support to each other.