Committee Reports::Report No. 05 - Development Education::30 October, 1986::Report


List of Committee members

Fine Gael

Nora Owen T.D. (Chairman)

Alice Glenn T.D.

Tom Enright T.D.

Frank Crowley T.D.

Sen. Andy O’Brien

Sen. John Connor

Sen. John Browne

Fianna Fáil

Niall Andrews T.D. (Vice Chairman)

Jimmy Leonard T.D.

Seamus Kirk T.D.

Ned O’Keefe T.D.

Sen. Des Hanafin

Sen. Mark Killilea


Frank Cluskey T.D.

Sen. Michael D. Higgins


Sen. Brendan Ryan


1.The Committee considers development education to be of vital importance in the development process because it aims to deepen the Irish public’s understanding of development issues and to encourage widespread support for development activity both governmental and non-governmental. Because of its importance the Committee decided to exclude development education from its report on the Bilateral Aid Programme (BAP) and to make it the subject of a separate report.

2.The Committee’s principal aims in addressing the question of development education are:

(i)to give support to the development education efforts already undertaken by the various agencies involved;

(ii)to examine the manner in which development education is organised particularly at a time of structural change [with the establishment this year of the Development Education Support Centre (DESC)];

(iii)to underline the importance of maintaining development education as a significant part of the bilateral programme.

3.In considering the question of development education the Committee has taken evidence from representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Education, the Development Education Support Centre (DESC), Higher Education for Development Cooperation (HEDCO), the Curriculum and Examinations Board and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

4.The Report deals with development education under the following headings:





Development Education in general

5.The problems of the developing countries are varied and complex. They are also, very often, tragic in the extreme. The vast majority of people in Ireland are well aware of the major tragedies affecting the Third World and respond to them generously. The recent famine in Ethiopia is a case in point. However, apart from cataclysms of nature, massive tragedies do not normally occur in a day. They are very often the climax to a series of avoidable events. The conditions, both internal and external, giving rise to these events need investigation and, once clearly identified, need redress.

6.Development education aims to impart knowledge, change attitudes and ultimately involve people in action supportive of development. Most witnesses before the Committee agreed that a proper understanding of developmental needs demands an awareness of the economic, political, social and other conditions which give rise to underdevelopment. However, there does not appear to be common agreement on the body of knowledge which ought to be covered. The emphasis differs in accordance with the varying approaches of the agencies involved. Some focus on the direct response in the field, others emphasise underlying causes.

7.Comprehensive solutions to the problems of developing countries demand action on a number of fronts simultaneously. There is a need not only for appropriate responses in the field but also for structural reforms of internal economies, the reform of international trading patterns and an imaginative approach to the debt problem.

8.The Committee is profoundly of the belief that in this process the individual elector and his opinion matters greatly. If she or he is properly informed, motivated and active, governments will have to listen and in turn both increase their own contributions to ODA and use their influence internationally to help resolve the deeper causes of underdevelopment.



9.Non-Governmental Organisations have played a major role in development education over the years and continue to do so. At the official level, the two principal departments responsible for development education are the Departments of Foreign Affairs and of Education. HEDCO also plays a role, and a new structure, DESC, has been put in place this year.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

10.In 1985 development education projects of up to 25 NGOs were co-financed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Committee, in seeking evidence, interviewed two of these, Trocaire and Concern. However, between them they account for roughly one third of the official development education budget for 1985.

11.Trocaire* stated in evidence that development aid on its own will never solve the problem of underdevelopment. It feels that changes in attitude to the Third World and in the structures through which the developed world deals with the underdeveloped must accompany development cooperation efforts and that the role of development education is crucial to this process. For this reason Trocaire allots 20% approximately of its budget to development education.

12.Trocaire does not aim its activities at the public in general but focuses on key groups who might be expected to influence public opinion. It attempts to establish partnerships with these. Areas of primary interest to it are the Church, adult education, curriculum development within the Department of Education, the Trades Unions, the Department of Foreign Affairs and voluntary groups like Macra na Feirme.

13.Concern feels that it should not only give aid to the poorest but also identify and expose the factors which retard their advancement. It allots 3.4% approximately of its total budget to development education. Concern’s main target groups are its own contributors and the schools system (particularly through debates).

14.Comhlámh, the organisation for returned development workers, also plays an important part in development education. Its main target group is its own membership which covers a broad professional and geographical spectrum. Comhlámh organises seminars and workshops which are both issue related and are intended to impart communication skills to members who will in turn engage in development education activities independently. Comhlámh makes a particular effort to capitalise on its teacher membership by organising in-service courses for teachers at various levels.

Department of Foreign Affairs

15.The Department of Foreign Affairs first made specific provision out of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for development education in 1978 and at that time allocated £35,000 for this purpose. In 1985 the amount expended was £285,247 and in 1986 the amount allocated is £600,000 approx. By the end of 1986 the average percentage increase yearly since 1978 will have been in excess of 50% despite a once-off decrease in 1980 of 66%. This steady increase represents a welcome recognition of the importance of development education.

16.Up to 1985 there appears to have been a general consensus between the official and non-governmental agencies that the Department’s direct involvement in development education would be through the publication of information materials on the Government’s aid activities and that it would involve itself only indirectly in other educational activities through supporting outside agencies, mainly the NGOs. The Department, in its direct activities confined itself to producing information on ODA in general (the annual report) and on the bilateral aid programmes in the form of education materials for schools, study groups and the general public (e.g. facts sheets, videos, posters).

17.It also encouraged opinion formers, through travel grants, to visit developing countries to see and report on conditions at first hand. The Committee considers that this target group should include not only journalists but also other key sectors in Irish society e.g. the trades unions, employers, farm and youth organisations. In this context the Committee notes and endorses the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Development Cooperation (ACDC) 1985 report that, if requested, official funding should be made available to allow for the appointment of a full-time development education officer to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) Third World Committee.

18.The Committee notes that in its annual reports the Department itself has admitted that, due to staffing constraints, it has been unable (up to 1985) to develop its development education materials to its satisfaction. The ACDC reports of 1982 and 1985 stated that material on the official development programme is particularly lacking. The Committee regrets that staff shortages have impeded this important aspect of the development cooperation effort and recalls its previous recommendation that adequate staffing levels should be maintained on the ODA side and that the prevailing constraints on recruitment should not apply in this case (see para 45).

Development Education Support Centre (DESC)

19.In 1985 the Department of Foreign Affairs decided to establish the DESC* particularly as a means of strengthening non-official development education activities. This year the substantial increase in development education funding has been used in part to provide funding in order to set up the Centre which has been in operation since the appointment of a Director last June.

20.Since the recent disasters in Africa, in particular, many organisations with no direct involvement or expertise in development cooperation have felt the need to make a positive contribution particularly in terms of getting information across to their members. However, in general, they lack the expertise to do so. DESC was established by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in part, to respond to this need. HEDCO facilitated the Department in the establishment of DESC and will continue its role by assisting DESC to formulate its policy and implement its work.

21.DESC’s main office will be located in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and it will have a regional office in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, a fact which the Committee welcomes as a step towards decentralising development education activities. DESC will be organised as an autonomous unit separate from the normal functioning of the two colleges. It will be governed by a Steering Committee and will have a Director and a full-time staff of seven.

22.In evidence to the Committee officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, DESC and HEDCO expressed the hope that the establishment of DESC will contribute to the current operation of the official development education programme by:

(i)attempting to involve a wider range of agencies and institutions in development education particularly the agencies and institutions which have an educational function of their own but which lack the necessary experience and skills;

(ii)providing professional resources, skills and advice to assist agencies in designing and implementing development education projects. The aim is to help suitable organisations design projects which could then be submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs for funding and be subsequently implemented by the organisations themselves

23.In its evidence DESC stated that its role will be to act as a support to agencies which are already active in the development education field or which have a potential role to play. It will not have a central role in development education and will not primarily be either an implementing or a funding agency in its own right. Neither will it evaluate mainstream proposals nor advise the Department of Foreign Affairs. DESC’s principal role will be to service new areas of activity and it will support initiatives from all sides including from HEDCO, the NGOs, the Department of Foreign Affairs and individuals. Long standing aid agencies will continue to coordinate directly with the Department of Foreign Affairs and have their projects funded by it.

24.DESC has identified three priority areas for immediate action:

(i)to get more development education material into the formal curriculum

(ii)to utilise the media

(iii)to utilise non-Third World NGOs.

25.DESC does not intend to emphasise current affairs in its media activities. It will concentrate instead on other aspects of Third World life e.g. its culture. Its activities in relation to non-Third World NGOs will target on those with an educational role like youth and community organisations, Trades Unions, the GAA and the ICA. Its proposed activities in relation to the curriculum are detailed below.

26.In its evidence to the Committee Trocaire welcomed the establishment of DESC but felt that consultation at its planning stage had been inadequate. Its principal concern was that the NGOs, with their long-term experience in development education, and the Department of Education’s Curriculum Development Unit, in particular, should be represented on DESC’s management body in order to have an input into the establishment of priorities and to avoid replication of effort.

27.Trocaire viewed the establishment of DESC in the context of the NGOs call in 1982 for a National Advisory Council on Development Education. The Committee notes that in 1982 the ACDC’s first report on Development Education recommended that a new Development Educational Council, composed of educationalists and experts in development education should be established which would inter alia:

(i)provide assessment of planned programmes and materials to be produced by the Department of Foreign Affairs and other organisations

(ii)oversee the granting of official development education funds.

The Report suggested that the Department of Foreign Affairs, ACDC and Congood be involved in establishing the Council’s terms of reference.

Department of Education and the Curriculum and Examinations Board

28.The Department of Education has, for a number of years, recognised the need for development education at primary and secondary level and has cooperated in a significant way with the NGOs to ensure an input for development education into suitable subjects on the present curriculum. The Department has already faciliated an Irish Council of Churches/Irish Commission for Justice and Peace pilot development education project in post-primary schools. Trocaire has aided it by preparing material for a development education input into the present curriculum.

29.In its evidence to the Committee the Department of Education* indicated that it is not envisaged that development education would become a subject in its own right. Examinations in related subjects have already and would continue to reflect a development education input but would not act as a disincentive to interest in development issues as the Curriculum and Examinations Board intended to adapt subject content to suit all needs. The Department of Education did not intend to become involved in extra-curricular development education activities. It had an excellent working relationship with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

30.In this context the Committee notes the opinion expressed to it by Concern that the burden of development education should be borne by the State. It felt that the NGOs should not be primarily responsible for development education but should supplement State efforts. It also felt that development education is of sufficient importance to be part of the normal school curriculum and that, for this reason, the main responsibility for development education might rest better with the Department of Education than with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

31.The Curriculum and Examinations Board**, established in 1984, concurred with the Department of Education that development education would not become a separate subject. One reason was because of other new and competing topics. A second was because it views development education not as encompassing a particular area as such but as an influence permeating suitable subjects. The Board agreed that, in general, there is a need to change the emphasis on development education from what might be viewed as a mainly missionary orientation in the sixties to a more broad-ranging approach in the eighties.

32.The Board is undertaking a review of the curriculum at primary level and of junior and senior cycles at secondary level. It considers the present primary curriculum, which has been in operation since 1972, as a major area for review and said that any review would take into account the need for a development education input. The Committee welcomes this assurance particularly in the light of the implication in the ACDC’s 1985 Report on Development Education that for the most part the development education element at primary level has been a hit and miss affair and has relied on the commitment and enthusiasm of individual teachers (particularly those who may have had experience in Third World countries). The Committee feels that there is a danger that a strong emphasis on influencing the second level curriculum on the part of interested bodies could obscure the need for a systematic input at primary level and recommends that both DESC and the Curriculum and Examinations Board continue to give specific attention to this area.

33.The Board stated that at second level the junior cycle will have a new compulsory and assessable subject, Civic and Political Studies, which would encompass development education. This would not be a rehash of the already established but infrequently used Civics class. The new subject would concentrate less on content than on the process of developing a properly critical facility in relation to both national and international issues. The aim was to impart an ability to judge from a variety of perspectives.

34.The Board stated that development education course content in general would not merely attempt to present different case studies of poverty. The aim of development education in relation to broad subjects like geography and economics would be to introduce balance to them by ensuring that they address the situation of the underdeveloped 75% of the world’s population. An important aspect of the Board’s work was to examine the presentation of ideas in school textbooks and development education could be a case in point. The Board felt that the establishment of Civic and Political Studies as a compulsory subject, which would probably be examinable by 1991 under a unified junior examination, should be a helpful influence in introducing a genuine development education approach to the schools system. Plans for the development of social and political studies in the senior cycle were not as advanced as at junior level. A consultative document on curriculum change at senior level will issue at the end of this year.

35.The Committee welcomes the fact that social and political studies will not be narrowly defined in either Irish or European terms and that they will aim to broaden the student’s perspective and judgemental powers. It also welcomes the indications that new subject content in addressing development issues would not focus on poverty as a mere phenomenon but would also ensure the examination of its structural basis.

36.The Board indicated that the introduction of a transition year between junior and senior cycles offers a further opportunity for a development education input. It stated that the transition year gives schools and external bodies an opportunity to design their own courses thus introducing a welcome element of decentralisation to the area of curriculum development. The Board would act as a validation body for courses designed by schools or by outside bodies. In general, it considers that some certification of courses is needed to give them status and currency.

37.DESC stated that the aim of the transition* year is to take a break from book-based and exam-oriented learning and to concentrate instead on social skills and contact with the adult world through activity based courses. Up to 100 schools have received approval to introduce the transition year. DESC will assist them by devising development education modules to fit into the year. In DESC’s opinion it is possible that up to 800 schools could become involved in development education over the next five years. Trocaire in its evidence stated that it has already been active in helping schools design development education courses.

38.The Committee notes that in its 1985 report on development education the ACDC highlighted lack of teacher confidence in dealing with new concepts and methods as an inhibiting factor in furthering development education at primary and secondary levels. It singled out the absence of a wider world perspective in the courses of colleges of education and the weakness of the H. Dip course in actually training secondary teachers as major contributory elements to this lack of confidence. It also felt that educational materials adapted to Irish needs were lacking.

39.Comhlámh, DESC and Trocaire feel that teacher preparation is a key issue. Comhlámh and Trocaire, in cooperation with the Department of Education, have already organised some in-service courses for teachers. DESC is considering the establishment of an in-service training programme to cater for them. It is at present preparing a programme to enable teachers to use the material designed for the transition year. The Teacher Training Colleges will assist in this by organising courses to professional standard. Of DESC’s activities, teacher training is expected to involve the greatest expense.

Third Level Development Education

40.The Committee welcomes the efforts being made by HEDCO to promote development education at third level but feels, despite the involvement of some Colleges and individual faculty members, that there is a lack of consistency in approach to development studies among the various University institutions. Relative to Colleges of Technology the Committee notes that the ACDC in its 1985 report stated that there was little development education input into courses at RTCs, teacher training or agricultural colleges.

41.Evidence given to the Committee suggested that, in general, the academic basis for development education in Ireland is weak and the Committee is pleased to note that, in an effort to redress this, the Department of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with HEDCO, is now initiating graduate studies which may be pursued in Ireland or abroad. Six full fellowships for masters degrees are being made available along with four to five research grants. In its evidence to the Committee DESC said that graduates could take advantage of these opportunities but they are also open to NGOs and other groups or individuals. Possession of a primary degree is not necessarily a qualification. The general aim is to establish a third level teaching base and perhaps in the future a third level institute for development studies.

Evaluation to date

42.Development education aims to impart knowledge about the causes of underdevelopment and the changes necessary to redress it. It also aims to generate support for the development process by changing attitudes and behaviour. Given the relatively heavy investment in development education by both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the NGOs, the Committee considers that it is important that they should attempt, on a regular basis, to evaluate the success of their programmes in the light of the above aims.

43.In their evidence to the Committee the NGOs indicated some of the means by which recent development education efforts can be assessed. Formal school examinations are beginning to demonstrate the effectiveness of development education in the schools system*. There has also been a marked increase in the public’s awareness of development issues between 1973 and 1983. While factors other than development education have been at work Trocaire felt that development education had been effective, in particular, in highlighting the situation in Central America and in South Africa. The main weaknesses of their approach to development education mentioned by some NGO witnesses was a tendency to preach to the converted, to use unsuitable materials and to argue from ideological standpoints. In this context the Committee notes that the ACDC in its 1982 report adverted to the danger that some development education materials may confuse the promotional with the educational.

44.A measure of the success of development education programmes may be the positive attitudes towards development on the part of the Irish public elicited by the 1985 ACDC survey**. The Committee notes that the solutions most favoured by respondents to the survey were in the areas of technical and general education and through self help programmes. They were least favourable to solutions involving more equitable trading relationships, political change or, strangely, Irish Government projects. The Committee agrees with the Council’s assessment that these results indicate that development education as presently constituted is lacking.

45.The Committee notes that the present official programmes put particular emphasis on types of solutions to underdevelopment most favoured by respondents, i.e. the transfer of technical expertise and self help. Ironically the low priority attached to Government programmes in the ACDC survey would suggest that the public are not generally aware of the content of Irish programmes. This would seem to indicate that the Department of Foreign Affairs has been less than successful in educating the public about its own programmes (see para. 18).

46.On a broader front the impact of the response to the recent famines which necessarily and rightly focused on the internal needs of developing countries may tend to obscure in the public mind the external factors which also contribute to their underdevelopment. The Committee feels that there is a need for a balanced approach within development education which should equally highlight both the necessity for an effective response to immediate needs and the underlying causes of the latter.


47.The purpose of development education is to inform people about the realities and causes of underdevelopment and to generate support for both Governmental and non-Governmental development cooperation efforts. The Committee considers that an effective development education programme is vital if Ireland is to be brought to honour even the minimum commitments to which she is already publicly pledged.

48.The Committee is firmly convinced that a development education programme, whether at national level or within the schools system, should endeavour to be both balanced and comprehensive. While the programme should clearly aim to disseminate the facts of underdevelopment and the extent of world poverty it should go much further. Dispassionate analysis of the causes of underdevelopment should also be encouraged. The influence of domestic economic policy and international economic policy, of protectionism and free trade, of international politics and the arms race are all issues which must be addressed. It is important that Ireland (and the EC’s) foreign policy and trade policy be studied in this context. In turn consideration should be given to both short term and long term remedies and the relevance to them, for instance, of the free market and of state planned development programmes. These are areas of controversy. Both state and development agencies disagree (often fundamentally) on these issues. Nevertheless the Committee considers that an honest approach to development education cannot avoid the undoubted controversies which surround almost every aspect of aid to the underdeveloped regions of the world.

49.The interrelationships between the various bodies involved in development education are complex. At the official level the Department of Foreign Affairs plays the leading role in decision-making particularly from a funding point of view. DESC is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs but an important part of its work will involve the Department of Education and the Curriculum and Examinations Board. HEDCO will assist DESC to implement its work. The Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to fund NGO projects independently while DESC will service them, particularly those entering the development education field for the first time. NGOs with an established development education function rely on the Department of Foreign Affairs for a substantial amount of project co-funding. Their work involves them closely with the Department of Education and the Curriculum and Examinations Board.

50.The Committee considers that, as the Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for ODA in general, it is logical from an administrative point of view that it should have overall responsbility for official development education. However, the complex relationships between the agencies involved and the recent addition of a new agency, DESC, constitute a potential source of confusion in regard to working relationships. Some NGOs are concerned about areas of overlap between themselves and DESC e.g. curriculum development, in-service teacher training and targeting of certain groups. A particular concern is the decision making process in relation to funding of proposed NGO projects in areas covered by both DESC and the NGOs. Another concern is that the NGOs and DESC may find themselves in competition for the same experienced people to service programmes and activities. However, the NGOs are agreed on the need for a professionally qualified support service for development education activities and consider that DESC fulfils ths need.

51.The Committee considers that the establishment of DESC is a welcome step forward and that DESC has partly answered the need identified in 1982 for a specialised advisory body in development education. It feels, however, that there is a need at present to:

(i)avoid replication of effort

(ii)ensure that a legitimate variety of approach between the agencies should be complementary rather than a source of friction or competition in the development education effort

(iii)clarify the relative roles of the State and non-State sectors in development education.

In relation to DESC the Committee recommends, as one way of avoiding potential confusion, that the bodies with a substantial involvement in development education should be represented on a DESC management committee. At a broader level the establishment of a Council for Development Education might also be of assistance. The Committee recommends that the ACDC give specific attention to the latter suggestion.

52.The Committee considers that there is a positive aspect to the complex interrelationships outlined above. The involvement of the NGOs at all levels should balance any possible tendency on the part of the official programme to confine development education to non-controversial areas. On the other hand the official input will undoubtedly balance any tendency on the part of the NGOs towards the promotional or the ideological.

53.The Committee feels that the two main Government Departments involved, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Education, should be careful not to adopt an overly passive role in the development education process. It welcomes the Department of Foreign Affairs’ relatively high level of development education funding but feels that the Department needs to be more active in effectively informing and convincing the public about the Government’s official programme. The Department of Education should be seen actively to promote development education. In this regard, the establishment of a sub-committee on development education within the Curriculum and Examinations Board would be useful. The Committee considers that HEDCO should make greater efforts to promote development education at third level, particularly in the technological colleges.

54.In the final analysis the aim of development education is to create an effective constituency within the country on behalf of the peoples of the Third World, many of whom have no voice in any forum. The Committee hopes that this constituency will know neither geographical nor political boundaries, within or without Ireland, and that it will be effective in persuading the Oireachtas to ensure that Ireland honours its ODA pledges.

Nora Owen T.D.


30 October, 1986.


1.Development education programmes should be both balanced and comprehensive and should address not only the facts of underdevelopment but also the causes both national and international (48)

2.Development education programmes should be evaluated on a regular basis (42)

3.The Department of Foreign Affairs should retain overall administrative control of development education (50)

4.The Department of Foreign Affairs should be more active in informing the public about its development programmes (53)

5.Official funding should be provided for a full-time development education officer if requested by the Irish Congress of Trades Unions’ Third World Committee (17)

6.Bodies with a substantial involvement in development education should be represented on a DESC management committee (51)

7.The ACDC should examine whether a Council for Development Education could usefully help to avoid replication, foster complementarity and clarify State and non-State roles in development education (51)

8.The Department of Education should actively promote development education and to this end, the Curriculum and Examinations Board should establish a specific sub-committee on development education (53)

9.Specific attention should be given by DESC and the Curriculum and Examinations Board to development education at primary level (32)

10.More effort should be made by HEDCO to promote development education at third level, particularly in the technological colleges (53)




Advisory Council on Development Cooperation



Bilateral Aid Programme



Confederation of Non-Governmental Organisations for Overseas Development



Development Education Support Centre



European Community



Gaelic Athletic Association


H. Dip

Higher Diploma in Education



Higher Education for Development Cooperation



Irish Countrywomens Association



Non-Governmental Organisation



Official Development Assistance



University College Dublin

*(see Appendix 3)

*(see Appendix 2A)

*(see Appendix 5)

**(see Appendix 4)

*(see Appendix 1B)

*(see Appendix 5)

**(Aid to Third World Countries Attitudes of a National Sample of Irish People Dec. ‘85)