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close this bookProspects - Quarterly Review of Education, Vol. 21, No. 1, 1991 (Issue 77) - Planning of Education in an Era of Crisis: Regional Approaches (UNESCO, 1991, 146 p.)
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In the 1960s the International Institute for Educational Planning was founded, many Third World countries obtained their independence and the International Conference on Educational Planning (UNESCO, 1968) was held. This series of events took place then in a climate of euphoria, which can be seen in the goals and commitments of the Addis Ababa Conference of 1961. The 1970s brought the two oil shocks and all kinds of readjustments that appreciably affected many social sectors, especially education. But it is the 1980s and the first two years of the present decade that may be referred to without any exaggeration as the ‘black years’, which have seen poor economic performance, a sharp fall in resources, external debts and debt-servicing, inflation, drought, every kind of disaster, civil wars, international conflicts, many countries collapsing inwards or exploding, the procurement and stockpiling of weapons and, everywhere, an increasing demand for social services. All this while Third World population levels are declining only slightly or not at all. On the whole it is an uneven picture with a considerable degree of contrast: there are a few stable societies, but most are in turmoil or in a state of acute crisis.

It will be readily agreed that this kind of situation is hardly conducive to rigorous educational planning or indeed to any sort of planning, since planning must clearly be based on an assumption of stability (political, social and economic), and regular progress, however limited, in a country’s overall development. Such stability and progress are not present today, with traditional sets of priorities being openly or implicitly jettisoned, the top priority in one place being conversion and development of the economy, in another the meeting of elementary needs, ensuring, for example, the physical survival of destitute populations by feeding and caring for them. In most cases, therefore, things must be dealt with on a day-to-day basis, which rules out any possibility of planning.

But that is not all. For some years now traditional educational planning has been brought into question; it has also been taking stock or, to put it another way, conducting an exercise in self-evaluation. Prospects has regularly covered this process throughout the twelve-year-long debate between George Psacharopoulos (‘Educational Planning: Past and Present’, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 1978), Han Weiler (Towards a Political Economy of Educational Planning’, Vol. VIII, No. 3, 1978), Boris Kluchnikov (Reflections on the Concept and Practice of Educational Planning’, Vol. X, No. 1, 1980), Weiler again (‘The Uses of Educational Planning: Some Further Thoughts’, Vol. XI, No. 2, 1981) and, lastly, Chinapah, L√∂fstedt and Weiler (‘Integrated Development of Human Resources and Educational Planning’, Vol. XI, No. 1, 1989). The reader is referred to these articles, which are quite representative of this crisis in the growth of the discipline.

An exercise in self-examination was conducted, and the ‘new scope of educational planning’ defined in 1988, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the International Institute for Educational Planning, to which Prospects devoted a special issue (Vol. XIX, No. 2, 1989), also commended to the reader).

The most recent and most remarkable development on the subject was the International Congress on Planning and Management of Educational Development, organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Government of Mexico (Mexico City, 26-30 March 1990), with 402 participants including 323 national experts from 113 countries and 76 observers from 12 non-governmental organizations, 11 intergovernmental organizations and 9 organizations of the United Nations System. Readers may obtain the final report of the Congress from ED-SDI at UNESCO.

Of the 132 documents prepared for the Congress, six were presented by their authors on the opening day and will be found in the present issue, reworked at our request by the authors. In our view, they provide a quite clear and convincing picture of the situation with regard to educational planning in the various regions of the world, of the hopes that have been fulfilled or disappointed, the promises and methodological realignments to be carried out and the sometimes very considerable distances that remain to be covered.

In our view, clear answers have still not been provided to many thorny problems. We shall mention just two of them, which are quite sizeable. In each individual case it is essential to establish what is to be planned, to what end, how and with what resources, for the situation varies enormously from one continent to another (and even from one country to the next), the human and material constraints are severe and the deadlines uncertain. The second problem is that quantitative planning is no longer enough: the quality of education must be guaranteed as part of one and the same process, and the question that arises everywhere is the following: What sort of educational planning is required, for what kind of society?

With the crisis and the other urgent social problems mentioned above, educational planning faces, and will continue to face, awesome challenges for an entirely unforeseeable period. It will most certainly have to function in a climate of austerity, managing fluctuating available resources, and planning the improbable (the ends) as well as parameters that have not yet been defined (quality), simply because the social blueprint that would lend it legitimacy has not yet been finalized, or at least not everywhere. Educational planning is now being asked to square the circle.