Crossing Lines: Research and Policy Networks for Developing Country Education

By Noel F. McGinn | Go to book overview

NETWORKING WHEN THE STATE AND HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEMS ARE WEAK

Wim Hoppers

When in the mid- 1980s the idea of networking gained popularity in international educational research, there were only vague notions as to what this was all about. As educational researchers in the North we thought about initiatives that would transcend the artificial boundaries of institutions. These initiatives would inspire like-minded colleagues to share intellectual property and use it to generate countervailing power to upstage prevailing academic and policy traditions. We also thought that networking could help researchers to penetrate into the foreign lands of ministries of education, policy committees, training boards, and program or institutional management. With the birth of the RRAG groups and related networks, somehow this vague ideology got mixed up with the practicalities of doing research and of doing something with research in parts of the developing world. The more mundane concerns in East Africa, for example, were how to get into viable research work in the first place, how to get access to the very scarce commodity of information from or about research, and how to penetrate the promising consultancy market.

Over the years experience has shown that, at least in East Africa, networks did not really come to function in a manner that the original ideology had anticipated. There were problems in the scope as well as in the actual nature of interaction. The scope remained rather limited in that researchers had great difficulties in communicating, let alone sharing, with policy makers and practitioners. In terms of the nature of interacting, there emerged little that could be termed networking as there were very few mutual flows: the nodal points hardly operated as such, while in the periphery contact points have tended to wait for goodies to flow their way without being much concerned about reciprocity.

It is easy to argue that educational networks, at least in East Africa, have tended to reflect the poverty of their institutional environment. In this view, researchers could not move because their institutions had no resources. Policy makers and

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