A Political Economy of the African School as a Learning Organization

Schools are a significant part of industrial and post-industrial human societies, they reflect their environments, strengthen contemporary adaptation processes and needs, and help secure the future. However as knowledge and information technology advance and change the nature of business, finance,, politics etc, the question arises as to whether or not schools have been insulated from the types of changes that other institutions have recently undergone or experienced, how much of a learning organization the school is and how much of class bias is in this. In this work, the focus is on the Nigerian school as a learning organization and the dialectics of the social relations of production inherent in this. The methodology is the application of the political economy approach to the school and the social relations there.

Enterprise is the new metaphor for schooling in post-industrial societies. Schools must compete, must search and research and be chartered. Unlike in the colonial past when schools were managerially inactive and always dependent on government’s directives and supervision, twenty-first century schools are internally, self-driven and often profit oriented. The impact of enterprise and the profit bias is found in the situation whereby in several African states schools are often of two types: public and privately owned schools. Public schools still live in the past, dependent on the government and lacking basic equipment and facilities, while private schools are entrepreneurially driven, with better basic facilities and equipment and charging fees determined by their proprietors (and management).

The consequence is that in several African states, the (good) private school is priced out of the reach of the lower class. Whereas in Africa schools of today are not generally different from those of the immediate post-independence era, in the west, the international trend towards devolution of many of the decisions and responsibilities for managing schools to the school itself-with the end-point being self-managing or self governing public schools has been perhaps the most powerful influence changing the understanding of the management of education over the past two decades. |’Instances can be seen in Canada, where the Edmonton school district pioneered many of the features we see today; in the United Kingdom, with grant-maintained (GM) and locally managed (LM) schools, in the United States, with the charter-school movement; and in New Zealand, which adapted the Canadian model as a means for developing a natural system of self-managing schools called schools of tomorrow’ (Townsend 1998: xx).

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(Author: AOK Noah

Published by Macrothink Institute)