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Educ 818 Alternative Approaches to Education for Rural Development

Spring 2007 Schedule # 23953
Draft syllabus Final version with weekly details available in class

Ash Hartwell, 2
62 Hills South
with Kimberly
Mondays, 1-4PM    273 Hills South


Conventional schooling as a route to human capacity development, especially in developing countries, is the subject of multiple critiques. On one hand it is seen as an imposition of an inappropriate western and post-colonial institution which undermines rather than strengthens indigenous development and well-being. Even some who fervently support formal schooling as the path to Education for All argue that current models are beyond the financial reach of many of the poorest countries. Finally, there are those who believe that conventional schooling does not well foster children’s potential as natural learners, nor does it effectively contribute to the evolution of democratic, diverse and caring communities.

This course will explore theory, research and practice in the development of alternative models of education, focusing particularly on experience in underserved areas of developing countries where some of the most innovative and successful alternatives have been established. We will define the elements of formal and non-formal learning environments, and explore the political, social and economic contexts in which alternatives to conventional schools have emerged – relating this to development theory and work with the empowerment of local communities. We will utilize case studies, in part drawn from the current research of the EQUIP 2 Project, of such alternatives as Egypt’s Community Schools, Escuela Neuva, BRAC, Baluchistan, and School for Life(Ghana), examining factors including: program organization, the role of the community, the organization of teaching and learning, support structures, learning outcomes, costs and financing, and policy implications. Each person in the course will work on a project of analysis and contribute to the development of a specific alternative school model in the world.


During the course participants will:

o         Identify key political, organizational and structural characteristics of schooling as the predominant mode of delivering education;
o         Explore major critiques of schooling, based on beliefs about development and current knowledge about the process of individual and social learning;
o         Examine alternative political, organizational, structural, and pedagogic approaches for providing education and learning environments for basic education in developing areas.
o         Analyze a number of specific cases of alternative education models such as Escuela Neuva, Egypt’s Community Schools, BRAC, the Sudbury School (Massachusetts),School for Life (northern Ghana) from the perspectives of learning ecology, community development, cost-effectiveness and policy implications.
o         Each participant will carry out a critique, and contribute to the development, of an actual alternative education model/program as the major course project.


We will engage in this course as learners, so that each participant will contribute both to their own learning agenda and objectives, and to the collective work of understanding and building competency. In addition to the readings and websites provided at the outset of the course, participants will take responsibility for finding appropriate cases, experiences, research, papers and share these with the class.

The course will be divided into three parts.  In the first three weeks we will explore the purposes, forms, outcomes and critiques of schooling, particularly as it is practiced in underserved rural areas of Africa, Asia and South America.  The second part of the course will be an in-depth analysis of a number of promising alternatives that have been implemented and evaluated.  We will draw on the research design from a current international program to examine factors such as the demographic analysis, program effectiveness, program organization, the role of the community, the organization of teaching and learning, support processes and structures, learning outcomes, costs and financing, and policy implications.  The final section of the course will focus on the actual models/projects that you choose to evaluate, critique, and support.


Note that the readings and internet resources provided in the collected readings are just a start. You are expected to explore the internet, and other sources including the library, to find papers, research and experience that you will share with the class, and use in your final project.

  • Readings: there will be a course text and weekly readings
  • Papers:
  • A short paper describing your personal experience related to alternative education, your expectations and learning objectives;
  • short papers reviewing cases on existing models and programs;
  • Final paper: a critique of a specific alternative educational model, and contributing to its further development.
  • Presentations:
  • Take responsibility for a class session, with one or more partners
  • Present your final project to the class


This course is being offered on a Pass/Fail basis with a letter grade option.  Any student wishing a letter grade must submit a written request for that option by the fourth class meeting.


These texts are available at Food for Thought bookstore in Amherst:

Rogers, A. (2004) Non-Formal Education: Flexible Schooling or Participatory Education. Hong Kong : Hong Kong University, Comparative Education Research Centre.

Abadzi, H. (2006) Efficient Learning for the Poor: Insights from the Frontier of Cognitive Neuroscience. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Fullan, M. (1999). Change Forces: the Sequel. Philadelphia, PA: Falmer Press.

Zaalouk, M. (2004). The Pedagogy of Empowerment: Community Schools as a Social Movement in Egypt. Cairo: American University Press.

Collected Readings will include:

Agarwal, Seema. ‘Participatory Reform of Basic Education: A Social Capital Framework.  Paper presented at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference, Toronto, Canada, April 1999.

DeStefano, Joseph with Ash Hartwell, David Balwanz and Audrey Moore (2006). ‘ Effective Schools for Disadvantaged and Underserved Populations’. ADEA :Gabon

Hartwell, Ash & Pittman, M. (1999). ‘Framework for Analyzing & Supporting Alternative Community Schools. Draft for CARE.

Jain, Manish. ‘Constructing Open Learning Communities to Inspire a Changing World.’ ICDE Panel Presentation. March 1997.

Lowry, Chreyl Meredith. ‘Supporting and Facilitating Self-Directed Learning.’ ERIC Digest No. 93. ERIC Clearninghouse 1989.

Ministry of Education, Ethiopia (2000). Alternative Routes to Basic Primary Education. Addis Ababa.

Schiefelbein. Ernesto. ‘In Search of the school of the XXI century: is the Columbian Escuela Nueva the right pathfinder?  Santiago, Chile: UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Latin America. 1991.

Sudbury Valley School . [n.d.] From website:

Wenger, E. (1996). ‘Communities of Practice: the Social Fabric of a Learning Organization.’ Healthcare Forum Journal. July/August, 1996.

Zimmer, Jurgen. Transforming Community Schools into Open Learning Communities. Berlin: International Academy (INA). 1998.


Informal Education Encyclopedia:

Community Schools –Resources and References:

EQUIP 2 website (on complementary education)

The Learning Development Institute:

UNESCO’s Learning without Frontiers:  (no longer supported)

The 21 st Century Learning Initiative:

Shikshanter: The People’s Institute for Rethinking Education & Development:

Sind Education Foundation:

Sudbury Valley School

Blue Crane experimental school proposed: South Africa

The Learning Channel Network:

Technologia on-line magazine: