The Role of Education in Decolonization

The main question which now arises is whether education can make an effective contribution to this process of decolonization. On this question, there are probably two points of view. First of all there is the Marxist view which sees this as an impossible task for education. Marx, in fact, regarded educational institutions as part of the superstructure of society-with its content and form being determined by the economic sub-structure or more specifically by the relationship of people in the production process “Your very idea “, he reminded us, “are but the outgrowth of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property” or “what else does the history of ideas prove than intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed. The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class”.(4)

Most ex-colonial societies have experienced very little change in the relationships of their people in the production process – the ruling classes still own and control the means of production. Therefore, for these societies Marx could undoubtedly have held the view that their educational institutions would be impotent in bringing about any social and economic trans-formation since it was partly through these very institutions that the ideas of the ruling class are transmitted to the population. The only hope for a transformation in these societies would, according to Marx, be in a radical rupture by revolution in their existing and traditional property relations. However Marx did not entirely ignore the importance of education in bringing about economic development but this he saw would be done through its role in improving the quality of technical manpower in industry.

On the other hand, there is the point of view that education can play an effective role in bringing about basic social and economic changes. This is probably the view of most educationists who would disagree with the Marxists about the totally negative role of education in the social transformation of society. The educational philosopher, John Dewey, no doubt expresses the point of view of most educationists when he wrote:

“From the standpoint of those who put their faith in the idea that a violent revolution is the solution and that sub-sequent dictatorship by a class is the best or only means to effect the trans-formation it is quite possible that this Is enough, that anything else would tend to hinder the day of reconstruction. But I have difficulty in imagining any educator taking this point of view unless he has abandoned in advance all faith in education”.(5)

While Marx was essentially right about his observation that there could be no great incompatibility between the economic structure of the society and the values and ideas held by the population his views as to the almost totally deterministic influence of the economic structure on all ideas in the society seem to have been heavily over stated. This is one of the main reasons why educationists in general do not share his point of view that education cannot play any significant part in the social recon structuring of a society.

In both the developing and the developed societies education is increasingly being regarded as an important agent of social and economic change. Harbison and Myers (6) see it-as “the key that unlocks the door to modernization” while for sociologists it is an important instrument of societal transformation e.g. by reducing the rigidity in the social structure, promoting social mobility, and increasing the “life chances” of different groups in the society. This it does largely because it tends to bring about a substitution of norms of achievement for norms of ascription which were so characteristic of colonial societies.

The possibility that education can help to transform colonial societies has increased ‘with the granting of constitutional independence with a voting system based on universal adult suffrage because this has brought about some degree of separation between the economic and the political power structures of these societies a situation which Marx would never have thought possible. This has to some extent resulted in the development of countervailing political power in the hands of the masses which makes it a little more difficult for those with economic power to manipulate the society and its,ceconomy entirely in’ their own interests.

But even though it is admitted that the educational institutions in ex-colonial territories can assist in the process of decolonization there are many problems, which adversely affect it role in this direction.