Recently I attended the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, where students from around the world gathered to learn about and tackle global challenges. According to the University, “Yale Young Global Scholars is an unparalleled academic and leadership program at Yale University”. A topic of great interest to me was the one on education quality and equality. I attended a seminar on quality education, and who sets the standard for that education. A takeaway from that seminar was that quality education exists in many forms and different interpretations, i.e., quality education as defined by Europe might be different from the one defined by African nations. The pre-readings for the seminar focused on colonialism and its effects on educational standards in African nations, and the instructor was from Zimbabwe which allowed her to share how colonialism had changed her country’s education system. In my 8th grade, I spent a year in India and learned about the Indian education system allowing me to relate to the instructor’s perspective there.
So, who sets the standard for quality education? I learned that it is those who hold the most power that could influence and set the standard for what a quality education is. For example, African colonizers deduced that their quality education was starkly different and better than native Africans’ education, and thus imposed it on the African education system. But who determined that and who set the standard for what education was better? While European education may have focused on more formal aspects of education such as arithmetic, literature, and sciences, African education focused on “close links with social life, both in material and spiritual sense, its collective nature, its many- sidedness; and progressive development of the child” (Colonialism and Education, Nwanosike and Onyije, p. 44). But how could the former be preferred over the latter when they both teach valuable societal tools for different geographical regions. The spiritual rituals and teachings in African schools were and still are just as important as the teachings on Plato and Aristotle in European schools. Replacing the education system followed by the locals would also impact their cultures and traditions that local children learn through such systems. The European education system may have been imposed mostly to have a sense of mental control, as the colonizers of Africa felt that “education in the colonies seems directed at absorption into metropole and not separate and dependent development of the colonized in their own society and culture”. From this, they reached the conclusion that restructuring African education would “strip the colonized people away from their indigenous learning structures and draw them towards the structures of the colonizers” (Colonialism and Education, p. 45). In continuum with this logic, European colonizers felt it was necessary to equip native Africans with “little more than an elementary knowledge of the English Language for an economic future” (Colonialism and Education, p. 45), as opposed to educating them in their religion or subjects more important to the indigenous African.
To answer the question, who sets the standard for a quality education, we need to refer to the culmination of history regarding education. It would be obvious that those in power are the ones that set the standard. In any country. the government would determine what is in our textbooks and dictate what is worth teaching and what is not. From that perspective, the beliefs of the government would then be reflected in the curriculum and content. If the education system works for all or most, then it may be fine from a big picture perspective. But, for those, whose nation’s education has been influenced by colonists or other powers, they may be losing out on the essence, truth, and viability of their original culture’s education.