Outward looking eyes: visions of schooling, development and the state in Nepal
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This study explores the relationship between global discourses of education and development, how those ideas are taken up and utilised in the context of national programme development and implementation, and their further reinterpretation by groups at the district and school level. I engage in an examination of development as a socio-political process in order to explore critically the tensions and paradoxes evident in the promotion of schooling in contemporary Nepal. In doing so, I challenge the depoliticised vision of schooling which underpins dominant donor discourses of education reform and highlight the political and contested nature of education administration and the everyday activities in school. I take as my starting point Nepal's Basic and Primary Education Project (BPEP), a multidonor initiative aiming to improve access to schooling, the quality of education provision and the efficiency of education administration. Developed in line with the goals of the World Conference on Education for All, the initiative starts from the assumption that the various parties involved - donors, central government officials, District Education Office staff, teachers and parents - share a common interest in and commitment to the promotion of schooling. As such, schooling is considered a clear development 'good' and the state viewed as a single entity, acting as a benign provider of this service. Through an exploration of the context into which this programme is inserted, the limitations of this dominant consensus-based model are considered. Particular focus is given to the multiple interests played out in the arena of education reform challenging the assumption of shared interests in expanding schooling opportunities. The study traverses from debates between the various donor and central government officials in Kathmandu, through the implementation of the process of District Education Planning, to an examination of the everyday practices of school life and the direct, and often violent, challenges made to the state through schools. At each level, the conflicts of interest and multiple views of the relationship between schooling, development and the state in Nepal are highlighted, challenging the idea that a consensus exists around the content and purpose of schooling. Such an analysis creates an opportunity for a more critical examination of perceptions of schooling and the link between education and development and, as such, has implications for how development practitioners view their role in processes of education reform in Nepal.