Teacher Education Journal
Sat March 25, 2023
Share: The role of Development Educators in National Development

By Dr Adams Sulemana Achanso, Dean of the Faculty Of Sustainable Development Studies, University for Development Studies

Development Education is one of the many academic programmes offered by the University for Development Studies. This paper discusses the Concept, History, Goals and Objectives, as well as the Forms and Practical Frameworks of Development Education Studies. The paper also dwells on the nature of the Development Education Studies programme being offered in UDS. Finally, the paper reflects on some Relevance of Development Educators or Development Education Professionals in the development process.

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The Concept of Development Education

According to Irish Aid (2007), which is one of the practical frameworks of Development Education, Development Education is an educational process that aims at increasing awareness and understanding of the rapidly changing, interdependent and unequal world. It seeks to engage people in analysis, reflection and initiating action for local and global citizenship and participation. It is also about supporting people in understanding, and acting to transformtheir lives and the lives of others at the personal, community, national and international levels. Similarly, UK Aid (1978) regards Development Education as those processes of thought and action which increase understanding of worldwide social, economic and political conditions, particularly those which relate to, and are responsible for, underdevelopment. Its purpose is to encourage widespread involvement in actions for improvement.

From the foregoing conceptualisations of Development Education, the general meaning of Development Education includes but not limited to the following:

  1. Using knowledge from Development Studies for Social Education;
  2. Building networks and partnerships for social change through education;
  3. Mobilizing people to learn about and understand the problems of underdevelopment and to take action to change them;
  4. Promoting global citizenship for sustainable development;
  5. Methodological approach for bringing local issues to the global sphere and vice versa;
  6. Educating people to understand and negotiate their own development, using  knowledge and thoughts;
  7. Empowering people to recognise and act to change injustices and promote cordiality and peace.

The Genesis of Development Education

Development Education activities began in the 1970s in the Nordic countries of Europe, including Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as the United States of America, as a result of UNICEF National Committees’ awareness creation on the importance of Development Aid. This was a result of the a growing apathy among the citizens of developed countries to contribute to Development Aid because of a feeling that Development Aid was not achieving its purpose of addressing the development challenges of developing countries. For instance, a British Development Economist, Peter Bauer, after studying the impact of Development Aid in the developing world, concluded that, sending Development Aid to the developing world was like taking money from poor people in developed countries to rich people in developing countries (Tupi 2004). His finding was that, Development Aid was monopolised by a few elite in developing countries and did not reach the poor who really needed it.

While UNICEF admitted that there were challenges with the administration of Development Aid, it however contended that Development Aid still played a critical role in the developing world especially in improving the lives of poor people and felt obliged to change the perception of the citizens of developed countries about the impact of Development Aid in developing countries through sensitisation and advocacy.

In 1973, a report by the Eagle Hill on the activities of the UNICEF National Committees suggested a radical transformation of the educational approaches of the Committees to a more in-depth approach. That suggestion, coupled with a 1974 UNESCO recommendation on Education for International Understanding, Cooperation and Peace, brought formal education into the picture of Development Education activities.

In 1976, therefore, the influence of the activities of the Nordic UNICEF National Committees led to the appointment of a Development Education Officer by UNICEF in its Headquarters in Geneva, leading to the establishment of the first UNICEF Development Education Paper for its educational activities. The establishment of the Paper was followed by the development of Tool Kits by the UNICEF National Committees to facilitate the spread of more information on Development Education. The production of the Tool Kits was followed by the organisation of Workshops and Seminars through field trips to Sri Lanka, Paris, Amsterdam, etc., for educational purposes by the UNICEF National Committees. These National Educational activities increased understanding of the development issues of the Developing World in particular in the developed countries.

By the 1980s, the activities of the UNICEF National Committees on Development Education had enlisted the support of the NGO fraternity. This resulted in an increased need for the expansion of the scope of Development Education from its narrow focus on the activities of the UNICEF National Committees, NGOs and the formal education system to target identifiable groups, such as the Youth, Women’s Groups, Religious Organizations, Trade Unions, Parliamentarians, Local Authorities, Publishers, Librarians, Parents, and so on. By the 1990s, the activities of Development Education included the formation of Working Groups, Networking, organisation of Special Conferences and the production of Special reports on Development Education activities.

From 2000 onwards, Development Education activities were institutionalised as they became academic programmes in academic institutions. There also emerged a couple of tools and methods, as well as ethical standards and principles to the activities. It also became an important area of disciplinary studies where research and development have taken roots. Similarly, the formation of professional groupings, such as International Development Education Association evolved. Today, there is a UN Commission that is responsible for Development Education activities across the world.

Goal or Objectives of Development Education

  • According to the UN, one of the objectives of Development Education is to enable people to participate in the development of their community, nation and the world as a whole
  • Similarly, the Development Education Association (DEA), which is a global organisation of Development Education Professionals, Development Educations aims at fostering critical and creative thinking, self-awareness and open-mindedness towards difference, understanding of global issues and power relations, and action for a better world.

Forms or Frameworks of Development Education

Although the term Development Education is an emergent area as an academic discipline, it has a long history in practice as demonstrated above. For instance, Donors, NGOs and Development Workers in education have used various models, frameworks and forms to meet the gap in integrating development needs in education. Some of the well-known forms, models and frameworks of Development Education include Global Education, Citizenship or Civic Education, International Education, Non-Formal Education, Intercultural Education, Multicultural Education, etc.

There areca number of Practical Models of Development Education which include:

  • Centre for Global Education of the Rutgers University, that is, the State University of New Jersey and George Mason in USA, etc.
  • Development Education Programmes of Trocaire in Ireland
  • International and Development Education Programmes on the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Development Education Commission, the UN
  • Development Education Association, which is an international association of Development Education Professionals
  • Donor Partners Programmes, such as Irish Aid, UK Aid, etc.

The UDS Development Education Studies Programme

The Development Education Studies (DES) programme in UDS is an Academic Discipline that aims at training graduates with skills that enable them to identify development challenges and device appropriate educational strategies in the form of sensitisation or advocacy to address such challenges in order to facilitate or promote development. As we all know, communities, nations and the world as a whole, are plagued with teething development challenges in terms of economic, political, social, cultural, etc., and it is the responsibility of the Development Educatorper their training, to find ways of addressing such challenges to enhance human wellbeing.

The programme was introduced in 2010 at the Wa Campus of the UDS as one of the programmes of the Department of Education of the erstwhile Faculty of Education, Law and Business Studies (FELBS). When the Faculty of Education was created in 2013 and located on the Tamale Campus of the University, the Development Education Studies programme was re-located there. As the first of its kind in Ghana and perhaps Africa, the programme became the flagship programme of the Faculty of Education. In Tamale, the programme started off as part of an amorphous Department, but has since 2014, become an autonomous Department. The Department of Development Education Studies of the Faculty of Education graduated its pioneer students of over 250 in 2014.

Programmes Offered under Development Education Studies

The Development Education Studies programme currently offers Diploma, Bachelors and Masters. All of these have been accredited by the National Accreditation Board.

Courses Taught

Being an advocacy or sensitisation programme, Development Education students do courses that cut across various academic disciplines that relate to education and development. Hence, the courses are draw from Economics, Business Studies, Sociology, Political Science, Environmental Studies, Law, Political and Policy studies, etc. However, while these disciplines are often studied for their own sake, within the context of Development Education Studies, they become the basis for designing and developing educational strategies for social change.

Development Education Studies’ students are exposed to this range of topical issues to enable them grasps their conceptual and contextual basis so that they can in turn use the knowledge and skills to prepare education strategies and/or lead processes for policy and social actions. Hence, Development Education Studies’ graduates are equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills that will enable them engage in sensitisation or advocacy programmes across a wide range of issues.

Some of the courses that the students take include Principles and Practices of Development Education, Principles and Practices of Education, Governance and Development, Community Research and Education, Human Rights, Environmental Law, Environmental Education and Impact Studies, Law and Development, International Political Economy, Social Movements and Development Politics, Mass Education Technologies, Social Marketing Skills, Conflict Resolution and Peace Building, Project Management, NGO Establishment and Management, Entrepreneurship for Development, International and Multicultural Education, Culture and Development, Logic and Critical Thinking, Adult Education, Theater for Development, etc.

Facilitation of Courses

In terms of the facilitation of courses, emphasis is placed on the Problem-Based Learning approach where students are involved in the teaching and learning process by combining classroom work with field work. This allows students to blend theory with practice. Therefore, besides what students do in the classroom, they also do an industrial attachment or a field practical programme called PRACTICUM in advocacy-based institutions during the third trimester of their third year to gain practical experience of what they learnt in the classroom. In addition, Level 400 or final year students carry out a practical project by identifying development challenges of their choice, research into them and then develop strategies for tackling or addressing the challenges. This is done to expose them to practical advocacy-based project design, implementation and management strategies so that they can do same anywhere they find themselves after graduation.

Employment Opportunities

Graduates of the Development Education Studies programme are supposed to work in sensitisation or advocacy-based institutions or organisations at local, national and international levels. These include NGOs, CSOs, Public advocacy-based institutions and international development agencies, etc.

The Relevance of Development Education Professionals

The function or relevance of Development Education Studies can be analysed in the context of how it can be employed to address problems or challenges in terms of Economic, Social, Political, Cultural, Environmental, and what have you. In this regard, development challenges, such as corruption, conflict, environmental degradation, indiscriminate disposal of refuse which results in poor sanitation management or practices, human rights abuse, irresponsible citizenship and their associated negative impacts on development.

Regarding corruption, for instance, evidence abounds in the form of the annual Auditor-General’s reports to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Transparency International Ghana reports, those of Anas Armiyaw Anas, etc. The question is why Ghana is in her current state of underdevelopment? I am one of those with the conviction that Ghana does not deserve to be in its current state of underdevelopment. Is it natural resources that we lack or human resources? We all know that we have these resources. Indeed, I think that it is our inability to manage these resources well that is what has kept us in our current state of underdevelopment. It is, therefore, the role of the Development Educator to sensitise people on the negative impact of corruption on our development as a nation so that they will have the courage to fight or prevent it.

Another teething development challenge that confronts as a nation is the way that we manage waste, especially solid waste in the country. Poor management of solid waste has led to the choking of water ways, such as gutters. It is common place to go to some markets in Ghana where one cannot breathe because of stench from uncollected garbage. Some of us buy things from shops that do not require carrier bags but we collect them and even sometimes quarrel with shop attendants who think that we do not need carrier bags for such items. The sad thing is that, right in front of the shop we often take the item out of the bag and throw it away. Little do we think of the negative impact of such actions on our development. We dredge gutters and leave the content right by the gutter which eventually washed back into the gutter by rain water.

What about the pollution of water bodies by illegal mining activities? Today, it is becoming very difficult for communities around illegal mining areas to get fresh and safe drinking water. What about illegal felling of trees for lumber and other purposes? Recently, some parts of the Northern Region were evaded by the youth in some communities who felled trees known as Rose Wood. Rose Wood was needed in large quantities in China and, therefore, became gold mine for some people. The sad thing is that we are often fixated with short-term gains that are derived from such practices to the neglect of their long-term impact on the environment in the form of environmental degradation and its contribution to climate change. 

Some of us indulge in such behaviour because we have developed a culture or mantra which I refer to as “It Does Not Matter”. For instance, while we have been trying to instill the culture zero-tolerance for littering on this campus, some students keep littering the place with sachet water and toffee or sweets’ rappers. To me, this is so because they think it does not matter. So their whole life is guided by the culture of it does matter! For Development Educators, everything matters because everything that affects development matters!

I wish to conclude this paper by reiterating that the role of the Development Educator in the development of our nation is enormous. I, therefore, wish to entreat our students to take their studies very seriously as they have a critical role to play in local, national and international development.

Critique of the Programme

The Development Education Studies programme offered by the University for Development Studies has been criticised for a number of reasons. First, the programme has been criticised for training teachers that do not do their trainee practice (Teaching Practice) in the classroom but in development related institutions. This critique is based on misconception of the programme as a non-formal or mass education programme and not a professional education programme. It is the reason it is Bachelor of Arts (BA) and not Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.). Therefore, being a sensitisation or an advocacy programme, students do their third year Third Trimester Field Practical programme in advocacy-based institution, including Non-Governmental Organisation and Governmental organisations, such as NCCE, Ghana Road Safety Authority, NODMO, Department of Community Development, Department of Social Welfare, etc. Another reason why the programme is perceived as a professional education programme is its ‘Education’ related name and its location at the Faculty of Education. To address this concern, the programme has been relocated to the Faculty of Sustainable Development Studies where it fits in properly since the Faculty is mandated to run Development Studies related programmes. In addition, the name of the programme is being changed from Development Education Studies to Development Advocacy Studies which reflects its real intent and purpose.

Another critique of the programme is that it is training graduates who have no ready job market. This critique is oblivious of the fact that the programme is an academic programme like any other academic programme in the university. Academic programme anywhere are not professional programme that train graduates for ready job market. It is the reason they are run within short periods (3-4 years). Such programmes equip graduates with general knowledge in various disciplines so that they can be further trained for specific professions. Therefore, professional programmes, such as Medicine, Law, Engineering, etc., begin with academic training for about three to four years before dwelling on the specific professional training. That is why it takes six to seven years to train such professionals. Even after training, trainees still do on-the-job training for some time before they become fully fledge professionals in their areas of practice. In that regard, a Development Education graduate is only ready for the job market after doing further studies beyond their bachelor’s programme to acquire specific professional skills to be able to practice as a professional, that is, a Development Educator. It is for this reason the Department of Development Management and Policy Studies has introduced Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy in Development Education Studies. At these levels, students have their research focused on various aspects of the programme, such as Governance and Development, Environmental Studies, Development Studies, International Politics, etc.


This paper attempted to sensitise readers on what development education is all about. The paper explains Development Education as an advocacy activity that creates awareness on development challenges and how the challenges could be address to facility development. The paper also provides information of the Development Education Studies programme that is being offered by the University for Development Studies as an academic discipline. The intent of the programme is to train graduates with requisite knowledge and skills to enable them identify development challenges and design strategies towards addressing such challenges to facilitate development. As a Bachelor’s degree programme, the Development Education Studies programme equips its graduates with knowledge in topical issues in development studies and educational strategies that could be used to address development challenges in order to facilitate development. The paper also highlights some misconceptions about the UDS Development Education Studies programme and how they are being addressed.

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