The Political Economy of Education Systems in Conflict-Affected Contexts

The Political Economy of Education Systems in Conflict-Affected Contexts

Dr. Oscar Valiente was part of the research team (along with the Centre for International Education,  University of Sussex , the University of Greenwich and the University of Amsterdam), that carried out a rigorous literature review funded by DFID on the political economy factors that drive educational development in conflict-affected contexts. The purpose of the review was to provide theoretically informed and policy relevant political economy insights on the global, national and local governance of education systems in contexts where education development is hindered by the direct and/or the indirect effects of conflict.

Key findings

A comprehensive search for relevant literature was carried out combining purposive sampling with systematic review methods. Evidence was extracted thematically relating to: agenda setting, policy formulation and policy implementation in order to highlight the practical implications of insights to support strategic decision-making.

  • At the agenda setting point the review found that the education sector has been marginalized within international agendas for conflict-affected contexts, which prioritise humanitarian aid and security. This prevented opportunities to address structural social, political and economic inequalities which often underpin conflict, including issues of inequitable educational provision and access.
  • At the policy formulation point the review found a disjunction between generic globally formulated educational agendas and the specific challenges of conflict-affected contexts including issues of social justice, economic and political exclusion and cultural repression.
  • The review found that the effectiveness of educational interventions was often undermined at policy implementation stage by insufficient attention to cultural, social, religious and political contexts within which they played out. A key issue was the need to engage with national and sub-national actors, including teachers, women, indigenous groups and religious leaders.

Research gaps and implications

Some research gaps were identified in the review of the literature on international education and conflict:

  • There is a lack of systematic country level studies on the political economy relationship between education and conflict in conflict-affected contexts.
  • Within the literature on education and conflict there is little communication and synthesis between orthodox and critical political economy approaches.
  • More empirical evidence is needed assessing education actors’ perceptions of the utility and translation into policy action of political economy analysis in conflict-affected contexts

The potential of education to contribute more fully to supporting sustainable peace building processes in conflict-affected contexts is undermined by a range of complex political economy factors at global, national and local scales. Better inter-agency and inter-sectoral coordination and understanding, and more political economy and conflict sensitive education programming can address these challenges.