Case Study of Developmental Leadership in the Philippines: Educational Experiences, Institutions and Networks

This year-long research project, commissioned  by the aid branch of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Developmental Leadership Programme ( was led by Professor Michele SchweisfurthDr Oscar Valiente was a co-investigator and the team also includes partners from the Universities of Birmingham (Professor Lynn Davies), Oxford (Dr Chelsea Robles) and Malaya (Dr Lorraine Pe Symaco). 

What kinds of education have leaders from lower-income countries experienced, and how has this shaped individuals and coalitions who have the power to facilitate development?  This question was at the heart of the project.  There are two important contexts for this research programme.  One is a growing understanding in development studies of the importance of leadership for sustainable development.  Economic growth, for example, depends on an educated population, but it also depends on leaders who are developmental rather than predatory. Another important part of the context for this research is the recent emphasis on primary education provision by aid agencies and national governments, encouraged by global Education for All and Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The question in the air is whether this emphasis has gone too far and whether the disinvestment in higher education and therefore in the elites it creates may ultimately be counterproductive in terms of development.  If state funding is directed to primary education, and quality is minimal and uneven, how will the right kind of leaders be educated, gain legitimacy, and join forces? 

As part of DLP's research in these areas, a case study of the Philippines was commissioned, building on work done in Ghana by researchers from CfBT. The research explored many aspects of education, including the roles of pedagogy, the curriculum, institutional selectivity, school ethos, values and the hidden curriculum, mobility, extracurricular activities, and student (dis)empowerment. The project focused on the importance of particular institutions, coalitions and educational experiences to individuals, and how, through them, education may contribute to political and social change. One of the key issues for exploration was how far the benefits of education and of development are distributed fairly in the Philippines.   

The methodology consisted of historical analysis, interviews with leaders of key social and political movements, and network analysis.  Historical analysis identified three key movements which brought about positive change, and also identified people who were central to the movement as individuals or coalitions.  Fieldwork involved interviewing 43 of these individuals, to explore their educational histories.  We aimed to understand the roles of these institutions and while their influence may have been historical, where relevant we visited them.   While education including higher education may well have had an important role to play, whether that role has been consistently positive is an open question.

The research will inform the ongoing debate regarding priorities for education in the post-MDG era, and the interdisciplinary nature of the research across education, development studies and politics will facilitate this.  The findings were presented to a group of 700 public university rectors in the Philippines at their annual conference, and also at the UK Forum for International Education and Training conference.  The report and a publication in the International Journal for Educational Development are both open access.  A link to a FreshEd podcast on the findings and the report is in the news item below:

Link to IJED publication:

PIs & Co-Is

Prof Michele Schweisfurth, School of Education, University of Glasgow

Dr Oscar Valiente, School of Education, University of Glasgow