Harvard Educational Review
  1. Framing Questions, Constructing Answers

    Linking Research with Education Policy for Developing Countries

    By Noel F. McGinn and Allison M. Borden

    Cambridge, MA: Harvard Institute for International Development, 1995. 269 pp.

    Imagine yourself a consultant hired by an international organization to help the Ministry of Education of a developing country make policies for improving schooling. Or, imagine yourself an education policymaker in a developing country. In either case, you do not know which step to take first to address the myriad problems facing the education system or to locate the internal or external resources that would be useful to you.

    If you should find yourself in such a situation and feel overwhelmed, Framing Questions, Constructing Answers: Linking Research with Education Policy for Developing Countries can help you to deal with these complex issues. This most recent book in the Harvard Studies in International Development series is written by Noel F. McGinn, a Fellow of the Harvard Institute for International Development and a professor at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, and Allison M. Borden, a director of bilingual education in Taunton, Massachusetts. The book is the cumulative result of their rich international experience and years of conversations and interviews with researchers, planners, ministers, and teachers in various developing countries. In it, the authors present a wide variety of perspectives concerning how education works and how to make it work better.

    This volume is a manual for people actively involved in the process of improving basic education in developing countries. Compared with other books, it has two unique stylistic characteristics. First, the material in the book is not organized into chapters and does not have a table of contents. Second, this workbook is designed to be an interactive reference tool, an expert system not commonly used in educational books. The book simulates the relationship between an education policymaker and an informed consultant, where the consultant interviews the policymaker about the performance of the education system. The policymaker's answer to each question influences the next question that is asked. The consultant discusses results from studies in other countries to help focus questions. Eventually, the questions lead to examples of programs tried in other countries with similar problems. All aspects of basic education systems are covered: finance, instruction, assessment, curriculum, buildings, and administration.

    McGinn and Borden review factors affecting access and quality, the major objectives in basic education. They also pose a set of questions that policymakers may consider in order to improve their education systems, discuss physical resources appropriate to different situations, and provide examples of effective programs in other countries. The examples show how people and resources can be combined in various ways to generate change, and how different goals can be met by the same combinations of resources and people.

    Although Framing Questions does not have chapters, it does have two main sections. The authors chose this organizational approach in order to emphasize the systemic character of education. In the first section, the odd-numbered pages contain a series of questions about education for a policymaker in a particular country to answer. Even-numbered pages contain information that may help the policymaker think about the questions being asked. The second section contains information about programs for improving education. The policymaker is directed to this section after having answered a series of questions across the odd-numbered pages in the first section.

    For example, if you are a policymaker concerned with the quality of teaching in your country, and you believe that this is due to "teachers who are not motivated," then you are directed to another page where you can examine the factors responsible for the teachers' low motivation. Next, you will be directed to related information and programs in the second section, which provides further ideas for addressing the issue. This interactive approach makes the book more interesting to read and reader-friendly. Since this kind of interactive approach lends itself quite naturally to a computer application, the book would probably be even more useful if there were a computer diskette accompanying it.

    This workbook was originally designed for people with little or no training in social science or economic research. The authors strongly believe that improvement in education does not require becoming an expert in research or policy analysis. By using this manual, policymakers for developing countries may become aware of what policy analysis can, and cannot, offer by way of problem-solving, and of the complex set of factors that must be taken into account.

    X.C.
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    Abstracts

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    Book Notes

    Other People's Children
    By Lisa Delpit

    National Issues on Education
    Edited by John F. Jennings.

    U.S. Educational Policy Interest Groups
    By Gregory S. Butler and James D. Slack.

    Education at a Glance
    By the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.

    School Choice
    By Peter W. Cookson Jr.

    Crosscurrents:
    Edited by Lance W. Roberts and Rodney A. Clifton

    Framing Questions, Constructing Answers
    By Noel F. McGinn and Allison M. Borden

    Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature

    Changing the Subject
    Edited by Sue Davies, Cathy Lubelska, and Jocey Quinn.

    Rewriting Literacy
    Edited by Candace Mitchell and Kathleen Weiler.

    The Return of the Political
    By Chantal Mouffe

    Black Popular Culture
    Edited by Gina Dent.

    Thirteen Questions
    Edited by Joe Kincheloe and Shirley Steinberg.