Combating social exclusion of the youth: Challenges and opportunities of programmes and policies in three different contexts. Commonwealth

Jacobus Zeelen

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review


This paper reports and reflects on studies about the problems encountered in the implementation of education policies in several contexts in developed and developing countries. In these studies special attention is paid to the problems of the youth at risk between education and the labour market. In developing countries policies are in general framed by international policy initiatives such as those formulated in the Education for All Millennium Goals. However, in many cases there is an overproduction of such policies and extreme underperformance in the implementation. Obstacles are, for instance, problems concerning policy standards and their implementation; discontinuities between the national, provincial and district levels; lack of funding and at the same time corruption; lack of contextualisation; and, most prominently, lack of participation at grassroots level. In the case of the youth in sub-Saharan Africa, despite more access to education, poor implementation leads to problems such as high drop-out rates, low quality of education and too little attention paid to skills development. The existing dysfunctionality of the education system and the growing skills gap between what the youth can offer and what the labour market requires (especially in countries such as Uganda with a fast population growth) lead to a growing divide between the learning rich (minority) and the learning poor (majority). People are experiencing an alarming decrease in social cohesion. In many European countries the legitimacy of the welfare state is increasingly coming under pressure due to the recent economic crisis. The willingness to provide the tools for achieving an inclusive society is no longer self-evident. Here as well, the question is which policies respond to the demands of the labour market and at the same time avoid marginalisation of the unemployed, disabled, ethnic minorities and disadvantaged people - in other words, how to achieve, in this period of economic crisis, the goal of continuously creating equal opportunities and equal access to services for all citizens. In the past the educational policy strategies of many governments privileged technocratic efficiency over grassroots participation in decision making, such that the existing power patterns were reinforced. To break with this technocratic hindrance, bot-top-down approaches seem to be needed in policy development to improve the quality of implementation. This means that while honouring the central role the government or departments of education (the top) should play in policy development and implementation, policies must be founded on solid needs analysis (bottom) so that it is possible to address problems on the ground (down). This supports the relevance of participatory approaches, which help by identifying a range of complex economic and social issues at grassroots level, by empowering communities to identify problems, through the development of plans for comprehensive and long-term solutions and, finally, by taking action. Important partners could be universities, policy makers, practitioners, companies and civil society. These types of (public-private) partnerships could be further developed into learning partnerships to facilitate working on bot-top-down strategies and capacity building of practitioners in the educational field. To have policies that are grounded in relevant issues and to develop strategies that are intended to address those issues is one step in the right direction towards effective implementation.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)1-17
Aantal pagina's17
TijdschriftCommonwealth Youth and Development
Nummer van het tijdschrift2
StatusPublished - jan-2014

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