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The importance of understanding Development for Education

By Michael C. F. Cresswell B.Ed M.Ed PG ODE PG Glob Dev Mgt

CC: Image by lesserland from Pixabay

Education is a fundamental right for all, as outlined in the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHR), Convention on the Rights of the child (UNCRC), and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This article will discuss the definition of development for education, what ‘good’ development might be and how these elements impact development managers that focus on education. There are four key challenges related to delivering ‘good’ development identified in order to understand factors related to development and education.

Definition of Development for Education

Education development is the process of improving the quality of education for individuals and societies through activities that involve education systems and institutions. This includes the construction and improvement of educational facilities, the development of new curriculum, the provision of training and resources for teachers and other educators, and the promotion of educational activities. (UNESCO, 2023). However, development for education is not only about things associated with 'education'. Development for education is more than that. If I do not have a walking stick, I might not be able to make it to school, right?

What ‘Good’ Development Looks Like

‘Good’ development is a complex and debatable term. What exactly is good and in what context is good, good enough, and good for who? A foundational understanding of 'good' development could be development that is sustainable, equitable and inclusive. It might be development that takes into account the needs of the most vulnerable, and seeks to ensure that everyone has access to quality education and to opportunities for lifelong learning and development. This includes providing access to quality education for all, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, et al. It also includes providing access to education that is tailored to the specific needs of the individual and their community. (UNESCO, 2023).

According to the World Bank, good development is sustainable economic growth that creates opportunities for all segments of society, reduces poverty and inequality, and protects the environment. It involves policies and investments that create jobs, increase incomes, and improve living standards, while preserving the environment. Good development could also be connected to 'good governance'. Good governance attempts to help improve access to quality health care, education, and social services for all, including women and vulnerable groups through institutional development (World Bank, 2023).

It is highly critical to really know what actually does constitute ‘good’ development. There are many interpretations that depend of variations of data and analysis of the quantitative and qualitative. ‘Good’ development could be something as simple as having a child who can now can meet under a tree with other children, on some kind of regular basis, to do some type of activity that constitutes learning, probably because it did not or could not happen before. This in such a challenging developmental context would be ‘quality’. Maybe not your type of quality, but in a war-torn country dealing with years of conflict, such an act could be a golden miracle of progress for a region or nation, it just might be.

Good development in the development and education sector is a multifaceted concept that considers the holistic well-being of a society. Good development should also take into account the environmental sustainability of the community and ensure that the resources available are appropriate. You wouldn't give a Barbie doll to a child on the streets in Paraguay. In addition, good development should consider the cultural and political context of the community and strive to create an inclusive environment for all members of society.

CC: Image by Ravendra Singh from Pixabay

Relationship between Development and the UN 2030 SDGs

The UN 2030 SDGs identify the need to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (UN, 2023). Education is seen as a key component of achieving the SDGs, and the SDGs provide a framework for the development of education systems and institutions. The SDGs also provide guidance on how to ensure that development is equitable and inclusive, so that all individuals and communities have access to quality education and training opportunities. This is no easy task. The concept of quality is questionable in many ways when considering SDG 4. Looking through a lens outside of the development sector would agree that this SDG 4 goal is a fairy tale. However, development has many challenges and mechanisms which rely on development managers in education to see things differently and with care that is appropriate and accepted by those development is intended for.

CC: SDGs at Lviv Model UN by UN Ukraine from Flickr

Impact on Educational Development Managers

Educational development managers play an important role in achieving the UN 2030 SDGs. They are usually responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of development initiatives that are aimed at improving the quality of education for individuals and communities. This could take shape in the form of interventions that provide access to an education that allows for a child to access drinking water, or appropriate play equipment, or even just by creating, building and opening a new school in a developing context (Cresswell, 2020). The SDGs provide guidance for these managers on how to ensure that the development initiatives they are involved in are sustainable, equitable and inclusive. As such, educational development managers must ensure that their activities and projects are aligned with the core objectives of the SDGs, and that they are taking into account the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders.

Key Challenges

The successful delivery of ‘good’ development is dependent on the ability of educational development managers to address a number of key challenges. These include:

1. Ensuring equitable access to quality education: Educational development managers must ensure that all individuals and communities have access to quality education, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or socio-economic status, to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their potential and contribute to their society. Quality education is essential in helping members of underprivileged communities to break free from a cycle of poverty and to access what can be deemed to them as 'better' socio-economic opportunities. It also provides the skills and knowledge needed to participate fully in their modern world and to foster a more equitable and just society for in which they live.

2. Addressing gaps and inequalities: Educational development managers must identify and address existing gaps and inequalities in developing contexts to ensure that all students have an equitable access to education. By doing so, managers can ensure that their initiatives are adapted to the local context and that all students have an equal chance to progress in their learning. This helps to reduce educational disparities and ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to access, engage and hopefully find/develop their own success.

3. Developing effective partnerships: Educational development managers should develop effective partnerships with stakeholders in order to ensure that their initiatives are successful and sustainable. This is because stakeholders have a vested interest in the success of educational initiatives and can provide invaluable insight into the needs and challenges of the educational system. Furthermore, by forming strong partnerships with stakeholders, educational development managers can access resources and expertise that can help to ensure the success of their initiatives. Finally, by working together with stakeholders, educational development managers can create a sense of shared responsibility and/or a self-determining agency and ownership of the proposed initiatives, to help ensure that they are sustainable in the long term.

4. Understanding the self; perceptions, attitudes and discourse: It is important for an Educational Development Manager to understand their own perceptions, attitudes, and discourses in order to effectively understand a developing context and the needs of constituents who may be different from them. By being aware of their own biases and how they may be influencing their work, the Educational Development Manager can better understand the perspectives of their constituents, enabling them to appropriately and respectfully address their needs. However, this can be very difficult and can take time to break through. This is especially important for managers when working with populations that may be different from them in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. By understanding their own perspectives, Educational Development Managers can more effectively identify and address the needs of the constituents they serve.

CC: Daybreak in Udi By Աղբյուր, Wikimedia Commons

This article has opened the door to shaping a basic definition of development for education and a starting point for readers to recognise and reflect on the complexities of what is ‘good’, along with the development manager’s role in development for education. It has also identified four broad key challenges related to delivering ‘good’ development. It is clear that educational development managers have an important role to play in achieving the UN 2030 SDGs. They must be prepared to address and take action in line with the four key challenges outlined above in order to ensure that development initiatives are appropriate, meaningful, sustainable, equitable and inclusive. Further insights and reflections about development and education are to come.


Cresswell, M. (2020) ‘Kosice International School – from idea to reality’, American Chamber of Commerce: Connection Magazine, Slovakia [online] Available at:

Creative Commons Licensing [image] ‘Daybreak at Udi’ By Աղբյուր, Fair use,

UNESCO (2023) Education Transforms Lives, UNESCO, Available at:

UN (2023) Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations, Available at:

08 January 2023

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