UKFIET, together with the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change at the School of Education, University of Glasgow, organised a meeting on the 27th of April 2017 to bring together ‘the Scottish resource in Education and Development’. Present were members of relevant Scottish and UK government departments, academics based at Scottish universities, Scotland-based NGOs working on education in the Global South, and interested others.
Why hold a meeting of this group of people? While aid is not a devolved matter, the Scottish Government sees education as an area where Scotland can make a meaningful contribution in selected lower-income countries, and it supports education projects and research as part of its commitment. Additionally, the reality of distance means that academics and others working in Scotland may have fewer opportunities to attend meetings held (inevitably) in the South-East of England. We agreed that it was important to know who is working on education in these contexts in order to support policy and programme development, respond to Scotland-based and wider collaborative opportunities, and learn from each other. We also wanted to test the waters to see if there would be interest firstly in the meeting and then in the formation of some form of network to link interested people and organisations north of Gretna Green.
The meeting included presentations from the heads of the International Development Department and the International Strategy team at Education Scotland. Links to their slide presentations at the foot of this page. The bulk of the afternoon was devoted to getting to know each other better, and discussing questions such as: What is the Scottish resource’s unique contribution? How can we work together? What would facilitate collaboration and support?
Some clear messages came through: people do feel somewhat isolated in their work in Scotland, and at times, in competition with each other. There is a clear appetite for a forum of some sort to address shared concerns and to find ways of supporting each other and working together. Small can mean collective and coherent but only if the right conditions are nurtured. As I have learned over the past four years in Scotland, it IS different up here, but we need to get to know each other to avoid simple or naïve comparisons and to create an environment in which we can challenge ourselves and consider the hard questions that are embedded in our work. There was a particular interest in thinking through how we manage equal partnerships and relationships with collaborators in the Global South.
About 30 people attended the meeting; many more were interested but couldn’t make the date. Given the scale of Scotland (less than 10% of the population of the UK) that is an impressive level of interest. We relied on snowballing and other imperfect networking techniques to reach people, and so no doubt the interest is greater still than we realise. There is reason to believe that this is ‘the first’ rather than ‘the’ meeting of the Scottish resource in Education and Development.
Michele is Professor of Comparative and International Education at the University of Glasgow, where she also co-directs the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change. Michele is also Chair of the UKFIET Board of Trustees.