75 years  

Education and International Development Group : 1995-2001

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Chris Yates : student 1985-6, associate lecturer 1987 – present

Chris recalls how he came to be a student in EDC and the advice of lecturers, particularly that of Bill Dodd on conducting research. He also talks about his ongoing involvement as a lecturer with on-line MA work.

I was born in Wednesbury in the West Midlands almost 50 years ago now. I’m a black country boy. At the age of eleven I failed my 11+ and then at 16, failed most of the ‘O’ levels that my comprehensive school entered me for. I was, I suppose, one of the lads Paul Willis identified in his ‘Learning to Labour’ – except that I didn’t quite learn to labour – as I perhaps was meant to - at least not with my hands. Most of my school friends left the comprehensive school at the age of 16 for the building sites and factories of my area, and I was left to think about what I was going to do without them.

In September 1984 after 10 years of teaching in the UK and Papua New Guinea I eventually walked up over the roof the main lecture hall to enter the revolving doors of the 4th floor of the Institute of Education, University of London. I had come to study for an MA in Education in Developing Countries - and I thought – Yes I’ve arrived – now I’ve made it to a ‘real university’...

I joined the EDC group and found that I was to be taught and looked after by people with  some rather strange sounding names - Kazim Bacchus, Carew Treffgarne, Jon Lauglo, and of course Rajee Rajagopalan…My classmates too often had unusual names - Napoleon Imperial was one I most remember. EDC was a cosmopolitan place indeed…and like every year before us - and since - we all thought our year was the best.

Later, while a young staff member at the IoE/IEC I had the pleasure of listening to the many table talks given by Bill Dodd - one time Chief Education Adviser to UK ODA (now DFID)  and then an EDC/DICE lecturer and chairman of some 14 Institute committees. Bill Dodd was a ‘raconteur extraordinaire’.

Bill used to tell many stories – here’s one I remember about research methods and observation.

‘If you put a frog on a table and cut off one of its legs, and then bang the table with your hand – you find it doesn’t move – it doesn’t jump out of the way. If you then cut off the second leg and bang the table a second time - again you find it doesn’t move. Which leads you to the obvious conclusion that – when you cut of a frog’s legs it goes deaf’

Stories like those made me think harder about how we make observations and about jumping to conclusions…

Towards the end of the 1980s I met Angela Little the new Professor of Education in Developing Countries. We began to work together with some of the other EDC staff (Roy Gardner, Elwyn Thomas) on the first generation of the EDC Core course as a distance version  - it took a couple of years and much academic ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ to develop it. But it was a worthwhile effort - and many hundreds of people have now studied with it from all over the world - ably tutored and supported by Roy Gardner and John Lowe.

At the end of the 1990s EID colleagues began to talk about an update – about putting the ‘core course on line’. By then the electronic revolution was upon us, online learning was in full tilt and we knew it was time for an Internet version.

Now we are up and running in the second year - with 20 students taking the course online. We have moved from the old paper based standardised model of distance learning where everybody got the same package and communications between learners and tutors were limited or non existent - to a much more dynamic, interactive approach where conversations occur daily and knowledge is contested and constructed.

In my view Illich got it wrong I’m afraid - we don’t actually want to ‘de-school’ society we want to ‘re-school’ society – through continuous life-long learning – and now we have the tools for conviviality to do it

Bill Dodd, Paul Hirst, Kevin Lillis, Carew Treffgarne and all my EID/IoE colleagues today continue to teach me many useful things. The value of scepticism and good argument; the importance of good preparation for consultancy work and for committee meetings and of always trying to keep a sense of humour…especially in a formal situation – for that and many other things - thank you EDC/DICE/EID.

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Compiled and edited by Clare Bentall and Angela Little. First issued Spring 2005.