Building a theoretical framework to understand the role of aid in achieving the education Millennium Development Goals in fragile states

Colenso, Peter John (2011) Building a theoretical framework to understand the role of aid in achieving the education Millennium Development Goals in fragile states. Doctoral thesis (EdD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis aims to build a theory for understanding the role of aid in achieving
the education Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in fragile states. In so
doing, it responds to claims that both educational research (see e.g. Cohen et
al., 2000), and the economic literature on aid and international development
(see e.g. Deaton, 2008), are insufficiently grounded in theory.

In finding a methodological voice for this thesis, I distinguish between three
research paradigms: positivist, interpretive and critical theory. I ask whether
theory is essentially a positivist project, better suited to quantitative methods
and to the natural sciences. I argue for a 'mixed-method' approach, proposing
that when qualitative methods generate data that are subjected to a stronger
process of generalisation – including comparison between data derived from
qualitative and quantitative methods, and from macro and micro level analysis –
then that evidence may be sufficiently strong to underpin theory.

I use a four step process to build theory: (i) categorising data into domains for
analysis, (ii) hypothesising linkages between these domains, (iii) investigating
these hypotheses through assessing the evidence supporting them, (iv)
organising hypotheses into a theoretical framework. To assess the strength of
evidence in support of each hypothesis, I use an instrument to ‘grade the
evidence’, based on a threefold assessment of method, observer bias and
corroboration. I include evidence from new research conducted for this thesis,
including: a portfolio analysis of 145 DFID education projects in fragile states
(1991-2007), and an analysis of primary data collected for the 2008 DFID
‘Education Portfolio Review’.

The findings of this research confirm a potential relationship between aid inputs
and education outcomes in fragile states. Positing that this relationship might
work through intermediate financing and institutional effects, it finds weak
evidence for the former, but stronger evidence for the latter. With both aid and
non-aid inputs (e.g. diplomacy, military engagement), external inputs appear
better at supporting existing incipient reform than generating that reform,
suggesting that donors should adopt a more modest and opportunistic approach
to aid, as opposed to deploying a ‘transformational’ blueprint (Easterly, 2009).

The inter-dependence between aid inputs and non-aid inputs points to the
importance of deploying instruments within a single approach to strategy and possibly delivery. There is relatively strong evidence for ‘pre-conditions’ for
successful interventions – proposed here as political will, community ownership
and security / stability – whereas evidence for conventional proxies of ‘aid
effectiveness’ is weak relative to the importance generally ascribed to it.

The evidence linking education and social stability is mixed, and weakly
researched in developing country contexts – potentially significant for critical
theorists who question the wisdom and motives of donor governments investing
in education to counter radicalisation.

I conclude by assessing whether the theory generated has validity or utility. I
assess the theory against five key characteristics of theory: empirical grounding;
explanatory power; predictive power; utility; verification / falsification. I conclude
that my theory has explanatory power and utility, but that claims to
generalisability are weak, given the importance of context.

The thesis and its product (the ‘theory’) provide a framework that advances our
understanding of the relationships between aid and education outcomes in
fragile states. It tests the evidence base for these proposed relationships and,
notwithstanding limits of generalisability, offers a narrative and framework with
practical utility for future research, policy development and programming.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2011 09:01
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2015 13:02
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6967

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