Democracy, Education and Development: Theory and Reality


  • Clive Harber University of Birmingham
  • Vusi Mncube University of South Africa


democracy, politics, development, modernisation, bureaucracy, democratic schooling, authoritarianism


This article explores the relationships between education and democracy in developing countries. It discusses the nature of “development” and in particular the idea of political indicators of development. The paper then discusses modernisation theory in relation to education as providing a necessary, but not sufficient, bureaucratic basis for democratic political development. These ideas are then examined in relation to the realities of schooling in developing countries and the problems of providing learners with both an effective organisational experience and a democratic one. While there are many examples of good practice in relation to democratic education in developing countries, there are also many obstacles and the dominant model of schooling is still authoritarian. The article then focuses on South Africa as a case study of a developing country that has attempted to introduce more democratic forms of schooling but where authoritarianism persists in education despite some democratic progress. The paper ends by discussing why democratic education remains a minority practice globally and the key obstacles it faces.


Author Biographies

Clive Harber, University of Birmingham

Clive Harber is Emeritus Professor of International Education at the University of Birmingham and an Associate of the University of South Africa.

Vusi Mncube, University of South Africa

Vusi Mncube is an Associate Professor at the University of South Africa.


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Invited papers