In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Education and the Study of Africa

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Historical Surveys
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Works
  • Data Sources and Organizations
  • Journals
  • African “Traditions” and Education
  • Precolonial Islamic Education
  • Islamic Education since 1900
  • Missionary Education
  • Education and Nationalism
  • Education and Socialism
  • Internationalization
  • Higher Education
  • Pedagogy and Teacher Training
  • Literacy
  • Memoirs and Novels

African Studies Education and the Study of Africa
Corrie Decker
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 October 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0073


Though some historians and anthropologists have examined precolonial or indigenous forms of socialization, most contemporary studies of education focus on formal education that came to the continent with European colonialism. Works on indigenous forms of instruction examine initiation, vocational training, and the impartation of cultural or historical knowledge. Islamic schools date back to the arrival of Islam in Africa several hundred years ago. The first European missionaries in Africa established Christian schools in the late 15th century, but these were not widespread until the 19th century. European colonial officials established secular schools for Africans in the early 20th century. Whereas French educators promoted educational “assimilation,” British territories introduced the “adapted education” system for Africans in the 1920s, a policy modeled after the American segregated school system. Africans made demands for more schools and a more literary curriculum in the 1930s and 1940s and, in some cases, even established their own schools. This period also saw the development of higher education for Africans. During the nationalist era, the educated elite were at the forefront of demands for independence, and many of the leaders of new nations in the 1960s were Western-educated elites. Independent governments attempted to implement universal primary education and create more opportunities for secondary and higher education, with varying success. They also paid more attention to the education of rural children and of women. Structural adjustment programs (SAPs) and other international economic interventions, however, resulted in less government revenue for and control over social services like education. In the early 21st century, governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are working to make education affordable and accessible for everyone.

General Overviews

Overviews of education in Africa give a general introduction to the success stories and the obstacles to universal education and education reform. Brock-Utne and Skattum 2009 and Moulton, et al. 2002 are collections of essays focusing on different regions and countries in Africa in order to find commonalities in successes and failures, whereas Bashir 2005 and Abdi 2002 focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa, respectively. The essays in Olukoshi and Diarra 2007 discuss the financing of education and the place of education in national development plans.

  • Abdi, Ali A. Culture, Education, and Development in South Africa: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 2002.

    This historical overview begins with a historical survey of the period before and during apartheid and then analyzes the policy of “multicultural education” in postapartheid South Africa.

  • Bashir, Sajitha. Education in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Priorities and Options for Regeneration. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2005.

    A study funded by the World Bank analyzing current enrollment, financing, and quality of primary, secondary, and higher education in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Brock-Utne, Birgit, and Ingse Skattum, eds. Languages and Education in Africa: A Comparative and Transdisciplinary Analysis. Oxford: Symposium Books, 2009.

    A collection of a variety of essays on the role of language in contemporary education in East and West Africa, and Francophone and Anglophone countries, including articles in English and French.

  • Moulton, Jeanne, Karen Mundy, Michel Welmond, and James Williams, eds. Education Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: Paradigm Lost? Westport, CO: Greenwood, 2002.

    A collection of essays examining case studies in Malawi, Uganda, Benin, and Ethiopia that focus on educational reforms of the 1990s associated with the transition to democratic governments.

  • Olukoshi, Adebayo, and Mohamed Chérif Diarra, eds. Enjeux du financement et de la planification de l’éducation en Afrique: Ce qui marche et ce qui ne marche pas. Dakar, Senegal: Groupe de travail sur les finances et l’éducation de l’Association pour le développement de l’éducation en Afrique (ADEA), 2007.

    A collection of essays on the financing of education in Africa. Most articles examine education in West African nations.

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