Global Development Educational Exchange Programs (GDEEPs)
Harnessing Education and Technology to End Poverty
Maastricht University, The Netherlands
Abstract – When examining the history of developmental efforts by international organisations and national
governments over the past 60 years, we can draw several lessons that are important for a future development
paradigm. Education has more recently been granted more appreciation for its unique value in sustainable
development. This paper proposes to set up new agencies to manage the worldwide distribution of educational
programs in an effective and affordable way – the so-called Global Development Educational Exchange
Programs (GDEEPs). These programs will put emphasis on the young generation, financially enabling them to
volunteer abroad and become global citizens. Furthermore, GDEEPs can provide an extra incentive for
governments to invest in them by serving a dual educational purpose: both the participants and the people they
educate will benefit. Responsibility of creating awareness and financial means lies with governments and
international organisations, whereas a moral and social responsibility to volunteer lies with individuals – mainly
the younger generation.
Our twenty-first century world sees more developed regions than ever before. Yet this situation is not
an equal one; large numbers of people are being marginalized - poverty still is a global reality. The
figures are staggering: Almost one person in five – 1.2 billion men, women and children – are
currently living in a situation of extreme poverty, surviving on the equivalent of less than one dollar a
day; half the people in the world are trying to manage below the poverty level of two dollars a day;
more than 100 million children never attend school, 230 million have no access to secondary
education; More than 840 million adults in the world are illiterate – 65% of them are women. (Teams
to End Poverty, 2006). Furthermore, the income gap between the fifth of the worlds' people living in
the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest doubled from 1960 to 1990, from 30 to 1 to 60 to 1.
By 1998, it had jumped again, with the gap widening to an astonishing 78 to 1 (United Nations Human
Development Report, 1999).
Development, alleviating poverty and producing equality for all human beings regardless of where
they were born, have all been on the international community‟s political agenda since the 1950s.
Different directions and programs were attempted, yet ending poverty proved to be an extremely
difficult tasks for which not a single, clear solution exists. Naturally, these earlier developers could not
have envisaged that 60 years after their programs, global inequality would still be prevalent. Yet both
poverty and inequality are still with us today, and ask for global solutions. Innovations in development
and aid remain crucial and must be on our worldwide priority list, for the panacea to global equality
has not yet been found.
This paper will start by considering the major strands in development-thinking and aid-programs,
mainly those undertaken by the World Bank and national governments. The focus has shifted towards
human development with special emphasis on the possibilities of education. The second part will
elaborate on this and propose a new concept in educational development thinking, something I named
Global Development Educational Exchange Programs (GDEEPs). These programs might be able to
tackle many of the problems and circumvent certain difficulties inherent in the old system.
Furthermore, it puts emphasis on the fact that this is a global problem, for which we are all
responsible. This will be elaborated on in further detail in the second part of this paper.
It needs to be emphasised that the ideas on global development and GDEEPs expressed in this
paper are merely visions or drafts –not strictly or analytically worked out programs- that need further
international consideration and discussion. What this article hopes to achieve is a new spark in the
debate on global development, mainly in the field of education, and open a discussion on the
possibilities that lie in this direction of thought.
Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that problems of poverty, lack of education and unequal
access to the opportunities of technology are not solely problems occurring in developing countries.
Developed countries face these problems just as well within their borders. However, due to time and
space limitations, this paper will not consider these problems and its possible solutions; yet it hopes to
be included in the future debate opened by the topics raised herein.
Historical development and its lessons
The international efforts to help develop less-developed countries has been identified by Gore (2000)
as “the mobilization and allocation of resources, and the design of institutions, to transform national
economies and societies in an orderly way, from a state and status of being less developed to one of
being more developed” (p.789). Actors in these practices are governments, both those from the
developed and developing world, and international intergovernmental organizations, such as the
United Nation (UN) and the World Bank (WB). When examining the historical course development
thinking took, two major streams can be witnessed. The first, which simultaneously marked the
beginning of development-thinking on the whole, started in 1945 after the end of World War II. It was
characterized by a state-centric approach, also called “national developmentalism” (Gore, 2000, p.
792). The focus lay on national achievements, such as self-sufficiency and industrialisation, and
projects were characterised by merely copying structures from already industrialised countries without
taking into account the country‟s own needs. Although there did occur a boom in some countries‟
economies, the economic crisis of the late 1970s/early 1980s brought an end to most of these. Figures
produced in the 1999 UN Human Development Report confirm this by stating that “since 1980,
economic decline or stagnation has affected 100 countries, reducing the incomes of 1.6 billion people.
For 70 of these countries, average incomes are less in the mid 1990s than in 1980, and in 43, less than
in 1970.” The call for reform therefore became louder.
A major shift thus occurred in the 1980s, with the rise of the so-called „Washington Consensus‟.
Although there are entire books written on this transformation, what it entailed and how it happened,
this paper will only discuss the way in which it marked a departure from the previous, post-WWII
paradigm. It has often been described as a “shift from state-led dirigisme to market-oriented policies”
(Gore, 2000, p.790).
This Consensus focussed on policy-reforms in the developing countries‟ economic sphere, most
importantly in opening up their economies to the rest of the world „through trade and capital account
liberalization‟ and to pursue further liberalisation through „privatization and deregulation‟ (ibid.). In
this new approach, earlier advices and policies, e.g. the protection of infant industries, were sharply
denounced by its main agents the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Although there
was a shift within this Consensus as well, from extremely laissez-fair in the early 1980s to a more
“market-friendly approach”, Gore (2000) notes that this approach has received criticism and pressure
too (p.792). This is where education starts to play a more significant role.
One of these challenges came from the Sustainable Human Development (SHD) approach, in
which the “promotion of GDP growth, and … a top-down, donor-conditionality-driven and outside-
expert-led” characteristics of the Washington Consensus are being criticised (ibid., p.795). A post-
Washington Consensus is now appearing with a focus on “living standards of people and the
promotion of equitable, sustainable and democratic development … Furthermore, change should not
be imposed from outside but requires ownership, participation, partnership and consensus-building,”
(p799-800) These long-term sustainable developments can only be reached by education and advances
in technology, which will thus be of valuable importance in this new paradigm.
This shifting focus is also evident in the approach of the World Bank. It has been funding
educational projects since 1963 and their pace and scope have been accelerating since the 1990s. It
was involved in Education for All (EFA), an international commitment launched in 1990 to bring the
benefits of education to "every citizen in every society." Besides the World Bank, partners involved
were national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as UNESCO.
However, progress was slow and the commitment needed reaffirmation. This happened in September
2000, when 189 countries and their partners adopted two of the EFA goals among the eight
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (World Bank, 2006). Further indications can be seen in the
1998/99 World Development Report released by the World Bank that states “markets alone are not
adequate to ensure economic progress” and that education should be the top priority for developing
nations. Or as Rutherford, a Canadian economist, points out: “Foundations have to be laid first, and
education is one of these” (Rutherford, as quoted in The Ring, 1998). From the 1990s onwards we thus
witness an increased awareness that it is important to help developing countries to develop the
necessary expertise and help them in e.g. improving governance structures, instead of sending in
external advisers and leaving the governments with money and no expertise to run the project.
So what is it that education has to offer to developing countries that earlier policies could not? As
part of the Millennium Development Goals it receives attention from the World Bank and in this
context its importance is explained as follows: “Education is the foundation of all societies and
globally competitive economies. It is the basis for reducing poverty and inequality, improving health,
enabling the use of new technologies, and creating and spreading knowledge. In an increasingly
complex, knowledge-dependent world, primary education, as the gateway to higher levels of
education, must be the first priority.” (World Bank MDGs). It is not only fundamental for economic
development and equality, but also for social and political progress e.g. gender equality and
As was described above, history has shown that the „old‟ development paradigms face several
flaws. The first was too state-centric and merely copied Western development structures. However, the
large-scale, sort of „harsh‟ approach adopted in the Washington Consensus was not efficient either;
development is not only about markets. A further problem proved to be corruption, which resulted in
the money not reaching the people most in need. As Gore (2000) explains, a paradigm shift in
development policies not only alters the methods, but the entire framework in which a problem is
viewed and how it should be dealt with. Therefore it naturally comes to different conclusions and
justifications of its policies. It is now time to once again shift our focus and learn from lessons from
the past. The new paradigm that is already forming focuses on sustainable development with a humane
character and an emphasis on education. However, how will this education reach people in need, who
will educate who and where and who is responsible? These are questions that will be considered in the
Global Development Educational Exchange Programs (GDEEPs)
This paper so far has shown the problems in the international community‟s ability to respond to its
poverty-challenge. The remaining of this paper will focus on the possibilities of a different pattern of
What this paper proposes is a new way of handling the problems of providing international
development-aid in the area of education by setting up a new body: the Global Development
Educational Exchange Programs (GDEEPs). These will be either national- or international- based
organisations that will help in the facilitation of worldwide exchange programs for young people (ages
16-30) in the field of education. People can apply with these organizations for a number of short- or
long-term projects which these GDEEP-agencies have in their database. After a series of interviews or
assessment procedures, the agencies will place the applicant in a compatible program and prepare him
or her for their stay abroad. These programs can range from organising a four-week basic computer-
skills course in a village in Sub-Saharan Africa; teaching basic English language programs in Vietnam
for a year; helping out in after-school homework centres on a number of subjects in the suburbs of
Latin-American cities; to giving basic education on sexual health and birth control which is especially
important in the light of the current HIV/AIDS epidemic. It will be the responsibility of the GDEEP-
agencies to place participants in projects that are suitable to their skills. An 18-year old high-school
graduate from Leeds will have different qualities to offer than a third-year math-student from
Capetown who wishes to temporary halt his studies for a couple of weeks to go on a GDEEP. There
are several problems this new approach will tackle and why it can be convincingly successful.
First of all, I believe that the younger generation is the key here. They often have the motivation,
open-mindedness and time to go abroad and get involved, but several obstacles remain. One of the
biggest is money and the fact that one cannot reach much alone. By uniting them; offering them the
experience and trustworthiness of a reliable organization; preparing them for the unknown and
(possibly) surprising situations they will be in; and providing them with financial support, this
approach could be extremely successful. Once they are older and would have the financial means to
volunteer, there will be other constraints hindering from volunteering abroad, such as family-
considerations and career-planning. The group in between is ideal to be targeted by GDEEP-agencies.
Second, investing directly in GDEEPs who fund projects and the young generation could
circumvent the problem of state-corruption. Money will not go to governments but mostly to the
(inter)nationally-based GDEEP-agencies who invest the money in sending people abroad. The
experience the GDEEP-agencies will gather over the years will only contribute to their reputation as
reliable and efficient associations that will not waste money on pointless or inefficient projects.
Furthermore, since these programs are based on volunteer-work the expenses are reduced to
volunteers‟ living needs, not salaries.
Thirdly and most importantly is the dual educational result these GDEEPs will accomplish. By
sending abroad a young generation to help other people in another place, both of them will benefit.
This constitutes true worldwide education: not only the material one learned in school, but the life-
long impressions such an experience will yield. Living in a globalised world also means to reach out,
getting in contact with people from different backgrounds and visions. Much like what the EWB-
Conference can achieve once every two years by bringing together people from all over the world,
GDEEPs can do this year-round. This is one of the most valuable assets of this proposal. If we want to
succeed in creating global opportunities, we have to make sure that there is a deeper understanding
between the peoples of the world. Facilitating direct contact at an early age and pointing out the
responsibility they have, can greatly contribute to this.
This last point brings along another advantage that can make the GDEEPs more successful. When
national governments realize that they are investing not only in the education and development of
other countries, but rather directly in that of their own, it will be more likely for them to invest time
and money. The World Bank has recognised insufficient funding and the fact that countries were not
seriously committed as one of its main problems in educational progress: “Education for All will be
thwarted in its achievement of universal primary education due to a lack of resources. Official
Development Aid for education has increased only modestly. Current levels of external funding
commitments are low, and not sufficiently predictable to enable low income countries make to
medium to long-term plans that will sustain the development of their primary education
systems.”(World Bank Group, 2005). The GDEEPs can create new incentives for governments to
Worldwide, there are already many small-scale projects, some even in a form that manageable in a
GDEEP-context. The following section will discuss two of them as examples to illustrate this.
Examples - MUSTANGH and Cross-Cultural Solutions
MUSTANGH (Maastricht University Twinning A North Ghanaian Hospital) is a local project joining
the medical students from the Maastricht Faculty of Medicine to a rural hospital in Northern Ghana. It
has been described as a unique win-win situation, in which Dutch students get the opportunity to gain
exceptional experience in a hospital in a developing country and the Ghanaian population gains from
the knowledge and free extra doctors this program provides. The project raises funds through personal
and business donations. Over the years, it managed to build a student-house for its visiting students,
build a water-pump and provide the hospital with an ambulance. The project is very popular amongst
the medical students, the places for next year‟s internship program were filled quickly and the
organisation had to disappoint several of them. This project could fit very well in a GDEEP-context:
medical students can apply via a national GDEEP-organisation and get placed in this program. Or, if
the places fill up quickly every year, they can simply be placed in another, similar program available
in the GDEEP-database. This means that they will not have to waste time finding another reliable
organisation and start the entire application process again.
A second example is a volunteer-organisation called Cross Cultural Solutions. This agency offers
several volunteer programs to people of all ages. The possibilities are many, the stories of participants
are very impressive – and so is the price. The program fee for Volunteer Abroad starts at $2,489 for
two weeks, with an additional $272 for every other week. This includes lodging, meals, ground
transportation, in-country Perspectives Programming, language assistance, professional locally-based
staff, informational documents, local phone calls, incoming international phone service, and a toll-
free emergency hotline in the United States. This means that the price of a flight-ticket still needs to be
added. The example of CCS clearly shows the barrier that financial considerations constitute for
young people wishing to volunteer abroad.
GDEEPs in the future
The previous parts have shown the opportunities for international development that the GDEEPs can
provide. This section will go into further detail on how to make these projects more successful.
First of all, GDEEP-agencies will need to be set up that have a database of projects and the
knowledge to select appropriate candidates. A quick look on the internet will dazzle any person
wishing to volunteer abroad with a wealth of opportunities and information. Yet this does not lower
the barrier very much, for it is unclear which organisations are good and trustworthy and which are
not. Moreover, internationally based agencies have preference because they can share a larger pool of
resources concerning knowledge and finances, although it might compensate its workability.
Secondly, it will be of great importance to raise GDEEPs awareness amongst the youth. I really
believe that many young people do want to get out there, volunteer abroad and make a personal
contribution to a better world. Yet they are hindered by financial considerations or simply do not know
where to start; GDEEPs will lower the barriers. National governments, schools and universities are in
a favourable position to raise this awareness and the responsibility for this part should mainly be
placed with them. They will need to focus on the possibilities GDEEP-agencies have to offer and on
the global responsibilities our generation has.
A third crucial topic is money. A rethinking of the current aid-funding will need to take place in
which the effectiveness of certain projects will be evaluated. Inefficient or hardly efficient funding can
be redirected to these agencies. Well-functioning projects can if possible either be put within a
GDEEP-context, or left in place such as programs on the level of policy-making, which obviously
cannot be replaced by GDEEP-volunteers. Moreover, part of national government‟s education-
spending could also be directed to GDEEPs since it will not only be part of the Aid/Development-
budget but also contribute to the education of its own youth and population. It needs to be stressed that
sufficient funds will be of crucial importance for the success-rate of this GDEEP-proposal, otherwise
young people will remain unable to volunteer.
Alleviating poverty throughout the world never presented itself to be an easy and straightforward
business, yet we should not be content with the inefficiency that troubles development- and
educational-funding today. New ideas on development-thinking, especially with a focus on education,
need to be considered. This paper tried to contribute to this world-wide debate by proposing the
institutionalisation of Global Development Educational Exchange Programs and hopes to open up a
debate about the possibilities that lie in this direction.
As the first section showed, developing practices so far have not been very successful. Yet
education is starting to play a more important role and is recognised to be of exceptional value in
sustainable development. This recognition is evident in the vision of the World Bank and the role
education plays in the Millennium Development Goals. As was shown, small scale projects carried out
by GDEEP-agencies can be more effective, create international understanding and a global
consciousness amongst its participants and circumvent corruption. Furthermore, simultaneously
investing in national citizens and educational development will be an incentive for governments to
direct more money towards this cause. The GDEEP-participants will return home with an awareness
of the inequalities this world is facing because they have seen it with their own eyes; the people they
have educated will be empowered in economic, social and political ways.
As part of an increasingly globalised world, all of us have a commitment to solve global poverty
and inequality, to go out there and give some of our time to help others. This proposal lays a large
responsibility with individuals, but a larger one with governments and international organizations in
providing the financial and practical means to lower barriers, create awareness and some sort of
social/moral responsibility for and amongst our generation and the next to help out others in less
fortunate positions. How many times does one hear that „the world is becoming smaller‟ due to
globalisation, communication and all the other possibilities that technology brings along. I do believe
that young people want to go abroad, volunteer and reach out if only the barriers were lowered. Here
lies the responsibility of governments and international organisations.
As mentioned before, this proposal is not yet finalised or strictly defined. It still faces many
problems for example on how to overcome issues of gender-bias (how do we get more girls in
school?). Additionally, this approach does not need to rule out other efficient programs currently
active in the development-area, but can be viewed as a complementary idea. Moreover, it wishes to
show a new direction and explore the possibilities that lie in its scope.
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