Alternative Primary Education and Social Stratification in Resource-scarce Countries: Theoretical, Substantive, and Methodological Debates

Michelle Chama Mwalimu


Community schools and other approaches to Alternative Primary Education (APE) have increased access to primary education for underserved populations in developing countries as a major goal of the Education for All (EFA) movement. While advocates have praised community schools for their focus on disadvantaged children, community control, and relevance to students’ everyday lives, critics argue that these schools are “second-rate education for second-rate students”, that perpetuate a system of inequality in which governments play a minimal role in ensuring both access and quality for all students. This paper critiques major debates on community-based schools and APE in light of existing research on schooling and social stratification in resource-scarce countries with a focus on African nations. It begins with a background to community schools and APE, continues with an explication of various supporting and opposing arguments, and concludes by identifying advances and gaps in theoretical, substantive, and methodological areas of the field.


Community schools, non-formal education, Africa, critical review

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