Decentralisation, Participation and Education: Remembering Bruno Knall
by Elvira Graner and Novel K. Rai
As a contemporary of late Toni Hagen, Prof. Bruno Knall was among the first foreign experts to come to Nepal. His first assignment brought him here in 1960/61 as a UNESCO consultant, in order to assess the education sector. Together with H.B. Wood (University of Oregon) he co-authored what was to become known as the legendary Wood-Knall-Report on “Educational Planning in Nepal and its Economic Implications” (1962). In 1968 he was appointed to the chair at the Dept. of Development Economics at the then newly established interdisciplinary South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University, Germany. As such he was one of the directors of the Institute, a position he continued to hold until his retirement in 1992. During this period he devoted most of his academic life to Nepal.
As a university assistant at the Institute of World Economics at Kiel University, Germany (1958-65) Knall had the opportunity to come to Nepal for his first time. The assignment was based on a request from HMG, financed under the 1961 Contingency Fund Provision as a joint UNESCO-ECAFE project, demanding “advice on the establishment of priorities within education”. Thus, Knall and Wood were given the task to “draw up a comprehensive overall plan of educational development” and to “come up with practical recommendations concerning the development of education and its integration in economic planning”. Their on-the-spot investigation, carried out over a period of four months, resulted in a comprehensive compilation (143 p.) of educational statistics and policies. While strongly favoring many ideas put forward in the National Education Plan (1954), the two authors also pointed out some of the flaws. A major one was the “tremendous wastage” when considering drop-outs and failures in exams, at all levels of schooling but particularly in secondary education and (non-) performance during SLCs.
Further fields of interest brought Prof. Knall to Sri Lanka, where he undertook research in rural development during the early 1980s, mainly in collaboration with his junior colleague Norbert Wagner. In Nepal, he was followed by his colleague Chris Rieger, who continued Knall’s work while being affiliated to Tribhuvan University’s Centre for Economic Development and Administration (CEDA) during the 1970s. Until today, many others of his students and junior colleagues, both Germans and Nepalese, are holding important positions in the field of Development Economics, both in policy formulation and implementation.
After his “retirement”, Prof. Knall continued his academic life with teaching assignments, to which he was frequently invited. Thus, he taught a course at his birthplace Kronstadt, Rumania , for two years in succession. For Heidelberg University’s South Asia Institute Prof. Knall’s contribution has been a milestone in setting up regular research work in Nepal and his work is certainly one of the corner stones for setting up its Kathmandu Office. In this respect, the two authors are deeply indebted to him and wish him all the best for his 80th birthday (on February, 22nd). Today, Bruno Knall is recovering from a severe stroke and in an old people’s home in the idyllic upper Neckar valley, Southern Germany. After the death of his wife, he brought her ashes to Pashupatinath, a place where he also wishes to be brought to.
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(1975): Local government and rural development in Nepal. Kathmandu.
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N. Wagner(1982): Ländliche Entwicklung in Sir Lanka. In: Internationales Asienforum (13), 55-75.
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(1995): Wirtschaftliche Entwicklung, Partizipation und Dezentralisierung in Nepal. In: Gaenszle, M. & D. Schmidt-Vogt (eds.): Nepal. Vierte Südasien-Gespräche. Wiesbaden, 74-80.