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“Captive” subjects? : higher education and social mobility in “postcolonial” Cambodia Sen, Vicheth 2020

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“CAPTIVE” SUBJECTS?: HIGHER EDUCATION AND SOCIAL MOBILITY IN “POSTCOLONIAL” CAMBODIA by  Vicheth Sen  M.A., The United Nations-Mandated University for Peace, 2009 M.Ed., Simon Fraser University, 2008 Grad. Dip., SEAMEO Regional Language Center, 2005 B.Ed., Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh, 2002  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Educational Studies)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) December 2020  © Vicheth Sen, 2020   ii  The following individuals certify that they have read, and recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, the dissertation entitled: “Captive” Subjects?: Higher Education and Social Mobility in “Postcolonial” Cambodia  submitted by Vicheth Sen in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies  Examining Committee: Pierre Walter, Professor, Educational Studies, University of British Columbia Supervisor  André Elias Mazawi, Professor, Educational Studies, University of British Columbia Supervisory Committee Member  Shan Hongxia, Associate Professor, Educational Studies, University of British Columbia Supervisory Committee Member Sharon Stein, Assistant Professor, Educational Studies, University of British Columbia University Examiner Bonny Norton, Professor, Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia University Examiner       iii Abstract  My dissertation problematizes the taken-for-granted colonial doxic linkage between higher education and social mobility introduced by the French colonial administration in Cambodia in the 1860s. The study examines the processes underpinning the pursuit of higher education as an avenue for social mobility in “postcolonial” Cambodia, and posits that this colonial doxa continues to be reproduced in contemporary Cambodian society. The doxa is reproduced through colonial residue present in Cambodian society, neocolonial agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank, and neoliberal capitalism. Conceptually, the study develops a theory of social practice in “postcolonial” Global South societies by expanding Bourdieu’s constructs and adding concepts pertinent to “postcolonial” Global South societies. These include colonial habitus, indigenous habitus, colonized field, gender-embedded capitals, community cultural wealth, working-class cultural complements, and Southern agency. The study draws on life-history interviews with twelve participants who were originally from marginalized socio-economic backgrounds across Cambodia. The study reveals the complexities of forces that facilitate and constrain the participants’ journeys of social mobility, particularly the family, social networks, and the broader socio-cultural framework. Findings highlight an interplay between internal forces of the socio-cultural tradition and external forces shaped by coloniality. Women’s experiences are marked by strategic maneuvering within the socio-cultural traditions, illustrating their “situated” Southern agency. Overall, the journey of social mobility is a familial/collective, rather than an individual, endeavor. Social mobility is defined as resistance to the disadvantages of being from the marginalized social class and, for women, an emancipation from the constraints of socio-cultural norms. The aspirations for social mobility through higher education, however, are enveloped in the colonial doxa framed within the confines of individualistic economic successes, indicating the continued enslavement of the minds of the colonized in “postcolonial” societies. The study has major implications for rethinking educational development in “postcolonial” Global South societies, and suggests that contextually relevant approaches to local community development be reflected in national development policies and practices. It contributes an “indigenous” Cambodian lens on Western concepts, which will in turn refashion   iv our conceptual and theoretical understandings of higher education and social mobility from a “postcolonial” Global South perspective.      v Lay Summary  The aim of this research is to gain an understanding of the constraints and opportunities for social mobility and the ways in which colonial conditions continue to be reproduced and perpetuated in “postcolonial” Cambodia. The study focuses on the role of higher education in promoting the social mobility of men and women from poor family origins. It also explores the meanings of social mobility within a Global South context. This research analyzes the life histories of nine men and three women to gain insights into the factors that constrained or facilitated their social mobility journeys, and how study participants overcome these constraints and capitalized on emerging opportunities. The study makes a significant contribution to the knowledge gap in the existing literature in relation to higher education and social mobility in Cambodian society and contributes to a growing body of scholarship from and about these issues the Global South.    vi Preface  This dissertation is the original, unpublished, and independent work conducted by the author, Vicheth Sen.  The University of British Columbia Behavioral Research Ethics Board approved this project entitled Social Mobility in Contemporary Cambodia: Life Histories of University Graduates from Poor Family Origins, certificate number H16-00345.   vii Table of Contents Abstract ......................................................................................................................................... iii Lay Summary .................................................................................................................................v Preface ........................................................................................................................................... vi Table of Contents ........................................................................................................................ vii List of Tables ............................................................................................................................... xii List of Figures ............................................................................................................................. xiii Glossary ...................................................................................................................................... xiv Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................................xv Dedication .................................................................................................................................. xvii Chapter 1: Introduction ............................................................................................................... 1 1.1 Genesis of a research problem ............................................................................ 1 1.2 Situating the research problem within the context of the study and the existing body of scholarship................................................................................................................ 3 1.3 Conceptual frame and research design ............................................................... 6 1.4 Significance of the study ..................................................................................... 8 1.5 Scope and limitations of the study ...................................................................... 9 1.6 My positionality: Beyond the insider-outsider dichotomy ............................... 10 1.7 Organization of the dissertation ........................................................................ 11 Chapter 2: Schooling and Social Mobility in Cambodia: Historical Perspectives................ 14 2.1 Pre-colonial period (prior to 1863): Khmer traditional school system and social stability ........................................................................................................................... 16 2.2 French colonial period (1863-1953): The genesis of education for social mobility ........................................................................................................................... 20 2.3 Sihanouk regime (1953-1970): Perpetuation of colonial school system .......... 23 2.4 Khmer Republic (1970-1975): The end of the first phase of failed colonial education system ................................................................................................................. 29 2.5 Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979): A failed attempt to reconceptualize educational development project ......................................................................................... 31   viii 2.6 People’s Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989): Education and social reproduction of the select few ............................................................................................. 36 2.7 From the State of Cambodia (1989-1993) to the Kingdom of Cambodia (1993-present): Transitioning towards reviving and morphing a failed colonial educational development project ............................................................................................................ 40 2.8 Summary ........................................................................................................... 52 Chapter 3: Higher Education and Social Mobility: A Review of the Global North and Global South Perspectives .......................................................................................................... 55 3.1 Global North perspectives................................................................................. 56 3.1.1 Linkage between higher education and social mobility .................................... 56 3.1.2 It takes more than higher education .................................................................. 58 3.1.3 Bourdieusian contributions ............................................................................... 59 3.1.4 Contributions of the individualization thesis .................................................... 59 3.2 Global South experiences ................................................................................. 61 3.2.1 Constructions of the Global South .................................................................... 61 3.2.2 A tale of two opposing views............................................................................ 63 3.2.2.1 Constitutive effects of colonial legacies, neo-colonialism, and neoliberal globalization on the linkage between higher education and social mobility ............... 64 3.2.2.2 Global South epistemologies and agency: An indigenous response/resistance to the colonial doxic linkage between higher education and social mobility .............. 68 3.2.2.2.1 Inter-generational dependency and collective endeavor ........................ 68 3.2.2.2.2 Southern epistemologies ........................................................................ 72 3.2.2.2.3 Rethinking Bourdieu’s concepts to fit the Global South context ........... 74 3.3 Towards a conceptual framework ..................................................................... 76 3.3.1 Colonial legacy, coloniality, neo-colonialism, and neoliberal globalization .... 76 3.3.2 Global South, indigenous, local epistemologies ............................................... 77 3.3.3 The family, community, and collective Southern agency ................................. 77 3.3.4 Bourdieu’s concepts .......................................................................................... 77 3.4 Summary ........................................................................................................... 78 Chapter 4: Conceptual Framework .......................................................................................... 79   ix 4.1 Bourdieu: A (post)colonial thinker? ................................................................. 80 4.2 Social practice in postcolonial Global South societies ..................................... 83 4.2.1 Doxa: Traditional and colonial ......................................................................... 86 4.2.1.1 Continuity of colonial doxa .......................................................................... 87 4.2.2 Illusio ................................................................................................................ 89 4.2.3 Field: Local and colonized ................................................................................ 91 4.2.3.1 Family as a (local or colonized) field ........................................................... 93 4.2.4 Habitus: Individual and family ......................................................................... 96 4.2.4.1 Individual habitus.......................................................................................... 96 4.2.4.2 Family habitus ............................................................................................... 99 4.2.4.3 Colonial and indigenous habitus ................................................................. 102 4.2.4.3.1 Colonial habitus ................................................................................... 102 4.2.4.3.2 Coloniality: The perpetuation of the colonial habitus .......................... 103 4.2.4.3.3 I(i)ndigenous habitus ............................................................................ 109 4.2.4.3.4 Fundamentals of the indigenous habitus .............................................. 110 4.2.5 Forms of capital and cultural complements .................................................... 115 4.2.5.1 Bourdieusian forms of capital ..................................................................... 116 4.2.5.2 Limitations of Bourdieusian forms of capital ............................................. 120 4.2.5.3 Community cultural wealth......................................................................... 121 4.2.5.4 Working-class cultural complements .......................................................... 125 4.2.5.5 Gender-embedded capital ........................................................................... 128 4.2.6 Southern agency .............................................................................................. 133 4.3 Summary ......................................................................................................... 137 Chapter 5: Research Methodology .......................................................................................... 139 5.1 Beyond the researcher insider-outsider dichotomy......................................... 139 5.2 Quantitative approaches to social mobility research and their limits ............. 142 5.3 Understanding social mobility in context: Qualitative approaches ................ 147 5.4 Qualitative research methodology and life history method ............................ 149 5.4.1 Theoretical orientation of the life history method .......................................... 151 5.4.2 Value of the life history method ..................................................................... 153   x 5.4.3 Limitations of the life history method ............................................................ 155 5.5 Research participant recruitment process ....................................................... 157 5.6 Sources of data: Life history interviews ......................................................... 161 5.7 Approaches to data management and analysis................................................ 165 5.8 Ethical considerations ..................................................................................... 167 5.9 Description of the research participants .......................................................... 168 5.10 Summary ......................................................................................................... 174 Chapter 6: Doxic Linkage between Higher Education and Social Mobility ....................... 175 6.1 The family habitus and the postcolonial driver of aspirations for higher education ......................................................................................................................... 176 6.2 The post-conflict reconstruction and the English language: Neocolonial/neoliberal drivers of aspirations for higher education .................................. 179 6.3 Summary ......................................................................................................... 186 Chapter 7: Forces Shaping the Journey of Social Mobility .................................................. 188 7.1 Family ............................................................................................................. 189 7.1.1 Parents as facilitating and constraining forces ................................................ 189 7.1.2 Siblings as facilitating forces .......................................................................... 198 7.1.3 Extended family as both facilitating and constraining forces ......................... 202 7.2 Social networks as facilitating forces ............................................................. 204 7.2.1 Facilitating transition to university: Social and economic capital .................. 205 7.2.2 Facilitating entry into labor market: Navigational and economic capital ....... 208 7.2.3 Providing guidance in choosing a field of studies and career planning: Familial, aspirational, and navigational capital ............................................................................ 211 7.3 Broader socio-cultural framework as facilitating forces for men and constraining forces for women .......................................................................................... 214 7.3.1 The family field and decision making within the family ................................ 214 7.3.2 Career choices ................................................................................................. 218 7.3.3 Career mobility ............................................................................................... 220 7.4 Buddhist temple (wat): A facilitator for men .................................................. 224 7.5 Summary ......................................................................................................... 226   xi Chapter 8: Muddling through Liminality – Material Scarcity and “Situated” Agency .... 228 8.1 Cultivating the resources of lives in the margins ............................................ 229 8.2 Maneuvering liminality: Exercising “situated” agency .................................. 235 8.3 Summary ......................................................................................................... 242 Chapter 9: Social Mobility towards What End(s)? ............................................................... 244 9.1 Meaning(s) or purpose(s) of social mobility ................................................... 244 9.1.1 Towards personal and family-oriented financial stability .............................. 245 9.1.2 Towards social status and reputation .............................................................. 248 9.1.3 Towards personal emancipation ..................................................................... 251 9.1.4 Towards a broader collective good ................................................................. 254 9.2 An emerging middle class? ............................................................................. 257 9.3 Summary ......................................................................................................... 259 Chapter 10: Discussion and Recommendations ..................................................................... 261 10.1 Key findings .................................................................................................... 261 10.1.1 Centrality of the family ................................................................................... 261 10.1.2 Centrality of social networks and friendship .................................................. 265 10.1.3 Persistent influence of the socio-cultural codes, gender norms, and “traditional” educational institution (the wat) .................................................................................... 265 10.1.4 “Situated” agency............................................................................................ 267 10.1.5 Dispositional qualities of living lives in the margins...................................... 268 10.1.6 Social mobility as a collective endeavor and for collective outcome? ........... 269 10.1.7 Colonized minds, “captive” subjects?............................................................. 270 10.2 Conceptual framework revisited ..................................................................... 272 10.3 Directions for further research ........................................................................ 275 10.4 Policy recommendations ................................................................................. 277 10.5 Closing thoughts ............................................................................................. 279 References ...................................................................................................................................282 Appendices ..................................................................................................................................322 Appendix A Consent Form ................................................................................................ 322 Appendix B Provisional Interview Questions ................................................................... 327   xii  List of Tables  Table 5.1: Research participants ................................................................................................. 169     xiii List of Figures  Figure 4:1: Visual representation of the conceptual framework ................................................... 85 Figure 10:1: Revised visual representation of the conceptual framework .................................. 275     xiv Glossary Chbab   Normative poems or codes of conduct Chbab bros  Normative poems or codes of conduct for boys/men Chbab srey  Normative poems or codes of conduct for girls/women Chol mlub Literal translation: “entering the shade.” A traditional socio-cultural practice in which girls were supposed to learn from their parents, particularly mothers, about proper behavior for women and their roles as housewives. The chbab srey was the main reference text. Khsae Literal translation: a “string.” Used in this dissertation, khsae refers to patron-client networks or kinship ties.  Motodup A motorbike used as a taxi, a very common transportation service in Cambodia. The customer rides on the back of the motorbike and pays the driver according to the distance travelled. Oknha A tycoon, a title equivalent to the English title “Lord,” traditionally bestowed by Khmer kings to individuals such as religious leaders, governors, ministers or personal councilors who provided exceptional services to the throne. Samput knong phnot Literal translation: “a robe in its perfect folds” or “perfectly spotless or pure.” The phrase is normally used to describe how a “good” woman is expected to behave according to Khmer culture. Sangha The community of Buddhist monks, nuns, novices, and lay people Wat A Buddhist temple    xv Acknowledgements  This long journey would not have come to this stage if without the genuine, generous, kind, and sustained support of a large number of people. First and foremost, my gratitude goes to my supervisory committee (Dr. Pierre Walter, Dr. André Mazawi, and Dr. Shan Hongxia) who have been incredibly encouraging and supportive. Pierre has been a kind, generous, patient, and supportive supervisor from the beginning of this journey. His incredible amount of patience, encouragement, wisdom, and funding support through various graduate research assistantships have not only made my pursuit of the program possible but also enriched my academic experience. André has, too, been very encouraging, kind, and unconditionally supportive from the very beginning of my journey. André’s profound wisdom, wealth of knowledge, and patience have helped me grow professionally and personally. Shan has been very encouraging, kind and supportive, even while she joined my committee in the final years of my program.   I would like to thank university faculty members on my PhD Examining Committee (Dr. Kenneth Reeder, Dr. Sharon Stein, and Dr. Bonny Norton) and my External Examiner (Dr. Gerardo L. Blanco) for their thoughtful, critical, and intellectually rich engagement with my research. Their questions and comments have enriched my reflection on my work and shown new directions for my further research in relation to higher educational development in Global South postcolonial societies.  My profound gratitude goes to Dr. Wendy Poole and Dr. Gerald Fallon for their friendship, collegiality, encouragement, and funding support over the past several years. I was fortunate to be accepted to join their research team as a Graduate Research Assistant in February 2014. I have learned tremendously from them on the project, co-writing and publications, and numerous co-presentations at a number of conferences. I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement I have received from many EDST faculty members whom I have met over the years. I would like to acknowledge the incredible kindness and support of Dr. Hartej Gill, who was on my committee during the beginning of my program. My appreciation also goes to Dr. Ali Abdi for his guidance and support when he was on my committee and during his role as the Head of the Department of Educational Studies (EDST). I am also grateful for the kindness and support of former and   xvi current staff members of the EDST, including Shermila Salgadoe, Tracy Strauch, Sandra Abah, Jeannie Young, Roweena Bucchus, and Christine Adams. I am fortunate to have been among a large number of fellow students who have inspired me and helped me grow in one way or another. These include Kapil Regmi, Gabriella Maestrini, Paulina Semenec, Patricia Rampersaud, Bob Cowin, Omer Aijazi, Sopheap Phan, Roselynn Verwood, Jeannie Kerr, Ee-Seul Yoon, Shayna Plaut, Mary Kostandy, Ashley Pullman, David Romero, and Caroline Locher-Lo. Gabriella has been an encouraging and supportive writing buddy over the past few years of my program. I would also like to acknowledge several close friends who have been supportive and encouraging during this journey, including Say Sok, Sivhuoch Ou, Rotha Chan, Ratana Som, Pokun Meng, Bandol Teav, Vuthy Monyrath, Phikol Lav, and Samnang Kann.   I would like to extend my deep gratitude to Dr. Don Northey, one of my former instructors in the Master of Education program I attended at Simon Fraser University (2006-2008). I truly appreciate the encouragement, wisdom, and support that Don has expressed during many of our conversations over the past several years. Particularly, I am very grateful for Don’s generous funding support that went towards covering my tuition for four academic years.   I am very grateful for the fieldwork funding from the Center for Khmer Studies based in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and for various small graduate awards from the Department of Educational Studies, the Faculty of Education, and the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies of the University of British Columbia.   I am deeply grateful to all the research participants in this study for trusting me and sharing their life stories with me, without which this research would not have been possible.  Finally, I am very grateful every day to my family who is always very supportive of me and is particularly proud of my lifelong pursuit of knowledge. My father, who passed away before he could see the fruit of my effort, was very proud of me and my desire for knowledge; my mother continues to send her encouragement and love to me from afar each and every day. My parents-in-law have been very supportive and encouraging; all of my brothers and sisters and my brother-in-law have continued to sustain their support. My wife, Pheavy, and my two daughters, Sonisa and Sapheana, have been the most patient and supportive, stuck with me through thick and thin, and showered me with their unconditional support and love during this long journey. I am very fortunate and thankful for their love and care each and every day.   xvii Dedication  In memory of my late father, Sen Moeung (July 15, 1953-June 27, 2014)  To my mother (Net Sek), my wife (Pheavy Men), and my daughters (Sonisa Vicheth and Sapheana Vicheth)    1 Chapter 1: Introduction  Memory forms the fabric of human life, affecting everything from the ability to perform simple, everyday tasks to the recognition of the self. Memory establishes life's continuity; it gives meaning to the present, as each moment is constituted by the past. As the means by which we remember who we are, memory provides the very core of identity. (Sturken, 1997, p. 1)  1.1 Genesis of a research problem I came to the University of British Columbia for my doctoral program with a different research question in mind from the question in this dissertation. The research question at the time was an examination of the relations between the Cambodian state and higher education institutions from the discursive lens of state policy making. I fully focused my attention and effort on that area of research throughout the first one and a half years of my coursework and my preparation for my Comprehensive Exams. In the spring of 2014, I received a phone call from one of my younger brothers that my father was unwell and being transported to the hospital. Weeks later I was able to visit him in the hospital in my hometown in Cambodia. Sadly, my father passed away on June 27, 2014.  In the months that followed when I was grieving my father’s death, I reflected on my life since I was a little boy, on how I had journeyed to where I am today, and on the sacrifices that my parents had made to get me and my siblings to where we are today. During my trip to Cambodia to see my father before he passed, I also managed to visit the village where I was born – my first visit since I left in 1987. This trip brought back so many memories and further intensified my grief over my father’s passing. This significant turning point in my life – loss of my father, combined with the past memories triggered by my brief visit to my “place of origin,” gave birth to the main research question in this dissertation. It is apparent that I have a deep vested interest in this research. I am essentially researching my own life journey. Looking back at my life history, I would say that my journey from a would-be farmer in a rural village to a professional working in the capital of Cambodia did not simply happen by   2 chance; rather it was paved with the strong support of my family, especially my parents, and my own commitment and perseverance. I also benefited from being part of a circle of friendship and social networks. My family and my parents have given me hope, aspirations and resources; in addition, my own commitment and persistence have enabled me to realize their dreams, so that I have a better life. It was mobility from a farming social category to a professional social class. It was a spatial mobility from a rural to an urban area. This social mobility is a movement from a less to a more secure living condition with some level of social recognition and social standing within contemporary Cambodian society. My life journey on a social mobility trajectory presents only my pathway as a man with a particular socio-economic origin situated within a particular socio-cultural context of Cambodia with its unique histories of monarchy, patriarchy, colonialism, prolonged civil armed conflict, genocide, authoritarianism, Communism, and more recently neoliberal capitalism. In particular, Cambodia’s socio-cultural and structural transformation in the last three decades, following more than two decades of prolonged civil armed conflict, has presented new realities that have, to a large extent, had major impacts on the processes and dynamics that structure opportunities for social mobility of many Cambodians aspiring for better and more secure lives. However, that does not necessarily mean the past has no bearings on the present and the future. Within this context, I wondered what life trajectories were like for other young Cambodians like me who came from similar backgrounds to mine and who achieved professional careers. I wondered what could be learned from their journeys of social mobility in the contemporary complex context of Cambodia. The overarching aim of this study is to gain an understanding of the processes that underpin social mobility opportunities in contemporary Cambodia. By “contemporary” Cambodia, I mean Cambodia since the early 1990s when the first national elections organized and sponsored by the United Nations were held, marking the rebirth of the Kingdom of Cambodia after more than two decades of civil armed conflict and genocide. “Contemporary” Cambodia is burdened with a long history of its past including monarchy, colonialism, wars, and foreign influences.  My basic research question was to gain understandings about how we (the research participants and I) got to where we are today. Central in this study is the linkage between higher education and social mobility. I was particularly interested in the processes that underpinned the   3 pursuit of higher education for social mobility, not least the interface between the internal socio-cultural forces and the external forces of colonial residue, contemporary neo-colonialism and increasing capitalism, and the ways in which these complexities played out in shaping the social mobility opportunities of the research participants in the contemporary context of “postcolonial”1 Cambodia. The study was guided by the following four research questions:  1. What were the contextual aspirations for higher education as an avenue for social mobility for study participants? 2. Who and what facilitated and constrained the processes of higher education pursuit and social mobility? 3. How did the research participants overcome the challenges that constrained their pursuit of higher education as an avenue for social mobility? 4. What was the meaning(s) or purpose(s) of social mobility?  1.2 Situating the research problem within the context of the study and the existing body of scholarship Within the context of this study, the pre-configured linkage between higher education and social mobility was introduced to Cambodian society in the late 18th century by the French colonial power (Ayres, 2003), rendering it a colonial doxa. Ayres (2003) calls it a “subtle social revolution” (p. 28). Although Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953, the French colonial discourse and policy continue to colonize the mind of Cambodians, shaping their inspiration for further education as an avenue for improved socio-economic status. This colonial doxa has remained constitutive in influencing the educational development project in Cambodia since the colonial period. With the exception of the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian leaders of several successive regimes since the colonial era have continued to embrace and perpetuate the colonial model of educational development and policymaking. Even the Khmer Rouge regime’s  1 The term postcolonial is used in quotation marks here to suggest that the colonial conditions continue to persist in the context the term qualifies, thus rendering the prefix “post-” inaccurate to categorize a country or society as “after” colonialism. This meaning of the term applies throughout this dissertation, including in the title of the dissertation, even when the term postcolonial is used without quotation marks.   4 effort to “eliminate” educated Cambodians who benefited from this colonial model of educational development and to de-link this colonial doxa did not discourage surviving Cambodians from pursuing education for social mobility according to this doxa. In spite of successive failures of the colonial model of educational development that is not equitable and relevant to the national and local community development needs, it continues to be embraced in contemporary post-conflict context along the same path of failure it did in the 1960s. On top of that, rising Western influence (i.e., neocolonialism) and widespread neoliberal capitalism in Cambodia following the end of the country’s prolonged civil armed conflict in the 1990s further intensify and perpetuate colonial conditions in the country and create conducive conditions for the continued colonization of the Cambodian mindset in relation to the role of higher education for social mobility. This study aims to cast light on the ways in which this colonial doxa operates to frame the aspirations of young Cambodian men and women in their pursuit of better socio-economic standing. The research problem in my study is situated at the intersection of the Global North and Global South scholarship on the relationship between higher education and social mobility. Evidence from research studies across the globe – from Europe to North America, from Africa to Latin America, from Middle East to Asia – shows that the pursuit of higher education has been hailed as a key pathway for social mobility. Studies in the Global North reveal that massification of access to higher education has enabled more people from all socio-economic backgrounds to attend universities, and, at the same time, more than higher education credentials are needed to improve one’s chances of attaining a higher social class. Informal social networks such as family, friends, and other personal contacts are important in structuring one’s chance of occupational and social mobility (Bison, 2011; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990; Breen & Goldthorpe, 1999; Granovetter, 1995; Lampard, 2007; Lin, 1999, 2001; Mouw, 2003).   Not unlike the development in the Global North, higher education is also perceived to be an avenue for social mobility in Global South societies. The massification of higher education across the Global South is fueled by a growing demand from different segments of the population who consider higher education as a pathway for improving living standards and upward social mobility (Altbach, 2004; Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009; Harman, 1994). From Africa (O’Neil, 2012; Webb, 2018) to Latin America (Duryea, de Freitas, Ozemela, &   5 Sampaio, 2019; Marzi, 2018), the Middle East (Harris & Kalb, 2019; Hashemi, 2012) to South and Southeast Asia (Arnot & Naveed, 2014; Cruz, 2019), higher education is considered to be a crucial form of capital for improving one’s socio-economic status.  Research in Global South contexts reveals rising concerns that colonial residue, emerging neo-colonialism, and neoliberal capitalism are increasingly shaping the mentality of the people in former colonies in relation to the linkage between higher education and social mobility, indicating the continuity of colonialism (Anwaruddin, 2014; Gyamera & Burke, 2018; Howson & Lall, 2020; Lebeau, 2008; Nguyen, Elliott, Terlouw, & Pilot, 2009; Papoutsaki & Rooney, 2006; Sakhiyya & Rata, 2019; Shrivastava & Shrivastava, 2014). At the same time, increasing research has emerged that shows growing resistance to the hegemonic continuity of coloniality in the Global South and points to the collective endeavor and outcome of pursuing higher education for social mobility (Cervantes-Soon, 2016; Cruz, 2019; Estes, 2019; Estes & Green, 2019; Hashemi, 2012; Webb, 2018), contrary to a more individualistic endeavor in the Global North.  Evidence from research in both Global North and Global South contexts points to the dynamic interplay between socio-cultural factors and individuals’ agential capacity in the process of social mobility (Bateson, 1989; Bertaux, 1981b; Botterill, 2014; de Bruijn, van Dijk, & Gewald, 2007; Domínguez & Watkins, 2003; Hainsworth, Jacobson, McGee, & Placzek, 1981; Hashemi, 2012; Higginbotham & Weber, 1992; Inui & Kojima, 2012; Matthys, 2013; C. W. Mills, 1959; Nimer, 2020; Schaie & Elder, 2005; Shanahan & Macmillan, 2008). Social mobility research that takes into account both structure and individual agency provides a better “fit” for empirical research in complex and diverse settings across both regions (Brannen & Nilsen, 2005). The process of social mobility is not automatic; it requires an individual to engage with the socio-cultural structure and to exercise their agency in “accumulating economic, cultural and social capital…to escape social pressure” and to become socially mobile (Matthys, 2013, p. 50). As Matthys (2013) argues, “Success in social transformation depends, in essence, on individual ability to negotiate contextual circumstances on the basis of personal strength…the quality of individual agency is central” (p. 238). In addition, agency is an important aspect in social mobility research because it is a “means by which individuals from non-privileged backgrounds … transcend ordinary career trajectories … [and] break through the perceived   6 limitations of their situated circumstances in the battles for recognition” and social mobility (Maclean, Harvey, & Chia, 2012, p. 18).   Therefore, this study investigates a problem that is relevant to not only the Global North but also to postcolonial Global South societies. As presented below, the study makes a significant contribution to the growing body of scholarship in both contexts.  1.3 Conceptual frame and research design  Given the historical, socio-cultural, political, and economic context and the existing body of scholarship within which this study situates, it was essential to develop a conceptual framework that was relevant and robust in making sense of the social mobility journey of the research participants in the study. Pierre Bourdieu’s theorizing and concepts have been adopted and employed by scholars to research social mobility in both Global North (Aguilera, 2008; Breen, 2010; Breen & Karlson, 2014; P. Brown, Reay, & Vincent, 2013; Fernandez, Castilla, & Moore, 2000; Stuart, 2012; Tholen, Brown, Power, & Allouch, 2013) and Global South societies (Arnot & Naveed, 2014; Domínguez & Watkins, 2003; Marzi, 2018; C. Mills, 2008b). In this study, Bourdieu’s primary concepts (i.e., habitus, field, capital, doxa, illusio) are drawn upon to develop the conceptual frame. However, despite the potential relevance of Bourdieu’s early writing to the analysis of colonial/postcolonial societies, as argued by Calhoun (2006), Curto (2016), Go (2013), Puwar (2009), and Rapini (2016), these concepts, along with their markers of Western/Euro-centric socio-cultural origin (Gaztambide-Fernández, 2019), are not fully relevant in understanding the life experiences of people in postcolonial Global South societies. Therefore, I have added more concepts to develop the framework used in this study. The concepts of colonized field (Ayling, 2019), colonial habitus (Ayling, 2019; Dhareshwar, 1989), family field (Atkinson, 2014), and family habitus (L. Archer et al., 2012; Arnot & Naveed, 2014; Atkinson, 2011; DeLuca, 2016; D. Liu & Morgan, 2020; Tomanović, 2004), together with my own concepts of traditional doxa, colonial doxa, local field, and indigenous habitus, are added to develop a conceptual framework that is more relevant and fit for the context of the study. Moreover, I draw on Yosso’s (2017) community cultural wealth framework and its various forms of capital, as well as Rogers and Anderson’s (2019) concept of altruistic capital, to address the limitations of Bourdieu’s concept of capital. Gender-embedded   7 forms of capital (i.e., emotional, feminine, female) are also drawn upon from feminist scholarship (Cottingham, 2016; Gillies, 2006; Huppatz, 2009; O’Brien, 2008; Reay, 2000, 2004; Santoro, 2010) to provide a more insightful analytical perspective for understanding the rich experiences of the study participants. I draw on Streib’s (2016) concept of working-class cultural complements to account for the crucial value of cultural resources of people living in the socio-economic margins. Finally, the concept of Southern agency is added to the conceptual framework to ascertain the socio-cultural situatedness of agency in postcolonial Global South societies (Hilsdon, 2007; Pham, 2013; van Dijk, de Bruijn, & Gewald, 2007). Together, these concepts form a more robust and relevant conceptual framework capable of explaining social practices of people in postcolonial Global South societies such as Cambodia, without potentially subjecting their experiences to the colonial gaze. The study aims to gain understandings of the processes of social mobility through pursuit of higher education of individuals from marginalized socio-economic origins in Cambodia as a postcolonial Global South society. To achieve this main purpose and to address the four research questions outlined above, I conduct life-history interviews with 12 research participants who were originally from different parts of Cambodia and now occupy professional and managerial positions in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors in Phnom Penh, capital city of Cambodia. I also weave my own life story into the dissertation to reveal my positionality.  Life-history method fits well with the purpose of the study and offers “a route to more ‘authentic’ data” (Allen, 1998, p. 232) and emphasizes the mutually re-constitutive interface between social agents and events and possibilities in their lives (Andrle, 2001). It provides rich narrative data that, through the conceptual lens, enables uncovering of the complex and multi-layered nuances and subtleties of the study participants’ interpersonal relations and inter-generational transmission of social status and privilege (Bertaux, 1981b; Bertaux & Thompson, 1997). It demonstrates socio-cultural dynamics at work in individuals’ lives (Bertaux, 1981b; Mallman, 2015) and reveals the nuanced socio-cultural processes that structure the different social mobility experiences of men and women in this study.    8 1.4 Significance of the study Making sense of my own life journey and the journeys of those who volunteered to participate in this study is significant in several ways. First, this study makes an original contribution to the literature on higher education and social mobility in Cambodia. There has been virtually no research that draws on Bourdieu’s concepts to make sense of the Cambodian society, with the exception of Chivoin Peou’s (Peou, 2016; Peou & Zinn, 2014) recent study. However, Peou’s work does not critique nor approach Bourdieu’s concepts from a postcolonial lens. Moreover, there has not been much work that examines educational development in Cambodia from a colonial and postcolonial lens in general (with the exceptions of the works of Ayres (2003), Fergusson and Le Masson (1997), and Um (2014)). There has also been almost no research that examines the relation between social mobility and (higher) education in Cambodia from a (post)colonial lens. An exception is a study by Kalab (1976), which examines monastic education as an avenue for social mobility, and, partially, in Peou’s study (Peou & Zinn, 2014), which investigates urban youth’s pursuit of higher education as an avenue for social mobility. Moreover, there is little research by Cambodian scholars on Cambodian society, in general. Therefore, this study helps to fill a research gap and will hopefully generate discussions and research into the issue in the country. It is my hope that my research will inspire Cambodians to do more research into social mobility and educational development in Cambodia from a postcolonial perspective, including the problematic legacies of colonialism on the country’s educational planning and development, as well as the contemporary persistence of coloniality that continues to cripple Cambodians in their pursuit of a more locally relevant and equitable educational development. Second, the study has practical social significance for contemporary Cambodian citizens. The life experiences of the participants will provide useful lessons for younger generations of Cambodians about what it takes for those from humble family origins to “make it” to the next level of social location and attain a secure livelihood. The findings, when shared publicly, may help motivate younger generations from poor family origins to pursue higher education. The results of the study also contribute to informing higher education policy discussions related to the issues of access and funding for the poor to be able to pursue higher education. This will   9 hopefully result in education policies that provide better higher education access to those from humble beginnings.  Third, the study contributes to an ongoing debate about the role of higher education (Blau & Duncan, 1967; Breen, 2010; Breen & Karlson, 2014; Heath, Mills, & Roberts, 1992; Sicherman, 1990) vis-à-vis other factors such as social origins, parental backgrounds, and personal networks in promoting social mobility (Bison, 2011; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990; Lampard, 2007; Lin, 1999, 2001; Mouw, 2003). The study also contributes a local, “indigenous” Cambodian lens on Western concepts, which will in turn refashion our conceptual and theoretical understandings of social mobility from a postcolonial Global South perspective. In particular, the study makes an important contribution to the small, yet growing body of scholarship that investigates the colonial doxic linkage between higher education and social mobility in postcolonial Global South societies, as well as a conceptual model that is relevant for research in this context. Finally, this study contributes to a growing body of scholarship on social mobility that is approached from qualitative, life-history methodological perspectives (Bertaux, 1981b; Bertaux & Thompson, 1997; Friedman, 2014; Maclean et al., 2012; Mallman, 2015; Matthys, 2013; A. Miles, Savage, & Buhlmann, 2011; Naudet, 2008; Savage, Bagnall, & Longhurst, 2001; Stuart, 2012).  1.5 Scope and limitations of the study First, it is important to note that this research focuses only on the “successful” stories of select research participants who have moved out of poverty and difficult living conditions, and secured stable living conditions by means of occupational mobility. The study does not consider people from poor family origins who are still living in harsh conditions and have not been socially mobile. Their lives are definitely worth researching, too, especially from a comparative perspective. Their life stories deserve in-depth investigation, so that they are better understood, and more can be done to assist them. However, this group of research participants is beyond the scope of my study. Another research direction outside the methodological scope of the study is a more in-depth positioning of the research within the specific current socio-cultural contexts of Cambodia   10 today. Ethnographic field observation, for example, in a select local community would be a useful addition to the research. This would add rich contextual data to the analysis of the process of social mobility in this study, but was not possible given limited resources available to conduct the study.  1.6 My positionality: Beyond the insider-outsider dichotomy Much literature discusses the benefits and concerns with regard to the researcher being an insider or an outsider to the research participant population (R. Berger, 2015; Blythe, Wilkes, Jackson, & Halcomb, 2013; Dwyer & Buckle, 2009; Gair, 2012). As a Cambodian growing up in roughly a similar time period, coming from similar family origins as my research participants, I was often considered by them to be an insider. However, I may also be viewed as an outsider in this research. I cannot pretend to fully understand the lived experiences of my research participants. Although we may share some commonalities in our family origins, there are particularistic contextual dynamics for each of us that may have shaped our lives and influenced our perspectives on our lives.  Moreover, as a man talking to women in a socio-cultural context where certain intimate subjects are taboo, there is a high chance that the women participants in my research did not reveal aspects of their lives that they were not comfortable sharing with me during interviews. One of my research participants was a Muslim woman (I am a Buddhist), and this added ethnicity/religion as another layer to the insider-outsider complexity. Thus, in my positionality as a researcher, I am aware that I am operating at the intersection of different layers of socio-cultural norms, gender, and ethnicities. Therefore, instead of positioning myself as either an insider or an outsider, I see myself as a “betweener” (Dwyer & Buckle, 2009). At times, I may be closer to the position of an insider; at other times, I may not. In Chapter 5 Research Methodology, I argue that insider-outsider dichotomies do not always serve us well as qualitative researchers, and I am in fact both insider and outsider in the life history research I have conducted with study participants. In the next Chapter 2, I also elaborate my positionality as researcher by telling my life story in relation to the themes of the study; namely, higher education and social mobility in postcolonial Cambodia. My life history, also woven into the   11 dissertation, will reveal to the reader who I am, how I came to be interested in this topic, and why I pursued this research project in particular.   1.7 Organization of the dissertation The dissertation is organized as follows. Chapter 2 discusses the context of the study, including the beginnings of my own life story. It describes a general overview of Khmer (Cambodian) society and its social organization from the pre-colonial era to the present day. It also examines the role of schooling and pursuit of higher education as an avenue for social mobility, how this linkage has evolved, and what has influenced this change. Finally, the chapter discusses the dynamics of post-conflict reconstruction efforts and how they have shaped the role of schooling and higher education as an avenue for social mobility. Chapter 3 reviews the literature that sheds light on the dynamics and complexities that shape the processes of social mobility, in particular the linkage between higher education and social mobility, by drawing on the existing scholarly literature. The chapter attends to the Global North and Global South perspectives on this linkage to draw important insights that will be useful for crafting a conceptual framework in the next chapter.  Chapter 4 describes the conceptual framework of the study. The chapter draws on the conceptual framing with reference to key concepts from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. It also draws on feminist scholarship, the community cultural wealth perspective, and the working-class cultural complements framework for additional conceptual perspectives to make my conceptual framework more robust and more relevant to the context of postcolonial Cambodia in particular, and Global South societies in general. Lastly, the continuity of the coloniality of power, neocolonialism, and neoliberal capitalism in Cambodia is elaborated. This provides a relevant historical, cultural and societal contextual framework to make sense of the nuances and complexities of the subjective experiences of the Cambodian men and women in my study.  Chapter 5 discusses the research design of the study. The chapter begins with a consideration of my insider-outsider role as researcher. It then moves into a discussion on the potentials and limits of quantitative approaches to social mobility research. A discussion of the potential of qualitative methodologies for social mobility research follows, and argues that they are better able to capture the nuances that underpin the process of social mobility than   12 quantitative approaches. Then, the theoretical orientation of the life history method, its value and limitations are discussed. The chapter also details the research participant recruitment process, sources of data, approaches to data management and analysis, and ethical considerations taken in this study, and ends with a description of the research participants. Chapters 6-9 present the findings of the study. Chapter 6 presents findings on the first research question: What were the contextual aspirations for higher education as an avenue for social mobility for study participants? Specifically, this section focuses on the contextual aspects that shaped the research participants’ aspirations for social mobility through the pursuit of higher education.  Chapter 7 presents findings on the second research question: Who and what facilitated and constrained the processes of higher education pursuit and social mobility?  First are findings on the facilitating and/or constraining role of the family in their pursuit of higher education and social mobility journeys. Second are findings on the role of the research participants’ social networks and the ways in which these, a social capital, facilitated or constrained social mobility. Third, the chapter attends to the broader socio-cultural codes, gender norms and the ways in which these forces shaped journeys of higher education and social mobility for the research participants. Finally, it discusses the role of the wat or Buddhist temples in facilitating or constraining the research participants’ educational and social mobility journeys. Chapter 8 focuses on the third research question: How did the research participants overcome the challenges that constrained their pursuit of higher education as an avenue for social mobility? The chapter highlights findings on how cultural resources for study participants as poor and marginalized people became essential forms of capital for their educational, occupational, and social mobility. It presents findings on women participants' exercising of “situated agency” as they navigated within the liminal space of personal emancipation and “traditional” socio-cultural norms and social frameworks. Chapter 9 presents findings that address the fourth research question: What was the meaning(s) or purpose(s) of social mobility? This chapter elaborates findings on the meanings and purposes of participants' social mobility journeys as characterized by the research participants.    13 Finally, Chapter 10 summarizes study findings, situates them within the broader body of scholarship reviewed, and considers them in light of the conceptual framework of the study. This is followed by recommendations for further research, policy recommendations, and a conclusion.   14 Chapter 2: Schooling and Social Mobility in Cambodia: Historical Perspectives The embrace of an irrelevant Westernized educational model in Cambodia has been a function of the weight of past perceptions. The ‘modern’ education of the colonial era was associated with the notion of social mobility. It is a notion that has continued to motivate Cambodia’s citizens to desire education, and particularly formal educational qualifications, in the belief that it will lead to more attractive employment. (Ayres, 2000, p. 461)  When I was growing up in rural Cambodia, what came often to my mind was to move out of difficult life circumstances, have a stable living condition, and at least have proper meals to eat every day. I did not know how to do this. My parents, especially my mother, always reminded me and my siblings to study hard because we did not have any inheritance. They said we could use our knowledge to earn a living later in life and possibly to live a better life than what they could provide. The best they could do at that time was to try to make sure all of us could go to school and study hard. I did not understand much why they said this then, but each of us tried our best in our own way, although we were all capable in different ways. We all hoped to live a more secure and stable life in the future. For my parents, as well as for millions of other Cambodians, education was and remains the greatest hope for people from poor rural origins like us to be able to have a decent living through a good salaried job. We did not have capital or talent to pursue small trading that some Chinese Cambodians in our village seemed to be good at. However, how my parents came to view the role of pursuing education as an avenue for improved livelihood and higher socio-economic status did not come out of thin air. My parents would tell us that when they were young during the 1960s, being a schoolteacher was a respectable and well-paid profession. They hoped we would at least become teachers in schools in our village or district. But being a teacher in the 1980s was completely different from being a teacher in the 1960s. Unlike teachers in the 1960s, who were well paid and highly respected, teachers in the 1980s (and even presently) do not enjoy the same kind of status, respect, and financial security. They are poorly paid, and they   15 are not as much respected due to their low economic status. But my parents’ belief then was that as a teacher one could at least receive a monthly income, regardless of how little it might be. It would at least be a supplement to our work on the farm.  For many Cambodians, the idea of becoming teachers or serving in the government as civil servants was, and largely still is, a way of moving out of life in the rice paddies, signifying one’s improved social status. This perception has its origin during the French colonial period. At that time, pursuing education opened the possibility for those from peasant origins to leave behind their life on the farms and improve their social status by serving as low-level civil servants in the French colonial administration. The recruitment of those with some education into the French administration offered a new perspective for Cambodians about the role of education in social mobility (Ayres, 2003; T. Clayton, 2000). It was the first time in Cambodian history that farmers could elevate their social status through the pursuit of education. This change was the primary factor that motivated peasants, including my parents, to encourage their children to go to school (Martin, 1994).  How has the role of schooling as an avenue for social mobility evolved over the decades, from the pre-colonial era to contemporary Cambodia? How have Khmer traditional socio-cultural norms and values shaped the interface between schooling and social mobility? What is the dynamic of gender relations in connection with schooling and social mobility? How has the prolonged civil war impacted Cambodians’ perspectives about the role of schooling as an avenue for social mobility? How have post-conflict reconstruction efforts affected the linkage between schooling and social mobility? This chapter addresses these questions in order to contextualize the study. It describes a general overview of Khmer society and its social organization from the pre-colonial era to the present day. It also examines the role of schooling and pursuit of higher education as an avenue for social mobility, how this linkage has evolved, and what has influenced this change. Lastly, the chapter focuses on the dynamics and changes in post-conflict reconstruction efforts and how they have shaped the role of schooling and higher education as an avenue for social mobility.    16 2.1 Pre-colonial period (prior to 1863): Khmer traditional school system and social stability Khmer society prior to the 1863 establishment of the French colonial administration was organized hierarchically. Power was centered on the devaraja (the god-king), who made or revoked appointments and titles, particularly of the dignitaries or elite in the royal court (Chandler, 2008). Self-reproduction appears, largely but not totally, to have been the continuity of all social categories (Ebihara, 1984; Mabbett, 1978). The traditional, pre-colonial Khmer society was largely divided into six general categories: the sdech (royalty); the neamoeun montrey (nobility); the reastr (common people), including the peasantry; the sangha2; the slaves3; and the non-Khmer people, of whom there were two groups: Indigenous tribal peoples and foreigners (Ebihara, 1984; Peang-Meth, 1991).  These categories were not hereditary, and there was some movement of membership into or out of some of these groups (Ebihara, 1984). Deeply rooted in the socio-cultural landscape of Cambodian society, patronage practice, or khsae4, allowed some social fluidity between social categories, especially at the higher social groupings. Patronage was practiced as a means of running the country at the time. For the dignitary and elite social categories, this practice – built around preferential appointments and the granting of property by the king – was a predominant means for social reproduction; however, it also functioned to elevate the social status of those loyal to the king (Mabbett, 1977). Elites appointed by the king also “made their own appointments to lesser offices to reward their entourages, and so on down the line in interlocking, descending networks of patrons and clients” Ebihara (1984, p. 285). Patronage5 was  2 Sangha refers to the community of Buddhist monks, nuns, novices, and lay people. 3 Slaves in Khmer language are called khnum or prey ngèer, literally meaning task/job/work persons (Ebihara, 1984). According to Chou Ta-Kuan’s (1992) account, it seems slavery was a very common aspect of life during the Angkor era. He noted that most people owned slaves; only the very poor had no slaves. 4 Khsae literally means strings. Used in this context, khsae refers to patron-client networks or kin ties. It is a predominant feature and practice in Cambodia, even to the present day. 5 It is worth noting that the patronage practice and the king’s prerogative to grant and revoke titles also suggest downward mobility among elite groups. The king could revoke titles at his pleasure and reduce an official (and his family) to a lower status or even to slavery in some extreme cases (Ebihara, 1984). Within the royal family, factional fighting and differences among   17 practiced, to a limited extent, at the lower social strata, which allowed some ordinary commoners to improve their socio-economic condition. However, for the majority of common folks, social mobility “was something that might be hoped for in the next reincarnation if one were very virtuous” (Ebihara, 1984, p. 289)6.  In addition to patronage practices, marriages represented another important means for social mobility. Generally, marriages functioned as a means of coalition formation (Chandler, 2008) and a mechanism for the reproduction of social status, wealth and privilege (Ebihara, 1984). However, marital relations also served as a strategy that enabled some members of the elite group to move further up in the social hierarchy by being in marital relations with the royalty (D. E. Brown, 1988; Ebihara, 1984). This form of relationship seems to have been the main avenue for social mobility of women (Jacobsen, 2008). Women were able to enhance their social status, own property and move upwardly in society by engaging in remarriages, incestuous relationships, and other forms of status-elevating unions (Jacobsen, 2008). In ancient Cambodia, education was not widespread, and existed only for certain social groups, and mainly favored boys or men. According to the diary of a Chinese official Chou Ta-Kuan, who traveled to the Khmer Empire at the end of the thirteenth century, one of the three religious groups in the Angkorean city was called the pan-chi, or men of learning (Chou, 1992). There appears to have been no school or seminary for the pan-chi, but they were often able to move to high-status positions in the royal court (Ayres, 2003). It is unknown, however, what the size of this religious group was or who were the members of the group. However, that form of monastic-style education was similar to the wat (Buddhist temple) school system run by Buddhist monks, as described by the French when they arrived in Cambodia (Ayres, 2003). It is possible that the wat school system gradually evolved from the thirteenth-century religious group, the pan-chi. One may conclude that higher social status was associated with higher learning and knowledge.   family members could result in those not in favor of the king finding themselves and their families reduced from royalty to slavery (Ebihara, 1984; Vickery, 1985). 6 Ebihara (1984) noted that it would probably not be valid to think of ordinary free persons at the time as constituting a category of generally poor persons. There were gradations of relative wealth in this social group, which might have helped them, to some extent, improve their socioeconomic status (p. 289).   18 Schooling in pre-colonial Cambodia was not designed to promote social mobility (Jacobsen, 2008) but fundamentally existed to reinforce the importance of appropriate behavior and a sense of group identity, and served to determine people’s social locations within the social strata (Ayres, 2000). Children generally “received a rigid education, very often non-public, within the family and based on a morality inspired by Buddhist principles handed down from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” (Tomasi, 2000, p. 153). The only public schools were the wat schools open to boys only. The history of education prior to the establishment of the French Protectorate in Cambodia, as summarized below, captures the overall purpose of schooling in pre-colonial Cambodia:  teaching was given only in the pagoda schools. For centuries, it had been the custom for parents to send their sons to the local pagoda for a few years. There, a bonze would teach them to read the Satras, the sacred books of the Buddhists, written in the Cambodian language. As the bonzes built their pagodas and cells with their own hands, they also taught the boys the elements of carpentry. (Bilodeau et al., as cited in Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997, p. 95, original emphasis)  The nature of wat-based instruction, argues Ayres (2003), “perpetuated the notion of taking the children [boys] from the rice-fields and giving them back to the rice-fields” (p. 28). Pre-colonial schooling served primarily to reinforce the existing social hierarchy overseen by the monarchy and legitimized by the Buddhist monastic order and was not meant to be an avenue for social mobility (Ayres, 2003). Education played a central role in ensuring that younger generations respected the hierarchical social order (Tomasi, 2000). Girls were not allowed to attend the wat schools arguably because they were thought to be a distractor for Buddhist monks. While boys were sent to the wat schools, girls were supposed to stay indoors for a defined period of time, a “traditional” practice known as chol mlub, literally meaning “entering the shade.” This is the time when girls were supposed to learn from their parents, particularly mothers, about proper behaviors of women and of their roles as housewives. The chbab srey (normative poems/codes of conduct for women) was the main reference for “proper” behavior for women.  Chbab srey is one of several normative codes of conduct that Cambodia has used over the centuries as guidelines for proper behaviors for members of the society (Lilja, 2016). There are   19 codes of conduct (chbab7) for men, women, children, and other social categories. Originating in the early 19th century in the form of literary works, chbab srey represents “social constructions of Cambodian girlhood and womanhood [that] are intimately tied up with notions of domesticity, virtue, and girls’ future roles as wives and mothers…associated with the construction of female domesticity and status in Cambodian society” (Rogers & Anderson, 2019, p. 535). Chbab srey “promotes female passivity, lowers their status, and restricts their mobility in comparison to their male counterparts” (Rogers & Anderson, 2019, p. 536). This code of conduct for women has over the past century shaped Cambodian girls and women’s schooling experience and structured their opportunity for social mobility. Although it was only after the French arrived in Cambodia that the various chbab, especially the chbab srey, had far-reaching impact on the status of women (Jacobsen, 2008), these normative codes of conduct written in the pre-colonial period represent Khmer traditional social norms and continue to shape women’s subjectivity and constrain their opportunities for education and social mobility to this day. Parents’ lack of support for girls’ pursuit of education or parents’ pressure on girls to marry early are but two examples of these constraints (Rogers & Anderson, 2019).  There are several important lessons that may be learned about the nature of pre-colonial schooling system in the land now known as Cambodia. First and foremost, opportunities for schooling and higher learning were mostly accessible to those of the elite social class. The rest of  7 The beginning of the nineteenth century marks the start of “a tradition of misogynist literature” with the composition of the chbab srey and several other chbab (Jacobsen, 2008, p. 109). When Ang Duong came to power, he introduced a series of new laws, claiming the ancient laws had not been “revised” for a long time. While the laws inside the palace pertained the royal succession, particularly limiting the succession of princesses, the laws outside the palace privileged male interests and subjugated women’s status. This view was also present in didactic literature written by King Ang Duong. Apparently, King Ang Duong initiated the administrative reforms and wrote various chbab as an expression of his resentment towards Ang Mei, his niece, who was crowned in Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese. It was the period when Cambodia was largely divided and controlled by the Siamese, who backed Ang Duong, and the Vietnamese, who supported Ang Mei. Ang Mei became the Queen of Cambodia at a time when the country was already controlled by the Vietnamese. The cruel treatment by the Vietnamese toward Cambodians at the time seems to have attracted a great amount of resentment from Ang Duong and the general populace. When Ang Duong came to power, Ang Mei was probably imprisoned and tortured (Jacobsen, 2008). From this experience, Ang Duong’s works focused on misogyny, correct behaviors for women, and the danger of having a female ruler. Ang Mei was and continues to be depicted as a Vietnamese puppet in Cambodian collective memory.   20 the male population had access to some form of schooling offered by the wat-based school system. Second, Buddhism played a crucial role in educating and socializing new generations of male Khmer into accepting and following the existing social hierarchy. In fact, until the beginning of the 20th century, wat schools continued to exclude girls from education and offered courses to boys only (Tomasi, 2000). And this relates to the fourth point, which is about the important role of the family in socializing and teaching children, especially girls, proper social behavior expected of them.   2.2 French colonial period (1863-1953): The genesis of education for social mobility Cambodia was oriented to a modern nation-state when the French officially established their protectorate administration in Cambodia on August 11, 1863 (R. S. Thomson, 1945; Tully, 2005). Described by Munson et al. (1963) as a hierarchical and static colonial system, Cambodia was then under the reign of Prince Norodom. Not unlike its traditional societal structure, Cambodian society under the French was organized like a pyramid with the monarch at the top of the social order, followed by the commoner class, which included, in descending order, montrey (officials), freemen, serfs and slaves (Steinberg, 1959). Khsae networks continued to run deep in every aspect of social relations. Not unlike the social and political context in the previous centuries, the elite groups in the colonialized Cambodia continued to widely practice khsae networks as a dominant mechanism for securing high positions, power, prestige and wealth (Osborne, 1969).  The French were not involved in educational development in Cambodia until the beginning of the 20th century (Ayres, 2000, 2003; T. Clayton, 1995); however, their policy on education, in particular the linkage between schooling and social mobility, has had a lasting impact on the mentality of Khmer people. Under the French protectorate, the Khmer were responsible for the education of their children, and the wat schools in which lay teachers or monks taught continued to be the typical education institutions (Tomasi, 2000). Mass education was left to Buddhist temple or wat schools and other community supported schools (Ayres, 2003; Smith, 1970). In the wat schools, the textbooks used prior to the French arrival, such as chbab srey, chbab bros (normative poems/codes of conduct for boys/men), and other traditional codes of conduct, remained widely used (Martin, 1994). During such a colonial period in which   21 foreign influence was immense, the various chbab were more significant than ever as they were considered “true” reflection of traditional patterns of behavior in Cambodian society (Jacobsen, 2008). However, the discourse about women being the custodians of Cambodian cultural identity and “traditional” values and the practice encoded in such codes of conduct as chbab srey largely disempowered women, limited their educational opportunities, and contributed to the decline of their status (Jacobsen, 2008).  The French did not seek to change the traditional school system in Cambodia when they started to engage in educational development in the country; instead, they established a “parallel system” of education mainly in the capital city, with some in provinces “where the influence of the family and tradition was very strong” (Tomasi, 2000, p. 153). One of the goals of this school system was clearly a response to the resistance of the French presence in the country. The Franco-Cambodian schools set up during the early stage of colonization were not popular among Cambodians because the people were resistant to the French presence in the country, especially the French language (T. Clayton, 1995). Importantly, those Franco-Cambodian schools did not suit “the [traditional Buddhist] mentality of the country” (Bilodeau, as cited in Clayton, 1995, p. 7). Cambodian peasants and monks viewed French education as “a peril for the Buddhist doctrine” (Forest, as cited in Clayton, 1995, p. 7). Cambodians’ unwavering belief system (Buddhism) is reflected in a comment made by a French Catholic bishop during the colonial period: “the only sure way to advance Christianity [in Cambodia] was for missionaries to purchase the freedom of slaves, who would then become converts” (Osborne, 1969, p. 27). The colonial era saw the rise of a kind of modernist Buddhism in Cambodia, influenced partly by the French colonial policy and local response to various external threats, as well as the effort to promote Buddhist education in the country (Hansen, 2007, 2008). The sangha played an important part not just in social criticisms particularly concerning the moral decay caused by corruption, oppressive government control and over-taxation; but also in leading revolts against the French colonial power and the encroaching Siamese and Vietnamese (Hansen, 2007, 2008).  On top of the fundamental influence of Buddhism in the Cambodian society, the French education system was not perceived as “legitimate for Cambodian society” (T. Clayton, 1995, p. 7), as illustrated by Bilodeau’s observation below:   22  the sole ambition of the Cambodian peasant was to settle his son on his rice-field, which supplied all his needs. He himself had never gone to school, and was quite happy. It was natural for him to think that his son could acquire little useful information at the state school, where much French was taught but no agriculture. (Bilodeau, as cited in Clayton, 1995, p. 7)  This quote perfectly captures Cambodian peasants’ understanding of their local needs, which was agricultural development, and of the irrelevance of schooling offered by Franco-Cambodian schools. It also indicates their resistance to the use of French language in schools, which was one of the reasons for the failures of Franco-Cambodian schools. Only after the French modernized the Cambodian wat schools (by adopting the Thai Buddhist temple school model during the first decade of the 20th century) did the French manage to gain Cambodian peasants’ acceptance of this model of schooling (T. Clayton, 1995). This model of schooling was perceived by Cambodians as an external, modern form of education, one not conceived by the French and which did not use the French language. After the French took over this system of education in the 1908, secularized the schools in 1911, and rebranded them as khum or communal schools, they became very popular among rural Cambodians, resulting in the mushrooming of the schools across the country (T. Clayton, 1995). It is important to note that some sections of these schools were open for girls as well (T. Clayton, 1995). These khum schools incorporated the features of both Franco-Cambodian schools and traditional wat schools, fundamentally functioning as “a bridge for rural students into Franco-Cambodian schools” (Clayton, 1995, p. 9). At the same time, the French were also able to assert their influence in traditional wat schools through a teacher training program for monks teaching in wat schools, thus modernizing these traditional schools (Clayton, 1995). Modernized wat schools offered curriculum similar to that in Franco-Cambodian schools but used Khmer language as the medium of instruction, and, like khum schools, they functioned as a bridge for students from the countryside to transition into Franco-Cambodian schools. By the end of the 1940s, the number of schools spread across the country, with schools jumping from 30 in the 1910s to 268 in 1939 (Delvert, as cited in Clayton, 1995).  A fundamental change that occurred during these few decades of educational development was when the pool of Cambodian children, largely boys, from these schools was   23 selected to join the French colonial civil administration (Ayres, 2000, 2003; T. Clayton, 1995). Cambodia’s education system established by the French colonial power, argues T. Clayton (2005), “acted as a sorting machine, selecting the better students from basic education for advanced education and, ultimately, for the colonial civil service” (p. 506). The modernization of the Cambodian school system by the French introduced the Cambodian peasantry to the concept of social mobility through schooling. It was the first time in Cambodian history that education enabled those from the peasantry to join the civil service and change their social status. Although this opportunity mostly benefited children from elite social origins, some children from the peasantry were also the beneficiaries of this change. This “subtle social revolution,” as Ayres (2003, p. 28) calls it, changed the perception of rural Cambodians about the role of schooling and redefined the nature of educational development in the country to this day.  While only a small group of Cambodians received French education and the majority were uneducated or attended wat schools (Tan, 2010), the colonial “modernization” of Cambodian education system has primarily left a permanent imprint not only on the trajectories of Cambodia’s educational development since then, but also on the mindset of Cambodians, particularly with regard to the linkage between schooling and social mobility. The colonial approach to sustaining its colonial administration in Cambodia resulted in “the indigenous forms of education [being] turned away from a Cambodian purpose and similarly redefined in terms of the colonial enterprise” (Clayton, 1995, p. 11). Moreover, the French involvement in the education sector in Cambodia opened for the first time the opportunity for girls to attend public schools (i.e., khum or communal schools). The educational development in Cambodia has since followed a similar trajectory, with the exception of the Khmer Rouge regime (Ayres, 2000).   2.3 Sihanouk regime (1953-1970): Perpetuation of colonial school system Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953. Commonly referred to as Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People’s Socialist Community) (Ayres, 2003; Chandler, 2008), Cambodia was then under the reign of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. In general, social class at that time was defined “both by birth and by attained or inherited position within the religious or government hierarchies” (Steinberg, 1959, p. 92). Cambodian society during the Sihanouk regime was organized around four social groups: the royalty-nobility, the sangha, the   24 commoners, and the rural peasantry (Steinberg, 1959). The royal family and the nobility represented the core of the government and remained at the apex of the social hierarchy (Munson et al., 1963). Positions in the religious or government realm, even at the lower levels, were accorded more prestige and power than those in trade or the professions. Commoners who held high positions in the government bureaucracy, the sangha, and the armed forces were considered to be part of the elite group. The sangha had its own hierarchy which was equated with certain rankings in the government bureaucracy or the nobility (Munson et al., 1963; Steinberg, 1959).  There was a distinction between urban and the rural society. Urban society was structured around the “elite” class comprising the royalty, the nobility, and the high-ranking commoners. This category was mostly self-reproducing due to their access to (higher) education and opportunities for wealth and power (Munson et al., 1963; Steinberg, 1959), but their status was not permanent. The largest segment of the urban middle class was made up of white-collar workers, including university professors, who occupied different ranks of the government administrative services. They were mostly ethnically Khmer. The next largest urban group was made up of the lower level of the sangha (both Mohanikay and Thommayut orders)8. The third group was the commercial and professional group, including businessmen, shopkeepers, lawyers, and doctors. Most of them were Chinese or Vietnamese Cambodians (Munson et al., 1963; Steinberg, 1959, pp. 90-91). The lower urban social group comprised small shopkeepers and skilled and unskilled laborers (Munson et al., 1963; Steinberg, 1959). They were usually descendants of slaves, serfs and freemen from the pre-colonial period (Munson et al., 1963). The peasantry formed the majority of the population and resided in the rural areas. The rural areas were characterized by minimal class distinctions (Steinberg, 1959). Only a very small number of rural people had noticeably large landholdings; the income and material assets gap was narrow (Steinberg, 1959). An important feature of rural society was family and communal  8 There are two distinct orders in Cambodian Buddhism: the Thommayut and Mohanikay (Kent, 2008; Steinberg, 1959). Each has its own organization and personnel. The Thommayut order (those attached to the doctrine) is based mainly in the cities, particularly Phnom Penh. It is the most influential in the royal court, compared to the other order; its members consider themselves among the Cambodian elite. The Mohanikay (great congregation), on the other hand, has a much larger number of followers and is based in rural villages across the country. The Mohanikay order is much less strict than the Thommayut order.   25 reciprocity; prestige and respect were placed on righteous conduct and faithful service to the neighborhood Buddhist temple rather than material wealth. Reputation and prestige, therefore, did not necessarily correspond to material wealth (Munson et al., 1963). Buddhist monks, school teachers, doctors and other literate persons usually functioned as temporal and religious leaders in their rural communities (Munson et al., 1963). Wealth or economic capital also played an important role for social mobility, especially for the potential of it being converted into other possibilities or opportunities (Munson et al., 1963; Steinberg, 1959). In pre-colonial society, “wealth was not considered as an end or as a means to an end to most Cambodians” (Munson et al., 1963, p. 69). However, during the Sihanouk regime (1953-1970), wealth earned through businesses began to gain growing importance as it could enable one to connect to the elite circle in the capital city (Munson et al., 1963; Steinberg, 1959). This was an opportunity for economically well-off, particularly ethnically Chinese Cambodians, to improve their social status. Wealth intensified the khsae networks as a path for social mobility. Sihanouk’s approach to ruling Cambodia – that is, through preferential treatment and patronage practices – indicated a pattern of social mobility and promotion to a higher position of those at the top of the social hierarchy. His attitudes towards, and lack of trust in, highly educated people further reinforced this khsae practice. Wealth also enabled “a favorable marriage into an influential family” (Steinberg, 1959, p. 93), which allowed one to attain a higher social status. In addition, economic capital provided a means to accumulating cultural capital, which could then enable one to attain higher status in the religious or political hierarchy. Increasingly, as Steinberg (1959) argued, “both education and wealth, as ends and as means to ends, (were) assuming greater importance (p. 93). As a result, the gap between the educated and the uneducated was increasingly widening, as was the gap between the rural poor and the urban better-off during Sihanouk’s Cambodia (Steinberg, 1959). Joining the sangha seemed to be a viable means for male individuals from lower social strata to rise to a higher social status because status in both religious realm and nobility or government rank was comparatively equal (Steinberg, 1959). Religious hierarchy could also be “utilized as a steppingstone or ‘bridge of merit’ to the political hierarchy” (Steinberg, 1959, p. 92). Through this transfer of merit from the religious to the political realm, a man from a poor rural origin could rise to a higher social status by entering the sangha in the first place and work   26 his way from there. Because joining the sangha was a process of schooling, it opened an avenue for elevating one’s social status. As Kalab (1976) showed in his study of a rural Cambodian village, a Buddhist monk gained certain knowledge and skills after serving some years in the temple. He could then leave monkhood and make use of his knowledge to attain a higher status in society (Kalab, 1976). This path was limited to men only, however, because the wat schools were for boys; girls were not allowed to join, as noted, because they would be a distractor for Buddhist monks. Social mobility through the sangha was not for women (Jacobsen, 2008). Sihanouk regime initiated the beginning of the end of the important role wat schools played in the area of education in Cambodia. The rapid educational development, especially the drastic increase of the number of primary schools across the country, argues Prigent (2019), “deprived the monks of their educational monopoly (from a formal education perspective)” (p. 4). This is probably because the wat schools were restricted to boys only and they were not indicative of “modernity” that Sihanouk regime was pursuing. Sihanouk was keen on modernizing Cambodia, and he believed that a nation-building project through formal educational development was “the vehicle that would transform his small country into an industrialized and technologically advanced modern state” (Ayres, 2000, p. 449). Prince Sihanouk embarked upon a program to massively expand access to education to the entire population, including women, by building schools and opening universities across the country (Ayres, 2000; Tomasi, 2000). The education budget often surpassed 20 percent of national expenditure (Ayres, 2000; T. Clayton, 2005; Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997). Government elementary schools were open to all, regardless of their gender; scholarships were provided to both boys and girls who qualified in competitive examinations (Steinberg, 1959). Cambodia’s education was then considered “the best education system in Southeast Asia” (T. Clayton, 2005, p. 506). While women were expected to maintain “traditional” social and cultural norms and gender expectations, and their status was largely dependent upon the status of their family, especially their husbands, women were able to advance themselves “politically and socially through education” (Munson et al., 1963, p. 69). Through occupational mobility, especially by becoming school teachers or university professors (Bit, 1991), women were able to improve their living conditions and social status. Those with high educational achievement could enter the civil   27 service and improve their social status. However, despite the various policies being implemented by government following independence to ensure women had the same civil and legal status as men and to increase their literacy and education, they continued to face challenges in benefiting from these changes. This is primarily due to, as Jacobsen (2008) argues, “deeply ingrained male attitudes and ‘traditional’ social constructs that maintained the idea that men were superior to women” (p. 209). Women were still assigned a role as the “guardians of Cambodian cultural identity”, that is the Cambodian society prior to the French arrival. To maintain the “cultural tradition” means women had to remain “traditional” so that Cambodian culture could be protected. The literature and various chbab written prior to the French arrival were taken to represent “traditional” gender roles and imposed on women so they could maintain the cultural values and gender roles articulated in the literary works and chbab (Jacobsen, 2008). This process in turn disempowered women and limited their potential to improve their social status. These practices primarily constrained women’s opportunities for social mobility. The educational development during Sihanouk regime not only resumed but also expanded the colonial approach to formal educational development project initiated by the French (Ayres, 2000, 2003; T. Clayton, 1995). The idea of pursuing further education as an avenue for “social advancement” continued to inspire people from rural backgrounds (Steinberg, 1959, p. 92). For most rural Cambodians, pursuing further education and gaining government employment was the main path to improve their social status (Hollister, 1958). That is why the majority of students chose to study the arts and humanities, which would qualify them for a career as a government functionary, and, by 1970, only 16 percent of students enrolled in higher education were in the combined faculties of education, engineering and agriculture (Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997). In addition, there were also scholarships offered to a good number of Cambodian students to study overseas, further emphasizing the Western-oriented “mutually reinforcing goals” of education and economic achievement (Steinberg, 1959, p. 93). Sihanouk built his educational development project based on this conception.  However, although Sihanouk’s government undertook educational reforms aimed to “eradicate the colonial mentality…and to install in its place a ‘Khmer character’” (T. Clayton, 2005, p. 506), the education system inherited from the French, and cultivated to promote an image of modernity, continued to bear little relevance to the economic conditions and needs of   28 Cambodia (Ayres, 2000). Meanwhile, the expansion of commercial and industrial sectors did not keep up with the rapidly growing number of graduating students and presented an enormous risk. As Eilenberg (1961) argued at the time, “in creating an educated class at a rate which the economy cannot absorb, the risk is great that Cambodia…will create an educated class all of whom will…be…dreadful of manual work and anxious only for white-collar positions as government functionaries” (p. 192). Unfortunately, Sihanouk’s civil service system was full and could no longer accommodate the students expecting to join the public administration. When Sihanouk advised university graduates to “go back to the farm” (Vickery, as cited in Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997, p. 101), it was already too late; Sihanouk’s educational development plan had already awakened and cultivated aspirations which were premised upon the colonial linkage of education and social mobility built around liberating people from working on the farm. The colonial preconfigured linkage between education and social mobility failed in Sihanouk’s Cambodia.  In a country where higher social status is perceived to be associated with working in government offices, which also paid well, it was difficult to convince graduates to accept low-status occupations. As a consequence, “many young people refused to accept employment as subordinate factory workers or technicians, since these were low-status occupations. Instead, they formed a mass of unemployed intellectuals intent on becoming state officials, since this was the only profession in the country that paid well” (Tomasi, 2000, p. 157). This was a continuation of a mindset introduced during the French colonial period. By the mid-1960s, open frustrations with Sihanouk’s leadership, particularly rampant corruption and nepotism, were growing (Ayres, 2000). In addition, graduate unemployment was also on the rise, contributing to the waning of Sihanouk’s power and influence (Ayres, 2000). As the 1960s were winding to a close, Sihanouk’s Cambodia was facing increasing problems, both at home–including growing graduate unemployment and the Communist movement in the countryside–and abroad, particularly the intensified Vietnam War east of the border (Ayres, 2003; Chandler, 2008; Martin, 1994). Sihanouk was ultimately deposed by a military coup in 1970. The Sihanouk regime reproduced and emphasized the linkage between schooling and social mobility introduced by the French decades earlier. The regime drew on French legacy and designed a higher education system that was aimed at training students to become civil servants   29 in government offices and leave behind lives on the rice fields, which was irrelevant to the country’s local needs. It failed to develop an education system that promoted local community development. This failure of educational development was one of the causes that ultimately led to the collapse of the regime.   2.4 Khmer Republic (1970-1975): The end of the first phase of failed colonial education system Prince Norodom Sihanouk was succeeded by his general, Lon Nol, who formed the Khmer Republic backed by the United States. Commonly known as the Lon Nol regime, the Khmer Republic was not different from the regime it succeeded, at least in terms of its administrative structure and leadership. Cambodian leaders typically choose to be strong men rather than to build strong institutions (Slocomb, 2006), and that was what President Lon Nol chose to do. Similar to Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Lon Nol adopted authoritarianism in his leadership (Martin, 1994). He abolished freedom of speech and censored the press in 1973 (Martin, 1994). The army commanders were corrupt; the number of soldiers was exaggerated, for instance, to extract more financial aid from the US (Chandler, 2008; Kirk, 1974). Rampant corruption contributed to widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. General Lon Nol further perpetuated the regime inherited from Sihanouk. It may be described as a regime with high social reproduction at every level. While the rural poor lived an impoverished life, particularly those trying to escape from the Khmer Rouge movement in the rural areas, the elite in the urban lived a luxurious life and indulged themselves with ostentatious spending (Martin, 1994). Most of the elite from the previous regime remained in power during this regime. They continued to perpetuate the khsae networks and patronage practices. The royalty was not at the apex of the social hierarchy anymore. Instead, military generals and other elites connected to General Lon Nol represented the highest social class. They engaged in an endless cycle of perpetuating their social status, privilege and wealth.  Women, especially young girls from rural areas, faced the threat of being kidnapped and sold to brothels by the Lon Nol soldiers (Jacobsen, 2008). Women’s social status continued to be undermined by the discourse used in the literature, such as novels and other publications from the previous regimes, which government magazines and the Buddhist Institute continued to   30 publish. Moreover, the Women’s Association continued to promote a discourse emphasizing that the “true” place of women was being in the home and taking care of household chores (Jacobsen, 2008). All these developments continued to disempower women and undermine their overall social status. In the area of education, although the leadership of the Khmer Republic tried to discredit its predecessor, the regime’s education policies continued to reflect those of the past regime (Ayres, 2003). Essentially, the new regime, argues Ayres (2000), “reaffirmed its belief in the basic principles of modernization and human capital theories and committed itself to a continuation of the educational expansion pursued during the Sihanouk era” (p. 450).  However, the social and political dynamics in Cambodia experienced a dramatic shift. With the Khmer Rouge solders taking control over the countryside and moving gradually into towns and cities, the country was overwhelmed by mass mobilization. The peasants escaping the fighting in the countryside flocked to towns and cities, causing a grave humanitarian crisis and presenting immense burdens on the government. Schools in Phnom Penh that were still in operation were struggling to accommodate students migrating from the rural areas. As for higher education, argue Fergusson and Le Masson (1997):  …higher education stagnated in the early 1970s, largely because what restricted funds were available to the government went almost exclusively into the war effort, and schools, particularly those in the eastern zone where fighting and bombing were heaviest, were badly damaged or destroyed. …little or no progress in the areas of curriculum development, research or instructional methods was made. (p. 108)  By 1973 most government institutions had ceased to function (Chandler, 2008; Martin, 1994); education was left to drift with the increasingly expanding armed conflict (Ayres, 2003). Added to this was the US bombing of some Cambodian provinces bordering South Vietnam against the Vietnamese Communists, resulting in the killings and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians (Chandler, 2008). The Khmer Republic was a period when education policies were announced but not achieved primarily due to increasingly intense armed conflict (Ayres, 2003). The political situation necessitated mobilization of students to participate in the fight against both the encroaching Khmer Rouge (KR) and the Vietnamese who were occupying large parts of the   31 Cambodian territory to the east. It was a period when students were politicized by different warring factions that tried to lure them into supporting their respective causes. Schooling was therefore provided to serve the political objective of the regime. It is not clear whether schooling was a pathway for social mobility given the short life of the regime and the crisis in the education system. However, it seems that khsae networks and nepotism were primary avenues for social class reproduction and social mobility. The Khmer Republic fell when the KR solders seized control of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975.   2.5 Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979): A failed attempt to reconceptualize educational development project Officially known as Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge (Red Khmer) regime is commonly called Pol Pot’s regime by Cambodians (Pol Pot, formally known as Saloth Sar, was the Prime Minister of the Democratic Kampuchea). Immediately after the Khmer Rouge soldiers marched into Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975, city dwellers were evacuated to the countryside, marking the beginning of a three-year-eight-month-and-twenty-day regime, which caused the death of nearly two million Cambodians (when the total population was under 8 million).  The Khmer Rouge movement emerged out of the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots created by the Westernized educational development project initiated during the French colonial period. Particularly, the educational development project failed to live up to its stated goal of promoting improved living conditions and social advancement of those from the rural areas of the country (Ayres, 2003). Rampant corruption, nepotism, and unemployment since the later stage of Sihanouk regime and intensified during the Lon Nol regime had amplified the animosity felt by the peasants towards the urban dwellers and the regimes’ leaders. That is probably one of the reasons why the Khmer Rouge were able to inspire many rural peasants to join their movement. The movement may be considered a peasantry revolt against the colonial notion of social mobility that had widened the gap between the rural peasants and the urban dwellers. One of the primary goals of the Khmer Rouge movement was to “return Cambodia to its agrarian, communal roots, and to overturn what they saw as Western bourgeois practices” (Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997, p. 109) and to create a classless society by levelling the social   32 classes of the previous regimes. The Khmer Rouge sought to return Cambodia to the Angkor Empire and get rid of all sorts of remnants of the previous regimes they considered to be the products of colonial mindset and practices. The Khmer Rouge also adopted a Constitution aimed to undermine and abolish the hierarchical social arrangements of the previous regimes (Chandler, 1976).  To abolish social classes and “purify” the populace (Hinton, 2002, 2011; Mehmet, 1997), the Khmer Rouge first sought to eliminate the social structures of the previous regimes by targeting upper class families, which were considered a threat (Lawrence, 2008). Where one lived determined one’s social status and destiny (McIntyre, 1996). The general populace was divided into two groups: the “old/base people” and the “new or 17 April people,” indicating the date when the Khmer Rouge regime was born. The base people referred to the rural peasants who, according to the Khmer Rouge, had been exploited by the elite of the previous regimes. The base people were thus the victims of the hierarchical social order. The new people were the city dwellers who were evacuated on 17 April 1975 from towns and cities to the countryside. They were considered part of the urban elites who constituted the discredited social hierarchy. The Khmer Rouge treated the old or base people better than they did the new people. As Martin (1994) notes, “If the ‘old people’ benefited from almost uniform treatment, the ‘new people’ encountered abuse” (p. 205). The “new or 17 April people” were the prime target in the Khmer Rouge’s agenda to clean up and eliminate the filth of the decayed old society (Ebihara, 1990). As Fergusson and Le Masson (1997, p. 109) describe:  The primary targets of KR vengeance were Cambodia’s ‘intellectuals’ (i.e. anyone who spoke a foreign language, or anyone with an education or Western training), the ‘bourgeois classes’ (i.e. those associated with former governments or the Royal family, and business people), and the so-called ‘people of April 17th’ (i.e. city-dwellers who ‘joined the revolution’ after the KR seized Phnom Penh). Students and teachers suffered particularly badly during this time: ownership of a pair of spectacles, utterance of a vaguely informed or learned phrase, or association – whether real or imagined – with anything cultural could, and often did, mean a death sentence.  The colonial linkage between schooling and social mobility became a dangerous and even deadly relationship. Moreover, the KR regime sought to identify and eliminate those who had pursued this avenue in the previous regimes.   33 Institutions that promoted the social and cultural values of the previous regimes were also targeted. The KR destroyed educational infrastructures such as schools, universities, equipment; many educational buildings were transformed into prisons or factories for manufacturing grenades, shells, and other weapons (Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997). They took an extreme approach to eradicate not only human resources but also infrastructure deemed connected to the previous regimes.  The top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime argued that all the destruction was “a prelude to the construction of a new society, one that would be wholly self-reliant, both politically and economically” (T. Clayton, 2005, p. 507). However, there existed no major educational development project that would enable the regime to achieve its stated goal. Formal education was essentially eradicated. Some basic schooling in factories and cooperatives was provided (Vickery, as cited in Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997, p. 111). Children received some sort of technical education (Martin, 1994), especially skills related to how to make fertilizers for enriching the rice paddies. The only other form of learning provided especially to children was singing revolutionary songs that emphasized community projects such as work on dikes and canals (Marston, 2002a, 2002b; Martin, 1994). This form of schooling was for the purpose of indoctrination in party ideology to raise political consciousness (Bit, 1991). In fact, based on the Khmer Rouge’s 1976 Four-year plan aimed at building socialism in all fields, education during the regime had two main goals: cultivating “political consciousness among students” and promoting “economic independence” (T. Clayton, 2005, p. 508). Schooling during the KR regime, therefore, served a different purpose; schooling was no longer for promoting social advancement and improving living conditions; instead, it was for promoting conformity to the regime’s political ideology and economic self-sufficiency.  On top of that, despite the regime leaders’ general rhetoric about building an equal, classless society, practice on the ground was a different story, particularly at the leadership level. Most of the top leaders of the regime originated from humble families. However, once they were in the leadership positions, self-reproduction of wealth, status, privilege and power resumed. While the general population was forced to be equal in terms of social status, wealth and privilege, the top leaders of the regime made sure that they themselves and their family members benefited from the regime and the privileges attached to their status and positions (Thion, 1990).   34 Corrupt and nepotistic practices, and the assigning of different privileges according to one’s position in the political hierarchy were evidenced in every aspect of the regime leaders’ lives. For instance, those in the top positions possessed several cars, whereas those at the lower level travelled around by bicycle (Martin, 1994). The number of dishes per meal increased according to one’s position in the hierarchy, with the top leaders having veritable feasts (Martin, 1994). In fact, the khsae network, either through kinship or marital relation, as a path to remain in the upper echelon of the regime or to rise to a higher status, was alive and widely practiced during the Khmer Rouge regime.  For the majority of the non-cadre, general populace, social mobility took on a different meaning. Improving one’s status from the level of starvation to survival was a form of social mobility during the regime (Plowright, 2009). Survival here means not just having some food to eat but also not being sent for “re-education,” the Khmer Rouge euphemism for execution. The path to survival was through spying on family members, relatives and neighbors and reporting back to the Angkar9, an all-pervasive system of surveillance the Khmer Rouge used to eliminate those associated with the previous regimes and those talking ill of the regime in private conversations. This opportunity was generally offered to the youngsters of the “old or base people” for their tendency to obey orders (Martin, 1994). The “new people” thus became the prime target. By making spying on one another a necessity for survival, individuals were compelled to choose between being victims or perpetrators. The path to survival as an avenue for mobility was being loyal to and spying for the Angkar. Overall, in spite of the claim made by the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime to build a classless and equal society, inequality was a predominant feature of the regime, and social mobility continued to be pursued through such means as khsae and other forms of nepotistic practices. The Khmer Rouge tried to promote communist gender equality by stressing that men and women were of equal capacity in performing the same tasks (Bit, 1991; Frieson, 2011; Kent, 2011). This gender equality was also emphasized in the Khmer Rouge songs that positioned  9 Angkar [the Organization] was the political bureau of the central committee of the Communist Party that was running the Khmer Rouge regime (Martin, 1994). Angkar was omnipresent and, as Martin (1994) describes, “embodied an effective and invisible power to which everyone owed total obedience” (p. 158).   35 women as a mass force parallel to that of men (Marston, 2002b). While both men and women, in general, seemed equal in all aspects of their lives, some women gained more prominence in relation to monitoring and controlling of food production and consumption, a newly created political role for women (Frieson, 2011). At the Khmer Rouge leadership level, women did not have a strong presence (Jacobsen, 2008). The few women holding high positions at the leadership level were primarily related to the male leaders by marriage or kin ties. For instance, Ieng Thirith, Minister of Social Affairs of the Khmer Rouge regime, was the wife of Ieng Sary, the regime’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the sister of Khieu Ponnary, the first wife of the Khmer Rouge’s leader Pol Pot. Political power remained in the hands of male leaders, however. Women were expected to continue their supporting, nurturing, and domestic roles after they had contributed to accomplishing the revolutionary goals (Jacobsen, 2008). This added role of women in politics was, therefore, a third burden on their time after their “traditional” expected roles of reproductive and productive labor (Lyon, Mutersbaugh, & Worthen, 2017). The Khmer Rouge demonstrated an understanding of the local needs of Cambodians and the country’s economic growth – agricultural sector development. They did not draw on inspiration from the colonial educational policy for their reconceptualization of Cambodia’s development project. However, in spite of the regime’s outright rejection of the linkage between formal schooling and social mobility and its systemic approach to “eliminate” those who were socially mobile through education in the previous regimes, political education, patronage practices, and khsae networks were primary avenues for political advancement and social mobility of certain cadres within the regime. Moreover, despite having envisaged becoming a strong agrarian state resembling the ancient Angkor Empire, the KR did not pursue that objective. Instead, the regime’s “leaders became consumed with paranoia about perceived enemies of their revolution” (Ayres, 2000, p. 451). As a consequence of their brutality and paranoia, nearly 2 million people were dead due to execution, starvation, disease, or overwork. After a mere 3 years, 8 months and 20 days in power, the Khmer Rouge collapsed on 7 January 1979, and was replaced by a Vietnamese-installed government, commonly known as the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).    36 2.6 People’s Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989): Education and social reproduction of the select few Cambodia was liberated from the Khmer Rouge regime on January 7, 1979. The liberation movement was led by former Khmer Rouge cadres, including current Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had fled to Hanoi, Vietnam, and returned with the support of thousands of Vietnamese troops. Millions of Cambodians moved back to settle in villages, provincial towns, and cities. A new Cambodian government was installed by the Vietnamese government, with Vietnamese technical advisors placed at all levels and in all government ministries to advise Cambodian officials (Chandler, 2008; T. Clayton, 2000; Martin, 1994). The leaders in the new government were drawn almost entirely from the ranks of former Khmer Rouge cadres who had fled to Vietnam. Officially known as the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK)10, Cambodia’s central bureau of the government was the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea, a communist party (Chandler, 2008).  The atrocities and devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge regime were unimaginable. It was estimated that between 75 percent and 80 percent of Cambodia’s teachers and higher education students either fled the country or died, and approximately 67 percent of primary and secondary students were lost (Duggan, as cited in Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997, p. 111). An assessment by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) suggested that by 1979 there remained no more than 300 qualified persons from all disciplines left in the country, and all higher education institutions (except the University of Phnom Penh) were destroyed (Duggan, as cited in Fergusson & Le Masson, 1997, p. 111). The institutional infrastructure of higher education developed during the 1960s and 1970s simply disappeared. The grave destruction of human resources and education infrastructure by the Khmer Rouge had left a daunting task for the PRK in rebuilding Cambodian society (T. Clayton, 2000). This process was further affected by the fact that regional Asian and international communities did not recognize the Vietnamese-installed government.  10 Some scholars refer to this period as the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia due to a large presence of the Vietnamese troops and advisors in the country (Chandler, 2008). It was estimated that more than 100,000 Vietnamese troops were stationed in Cambodia from 1979 until their “withdrawal” in 1989 (Chandler, 2008).   37 However, the destruction by the KR did not deter Cambodians from aspiring for further education; instead, it further heightened their desire for higher education. As Fergusson and Le Masson (1997, p. 112) describe:  the profound desire and determination for further education felt by many Cambodians was only heightened as a result of KR destruction, and higher education administrators had no difficulty in attracting tens of thousands of students back to school within months of reopening their institutions.  According to T. Clayton (2005), the two primary objectives of education during the PRK were “good technical training” and “good political training” (p. 510). The overall purpose of education was articulated in November 1985 by Pen Navuth, PRK Minister of Education, as follows:  The essential objective [of the education system] is to form new and good hard-working citizens with a baggage of culture, of technical awareness, of a capacity for work, of good health and of a revolutionary morality ready to serve the Kampuchean revolution. Our schools must be organized as cultural centers open to all, [and] as a system of defense against the propaganda of the enemies. (Ayres, 2000, p. 452)  Educational development during the PRK was not conceptualized in relation to social advancement or socio-economic mobility. The education sector development was considered a means for state building (Ayres, 2003). Schooling was fundamentally aimed at indoctrinating the younger generations in Marxism-Leninism, socialist theories, and other Communist ideologies (Ayres, 2003). The structure of the education system during the PRK followed exactly the Vietnamese model (T. Clayton, 2005). At universities, lessons were taught in Vietnamese by Vietnamese lecturers and in Russian at the Institute of Technology. There were also German and Cuban instructors. Other foreign languages were forbidden. University curriculum reflected those of the Vietnamese universities (Tomasi, 2000). Thousands of scholarships were provided by Eastern-bloc countries to Cambodian students for overseas university study (T. Clayton, 2005). The regime “embraced education as the means by which these new socialist workmen could be molded.…us[ing] rapid educational expansion as the basis of nation building” (Ayres, 2000, p. 452).   38 Tomasi (2000) argues that only the children of state officials and of the members of the Cambodian Communist Party benefited the most from educational opportunities during the regime. Thanks to their social origins, these students did not have to worry about being able to afford textbooks, which were very expensive at the time (Tomasi, 2000). Many of these students whose parents were connected to the ruling party were also the recipients of scholarships to study overseas (Martin, 1994). While education was not framed as an avenue for social mobility for the general populace, education was an avenue for social advancement for those connected to the ruling class. Social origins and social connections structure access to education and the economic benefits that this educational opportunity yields. Cambodian society during the PRK was organized with the regime’s leaders and high-ranking government officials at the top, followed by armed forces (Cambodian and Vietnamese), civil servants such as teachers, and the peasantry. The team of Vietnamese technical advisors was a unique and temporary addition to the social structure of Cambodia. The PRK government and its Communist party monopolized political activity and exercised severe repression on political opponents (Chandler, 2008). Not unlike the previous regimes, corruption committed by the top PRK cadres and high-ranking government officials was a defining feature of the regime (Chandler, 2008). Foreign aid rarely reached its intended beneficiaries as it was misappropriated by the different strata of the government, particularly high-ranking government officials, armed forces, police and other cadres (Martin, 1994). These major power-holders of the regime, as Martin (1994) argues, had “no other goal but to enrich themselves as fast as possible and as long as the political situation permit[ed]” (p. 275). During the final years of the regime, the ruling elites were engaged intensely in “sell[ing] the public assets and natural resources without any benefit accruing to the state or the people” (Martin, 1994, p. 292). In addition, there emerged new elites with new hierarchies built upon traditional concepts of patron-client relations (Karbaum, 2015). The “new” hierarchical social order and patterns of patronage began to emerge in the 1980s with the rise to power of the current Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held the position since 1985. Hun Sen’s approach to leading the country and personalizing his power, argues Gottesman (2003), “was not based on ideology” for it “had repeatedly failed to motivate state officials or to inspire loyalty” (p. 299). Instead, his approach “evoked patterns of patronage that had existed in Cambodia long before the revolution” (p. 299).   39 There was no sign indicative of the weakening but rather the perpetuation of the entrenched hierarchical social order and patronage. As Karbaum (2015) asserts:  In general, these patterns are not very different from the archetype, but have been introduced by new stakeholders. Although traditional or ritual hierarchies that put the king, monks, titulars, and elderly at the top still exist, de facto they have been superseded by those defined by the new ruling elites. … there is no indication of an erosion of traditional patterns or of a change in values away from hierarchic preferences. (p. 244)   The PRK was not very different from the regime it toppled. Although many of the leaders were from poor, farming family origins, the socio-cultural and political nature of the regime indicates that a very small number of ruling elites had a monopoly on all the benefits and economic resources available. Cambodian society during the PRK was organized around the reproduction of social status and privileges of the ruling elite (Martin, 1994). Social class differentiation was similar to the traditional social hierarchy, with the power centered in the hands of the Communist Party leadership (Bit, 1991). This social category was generally not open to those from the lower social strata. Joining the social category at the top of the social hierarchy was possible largely through political patronage or khsae with the top leadership of the Communist Party. In such a communist regime, social mobility was possible through patronage networks and political affiliations with the ruling Communist party.   Women returned to their pre-war patterns of activities (Bit, 1991). They played an active role in contributing directly and materially to rebuilding Cambodian society (Jacobsen, 2008). However, in spite of their contribution to rebuilding the country after the war, an important development that is worth mentioning is that there was lack of women in political positions in this period (Bit, 1991; Jacobsen, 2008). While the main argument for this is the low level of education that the surviving women had attained (Jacobsen, 2008), it reflects the “normative” patterns of treatment for women that had existed in the previous regimes. Women continued to be treated the same ways they had been treated over the past centuries – playing domestic roles in the household. There were virtually no opportunities for women’s social mobility.   Buddhism was banned and Buddhist monks were defrocked and forced to labor during the Khmer Rouge regime. In the PRK, Buddhist sangha continued to be sidelined. Buddhist monks were not able to play the educational role they did prior to the 1970s. The Buddhist   40 sangha was not a path for promoting social mobility, either. The sangha was treated like an enemy of the state. The Vietnamese advisors imposed the perspective that religion was a poison for society (Martin, 1994). This was reflected in the ways the sangha and Buddhist monks were treated during the regime. Although some Buddhist temple members contributed to reconstructing roads, schools, medical and social services after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, the state apparatus exercised tight control over the sangha throughout the 1980s (Kent, 2008). The state also restricted the number of temples and monks for each commune (Martin, 1994). Monks’ travels were also supervised; generally, they had to secure permits from concerned authorities to travel. Only after the withdrawal of the Vietnamese troops from Cambodia in 1989 and the renaming of the PRK to the State of Cambodia, were these restrictions lifted and Buddhism announced as the state religion (Chandler, 2008). Therefore, in addition to being suppressed and monitored, Buddhist monks were not able to play the educational role they did in the regimes prior to the war.  An important motto during the PRK regime read: “those who know more teach those who know less, and those who know less teach those who know nothing.” The regime inherited from the Khmer Rouge regime the severe destruction of not only infrastructure but also human resources. Nonetheless, only the children of the high-ranking officials of the regime benefited the most from emerging educational opportunities available at the time. The sangha, which once played a key role in schooling and social mobility, was severely restricted. Khsae networks and patronage practices continued to be a major pathway for class reproduction and social mobility.  2.7 From the State of Cambodia (1989-1993) to the Kingdom of Cambodia (1993-present): Transitioning towards reviving and morphing a failed colonial educational development project Immediately after the Vietnamese withdrawal in 1989, the Cambodian government renamed the country the State of Cambodia and announced the transition to democracy and the free market (T. Clayton, 2005). With the Paris Peace Accord signed on 23 October 1991,   41 signaling the end of the prolonged civil war, and the national election11 organized in 1993 by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), the new government of the newly born Kingdom of Cambodia “officially embraced these goals” of economic liberalization and democratization (T. Clayton, 2005, p. 512). The country adopted, at least on paper, a multi-party liberal democracy based on a constitutional monarchy. The country opened up to the global system and was now able to accommodate some of the values and practices of liberalism (Sisowath, 2006). Despite the brief collapse of the coalition government due to a coup d’état in July 1997 (Chandler, 2008; Peang-Meth, 1997), the 1998 national election was viewed as the beginning of an emerging stability in Cambodia. Efforts to “reconstruct” Cambodia began through democratization, economic liberalization, and massive foreign aid (Chandler, 2008; Hughes & Un, 2011; Slocomb, 2010). Over the past two decades, Cambodia has been one of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world, with the poverty rate falling drastically from 50 percent in 2005 to 13.5 percent in 2014 (IMF, 2017). Economic growth has been very impressive, sustaining an annual average growth rate of 7.6 percent, ranking sixth among the most rapidly growing economies in the world between 1994-2015 (World Bank, 2017b). The country has now been classified by the World Bank as a lower-middle income economy. These achievements have been possible thanks to the country’s political stability (Hughes & Un, 2011), its openness to trade and capital flows, preferential trade treatment, large development assistance, and foreign direct investment inflows (among the highest in the world at 7.9 percent of GDP on average in 2005-15) (Slocomb, 2010; World Bank, 2017a). The country has also benefited from a large structural transformation – the reallocation of economic activity across the three broad sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, and services, which has created 0.7 million net jobs in agriculture and fisheries and 3.6 million in industry and services (World Bank, 2017a). In 2014, the employment-to-population ratio was 82  11 It is important to note that the Khmer Rouge faction did not participate in the 1993 national elections, although they signed the Paris Peace Accord on 23 October 1991. It was not until the end of 1998 that the remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers laid down their weapons, defected to the Royal Government of Cambodia, and were integrated into the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Technically, the civil armed conflict in Cambodia, which started in the early 1970s, did not end until the end of 1998.   42 percent, and female labor force participation ratio was 79 percent, among the highest in the world (World Bank, 2017b). Employment in civil services and civil society organizations (CSOs) has also increased considerably. The number of civil servants expanded markedly from approximately 150,000 in the mid-1990s to 210,000 in 2014 (World Bank, 2014). Rapid increase in the number of CSOs through international financial assistance has also created employment and improved living conditions for many. A 2012 CSO census showed 1,315 confirmed open CSOs registered in Cambodia, dispersing approximately USD600-700 million and directly employing 43,000 staff, of which about 24,000 were paid staff, with 13,000 of these Cambodians, nearly half of whom were female (Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, 2013). Most of the new recruits hold higher education degrees (bachelor or postgraduate degrees). All these developments indicate the significant role played by the education sector. Education has, indeed, been embraced as a fundamental sector for post-conflict reconstruction. The new regime emphasized human resources development to be integrated into the regional and global economies. Cambodia’s leaders have and continue to proclaim educational development as one of their fundamental priorities (Ayres, 2000; Voun, 2019). Since the mid-1990s, Cambodia has become a credentialed society, driven largely by the rapidly expanding employment opportunities in the new Cambodia and the public’s perception of the role of higher education in promoting social mobility and improved living conditions. With private participation in the provision of higher education beginning in 1997, Cambodia’s higher education system has experienced a rapid expansion, particularly in terms of the number of higher education institutions (HEIs) and student enrolments. The number of HEIs has increased many-fold, from 10 in the 1990s (Pak, 2011) to 125 in 2018, 77 of which are private HEIs (MoEYS, 2019). Student enrolments have increased from about 10,000 in the 1990s to 211,484 in 2018 (MoEYS, 2019). In addition to the domestic educational opportunities, there are many scholarship opportunities to study overseas at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels through bilateral agreements with donor countries. This massification of higher education has presented increasing prospects for highly educated people to obtain better-paying jobs, which offers an opportunity for them to improve their social status and socio-economic mobility.   43 However, the educational development project in Cambodia has followed a trajectory charted in the French colonial period. The overwhelming presence of foreign donors, including the United Nations agencies, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as part of the post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Cambodia has fundamentally shaped the policy directions in all sectors, including education. Of all countries in Southeast Asia, “Cambodia has the most NGOs per inhabitant and,” as Prigent (2019) argues, “is particularly influenced by international education policies” (p. 2). For this reason, Cambodia’s educational policy trajectory was and continues to be driven by external agencies that provide assistance toward rebuilding the country after the prolonged armed conflict (Courtney, 2017; McCormick, 2012; Tan, 2010). Like other “heavily indebted poor countries caught in a neo-colonial context” (Tan, 2010, p. 467), Cambodia does not have much room to negotiate its educational policy direction with the international donor community.  Largely driven by the country’s heavy dependence on foreign assistance (Ayres, 2003; Khieng, 2014), Cambodia has become a site of policy experiment for different policy ideas and discourses imported by donors and other international actors in the country, similar to the experiences of many other developing countries (McCormick, 2012; Steiner-Khamsi, 2014; Yang, 2010). For example, one of the first faculties opened in 1993 at the largest public university in Cambodia (the Royal University of Phnom Penh) was the Faculty of Sociology (Tomasi, 2000). While this field of study is important, it has little relevance to the economic needs of the country where more than 80 percent of the population works in the agricultural sector. Cambodia’s present education system is based on a Westernized education system “planned by Western consultants from international organizations and external donor agencies” (Tan, 2010, p. 470). The educational reforms in Cambodia are “primarily guided by the belief, held by external organizations such as the World Bank, that human resources development, underpinned by free trade and minimum state intervention, is the recipe for progress for Third World nation-states” (Tan, 2010, p. 473). In this context where the influence of international aid agencies is dominant, Cambodia has missed another opportunity