UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Local negotiation of globalised educational discourses : the case of Child Friendly Schools in rural Cambodia Reimer, Jill Katheryn


Despite massive donor aid to the education sector over the past two decades, school achievement in Cambodia remains poor. Key challenges include low survival rates, limited contact hours, poor literacy skills, and gender disparity. The question of why basic education continues to fail Cambodian children catalysed this research. This feminist postcolonial inquiry analysed the interface between the global and the local as expressed in Child Friendly Schools (CFS) policy to understand how local Cambodian communities negotiate hegemonic transnational influences. It explored how schools and communities understand and implement CFS on their own terms and how concurrent global discourse about gender equality has impacted gendered identities and relations. This “vertical case study” shows how exogenous influences are mediated through local perspectives. At least seven critical elements of the Cambodian socio-cultural milieu (worldview, protracted conflict, educational history, political system, poverty, gender perspectives, educational philosophy) converge to shape micro- (school, village) and meso-level (national) response to macro-level (global) influences. While numerous international norms have been institutionalised as policy, many have not been internalised. Local response to global educational discourses takes five forms: deployment, incorporation, adaptation, contestation, and resistance. In some cases, the response is wilful and deliberately negotiated. In other cases it may reflexively arise from conflicting values; witness, for instance, traditional perspectives on gender and gender equality. While homogenisation of basic education clearly occurs at the rhetorical level, hybridity characterises actual implementation. Cambodia’s negotiation of international norms has resulted in poor quality education; much educational reform has been in form rather than in substance. Study findings show that gender norms, as expressed in school-related texts and relationships, have not been significantly influenced toward gender equality. Rather, the male-centric status quo is supported through teacher attitudes, textbook content, the neutering of gender mainstreaming processes, and the defining of equality in essentially economic terms. A more coherent and contextualised (and therefore relevant and vernacular) version of elementary education can be achieved by applying a social justice frame which necessarily includes dialogue around cultural values. For policy sharing to succeed, senders and recipients alike must attend seriously to local context, particularly how worldview mediates practice.

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