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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Relationships, status, and traditions : school and community in a Fijian village Hoar, Marilyn Leone


This two year ethnographic study was conducted in Fiji in a traditional hierarchical community with a largely subsistence economy. I set out to study the complex relations that exist between a school and its community, and specifically to determine (a) the factors that motivate or inhibit community members in their support of the local school and (b) how the various interests of parents, educators, community members, and international agencies are communicated and negotiated. Many existing studies of the connections between schools and communities in developing countries pay too little attention to the community's interests. In this study I drew on existing theories of community participation in education to develop a broad-based, multi-faceted framework that guided data collection. My data demonstrate that in traditional, hierarchical societies, families' decisions about supporting formal education for one individual are made within a communal framework that also values activities that strengthen relationships, enhance status, and preserve traditions. Families preferred academic education in English over vocational training because of the increased status these programs provided to the student. While there was little support for programs to maintain local culture and language, the community did not support schooling that eroded the traditions of the community. These factors help to account for the presence of both support and resistance towards programs of economic and social development. This study found that Western models of parental participation or community involvement for the purposes of improving student achievement, increasing community funding, or enhancing the accountability of education systems do not necessarily apply to other cultures. Educators must understand the patterns of relationships, status, and traditions that exist within a community in order to successfully communicate educational goals and negotiate the interests of all groups. Relationships, status, and traditions within which school-community relations exist in developing countries are complex, dynamic, and powerful. For educators at the local, national, and international levels to succeed, they must develop strategies for identifying, comprehending, and working within these often powerful forces.

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