Mind the gap: Global quality norms, national policy interpretations and local praxis in Timor-Leste

Year: 2012

Author: Quinn, Marie, Shah, Ritesh

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Increasingly, the imperative for improved educational quality, alongside the more longstanding goal of improved access to education has come to occupy the global education mandate first established through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Educational For All (EFA). Yet the way in which educational quality is defined, measured and assessed by development partners often lacks appropriate consideration of the context of implementation, and presupposes a "global consensus" on what quality education should look like in pedagogical practice (Alexander, 2008; Connell, 2009). Practices deemed as reflective of a quality education, such as learner-centered pedagogy, presuppose a common understanding of "sound" educational theory and pedagogy, in settings where the background, professional experiences and motivations of teachers and the educational policy makers may belie such claims (Tabulawa, 2003; Barrett, 2007; Gordon, 2010). Thus underneath this apparent consensus lays complexities, contradictions, and local interpretations of quality rendering educational policy transfer problematic at best, and wholly insufficient at worst (Steiner-Khamsi, 2000, 2004). This paper explores this concept in the context of Timor-Leste.

Conceptually, the paper draws on recent scholarship which suggests that comparative and international education should move beyond its state-based analysis in which countries are compared to each other, to one which explores the different scales (global, national, local) educational policies and politics (Dale, 1999, 2006). Methodologically, and practically speaking it employs what Vavrus and Bartlett (2005) have coined a 'vertical case study approach' to explore the translation of discourse into praxis between these scales within a single site, in this case Timor-Leste.