An investigation into how district educational leaders understand and work with rural schools and their communities toward achieving universal primary education in Lao PDR

Author: Khambane Pasanchay

Pasanchay, Khambane, 2019 An investigation into how district educational leaders understand and work with rural schools and their communities toward achieving universal primary education in Lao PDR, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Primary education lays the academic foundation for all levels of education. If a strong foundation is laid, students will encounter fewer difficulties in their education. Although primary education improvement in rural areas of Laos had been on track to achieve the national targets, there is still much room for improvement in primary education. This study investigates the mechanics of the DESB, three primary schools, and three villages where the primary schools were located.

This project is a qualitative multi-site case study in a bounded context utilising quasi ethnographic methods. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews, focus-group discussions, observations, and document analysis. The participants included six key District Education and Sports Bureau (DESB) staff, 12 teachers and principals from three primary schools, three headmen of villages and 18 parents. Observations and document analysis were also undertaken to gain multiple insights about the natural world of the DESB, three primary schools, and three villages. The theoretical foundation was based on Bourdieusian descriptions of field, habitus, and capital (social, economic, cultural) which were used as conceptual lenses in the data collection and analysis.

The findings showed that habitus was very important and determined the way the DESB and the schools worked toward improving primary education and revealed how they viewed parents and students. It appeared that they attempt to increase statistics of schooling outcomes rather than students’ cultural capital. The DESB and schools worked under the constraints of economic capital and cultural capital to support the process of educational improvement. Cultural capital was associated with the DESB staff members’ knowledge and understanding of educational context in the district. There was also limited level of social capital created among the DESB, schools and parents.

Most parents did value their children’s schooling, wanting their children to achieve success, but did not see themselves as important supporters of their children in one way or another. This was viewed as parental habitus, a mode of thinking, understanding, valuing and acting in the education field. Different levels of economic and cultural capital possessed by parents did not determine their children’s educational outcomes, except for the children whose parents were employed in the town. What was significant in making a difference in educational outcomes was associated with social capital established at home, which shaped students’ habitus. The family social capital referred to encouragement parents gave their children about regular attendance, studying hard, doing homework, and having a future with education. The family social capital was strongly associated with family economic and cultural capitals and expectations for future success in educational achievement.

This study implies that parents, schools, the DESB, and the system need to develop new models of parental involvement which focuses on parent-student interaction outside of the school setting. A further suggestion is to have interventions for disrupting commonalities or cultural norms that disadvantage rural children. The role of the schools and the system in reproducing the existing social and educational inequality will continue unless there is change in the context of the larger socio-political system.

Keywords: district educational leaders, rural schools and communities, universal primary education

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2019
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Pam Bartholomaeus