Looking for the “local” in curriculum transformation in Timor-Leste
Marie Quinn University of Technology Sydney (UTS), AUSTRALIA
Transformation of small states into independent entities entails balancing global parameters for development – articulated in the Development Goals – while foregrounding the local and culturally-particular that reflect hard-won battles for independence. Timor-Leste’s restoration of independence in 2002 began a transformation in all sectors of political, economic and social life, illustrated by the initial National Development Plan (East Timor Planning Commission, 2002) which foregrounded “traditional culture” within the national vision: “East Timor will be a democratic country with a vibrant traditional culture and a sustainable environment” (p, xviii). Education, as a lever of nation-building (Sercombe, & Tupas, 2014; Anstell & Lindvall, 2013), particularly sees tensions between postcolonial identity and globalisation played out (Mebrahtu, Crossley & Johnson, 2000; Rizvi, 2007; Tickly, 2001).
This presentation traces the external influences on education – Portuguese colonialism, Indonesian occupation and 21st century educational globalisation – and where the “local” has been accommodated in policy. It then considers the current primary school curriculum (Ministério do Educação [ME], 2014) and how it has realised the first of the underpinning principles: “Ligasaun ba kultura no maneira moris lokál nian/Connection to culture and way of local life” (ME, 2014, p. x). This analysis will be compared with data from a recent survey of teachers that suggests there is only a narrow understanding of what “way of local life” might mean. It concludes suggesting how a focus might be shifted to better understand the opportunity to use the local environment of children within teaching and learning.