Competing visions of education in Timor-Leste's Curriculum Reform

Laura Ogden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Timor-Leste’s independence in 2002 marked the end of centuries of foreign
control. Early post-independence education reforms successfully increased
school enrolments and rebuilt education infrastructure, however, teacher
qualifications and student outcomes have remained poor. The current
Curriculum Reform, initiated in 2013, aims to improve educational quality in
the first six years of schooling by adapting international best practices to the
Timorese context, fundamentally reshaping the curriculum’s approach to
language, content and pedagogy. Located at the intersection of current
debates in the anthropologies of education and international development,
this paper examines how diverse educational actors in Timor-Leste translate
Curriculum Reform policy into practice. The research draws on two months
of ethnographic fieldwork in the capital, Dili, and on the author’s professional
experience as editor of the Curriculum Reform. The key finding is that, while
all actors share a common goal of creating a quality education system that
contributes to Timor-Leste’s development, school and reform staff translate
policy into practice in inconsistent ways. The paper argues that these
inconsistencies are the result of the actors’ divergent visions of education,
their working conditions, and their unequal access to information about the
reform. These factors are compared across the reform pillars of language,
curriculum content, and pedagogy for those who create policy (reform staff)
and those who are tasked with implementing it (school staff).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50
Number of pages63
JournalThe International Education Journal: Comparative Perspective
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Timor-Leste
  • East Timor
  • curriculum reform
  • localization
  • visions of education

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