It takes two (or more) to tango: Partnerships within the education sector in Timor-Leste


  • Ritesh Shah University of Auckland


Recent international declarations stress the importance of partnerships between and amongst donors, the state and civil society, in order to improve service delivery and promote qualities of good governance, particularly in key sectors such as education.  However, in conditions of state fragility—where high levels of distrust between and amongst these ‘partners’ may exist; large and often ungovernable flows of assistance are common; and the capacity of state institutions is weak or non-existent—the feasibility of such partnerships must be critically examined. This paper examines these dilemmas within the context of Timor-Leste’s basic education sector, with specific attention paid to how external actors, internal service providers and the Ministry of Education have ‘partnered’ to qualify more than 8,000 teachers through in-service training. The author suggests that donors are increasingly compelled to work within a framework, which presents both practical challenges and deeper ideological conundrums.  Ultimately, the interests of teachers and children are being left behind in the drive for alignment, coordination and harmonisation.

Author Biography

Ritesh Shah, University of Auckland

Ritesh Shah is a PhD student within the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.  His doctoral research focuses on documenting and analysing East Timorese primary teachers’ strategic responses to reforms to the curriculum following the country’s recent independence.  He is a recipient of a 2009 Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship from the Tertiary Education Commission.   He has also worked on a number of research and consultancy projects across the Pacific region.