Structures, history and hope: A case study of mechanisms that maintain advantage in education


  • Alan Male Massey University


International partners must always realise that local education systems interact with local social environments. Local perspectives are active agents in shaping the effectiveness of educational change. Underlying cultural, symbolic and social structures set the elastic limits of change and impact the formulation and implementation of policy arrangements. This paper evaluates the results of educational reforms in Samoa aimed at changing the patterns of advantage in the education system. It examines the social and political environment in which the reform package was developed and implemented focusing on the dispositions of different social actors. It analyses the lack of change in the patterns of advantage. It argues that underlying social assumptions meant key change options were not included in the package resulting in the reproduction of the structure of inequity. Formulating effective educational change strategies requires the partners to link technical developments to change in the replication of social and symbolic environments.

Author Biography

Alan Male, Massey University

Alan Male has been involved in education for over 30 years. He joined NZQA in 1990 after being a secondary school teacher and then moved into international education development consultancy in 1998.  He has provided educational consultancy in a number of countries including Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Bangladesh.  His activities in Samoa included assisting with the reformation of the secondary school curriculum, institutional strengthening in the Ministry of Education and expanding the capacity of secondary schools to support the reformed secondary system. His doctoral study has examined changes in the patterns of access and achievement in secondary education in Samoa resulting from the 1995-2005 reforms.