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


  • Laura Ogden Leiden University


Timor-Leste, curriculum reform, localization, visions of education


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).