Global tides, Pacific shores: an exploration of the emerging possibilities of political autonomy in the formation of education policy in the Pacific
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2018 Dr. Nima Sobhani
Since gaining independence, the education landscape throughout Pacific Island nations has changed as a result of both local pressures and global forces, which have included: the evolving legacies of colonialism; changing perspectives on modernisation; the introduction of neoliberal principles in governance; the rise of Asia and the growing economic, cultural and political role that new donors such as China are now playing in the region; shifts in the modus operandi of long-standing donors such as Australia; and, more broadly, rapid globalisation across all aspects of life. More recently, the idea of ‘development partnerships’ has been used to recognise and build on the promises of political autonomy that emerged at the time of independence. This thesis examines how policy actors in three Pacific Island nations (Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu) seek to negotiate the global designs for education reform amidst these complex geopolitical shifts, while remaining determined to exercise political autonomy in line with their local cultural and educational priorities. Methodologically, the thesis adopts a qualitative, interpretive approach, informed by a commitment to prioritising indigenous voices within the context of calls to decolonise educational research. It draws on data from semi-structured interviews with local policy actors concerned with issues relating to educational development, in order to understand the complexities, opportunities and challenges they face in seeking to exercise political autonomy in light of various external pressures. The thesis suggests that while the voices of local policy actors continue to be inhibited by external forces, there is also emerging throughout the region a rejuvenated postcolonial confidence, which offers new possibilities for the exercise of political autonomy in the formation of education policy in the Pacific.
Keywordseducation policy; Pacific Islands; postcolonial studies; politics of development; political autonomy
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