1 Magul

Writing Abstracts For Dissertations In Education

These pages show two examples of typical abstracts from honours theses. Notice that the stages of the abstracts have been labelled, so that you can see the function of each sentence or part-sentence. You can also see that there are differences in the type of information that is included in each abstract, as well as differences in level of detail.

Sample 1: Genetic Mechanisms and Dissemination of Antibiotic Resistance


(Background statement) The spread of antibiotic resistance is aided by mobile elements such as transposons and conjugative plasmids. (Narrowing statement) Recently, integrons have been recognised as genetic elements that have the capacity to contribute to the spread of resistance. (Elaboration of narrowing) (statement) Integrons constitute an efficient means of capturing gene cassettes and allow expression of encoded resistance. (Aims) The aims of this study were to screen clinical isolates for integrons, characterise gene cassettes and extended spectrum b-lactamase (ESBL) genes.  (Extended aim) Subsequent to this, genetic linkage between ESBL genes and gentamicin resistance was investigated.  (Results) In this study, 41 % of multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria and 79 % of extended-spectrum b-lactamase producing organisms were found to carry either one or two integrons, as detected by PCR.  (Results)  A novel gene cassette contained within an integron was identified from Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, encoding a protein that belongs to the small multidrug resistance (SMR) family of transporters. (Results)  pLJ1, a transferable plasmid that was present in 86 % of the extended-spectrum b-lactamase producing collection, was found to harbour an integron carrying aadB, a gene cassette for gentamicin, kanamycin and tobramycin resistance and a blaSHV-12 gene for third generation cephalosporin resistance. (Justification of results) The presence of this plasmid accounts for the gentamicin resistance phenotype that is often associated with organisms displaying an extended-spectrum b-lactamase phenotype.

(Jones 2004, p.9)

Sample 2: Permeable Treatment Walls 


(Background statement)  A review of groundwater remediation in use today shows that new techniques are required that solve the problems of pump and treat, containment and in-situ treatment.  (Narrowing statement) One such technique is the method that involves the use of permeable treatment walls.  (Elaboration) These methods use a reactive medium such as iron to remediate contaminated groundwater.  (Aim*) Several methods of implementing this remediation strategy have been described.  (Elaboration of aim) These methods include injection and trenching.  (Specific focus of aim) The use of a funnel and gate system via a trench has been examined in detail (Methods) using a groundwater modelling option of the FLAC program.  (Methods) The modelling involved an analysis of the effect of changing the lengths of the walls and gate, varying the permeability, and varying the number of gates.  (Results) The results showed that increasing the wall length, gate length and permeability increases the size of the plume captured.  (Key result) An important factor in designing the walls is the residence time of the water in the gate or the contact time of the contaminant with the reactive media.  (Evaluation of results) A sensitivity analysis has been conducted that shows that increasing the size of the capture zone decreases the residence time (Limitations) which will limit the design.  (Future applications and research) The results of the modelling and sensitivity analysis are presented such that they can be used as an aid to the design of permeable treatment walls.

(Dasey G. 1996 p.i) 

 *  This is the aim of the research, but it is not very clearly stated.  It might be better if the aim was made more explicit.

Sample 3: The Effects of Flouride on the Reproduction of Three Native Australian Plant Species

Note: This abstract is referred to as an Executive Summary (original 2 pages)

(Background statement) No other form of environmental pollution has had as widespread detrimental effect on the growth and reproductive capacity of plants as air pollution. (Narrowing statement) Fluorides have long been recognized as highly toxic and research has shown that they are the most phytotoxic of all air pollutants. (Elaboration of narrowing statement) One of the most subtle impacts of fluoride on plant development is on their reproductive processes… There has been very little work directed towards forest trees, and especially native Australian species. (Broad purpose of study) An understanding of the effects of fluoride on the reproductive processes of plant species within a forest community may help predict changes within the community following an increase in atmospheric fluoride arising from industrial sources.

(Narrowing of purpose of study) This study investigates the effects of increased atmospheric fluoride emissions from an aluminium smelter, on the reproductive processes of three native species, Banksia aemula, Bossiaea heterophylla and Actinotus helianthi. Elaboration of purpose Attention has also been paid to the soil seed reserve as an important resource for the replacement of adult plants within the community.

(Results) For Banksia aemula the study found that the reproduction of this fluoride-sensitive species may be affected in the close vicinity of the smelter… For the two ground layer species the study found that the fluoride may be affecting the Bossiaea heterophylla but having no discernible or very little effect on the Actinotus helianthi.**

(Significance of results 1) The implications of these results for the forest community are that sensitive native species such as the long-lived Banksia aemula and Bossiaea heterophylla will be removed from the plant community close to the smelter. This will reduce the resources they provide to the existing ecosystem but will, however, free more resources for the more resistant opportunist species such as Actinotus helianthi as well as the many introduced species. (Significance of results 2) The soil seed reserve study indicated that the seed reserve was very small in all areas. This would have several negative impacts on the natural regeneration of the area in the event of the closure of the smelter…

(Future research) Further research is recommended to assess the biochemical pathways for both the vegetative and reproductive processes and the mechanisms of the pollination of this important species… This may need to be repeated at certain intervals to monitor any further changes that may result from the higher fluoride emissions of the new expansion.

Exercise for sample 3

The abstract (executive summary) above has been summarised to focus on key stages. Some of the omitted text is reproduced below. Can you identify the stages?

  1. The effects of the fluoride for the forest species were assessed by measuring several reproductive and associated characteristics of the plants found within forest areas along a fluoride gradient. 
  1. Bossiaea heterophylla shows more visible signs of fluoride stress close to the smelter. Insect damage to the Bossiaea heterophylla seed pods were observed in the background sites but not in the high fluoride sites indicating that the fluoride may be having an effect on the seed predators close to the smelter. 
  1. This study looked at the difference in visible structures associated with reproduction. Leaves of the Banksia aemula trees growing close to the smelter have accumulated large concentrations of foliar fluoride. Whether this is affecting the physiology and biochemical processes of the plan(which in turn may indirectly affect the reproduction potential of the plants) or the increased fluoride in the atmosphere is directly affecting the reproduction mechanisms is difficult to ascertain from this study.

Dissertation abstracts

Selected dissertation abstracts relating to education in the following small states

  • Maldives by Abdulla Zameer, EdD 2010
  • Papua New Guinea by Guy le Fanu, EdD 2011
  • Turks & Caicos Islands by Beatrice Fulford, EdD 2008
  • Armenia by Terra Sprague, MEd 2008
  • Cyprus by Harris Hadjithemistos, MEd 2008
  • Turks & Caicos Islands by Herbert Fulford, EdD 2008
  • Botswana by Nkobi Owen Pansiri, EdD 2008
  • Cayman Islands and Monserrat by Graham Fisher, PhD 2004
  • The Gambia by Mark James, PhD 2003
  • St Lucia by Keith Holmes, PhD 2002
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines by George Bristol, MEd 2003
  • Papua New Guinea by Willy Yamuna Ako, EdD 2002
  • Solomon Islands by Glynn Galo, EdD 2001
  • Papua New Guinea by Thomas Kuli Webster, EdD 1997
  • Fiji by Akhila Nand Sharma, EdD 1995
  • Botswana by Gabatshwane Taka Tsayang, EdD 1995
  • St Lucia by Calliopa Pearlette Louisy, PhD 1993
  • Trinidad and Tobago by Michele Mills, PhD 2013


Exploring Leadership in Primary Schools in the Maldives: A Local Perspective

Abdulla Zameer, Graduate School of Education, EdD Student (2010)

This study offers an understanding of primary school head leadership in the Maldives, following an exploration of their perspectives and practices. More specifically, the study examines the relationship between the Head Teacher’s espoused leadership aspirations and accounts of their practice, what these practices are in reality, and asks the question, ‘What are the implications for ‘leadership’ when espoused theories and headship actions do not coincide?’

This study, the first of its kind on primary school head leadership in the Maldives, employs a qualitative approach. It uses biographical data and semi-structured interviews to understand the meanings school principals attribute to leadership, their actions, and the dilemmas they face as they operate in the public schooling sector. I also draw upon documentary evidence from school logs, school handbooks, personal diaries and memos.

The findings reveal that the principals readily associate leadership with concepts and theories of leadership that are prevalent in contemporary literature on educational management and leadership. These concepts include a sense of vision and goals, engaging the emotions of individuals in the organisation, involving others through a participative approach, relationship building, and responding to the challenges arising from the context. However, the data suggests that the Primary School Heads do not engage themselves in the perceived definitions of leadership. Rather, their definitions and concepts of leadership are largely rhetorical and barely deployed in practice.

It is argued in this thesis that the gap between their philosophical understandings and pragmatic reality is largely a product of the context that confines their practices to the particular social-political setting they are placed in. The role of school head is structured by more managerial modes of engagement imposed on them, so that their leadership actions are not guided by strong democratic principles based on a personal philosophy or a theoretical foundation expressed in literature. Instead, their practices tend towards fragmented, dysfunctional engagements as part of their bureaucratic obligations, stakeholder’s expectations, and personal goals and aspirations.

In conclusion, this study raises concerns over the quality of their leadership and its implications for schools in the local context. Several suggestions are put forward in this study for training and to improve policy practised in terms of school leadership in the Maldives.

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The transposition of inclusion: an analysis of the relationship between curriculum practice and curriculum prescription in Papua New Guinea.

Guy le Fanu, Graduate School of Education, EdD Student (2011)

Guy's doctoral research focuses on the implementation of the new national curriculum in Papua New Guinea, a curriculum which is intended to promote inclusive education for students who at present are either marginalised within the education system or excluded from the education system altogether. The research explores the extent to which the new curriculum is being implemented in schools and the various factors explaining its implementation/ non-implementation. His research not only involves documentary analysis but carrying out a case study of two rural primary schools in theEastern Highlands. The primary purpose of the research is to identify the barriers to and opportunities for inclusive education in Papua New Guinea and other developing countries, and to identify ways in which governments and international development organisation can overcome these barriers and make best use of these opportunities. However, the research also seeks to identify ways in which ethnographers can sensitively, insightfully and ethically research complex and unfamiliar social worlds.

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Factors impacting upon teacher recruitment and retention in small states with particular reference to the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Beatrice Louise Fulford, Graduate School of Education, EdD Student (2008)

Globally, education systems are threatened by teacher shortages at a time when the demand for teachers is steadily increasing, and expectations of improved quality in education delivery and outcomes are higher than ever.  This has repercussions for small states that are already challenged by scarce human resources.  A country's inability to provide a steady supply of appropriately trained and experienced teachers threatens not only its education sector, but also the sustainability of its social and economic development.

In the light of insights derived from the related theoretical literature, this study seeks to identify those factors that impact upon teacher recruitment and retention in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI), a UK Overseas Territory.  The study largely adopts the methodological orientation of the interpretive/hermeneutic paradigm, but employs both qualitative and quantitative approaches to data collection.  These are supplemented by a review of primary and secondary source documents.  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a cross section of education personnel and students within the TCI.  A purpose-built questionnaire was also administered to teachers who had served in the TCI Teaching Service (TCITS), but had left, or were about to leave.

The findings suggest that, locally, many young school leavers are not attracted to teaching because the profession currently suffers from al loss of prestige, student indiscipline, and low salaries and other disincentives.  The findings also suggest that  teachers are not being retained at satisfactory rates due to unfavourable teachers' personal circumstances, a poor image of the profession, lack of training and professional development opportunities, limited involvement in decision-making processes, challenges with school leadership and other staff relations, and student indiscipline.  Collectively, these make teaching unappealing and challenge teacher recruitment and retention policies and practices.

Simultaneously, opportunities in more appealing and lucrative professional fields are expanding, and are attracting the kind of knowledge, skills and attitudes that teachers possess.  The findings also draw attention to the negative impact that the departure of teachers from the classroom has on students' learning and overall development.

The research has distinctive implications for policy and practice in the Turks & Caicos Islands and other small states.  These implications, and those for the related theoretical literature, for capacity building in small states, and for future research are explored in the conclusions.

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EFL teachers'  perceptions and understandings of the unified school-leaving and university-entrance examination policy in the small, transitional state of Armenia

Terra L Sprague, Graduate School of Education, MEd Student (2008)

In a rapidly changing educational setting influenced by global and economic forces, the small transitional state of Armenia is implementing changes to its pupil assessment policy, including the introduction of a Unified School-leaving and University-entrance Examination.  This holistic, qualitative study investigates the Unified Examination Policy through the lens of teachers of English as a Foreign Language by seeking to identify their perceptions and understandings of this new policy, as implemented during the 2007-2008 academic year.

The study includes a theoretical literature review, critical documentary analysis and empirical fieldwork carried out in Armenia.  The fieldwork component consists of observation, semi-structured interviews and a focus group.  These dimensions involve a total of ten teachers and 11 additional stakeholders.  The study additionally benefits from the author's experiential knowledge gained from three years of professional work in Armenia as a teacher trainer.

The findings show that, while teachers share a positive opinion of the new Unified Examination Policy, they feel the pressure of heightened stakes and there is early evidence of backwash effects of examination standardisation which have significant cultural implications.  The findings also reveal internal contradictions within the Unified Examination Policy and external contradictions between this and other current education policies in Armenia.  Conflict between small states and transitional states contexts is highlighted, bringing an interesting dimension to the study and offering lessons for policy makers.

Conclusions both support and challenge existing theoretical literature relating to large-scale, high-stakes examinations and small states.  Future research that builds upon the study could help to better understand the backwash effects of the new Unified Examination and to assess to what extent it may impact upon Armenia's group culture and oral heritage.

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Maintaining identity in a globalisation world:  the case of the small state of Cyprus

Harris Hadjithemistos, Graduate School of Education, MEd Student (2008)

This study investigates the case of the small state of Cyprus relating to the debates about education and identity in a globalised world.  It argues that incorporating global values and agendas into the local education system might prove dangerous for the well grounded national identity of the island and the culture of its people.  However, it further argues that learning from various other sources and mobilising local resources, knowledge and expertise can help the island mediate external pressures and interventions and achieve change that is best suited to its cultural realities and conditions.

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Human resource management and staff performance appraisal in small states:  a case study of the Turks & Caicos Islands

Hubert Fulford, Graduate School of Education, EdD Student (2008)

This dissertation examines the impact that Human Resource Management (HRM) strategies and Staff Performance Appraisal Systems (SPAS) have on public sector organisations.  The available literature suggests that, while there are strong advocates of SPAS, a number of critics also challenge such initiatives.  Three bodies of international literature are reviewed to provide a theoretical framework for the study.  These are related to:  international and comparative research, HRM, and education and development in small states.

In the light of the literature reviews, the research adopts a multi-layered approach for a case study of the SPAS in the Public Service of the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI).  By examining recent initiatives pursued in the TCI, this study clarifies the ways in which SPAS strategies have been used to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the public service, along with the constraints that these new initiatives have encountered.  The time period covered for the case study deals with the implementation of two phases of SPAS, implemented from 1993 and 2003 respectively.  Two major research strategies were employed for the empirical part of the study.  The first, as indicated above, was to adopt a case study framework.  Secondly, a mixed methods approach to data collection was employed.  Data were collected from local TCI archives, from published and un-published reports, from qualitative interviews and from questionnaires administered to senior government officials in the TCI as well as staff they supervise.  Field work was also carried out in Jamaica and Saint Lucia where qualitative interviews were undertaken with senior personnel involved in HRM.

Findings suggest that SPS can be empowering instruments in human resource development, but their operation, in practice, can be both problematic and a very time consuming exercise.  Moreover the study suggests that, often, staff appraisal exercises are not accorded the level of attention they deserve.  This constraint is particularly evident in small states where administrators often have multifunctional roles.

Conclusions identify implications for policy and practice in the TCI, and for the theoretical literature related to HRM and educational development in small states.  At the broadest level, the study cautions against the uncritical international transfer of policies and practices, and highlights the importance of HRM strategies being carefully tailored to local cultural and contextual conditions.

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School retention in basic education: a rural ethnic minority case study in Botswana

Nkobi Owen Pansiri, Graduate School of Education, EdD Student (2008)

Low retention in basic education in Botswana particularly in rural ethnic minority areas is a complex educational issue.  This study aims at identifying dominant factors and discourses that shape the behaviour of children and their commitment towards schooling.  The research is being carried out in two linked schools (primary and junior secondary) in the remote areas of the North West District in Botswana.  I draw my frame of reference from theories of ethnocentrism and social reproduction.  Ethnocentrism is applied to explore the place of indigenous knowledge in educational policies and practices - and how this impacts on behaviours of both parents and pupils towards schooling.  Education and social reproduction, is used to explore the implications of educational policies and practices at the school level.  Literature from both Western and African perspectives shows that school retention is still an unexplained educational problem.  This affects children from poor families and minorities more than the rich and dominant social groups.  Much literature has identified, policy related issues, in-school and out of school factors that contribute to low school retention. From the African perspective, common in-school factors are associated with perceived deficiencies in school cultures, guidance and teaching;  whereas out-of-school issues relate to health, indigenous culture and the low socio-economic status of parents. Most previous studies have used traditional research methodologies focused upon attitudinal assessments of children, teachers and parents. Many studies have taken hegemonic stances in which early school leavers are criticised for their decisions to disengage from schooling. There is, however, a growing critique of such methodologies, because they do not help to generate a clear and field-based understanding of the problems of low retention. There, therefore, is a renewed call for research that accommodates the ‘voice’ of the affected children. It is argued that client-based narratives could lead to the formulation of improved evidence-based educational policy making, which may make research more relevant for practitioners and specific contexts.

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The potential and limitations of post-compulsory education in the overseas territories of the UK, with particular reference to the Cayman Islands and Montserrat

Graham Fisher, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished PhD (2004)

The UK Overseas Territories face many similar development challenges to those encountered by small states:  scale and isolation;  economic, political, social, environmental and cultural vulnerability;  the impact of rapid globalisation;  the implications of information and communications technologies;  and the growing importance of high skills economies.  Many writers argue that if small states are to fully utilise their limited human resources to cope with these challenges, take part in any global sharing and communication of knowledge, and exercise greater control over their own destiny, then the expansion of post-compulsory education is vital.  Despite the progress of the past 40 years, many small states nevertheless rely heavily upon external control and provision of post-compulsory education.

For the UK Overseas Territories these problems become more complex given their micro scale and constitutional status.  The UK Government is seeking to improve local government, increase local autonomy and economic self-sufficiency and end support to the territories, at a time of falling birth rates and increased migration for some of them.

This research adopts a combination of comparative and qualitative research strategies, and draws upon literature from the fields of international and comparative education, small states research and post-compulsory education. Existing work on the Overseas Territories is reviewed and focus is placed on a critical analysis of trends in policy and practice and an exploration of the potential and limitations for post-compulsory education in these contexts.  Detailed case studies of the Cayman Islands and Montserrat form the original fieldwork component of the research.  Implications for future policy and practice within the territories are examined in detail and broader conclusions are drawn concerning the related theoretical and methodological literature and priorities for future research.

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Evaluating rural primary education development programmes in low income countries:  a comparative study of the nature and process of evaluatory activities and their role in improving quality

Mark James, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished PhD (2003)

There is a powerful international rhetoric concerned with the need for education, at present focused on the target of universal primary schooling.  The quality of that schooling has, however, been a subsidiary target, often poorly defined, and in reality seldom well implemented.  This study starts from the premise that this is a major weakness in the drive for Universal Primary Education, and investigates how to improve learning and teaching in low income country rural primary school systems.

An initial hypothesis is that an important route to better educated children is the quality of the evaluative activities that are used by the actors at various levels of the system.  Drawing on three bodies of research literature, concerned with donor supported country systems, classroom interaction, and evaluation, this dissertation tests the theory that failure to weave insights from all three perspectives together, when formulating policies, is a root cause of poor results.

The research applies a comparative case study approach, drawing on fieldwork in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, The Gambia and Tanzania, where donor funded programmes are being implemented.

The methodological orientation of the study is critical/hermeneutic, and though not formally collaborative, accepts as given the aims and objectives of the programmes under study.  In tune with the philosophy of illuminating what was happening in the programme, findings were shared with actors observed or interviewed.  Data are qualitative, consisting of classroom observation, semi-structured interviews and local documentation.

The study’s findings apply Riddell’s (1999) concepts of programme and evaluation capacity building success.  The analysis explores and compares issues within the levels of each system that support, challenge, or constrain attempts to improve teaching and learning.  The findings suggest that the school improvement paradigm holds real possibilities for quality improvement if evaluative activities are developed, not on their own, but as part of improved professionalism at teacher and administrative levels.

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Whose knowledge for educational development?  Research capacity in small states, with special reference to St Lucia

Keith Holmes, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished PhD (2002)

In recent years, governments, development agencies and civil society organisations have prioritised education. Strengthening ‘research capacity’ is high on their agendas in the global ‘knowledge economy’. Yet, while efforts to strengthen research capacity are underway worldwide, established modalities of social and educational research are being criticised for not contributing enough to the improvement of policy and practice. Indeed, orthodox modalities of social and educational research are widely challenged for not being suited to contemporary needs in the ‘North’ or the ‘South’.

Dilemmas arising from the uncritical international transfer of educational policies and practices are well documented in the subject field of international and comparative education. The cross-cultural transfer of research agendas, methodologies and paradigms is also problematic. For example, attempts to strengthen research capacity in the South often draw uncritically upon Euro-American modalities of research. This raises questions about how knowledge for educational development is produced and whose interests are served. These questions are critically explored here through an analysis of discourses relating to knowledge for educational development and ‘research capacity’ in small states, with special reference to St Lucia in the Caribbean.

A postcolonial analytical framework is developed from two bodies of theoretical literature. The first of these relates to knowledge, development and postcolonialism. The second relates to contemporary debates about the nature and purpose of social and educational research. Consistent with a postcolonial perspective, the case study of St Lucia utilises and tests a collaborative research methodology. Data from observations, interviews, focus groups and documentary sources are analysed in the interpretative tradition. Critical perspectives and themes emerge which highlight the complex interrelationships between cultures, research capacity and knowledge for educational development. Finally, implications for social and educational research in St Lucia, the Commonwealth Caribbean, other small states, metropolitan countries, and for the related policy and theoretical literature are considered.

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Education policy priorities for the small states of the eastern Caribbean, with special reference to St Vincent and the Grenadines

George Bristol, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished MEd (2003)

This study examines the extent to which currently powerful international themes and agendas, promoted by the World Bank and other multi-lateral institutions, have impacted education policy priorities in the small nation-states of the Eastern Caribbean.

The study is conducted within the critical hermeneutics tradition and employs the method of documentary analysis in an intrinsic case study of St Vincent and the Grenadines.  A theoretical framework, which is developed in chapter two, guides the study.  It examines how the intensification of globalisation, combined with currently powerful agendas of multi-lateral developmental institutions, continue to create new and important challenges for education development in the Eastern Caribbean nation-states.

The study reveals that these small economies have turned to regionalisation and functional co-operation in an attempt to better prepare their citizens to take greater advantage of emerging global economic opportunities.  Functional co-operation provides mechanisms through which many of the unique and often problematic features of these small nation-states (now aggravated by the intensification of globalisation), could be more adequately addressed.  It also provides the platform from which OECS education reforms were initiated and co-ordinated, and through which the financial and technical assistance needed to realise the reforms were negotiated.

The analysis of the emerging education policy priorities, both at the local and sub-regional level reveal that, although the identification of these priorities benefits significantly from public inputs throughout the sub-region, they nonetheless show significant resemblance to many of the currently powerful themes promoted by development agencies such as the World Bank.  The analyses also reveal that local and sub-regional education policy-makers adapted many of these themes to suit their particular educational and developmental needs.  However, local and sub-regional education reforms were not limited to the narrow economic view of education promoted mainly by the World Bank.  These reforms incorporated important cultural components into local and sub-regional educational provisions which were geared towards the empowerment of the ‘Ideal Caribbean Person’.  Local adaptation of currently powerful global education themes and agendas is visible in the practice of educational policy-makers in St Vincent and the OECS, which demonstrates a strengthening of the existing dialectic of the global, the local and sub-regional.

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Factors affecting the formulation and implementation of the 1993 educational reform in Papua New Guinea

Willy Yamuna Ako, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished EdD (2002)

This study investigates the policy-making and implementation of educational reforms in developing countries, and more specifically the nature and implementation of the 1993 Educational Reform in Papua New Guinea.  The study focused on the achievements and problems of this reform in the light of praise, from both the government of Papua New Guinea and the international donor agencies, that contrasts with the criticism from local stakeholders, such as teachers, children and parents.

The empirical part of the study was conducted at the national and provincial education offices in Port Moresby and Mendi, and in two case study primary schools in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.  Thirty key informants participated in the fieldwork.  The research strategy is largely hermeneutic and interpretive in nature.  It involved gathering, transcribing and interpreting data from a variety of sources, including document analysis, structured and unstructured interviews, observations and field notes.

The findings indicate that the reform initiative ‘mirrors’ the Jomtien Conference (1990) agendas and the aims of the Papua New Guinea Educational Sector Study (1991).  Both the Conference and the Sector Study were initiated and sponsored by the donor agencies.  The study reveals that the reform was largely centrally designed and the ability to fund it rests with the donor agencies.  The input and resources of the donor agencies thus outweigh those of the Papua New Guinea government.  It is argued that this resulted in the donor agencies being able to significantly influence the nature and implementation of the reform  This reflects theoretical literature that suggests that donor agencies are too influential in research, policy-making and implementation concerning educational reforms in many developing countries.  Data from the provincial and school levels in Papua New Guinea suggest that local personnel were not consulted with respect to the policy-making process.  This has inhibited the effective implementation, practicality and ownership of the reform by the local people.

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The management and leadership roles of Solomon Islands headteachers:  perceptions, priorities and practices

Glynn Galo, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished EdD (2001)

The study examines the relevance of the international literature relating to school management and leadership for policy and practice in the Solomon Islands.  This is done with reference to two detailed case studies of community high schools in the Solomon Islands.  Detailed ethnographic fieldwork was carried out in these schools during 1999.  Focus was placed on identifying headteachers’ perceptions, priorities and practices in the arena of management and leadership.  Findings from the Solomon Islands’ fieldwork are compared and contrasted with key issues identified in the international literature.

Seven key themes emerged from the study and form the basis for the conclusions.  These explore the implications of the study for:  a) educational policy and practice in the Solomon Islands;  and b) the critique of the related international literature.  Above all, the study suggests that the uncritical international transfer of western management concepts and ideas can be wrought with much difficulty, if it is not anchored effectively enough to contextual realities and experiences.  The dissertation also highlights the need for context specific headteacher training in the Solomon Islands;  and for more relevant research of this nature to be conducted by local personnel if we are to better determine the needs of the headteachers in differing national and cultural contexts.

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International and national influences on universal primary education policies, with specific reference to Papua New Guinea

Thomas Kuli Webster, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished EdD (1997)

The study examines factors that have shaped policies for the universalisation of primary education in developing countries with specific reference to Papua New Guinea (PNG).  It explores the premise that ideas generated in international policy research influence and shape the educational priorities of developing countries.  A review of the related literature highlights the dominance of international donor agencies, particularly in directing the policy discourse that influences decisions on educational problems and possible solutions.  It is argued that many such policy prescriptions are increasingly seen to be contextually irrelevant and do not reflect the priorities articulated in context.  Nor can they be successfully implemented in the varying situations encountered.  A case study of universal primary education (UPE) policy formulation in PNG is undertaken to analyse critically the extent of international and national influences in the light of the theoretical review.

The case study analysis focuses on three contexts of influence:  the shaping of ideas;  the production of policy texts;  and the implementation of UPE policy.  In the context of influence, the study examines how national and international influences have competed for dominance in PNG.  In the second context, two key policy texts are analysed:  the Education For all (EA) Plan, where an international consultant was engaged;  and a more home-grown Education Sector Study.  Finally, the context of practice is explored, largely through reflections on experiential knowledge, qualitative interviews with senior administrative officers from the PNG National Department of Education and three provincial education administrators, and a brief survey of provincial education administrators.

In the light of the PNG research, a reconsideration of the theoretical literature relating to the concepts of UPE and the effect on policy choices is carried out.  A strong case is also made for the conduct and analysis of policy research in PNG and other developing countries.

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Management of the Vocational Education and Training Programme (VETP) in Fijian secondary schools

Akhila Nand Sharma, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished EdD (1995)

In the light of the international literature on the educational change process and that relating more directly to vocational education and training in developing countries, this dissertation examines the management of the Fijian Vocational Education and Training Programme (VETP) in selected secondary schools.  This is a two-year programme for early school-leavers and offers four courses:  Automotive Engineering;  Carpentry and Joinery;  Tailoring, Food and Catering;  and Secretarial Studies.  The study addresses three key questions:  a) what is the nature of the Fijian innovation;  b) how does it relate to similar initiatives in other developing countries; and c) how are its initiation, implementation and institutionalisation processes being managed?

Theoretical and conceptual frameworks derived from the international literature on the management of planned educational change (Fullan 1991) are adopted for the Fijian study.  This literature identifies three phases in the change process:  initiation;  implementation;  and institutionalisation.  Applying this framework for analysis, this investigation involves the study of change agents, users, the nature of innovation and internal and external environmental factors associated with the Fijian VETP.

The theoretical perspective that underpins the methodology and the data-collecting methods of this study is drawn from the phenomenological and qualitative case-study research literature.  An attempt is made to understand the management of the Fijian VETP from the perspectives of those involved in it at the Ministry of Education headquarters and in two case-study schools.  The data-collecting methods emphasise participant observation, in-depth interviewing and documentary analysis.

Based on the fieldwork findings, the study argues that:  a) the VET innovation is regarded by its clients as a second best option to mainstream education and that it receives less attention by policy-practitioners and members of the school community.  This is consistent with similar initiatives in many other developing countries;  b) the successful implementation of an innovation depends largely on its characteristics;  c) a Fijian secondary school context is not suitable for a separate stream of VET, although vocational education could be more effectively provided as a familiarisation programme in the mainstream secondary school curriculum;  d) the relevant international literature is helpful in studying, understanding and improving the management of educational innovations, although its relevance for developing country context and their incorporation in this body of international literature would strengthen its relevance significantly;  f) traditional ceremonies and practices, such as ‘talanoa’ and sevusevu’, can be gainfully employed to collect qualitative data in developing countries.

The study concludes by exploring various implications for Fijian educational policy-makers and practitioners and for the international literature on the management of education change.  Areas for further research are also identified.

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An evaluation of community involvement in the implementation of the Community Junior Secondary School Partnership Policy (CJSSPP):  case studies in Botswana

Gabatshwane Taka Tsayang, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished EdD (1995)

This study is an evaluation of community involvement in the implementation of the Community Junior Secondary School Partnership Policy (CJSSPP) in Botswana.  This is carried out in the light of the argument that once government becomes involved in locally initiated projects in Botswana, community interest wanes.  The dissertation looks in detail at the experience of the six case study schools and argues that policy makers must better understand how policy is interpreted and implanted, if they are to improve their own potential to change educational practice.

The conceptual framework adopted for the study is drawn from a critical review of literature relating to community involvement in education in both developed and developing countries.  Secondly, the methodological underpinning of the study is derived largely from comparative and international orientations to research that draws attention to the importance of detailed qualitative fieldwork, and the observation and analysis of educational practice in context.  The study, therefore, documents various participants’ interpretation of the CJSSPP in six carefully selected community schools located in the Central District of Botswana

Data were primarily gathered through semi-structured, in-depth interviews;  through detailed observations;  and through the collection and analysis of relevant documentary evidence.  The findings of this study reveal that while board of governor members had a poor understanding of the partnership policy (and this constrained implementation), the professionals and policy-makers did little to help them understand it.  Evidence also indicated that, besides lay governor members, many professionals and policy-makers do not understand what is required for the success of their own policy in practice.  The use of a talent bank, an obligatory contribution of resources by the community and the training of all those involved in the partnership are suggested as possible ways to improve understanding and the chances of successful implementation.

The study concludes by drawing attention to more general and theoretical issues that emerge from the Botswana experience, including the value that developing countries can derive from the increased use of qualitative approached in educational research.

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Tertiary education in St Lucia:  implications for small island states

Calliopa Pearlette Louisy, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol - unpublished PhD (1993)

The expansion of tertiary education in small states is both problematic and controversial.  On the one hand, the international literature on small states has generally portrayed them as being constrained by size, remoteness and dependence on external factors.  Their economies have been regarded as open, constrained by a small internal market with limited demand for specialisation, and capable of sustaining only a small modern sector.  This, and the small size of their populations has been used as the rationale for discouraging the development of national tertiary education sectors and for the regional provision of higher education in large groupings of small states.  On the one hand, economic and political pressures are leading small states to challenge this received wisdom and to re-appraise their tertiary education capabilities.  Policies aimed at strengthening national capacity have, thus, re-opened the debate about the credibility and viability of national tertiary level institutions.

In the light of the small-state literature, the thesis critically evaluates recent developments in tertiary education in the two largest groupings of small states – the Caribbean and the South Pacific.  The study is based upon original fieldwork data collected for a detailed case study of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in St Lucia.  A comparative analysis of tertiary provision in the non-campus territories served by the two regional universities – the University of the West Indies and the University of the South Pacific – supplements the case study data.  The analysis identifies factors which have contributed to the establishment of national tertiary level institutions in both regions, and considers the policies that national authorities have adopted for the on-going expansion of in-country provision of tertiary education.

The thesis argues that the development of national tertiary education sectors is primarily motivated by issues of access, cost, control and human resource development needs.  National responses to a wide range of local needs have thus resulted in a multi-level tertiary sector which has the potential to be both politically and economically viable.  In both regions, parallel processes of centralisation and decentralisation are leading, on the one hand, to the establishment of national multi-purpose institutions, and, on the other, to a form of regional provision based on networks of mutually-supporting institutions.  In what can be considered new responses to the challenge of scale, isolation and dependence, small states are consolidating provision at the national level, establishing mechanisms for harmonising policy and practice at the regional level and strengthening international linkages.


Dilemas and dynamics relating to selection for secondary schooling  in Trinidad And Tobago

Michele Mills, Graduate School of Education-PhD (2013)

The high-stakes eleven-plus placement examination has remained a feature of the education systems of many postcolonial Anglophone Caribbean territories. Originally based on a British model, it was introduced to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1961 and was perceived to be the fairest means of allocating the limited number of secondary school places. The expansion of the secondary sector and the achievement of universal secondary education, however, have had little impact on the selection role and societal significance of the examination in the local context.

This qualitative study draws on concepts of cultural and social capital and power, and the theoretical work of sociological and educational researchers such as Bourdieu, Foucault, Bernstein, Dore and Broadfoot, to investigate whose interests are being served by maintaining the selective examination system. This is done with reference to implications that stem from the uncritical transfer of educational and assessment policies and practices to, and within, small states. More specifically, critical discourse analysis, and four detailed school case studies, are employed to examine the extent to which the Trinidad and Tobago eleven-plus reproduces patterns of power and social inequity in practice. In developing the arguments, the study draws upon experiential knowledge based on my own varied professional experience within the Trinidad education system. Metaphor informs the stages of data analysis and allows the voices of the research participants to be foregrounded in the presentation of the data. Additionally, metaphor offers an important bridge that connects the findings with the key theoretical concepts that guide the study.

The findings suggest that students are unequally positioned in terms of access to the cultural, social and linguistic capital that is taken for granted, and indeed required and rewarded, by the examination. It is argued that the linguistic and cultural competence demanded by the examination process requires initial familiarisation within the family and that those students who are better placed, in terms of the quantity and quality of such capital, have a better feel for the game and a significant advantage at the eleven-plus level. These findings are consistent with Bourdieu’s theory that education systems reproduce the unequal distribution of cultural capital and therefore contribute to the reproduction of inequities in the social structure. In concluding, it is argued that the eleven-plus examination symbolises and is located within the power struggles and ideological disconnections that marked its introduction to Trinidad and Tobago in the 1960s.


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