Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Things are somewhat intense here at the Casa Nada...we are on the move......The keys to the new flat were handed over to us today and after lunch we moved about 20 boxes and 30 plants into the new larger apartment. The move should be finished by Friday but one never knows does one.
I am going against the blogging traditional format and posting a large piece which I finished writing today for Education and Post-Colonial Societies.....It is a brief analysis of a document which was written in 1994 about teacher training in Laos..a land I would very much like to visit one day.
I hope someone finds it interesting:

Education and Post Colonial Societies
Assignment 3
“Concept Paper: Primary and Secondary Teacher Education”
Laos 1994

Laos is an impoverished land-locked South-east Asia nation with a population of 5.7 million in 2002, which has struggled with colonial and neo-colonial domination from the 7th Century. Since 1975 it has been a single party communist state with strong ties to the government of Vietnam. From 1954-75 it was a major battle field in the Second Indo-China War and for “nearly a decade, Laos was subjected to the heaviest bombing in the history of warfare, as the United States sought to destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail that passed through eastern Laos.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Laos). Laos began decentralization of the economy and encouragement of private enterprise in 1986 in what is called the policy of New Economic Mechanism (NEM). During the period 1988-2001 the economy experienced 7% average growth. With this opening up to market capitalism came an influx of foreign aid agencies, educational and financial bodies into the country including Sida, U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), The World Bank, CARE, AUSAID, USAID, Oxfam, European Union, the Asian Development Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Laos has no railroads, a rudimentary road system, and limited external and internal telecommunications. Electricity is available in only a few urban areas. Subsistence agriculture accounts for 53% of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. Estimated per capita income in 2002 was only US$310. The average life expectancy in 2002 was 54 years. (http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/laos/laos_brief.html). In June 1995 the National University of Laos was established through the amalgamation of ten existing Higher Education Institutions and a Center of Agriculture.

The document; Concept Paper: Primary and Lower-Secondary Teacher Education: Ministry of Education: Teacher Development Center 1994 Laos, is a brief outline of intentions and definitions in teacher education by a government run education body which is very dependant on international assistance but also desiring to maintain high levels of control over content. The opening section; Educational Roles and Qualities in the New Period comes in the form of “directives” and despite the use of the word “Qualities” the content is divided roughly half and half between goals as single points such as “basic knowledge about the PDR of Lao, Symbols of the country, the national flag…” and general values based instruction such as “the value of work”. It goes on to give directives in regard to the attitudes of the students that are to be sought by teachers. This includes “Abhorrence of enemies of the nation….An avoidance of extravagance and selfishness….The willingness to sacrifice personal interest for the sake of the collective good”. The basic direction of this approach continues through the primary schools years with added ‘core subjects’ of arithmetic, literacy (language unspecified but presumably Lao), hygiene and the continued important value of “willingness to work”. Into the lower-secondary level of education the values continue to be “a love of homeland and nation”, unity and respect for elders and betters, and of course “a strong will to serve the country”. This basically goes on to the upper-secondary level where work roles are “assigned” and the “Active participation in the construction and protection of the nation” begins (Concept Paper 1994: 1-2). There is nothing about self-expression, critical understanding, investigation or problem solving as goals within this section. This section of content does not reflect a system which would “produce individuals capable of investigating and discovering the world around them.” (Tabulawa 2003:20).

The second part of the Concept Paper document describes the new role of teachers in the planned restructuring of education in Laos. This section is particularly interesting as it employs terms from pedagogic methodology which are recognized as radical or revolutionary in their original contexts. Learning by doing, learner centered, life long learning and teachers as facilitators but not instructors are all terms used in the opening few lines of this section. As an example of learner centered pedagogy it is stated in the second point that teachers “must function as psychologists, counsellors and consultants. Students are going through different psychological and psychological stages [sic] and teachers must be sensitive and responsive to these age differences as well as to the individual differences of students” (Concept Paper 1994:2). One interesting point of cultural orientation, although perhaps not surprising if we consider the history of the region, is the adaptation of British English in spelling over the contemporarily more common choice of American (i.e. counsellors). In many places this section of the document seems to almost contradict statements made in the first section directed toward the goals of students. The role of teachers is described in Freire’s terminology as having “shifted from knowledge bankers, knowledge paymasters, and knowledge examiners to facilitators, consultants, lifelong learners and innovators” (emphasis mine. Concept Paper 1994:3). It is stated that “teachers must have an understanding of the nature of social change” (Concept Paper 1994:3) although not done here the nature of the change is perhaps outlined elsewhere in the broader education policy. The paper also acknowledges that “The world has been changing very quickly” (Concept Paper 1994:2) and teachers must be sensitive to this change in order to remain relevant. It seems almost as an acknowledgment of western modernity but one that holds no deeper explanation of that change.

The third section of the Concept Paper is entitled Guidelines and Principles of Teacher Education and it is an outline of the content development of curriculum program as to be followed by teachers. This curriculum number one aim is to address “the priority needs of the Lao P.D.R” (Concept Paper 1994:4) these certainly political ‘needs’ are never stated in the Concept Paper. Under the Nine Principles of Curriculum Development: “The direction of instruction must be top-down and not bottom-up” (Concept Paper 1994:4), although in the previous New Roles for Teachers section the emphasis seemed to be on learner centred education and the deciding role of the child in teaching. Nationalism remains a requirement for teachers as it did for students, and although the banking method was supposedly abandoned on Page 3 of the paper there is still a clear emphasis on tested learning. During the teacher training program 2 of the 18 weeks are given over to testing at the end of the term, so teacher training assessment is not ongoing (Concept Paper 1994:6). In their practice the teacher’s quantitative assessment methods are given as important both for the student’s and their own teaching performance. “Activity based learning” remains a ‘prototype’ of curriculum development as does the contexts of learning through “Application to daily life, and Group learning and group discussion.” (Concept Paper 1994:4). Dewey’s philosophy (School and Society 1907) is perhaps a source for the principle of stressing “a close relationship between school and community.” (Concept Paper 1994:5). The final section of the Concept Paper is a tabulated and calculated brake down of content and time in the new teacher training program. Under the sub-heading of General Characteristics of the Curriculum the main theme seems to be renewal and the promotion of a robust, non-specialized training of student teachers who can “skilfully teach both basic subjects as well as either arts, physical education, or technology.” (Concept Paper 1994:6) after 3 years or 2784 hours of full time training.

The pressures and problems facing Laos on the domestic and world scene are clearly complex and many. Foreign powers recognize the strategic and economic potential of the small nation with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stating:
In the longer term, Laos has many advantages. It shares borders and common interests with Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China, forming what many see as a natural economic growth area of the future. While the domestic market is very small, there are millions of people who live within 100km of Laos’s borders who will generate new market opportunities as transit routes are further developed. Laos is also starting to exploit its natural resource base, particularly in energy production and mining. (http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/laos/laos_brief.html)

Halpin and Troyna, in their thesis on education borrowing policy as legitimation, correctly note that “elected officials and politicians are more likely to be interested in a borrowed policy’s political symbolism than its details’ (Halpin and Troyna 1995:307)” (taken from Jansen 2002:205). Much of the content in the Concept Paper needs to be viewed in the broader historical and political contexts of Laos and the associated nations. Throughout the paper the role and importance of the state is expressed clearly although without a lot of detail. Simultaneous to this is the borrowed content of the paper which is being directed back toward the source cultures which can already be seen to have processed much of the thought behind such terminology as ‘banking knowledge’ and ‘child centered learning’ ‘facilitators, consultants, lifelong learners and innovators’ (if the West has actually broadly adopted these methods is contentious). The dilemma facing the Laotian regime in education and the necessity of aid is summarized in the USAID statement: “The aim is to help the impoverished people of Laos without helping or lending credence to the one-party Communist regime.” (http://www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/countries/one_pagers/laos01a.htm). It can therefore be assumed that the political direction of education would be considered when assessing programs and supporting them. This can spill out into other areas of aid also as Sarnoff states; “Funding and technical assistance agencies have reduced or discontinued funding where they regarded the government uncooperative or unapproachable.” (Sarnoff 1999:264). Considering the above mentioned hopes held by the Australian government of Laos as a source of wealth and access to the surrounding potential markets, the threat of neo-colonial economic imperialism can be seen to be always present. The extensive involvement of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Laos should also give rise to concern over the long-term future of education in the region. Clearly the poverty of Laos is a problem to be overcome but how that is to be done should not be left solely in the hands of these also undemocratic organisations:
The agenda of the World Trade Organisation to turn education into a commodity through the effects of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs in Services (GATS) is alarming (Monteux 2003). This transformational process has already started and will, if it succeeds in its intent, leave one of humankind’s common assets, the right to education, in the hands of profit makers. This has already happened with other basic needs (Desai, 2003). (Dahlström 2003:2)

On the micro scale the depth of innovation in the education policy as outlined in the Concept Paper needs to be seriously reviewed. Once again as is the situation with model borrowing and the donor business, the political landscape determines much of what is acknowledged and allowed. A truly democratic and creative pedagogy in Laos would in many ways contradict the political economy of the State however it also could strengthen the State as it would provide an educated resourceful population of skilled and independent individuals. The long term dynamic power of the State does not so much lie in its rules but in its abilities, as acknowledged by Dahlström when he stated:
If schooling is to be a source of empowering enlightenment rather than an instrument of domesticating indoctrination, its intellectual content must recruit the creative imagination of the growing child. And if the consequences for the local community are to be cultural enrichment and socio-economic progress, rather than debilitating social conflict, cultural demoralization and economic stagnation, an active dialogue is required among the varied perspective of its multiple interest groups. Serpell R (1993). (Dahlström L. 2002:62)

Finally, the document; Concept Paper: Primary and Lower-Secondary Teacher Education: Ministry of Education: Teacher Development Center 1994 Laos, should be seen as a portion of the overall policy. There is little reference to time scale in regards to implementation of policy and this is an important aspect of education development. In order for an educational system to produce individuals capable of recognizing and resisting hegemonic forces of indoctrination and associated atrophy there must be time for structures of dialogue to develop. As outlined in Dahlström’s Post-apartheid teacher education reform in Namibia (2002), time scales can often be long term and ten years to build a counter-hegemonic bloc through dialogue is reasonable. Ongoing rhetoric from any involved party does not accomplish this, nor do inflexible rules, long-term secrecy or restrictions.


Dahlström L. (2003) Critical Practitioner Inquiry and the Struggle over the Preferential Right of Interpretation in the South in forthcoming Educational Action Research.

Dahlström L. (2002) Post-apartheid teacher education reform in Namibia: The struggle between common sense and good sense. Umeå University.

Jansen, Jonathan D. (2002) Political Symbolism as Political Craft: explaining non-reform in South African Education after apartheid. Journal of Education Policy. Volume 17. No. 2, 199-215

Ministry of Education Laos (1994) Concept Paper: Primary and Lower-Secondary Teacher Education: Ministry of Education: Teacher Development Center 1994 Laos

Steiner-Khamsi, Gita. (2000) Transferring Education, Displacing Reforms. In Jurgen Schriewer (ed.) Discourse Formation in Comparative education. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.155-187.

Samoff, Joel (1999) Educational Sector analysis in Africa: limited national control and even less national ownership, International Journal of Educational Development. Volume 19:249-272

Tabulawa, Richard (2003). International Aid Agencies, Learner-centred Pedagogy and Political democratisation: a critique Comparative Education. Volume 29, No. 1: 7-29

Web Sources Cited:

The Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Laos

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/laos/laos_brief.html

USAID website: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/countries/one_pagers/laos01a.htm

Saturday, April 24, 2004

The concert went really well in Skelleftea. We even got a small mention in the local paper (in swedish), mostly for the distance from the concert hall to our homelands (Australia and Senegal). One thing I thought of while in Skelleftea was that the next best thing to travelling to another country is meeting people from other countries. It was great and it looks like I will have some pretty exciting musical activity over the summer (more news will follow when it is all official). Tomorrow night I will be playing at Magnus O's birthday party. It should be interesting and different as I will not have a didgeridoo with me...it's to be mouth organ, jews harp and dembuka as accompanying Magnus N who plays guitar. We practiced tonight and some of it actually sounded pretty good. The rest of the weekend is to be spent packing up the flat and writing a paper on Teacher Education Policy in Laos.......what a varied life I lead.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Antiracist Gala

Today I will be playing a concert in Skelleftea, just north of my home town Umea- I especially like the Bob Marley quote on the poster:
"Until the philosophy which hold one race superior And another Inferior Is finally And permanently Discredited And abandoned - Everywhere is war - Me say war":

Moving House

Today the pace is gathering momentum. There remains only 10 days until we relocate to a new much bigger apartment. We have been living in the present one for 4 years and 3 months…incredible. Prior to this my record of staying at an address was 7 months! Having a child changes things…..One thing of noticeable interest is the amount of stuff a human being can accumulate in a 61 sq. meter space if they live there for 4 years….incredible considering I came to this country with a rucksack and a didgeridoo and now I have half a room filled with boxes and still plenty of stuff waiting to be sorted and packed around the edges of our dwindling living space. The move is booked for the 1st May and it will be quite a weekend with Walpurgis (Valborgsmässoafton) the same weekend and I leaving for Australia 6 days later…….ahhhhh.
Here is an early image of the moving procedure (thrilling stuff):

And here is a picture of something I will miss about his apartment, the mornings in the kitchen with the light (in spring and summer) streaming in:

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"If schooling is to be a source of empowering enlightenment rather than an instrument of domesticating indoctrination, its intellectual content must recruit the creative imagination of the growing child. And if the consequences for the local community are to be cultural enrichment and socio-economic progress, rather than debilitating social conflict, cultural demoralization and economic stagnation, an active dialogue is required among the varied perspective of its multiple interest groups."
Serpell R (1993) quoted in Dahlström L. Post-Apartheid Teacher Education Reform in Namibia 2002:62

Saturday, April 17, 2004

I have taken up again with Bakhtin and...I have begun working through the 3 Volumes of Mikhail Bakhtin: Sage Masters of Modern Thought, edited by Michael E. Gardiner (also responsible for the devastating Dialogics of Critique). So far it has been Vol. 2, (Key Concepts) and I must say I am impressed (I would buy the set if I could come up with the 7500 kronor cost on Bokus). Wlad Godzich "Correcting Kant: Bakhtin and Intercultural Relations" takes me to exactly where I wanted to go with the revision of Kant by Bakhtin. At the risk of copyright infringement I would like to quote a portion of his essay as it is a brilliant summary of the precursory in Bakhtinian Dialogics:

"Bakhtin formulates the notion of aesthetic activity as something modeled on practical activity. Just as the ethical act was called for by the ability of the understanding to provide guidance in some conflict resolution, so aesthetic activity must take up the failure of the theoretical. We should note that the ethical acts derive not from any underlying theory but from a failure of the theoretical gaze and that the act is meant to take the place of theoretical cognition; it has epistemological import. In other words we are beginning to see the relativization of the theoretical. Both the theoretical and the practical are constructivist: the first constructs the world of nature as we would have it, while the second constructs the human world. The aesthetic is meant to bring them together, to complete the one by the other, but there is a crucial difference. The theoretical and the practical are both grounded in a priori and can therefore aspire to some transcendental status (through Reason or its Idea). The aesthetic is, however, grounded in the domain of experience: It experiences the world as the theoretical and the practical have already pre-given it to us; it cannot possibly aspire to a transcendental status; it is caught in the finite; hence, the completion that is effected by the aesthetic act is always provisional, it must always be done all over again. In other words we have an epistemological predicament to which the aesthetic act is a response but one that always allows us to live with our predicament, just as the aesthetic act allows us to engage in political acts in the absence of theoretical justification."
Wlad Godzich?Correcting Kant: Bakhtin and Intercultural Relations in Mikhail Bakhtin: Sage Masters of Modern Thought Vol.2 pp8-9

The "beginning of relativization of the theoretical" I see as the beginning of the formation of Post-modernist thought whereby the monologue of Reason is challenged as discourse. Considering this as what the Bakhtin Circle was doing in the 1920's gives some idea of the breadth and scope of intellectual circles in St. Petersburg following the 1917 revolution. Godzich even states in the same essay that "The Circle....lived as a sort of commune from 1919 to 1926".

Another piece of reading I've undertaken today was an article by famed Australian thinker and feminist Germaine Greer on a theme discussed in Jill.txt last year: The Australian Diaspora...which goes away but won't go away I suppose you could say.....One million of us have left the land of Oz and more are following....amazing really! Will we be the first post-colonial land to empty itself voluntarily? Will there be a farewell ceremony at La Perouse when the last boat of whites leaves the land to the care of what remains of the traditional owners? Probably not....................

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Silas Turns Four

Today is my son’s birthday. Four years since he first emerged into our lives...its been 'ballistic' according to my wife....I can't really describe it.....life changing I suppose....Anyway, here is a picture of him this morning after we woke him with Happy Birthday in Swedish and English, a cake, grapes, a drink and three presents. One from us, one from his Gran in Australia and one from his Auntie, Uncle and cousin also in Australia. This last one was a Spider Man costume and it was an immediate hit with him. He put it on and cake eating, Lego building, drinking, singing and playing with the cat all began at once.......Happy Birthday Silas and many more to come mate :)

Monday, April 12, 2004

Playing on a Boat

The Easter brake comes along at such a time as it is most needed. A few days of rest and eating (perhaps not the original intention of the church fathers but...) has given me a new lease on life. This combined with the warming weather I am actually singing to myself as I negotiate the slowly disappearing mounds of snow scattered around our neighborhood.
With the advent of spring comes the music season and I have just spent a few hours practicing with a new friend from Senegal. He plays djembe, the large bell-like drum from West Africa. This could be the beginning of a larger project with a few other mutual friends being discussed for the formation of a large world fusion type band. At the moment we will be playing here at 7pm on 21 April, and perhaps in this boat cafe over the summer:

Saturday, April 10, 2004

At last I have managed to find a website where I can easily upload images...having tried the web space provided by my ISP which was chaos...then the free space provided by Passagen which also failed to work and now I’ve gone for the unglamorously titled Freewebspace.com which was easy, direct and works!!!!!
In this process I came across the online essays I wrote for a C level assessment last year. It was special project run by the English Department at Umea University where students had to build a 3D world online around the themes dealt with in four essays. Our group theme was Making Realities and it saw the start of my active participation in the digital humanities...something that still really interests and excites me. Here is the site for the essays called Strategies for Golden Realities.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I am trying to set up an image server for this blog and it is proving to be a trial.....hope to have something worked out really soon but why it is causing so many problems I don't know.
This blog is now on the Aussie Blogs Webring so thats is great. There has occurred in recent years something of an Australian diaspora. All over the world there are Autralians living and working and in turn distributing the culture of our homeland, which depite the popular conception is varied and vibrant, although not especially market orientated. Aussie Blogs is a way of seeing the breadth and scope of Australians at work and play around the world.
Because of the image server problems there will be a few holes in this blog while I work it all out but Ill go back over and add the non-functioning pictures ASAP.
Happy Easter/Passover/Eostre......may peace come soon

Monday, April 05, 2004

The playing music in the street on Saturday went fairly well considering it was only about 3C degrees in the shadows. In my enthusiasm for summer I bolt out the door and the first sign of a return to plus temperatures and usually pay the (pr)ice.
People here in this northern Swedish town seem to generally appreciate the presence of street artists. It sometimes feels like we are really on the edge of things here so anything that makes a positive impression upon the vast forests and grey snow is met with interest and even some payment.
I'm organizing the Asia/Australia trip at the moment and it is going to be an intensive excursion. The time table at the moment runs from Singapore (Don Bosco/NUS) to Darwin (my sister) to the far north of cape York (Aurukun/Field Studies Project) to Brisbane (truna/QUT and my brother), Toowoomba (my parents) to Melbourne (Next Wave Festival)...all in 22 days.....perhaps I will just go and find a late summer beach somewhere and live on fruit for a few weeks

Oh....I just have to say this as it was once a very important moment for me; today is ten years since reluctant rock star and personality crisis Kurt Cobain blew his head off....a sad day it was.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Handmade Cds

Tomorrow, according to the local weather report will be a warm 10C degrees here so Im planning on my first music playing in the street session for 2004. I have been making copies of my CD by hand tonight and will attempt to sell them tomorrow when I play. This process of handmade CD actually reminds me a lot of hand making fanzines in the early 1990's in Sydney, in the days when the technology had made making you own magazine easy but web publishing had not yet taken off enough to remove paper from the equation.
Here is a shot of the work floor of a CD home craft studio:

Friday, April 02, 2004

Aurukun Calling

My day yesterday was filled with experiences but then after going to bed a 1am this morning the phone rang and it was my "brother" Daniel, actually a very close friend ringing me from Aurukun, a small in population (1100) but big in space (7,500 sq. kilometers) Aboriginal community on the western side of Cape York in the far north of Australia. There are four language groups in the area and it is famous for its wood carvers (men) and weavers (women). It looks like I will be visiting Aurukun when I travel to Australia in May....this is something I was on my way to do five years ago when I ended up about to be a father in the north of Sweden..... Now I will see the place I’ve wanted to see for a long time:
whoooooooooowwowo.......Today was a crowded and intense one. It consisted of:
1. Going to a local petrol station at 8am (regular shops open at 9:30am here) to buy Cat food, coffee and toilet paper as money was paid at midnight and we are broke.
2. Getting son to day care and then accompanying my wife to the Art School to submit an application portfolio for a 5 year art degree that I hope she gets a place in (good luck Erika).
3. Going to HUMlab and being confronted with a barrage of people, several from media who are attempting to speak to doctoral student Stefan Blomberg who is researching computer games and the culture around them. His short course in HUMlab on Computer game violence has attracted a huge amount of interest.
4. Negotiate possible buying of mobile phone and digital camera with impoverished colleague in HUMlab (I am also impoverished but this deal is so good I must make an effort)
5. Spend an hour rearranging schedule so as to attend Stefan's short course and also an inworld conference in Online Traveler with a group of students for Gymnasium (senior high school). Meet with my Pedagogy teacher to negotiate my consistent absence from his really good course (feel bad about this as radical pedagogy is starting to engage my interest more and more)
6. Rush to my son's day car to attend a parent feedback meeting with one of his teachers.
7. Rush back to HUMlab to begin the short course on computer game violence.
8 Leave short course on computer game violence to attend inworld meeting in 3D collaborative virtual environment Online Traveler. Enjoy a conversation with the Director of HUMlab and Oz, a Traveler coordinator and environment builder (in the USA at 6:30am after he has been up all night building a world environment for the online launch of a new CD by Paul - or was it Peter- from 1960's folkies Peter Paul and Mary). The students from the high school can't get around the firewall in the school lab so have only a visual presence inworld.
9. Return to computer game violence short course. I play several games including Postal 2 and Mortal Combat. I can't remember the names of the others but although they contained depictions of violence they were not approaching realism and relied more heavily on parody I feel. Falluja is a possible name for a really violent computer game of the future (a shock that has settled into my bones).
10. Leave HUMlab and run back to my son's day care to attend his first art exhibition which is exceptional- I will be photographing it tomorrow and will include images here. He is almost four and is blossoming.
11. Return home eat a sandwich and then go alone to the supermarket to purchase my own body weight in products: Food glorious food! While there I witness a deranged man in the fruit and vegetables section eating a lot of produce, throwing it around the place and speaking to the produce. He also yells a bit and at one point tells me to "get out of his way" from the other side of the room. Staff are watching him but in a instance of Swedish tolerance (if it was Australia he would have been removed by security; even in a cooperative as this place was) he is allowed to make a purchase before leaving (and returning and leaving and returning again; last seen talking to a carton of eggs in the recycling section of the store).
12. Return home to a fine meal prepared by my partner as we watch children's TV.
13. A visit from a neighbor friend from New Zealand who has a three year old son. We drink coffee and discuss the world etc. etc. etc. while the children play.
14. Do the dishes (a mountain of them) and begin applying for a summer job over the internet.
15. Check and answer email.
16. Return a call to Marta (if you are reading this I tried) that is organizing a concert against racism and would like me to perform. No answer, will try again tomorrow.
17. Blog