The Promise of Education: Schooling Journeys in the Southwestern Pacific

Rachel Emerine Hicks, Debra McDougall, David Oakeshott

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    "Schooling journeys" is more than a metaphor in the southwestern Pacific. Especially in rural areas, many children travel hours each day or live away from home for months at a time in order to step into a classroom. Young people embark on these precarious journeys, and their families make sacrifices to support them, because schooling promises a better life. For decades, policy makers and educators have worried that this promise is misleading because there are not enough jobs in the formal economy to employ all graduates. Anthropologists have critiqued formal education as part of a colonial structure that devalues Indigenous knowledge, alienates young people from home, and creates unrealistic expectations of modernist lives. Yet, as we begin the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is hard to deny that schooling is a profoundly local project throughout the region. In this article, we outline distinctive features of formal education in the southwestern Pacific and suggest that questions about who controls education are more important than questions about whether knowledge is Western or Indigenous. Building on long-standing discussions about the relative importance of academic and practical training in the Pacific, we argue that schooling is about much more than paid employment—it is also a site where relationships are established, affirmed, and transformed. Along with the other contributors to this special issue, we suggest a new approach to schooling that sees it not as a foreign imposition but as an integral part of life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)301 - 336
    JournalThe Contemporary Pacific
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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