Amdo Tibetan Supplemental Education: The Struggle For and Over Educational Value

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Frankel, Andrew, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Wahl, Rachel, ED-EDLF, University of Virginia

How do Amdo Tibetans in China negotiate the influence that formal education exerts on society and the concomitant widespread perception of the legitimacy of schooling to exert this influence. This ‘Education Revolution’ has created new opportunities for social mobility, the actualization of human potential, and the reconceptualization of what is worthwhile and ethical to learn (Baker, 2014). But it has also increased the capacity of schooling to legitimize and reward some perspectives and behaviors while devaluing and marginalizing others. To help students navigate this process, many educators provide instruction outside school time. Scholars and policymakers often conceptualize such programs as ‘shadow education’ insofar as these programs are thought to mimic mainstream schooling in many ways (Bray 2013). The principal research question I address is: How do Amdo Tibetan supplemental educators conceptualize what is educationally valuable and help students acquire it? Ethnographic data gathered at Amdo Tibetan community schools (Tib. sabjong) show that such programs fulfill a variety of goals, some incongruent with those of mainstream schooling. Data show that it is sometimes through deviating from, rather than shadowing, the norms of mainstream schooling that these programs foster relationships and environments conducive to helping students acquire what they need to be successful within and beyond schooling. Moreover, data reveal that even when such programs appear to mimic the mainstream, educators impart multiple frameworks for understanding what and why students learn that challenge the rationales dominant in mainstream schooling. Reorienting the goals of education, community members emphasize the ethical dimension of acquiring and transmitting capital. Finally, this research suggests that supplemental programs, by virtue of the legitimacy accorded to them precisely because they resemble formal education, constitute effective platforms for challenging the hegemony of mainstream schooling and the values it prioritizes.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Social Foundations of Education, Sociology of Education, Shadow Education, Comparative and International Education, Tibetology/Tibetan Studies, Ethnography, Philosophy of Education
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