People, Power, and Politics Panel



Community, Education, and Democracy

Communauté, éducation et démocratie


Friday, October 22, 2021


09:00 – 10:45

VenueVenue 1Venue 1


Chair/Président: Jim Glassman, University of British Columbia

Discussant/Intervenant: Jim Glassman, University of British Columbia

Event poster


Transforming University Education in Myanmar through Gender and Development Studies

Sanda Thant, Socio-Economic and Gender Resource Institute; Kyoko Kusakabe, Asian Institute of Technology; Philippe Doneys, Stockholm Environment Institute; Joyee Chatterjee, Gender and Development Studies, Asian Institute of Technology; Cho Cho Thein, Yangon University of Economics

Myanmar universities have been isolated from the rest of the world for a long period of time. With attempts at democratization taking place in Myanmar, universities have been opening up to outside partners and expanding their program offerings to meet the emerging needs up until the coup in 2021. There was also increased demand for higher education as well as professional graduate-level education for development workers and experts meeting the needs of the country’s socio-economic development. The collaborative project between the Yangon University of Economics and Asian Institute of Technology, presented in this paper, went from a situation under a heavily controlled university education to a more grounded and open discussion-based education, including the introduction of gender and development courses and qualitative research methodologies. With the recent coup and associated protest movements, the universities are fighting for what they have gained during the short period of transformation to academic openness. The presentation will discuss the power of gender and development education in transforming university education and its limitation in a context of a fluid political situation. The buy-in to gender and development education within the leadership of the university was crucial as well as the university’s linkages with civil society groups. However, the public nature of the university as an institution is vulnerable to the changes in rector appointments as well as to the wider political climate.

Engaging in Foreigner Friendships: Learning English and More Outside the Classroom in Rural Vietnam

Georgina Alonso | PhD Candidate, University of Ottawa; Nguyen Hieu Thao, School of Foreign Languages, Tra Vinh University

In recent decades, Vietnam has structured itself to be more open to international integration, which has encouraged increasing numbers of foreigners from the Global North and elsewhere to spend time working, volunteering, or researching in Vietnam. Vietnam has also been developing a national strategy for encouraging English-language learning in line with economic growth plans that aim to move the country into upper middle-income status by 2035. This paper seeks to understand how friendships between English-speaking Global North foreigners on temporary placements abroad (volunteers, workers, and researchers) and Vietnamese students studying English become entangled with national policy goals, personal and professional development goals, and the social status of English-language learners in rural Vietnam. Through a case study at Tra Vinh University in the Mekong Delta involving a survey and qualitative interviews with Vietnamese students, we unpack how Vietnamese students who are motivated to improve their English-language skills perceive the presence of English-speaking foreigners in their community and how the dynamics of friendship seeking unfold. While much has been written about intercultural interactions based on temporary placements of Global North participants in Global South communities around the world, many studies have centred on the Global North participant’s identity, motivations, privilege, ethics, and/or impact. We chose to add to this literature by focusing principally on the underexplored agency of the recipient community in pursuing or engaging in intercultural friendships, even when these community members are not directly involved in the work or projects of the foreigners in their communities. We also seek to understand how the presence of Global North foreigners is perceived more broadly, the degrees of genuineness of friendship, and what benefits (and consequences) are gained by members of the recipient community through these friendships, especially in terms of English-language skill development.

Nationalist Discourses in Thai Language Textbooks

Bavo Stevens, McGill University/Ubon Ratchathani University; Atchara Simlee, Ubon Ratchathani University

Schools and textbooks have long been recognized as crucial to state building and the formation of national identity. This paper examines how the state and its agents shape nationalist discourse in Thai language textbooks. While previous papers have explored how the Thai government shapes nationalist discourses through history and civics textbook, and how schools are structured to orient children towards the state, this paper focuses on how the stories in Thai language textbooks reinforce a royalist national identity that emphasizes the kwampenthai or Thai-ness, of unified and virtuous citizens. Using critical discourse analysis, this paper examines the short stories and poems at the start of every chapter in Thai language textbooks at the elementary school-level (Prathom 1 to 6). We find that while these stories teach children vocabulary about topics ranging from nutrition to the Olympics, the stories also orient students towards accepting state authority. Although the stories centre on the activities of children, it is adults, and frequently teachers, that provide resolution to their central conflicts. These adults are the moral and paternalistic centers of the stories, emphasizing the importance of cooperation, harmony, and obedience. Furthermore, stories frequently take place in idyllic rural communities, where villagers live simple but pleasant agriculture lives, harking back royalist nationalist narratives of sufficiency and living within ones means. inscribed.

Capacity Building in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Solutions for MSMEs in a Post-Covid World

Phebe M. Ferrer, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada; Justin Kwan, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating economic impact for Southeast Asian economies. Among the most affected are micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which are the foundation of many Southeast Asian economies, and a crucial source of economic opportunity for the region’s populace. To ensure a sustainable recovery, it is vital that post-pandemic recovery efforts incorporate an inclusive and gender-based lens, which considers distinct and gendered experiences in entrepreneurship in the design of recovery policies and programs. The authors ask: How can Southeast Asian economies operationalize an inclusive and gender-based lens in their national recovery efforts, that works toward sustainable economic inclusion of women and youth, among other groups? The authors explore the usage of this lens using reflections from the implementation of the APEC-Canada Growing Business Partnership. The Partnership is a joint development initiative of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat, designed to build the capacity of MSMEs in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The authors argue that the Partnership can provide an effective example of a project-based inclusive and gender-based lens, which has contributed to successful capacity building efforts. The authors focus on the Partnership’s project design, which prioritized pre-programming research, consultation, and gender-based analysis, and targeted initiatives such as the project’s mentorship program for women entrepreneurs. Adopting lessons learned from APEC’s overarching frameworks, the authors will demonstrate that effective capacity building efforts stem from an intrinsic inclusive and gender-based analytical lens, and sustained collaboration with local partners.

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