Situating the ‘local’ as curriculum transformation in Timor-Leste

Marie Quinn


Transformation of the nation is reflected powerfully through transformation of primary school curriculum, the opportunity for the state to direct particular understandings of the world, the nation and the community through mandated content and teaching strategies. Education in Timor-Leste has historically reflected outside interests, attempting to shape Timorese into citizens of other countries or communities rather than a specifically Timorese view of what children will learn. This paper traces the influences on Timorese education, from the early 20th century until the current curriculum, identifying how ‘local’ content has been understood in official documentation, classroom materials and by classroom teachers. It notes that despite the current teaching materials firmly focused on living in the community, “local” is often aligned with serving national interests. It suggests considering more closely the opportunities to re-contextualise learning toward the lived experience of Timorese children in using new content and pedagogy. 

Full Text:



Amadio, M., Operetti, R. & Tedesco, J. C. (2015). The curriculum in debates and in educational reforms to 2030: For a curriculum agenda of the twenty-first century. IBE Working Papers on Curriculum, Issue No. 15. Geneva: UNESCO IBE.

Anderson-Levitt, K. (Ed.). (2003). Local Meanings, Global Schooling: Anthropology and World Culture Theory. New York, NY: Springer.

Ansell, B., & Lindvall, J. (2013). The political origins of primary education systems: Ideology, institutions, and interdenominational conflict in an era of nation-building. American Political Science Review, 107(3), 505-522.

Arenas, A. (1998). Education and nationalism in East Timor, Social Justice, 25(2), 131 – 149.

Arthur, C. E. (2019). Political Symbols and National Identity in Timor-Leste. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Baker, D., & LeTendre, G. K. (2005). National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Batoreo, H. J. (2010). Ensinar português no enquadramento poliglóssico de Timor-Leste. Palavras, 37, 55 – 65.

Beazley, H. (1999). East Timor: Background Briefing for Project Identification Mission (PIM). Canberra: Australian Agency for International Development.

Bovensiepen, J. (2014). Lulik: Taboo, animism, or transgressive sacred? An exploration of identity, morality, and power in Timor‐Leste. Oceania, 84(2), 121-137.

Brock, C., & Crossley, M. (2013). Revisiting scale, comparative research and education in small states. Comparative Education, 49(3), 388-403.

Cabral, E. (2019). Timor-Leste 1974–1975: Decolonisation, a nation-in-waiting and an adult literacy campaign. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 259, 39-61.

Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliacão de Timor-Leste [CAVR]. (2005). Chega: The Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste. Dili: CAVR.

Commeyras, M. (2007). Scripted reading instruction? What’s a teacher educator to do? Phi Delta Kappan, 88(5), 404–407.

Conselho Nacional de Resistência Timorense (1999). Strategic development planning for East Timor conference: Education sector. East Timor Relief Association, Melbourne.

Dale, R. (1999). Specifying globalization effects on national policy: a focus on the mechanisms. Journal of Education Policy, 14(1), 1-17.

Delors, J. et al (1996). Learning: The treasure within. Report of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century. Paris: UNESCO

Dembélé, M., & Lefoka, P. (2007). Pedagogical renewal for quality universal primary education: Overview of trends in sub-Saharan Africa. International Review of Education, 53(5-6), 531-553.

Direcção Geral de Estatistica. (2015). 2015 Timor-Leste Population and Housing Census. Dili: DGE.

Downe-Wamboldt, B. (1992). Content analysis: Method, applications, and issues. Health Care for Women International, 13, 313-321.

Dresser, R. (2012). The impact of scripted literacy instruction on teachers and students. Issues in Teacher Education, 21(1), 71–87.

Duarte, Teófilo (1944). Ocupação e Colonização Branca de Timor. Lisbon: Editôra educação nacional, Lda.

East Timor Planning Commission [ETPC] (2002) East Timor National Development Plan. Dili: ETPC.

Elmore, R. 2002. Bridging the Gap Between Standards and Achievement. Washington, DC: Albert Shanker Institute.

Fatlolon, C. (2016). Pancasila democracy and the play of the good. Filocracia, 3(1), 70-92.

Fonseca, S. (2018). Representações e ideologias em manuais escolares. Proceedings from III Simpósio de Educação em Timor-Leste

Gabrielson, C. & Langford, K. (2015). Haree ba lalehan. Dili: ME.

Governo da Colonia de Timor [GovCT]. (1916). Boletim Official, No. 26. Dili: Escrita Governo.

Governo da Colonia de Timor [GovCT]. (1927). Suplemento ao Boletim Oficial do Governo da Colonia de Timor, 8 de Novembro de 1927. Dili: Escrita Governo.

Governo da Colonia de Timor [GovCT]. (1953). Diário do Governo, 27 de Junho de 1953. Dili: Escrita Governo.

Grupo Coordenador para a Reformulação do Ensino em Timor. (1975). Sumário do Grupo Coordenador para a Reformulação do Ensino em Timor, Fundação Mário Soares / Arquivo da Resistência Timorense - Ramos-Horta.

Jansen, J. (2002). Political symbolism as policy craft: Explaining non-reform in South African education after apartheid. Journal of Educational Policy 17(2), 199–215.

Jones, G. (2001). Social policy issues in East Timor: Education and health. In Hill, H., Saladanha, J. M. de S. (Eds). East Timor: Development Challenges for the World’s Newest Nation (pp. 256 – 272). Canberra: Asia Pacific Press.

Kiernan, M. (2000). The role of donors in educational reconstruction and transformation. Oxford Studies in Comparative Education, 10(2), 195-206.

Kim, Y. (2019). Global convergence or national variation? Examining national patterns of classroom instructional practices. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 17(3), 353-377.

Krippendorff, K. (1989). Content analysis. In E. Barnouw, G. Gerbner, W. Schramm, T. L. Worth, & L. Gross (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Communication (Vol. 1, pp. 403-407). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An Introduction to its Methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Magalhães, A. B. (2016). Pensar nos problemas da Escola é um direito e um dever: a descolonização do ensino em Timor em 1975. In Smith, S., Canas Mendes, N. da Silva, A., Ximenes, A., Fernandes, C. & Leach, M. (Eds) Timor-Leste: The Local, The Regional and The Global Volume II, (pp. 96 - 125, 78). Victoria, Australia: Swinburne Press.

Mebrahtu, T., Crossley, M., & Johnson, D. (Eds.). (2000). Globalisation, Educational Transformation and Societies In Transition. Oxford, UK: Symposium Books Ltd.

Millo, Y., & Barnett, J. (2004). Educational development in East Timor. International Journal of Educational Development, 24(6), 721-737.

Ministério do Educação de Timor-Leste. (2011). National Education Strategic Plan 2011 – 2030. Dili: ME.

Ministério do Educação de Timor-Leste (2014). Kuríikulu nasionál ensinu básiku siklu dahuluk no daruak 2014. Dili: ME.

Ministério do Educação de Timor-Leste. (2015). Le’e hakle’an hanoin. Dili: ME.

Ministério do Educação de Timor-Leste. (c. 2015). Meu Português. Dili: ME.

Ministério do Educação de Timor-Leste. (2016). Um mundo de histórias. Dili: ME.

Ministério da Educação, Cultura, Juventude e Desporto [MECJD]. (2004). Primary curriculum implementation plan 2004–2009: supporting the implementation of new curriculum from Grade 1 to Grade 6. Dili: MECJD.

Ministério da Educação, Cultura, Juventude e Desporto [MECJD]. (2005). Guia profesores. Dili: MECJD.

Monteiro, E. C. E. (2019). Currículo e avaliação na educação pré-escolar e no 1º e 2º ciclos do ensino básico em Timor-Leste: perspetivas dos educadores e dos professors. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minho.

Moutinho, I. (2012). Historicity and Storytelling in East Timorese Fiction in Portuguese. Journal of Lusophone Studies, 10, 101 - 122.

Nicolai, S. (2004). Learning Independence: Education in emergency and transition in Timor-Leste since 1999. Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning.

O’Connor, J. (2019). Document analysis. In M. Lambert (Ed.) Practical Research Methods in Education (pp. 67-75). Oxford, UK Routledge.

Ogden, L. (2017a). Competing visions of education in Timor-Leste's curriculum reform. International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 6(1), 50-63.

Ogden, L. (2017b). Scripting Change: Education reform in Timor-Leste [Video]. Leiden University.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Teddlie, C. (2003). A framework for analyzing data in mixed methods research. In A. Tashakkori & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social and Behavioral Research (pp. 351–383). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pedersen, J., & Arneberg, M. (1999). Social and Economic Conditions in East Timor. New York, NY: Columbia University.

Quinn, M. (2011). The languages of schooling in Timor-Leste: patterns and influences on practice. The University of Melbourne. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Quinn, M. (2013). Talking to learn in Timorese classrooms, Language, Culture and Curriculum, 26(2), 179-196.

Quinn, M. & Buchanan, J. (2021). A contribution to my country”: Professional lives of teachers in Timor-Leste. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 1-16.

Ramirez, F. (2012). The world society perspective: concepts, assumptions, and strategies, Comparative Education, 48(4), 423-439.

Rei, N. (2007). Resistance: A childhood fighting for East Timor. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.

República Democrática de Timor-Leste [RDTL]. (2015). Decreto-Lei [Decree law] nº 4/2015 Currículo Nacional de Base. Dili: RDTL.

Rizvi, F. (2007). Postcolonialism and globalization in education. Cultural Studies? Critical Methodologies, 7(3), 256-263.

Santos, B. D. S., Meneses, M. P. G., & Nunes, J. A. (2006). Conhecimento e transformação social: por uma ecologia de saberes. Hiléia: Revista de Direito Ambiental da Amazônia, 4(6), 9-103.

Schneider, R. M., & Krajcik, J. (2002). Supporting science teacher learning: The role of educative curriculum materials. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(3), 221-245.

Schweisfurth, M. (2015). Learner-centred pedagogy: Towards a post-2015 agenda for teaching and learning. International Journal of Educational Development, 40, 259-266.

Sercombe, P., & Tupas, R. (Eds.). (2014). Language, Education and Nation-building: Assimilation and shift in Southeast Asia. New York, NY: Springer.

Shah, R. (2012.) Goodbye conflict, hello development? Curriculum reform in Timor-Leste, International Journal of Educational Development, 32, 31–38.

Shah, R., & Cardozo, M. T. L. (2016). Transformative teachers or teachers to be transformed? The cases of Bolivia and Timor-Leste. Research in Comparative and International Education, 11(2), 208-221.

Shah, R. & Quinn, M. (2016) Mind the gap: global quality norms, national policy interpretations and local praxis in Timor-Leste. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 46(3), 394-413.

Silva, K. (2011). Foho versus Dili: The political role of place in East Timor national imagination (Translation by Alcida Ramos). Revista de Estudos AntiUtilitaristas e PosColoniais, 1(2), 144-165.

Silva, da, A. B. (2017). Pedagogia da terra em torno do saber local. Atas 2ª Conferência Internacional: A Produção do Conhecimento Científico em Timor-Leste.

Soares, A. (2006). The poets fight back: East Timorese poetry as counterdiscourse to colonial and postcolonial identities. Romance Studies, 24(2), 133-147.

Soares, M. F. (2019). Avaliação das aprendizagens no contexto das mudanças curriculares na educação pré-escolar e no ensino básico em Timor-Leste: Perspetivas e práticas de educadores e professors. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minho, Portugal.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology. Handbook of Qualitative Research, 17, 273–285.

Tabulawa, R. (2003). International aid agencies, learner-centred pedagogy and political democratisation: A critique. Comparative Education, 39(1), 7-26.

Taylor-Leech, K. (2009). The language situation in Timor-Leste. Current Issues in Language Planning, 10(1), 1-68.

Tikly, L. (2001) Globalisation and Education in the Postcolonial World: Towards a conceptual framework, Comparative Education, 37(2), 151-171

Tilman, M. (2012). Customary social order and authority in the contemporary East Timorese village: persistence and transformation. Local Global: Identity, Security, Community, 11, 192 – 205.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2000). The Dakar framework for action: Education for all: Meeting our collective commitments. Dakar: UNESCO.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2004). Education for All, Global Monitoring Report, 2005: The Quality Imperative. Paris, France: UNESCO.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]. (2015). Policy Paper 19: The challenge of teacher shortage and quality: Have we succeeded in getting enough quality teachers into classrooms? Document: ED/EFA/MRT/2015/PP/19.

Vavrus, F., & Bartlett, L. (2009). Critical Approaches to Comparative Education: Vertical Case Studies from Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

White, M. D., & Marsh, E. E. (2006). Content analysis: A flexible methodology. Library trends, 55(1), 22-45.

World Bank. (1999). Joint Assessment Mission: Health and Education Background Paper. East Timor Building a Nation: a Framework for Reconstruction and Development. Dili: World Bank.

World Bank. (2018.). World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise. Washington, DC: World Bank.

World Health Organisation. (2020). Timor-Leste.

Wu, K. (2000). Education finance in East Timor: Transition priorities and long-term options. East Asia and Pacific region. Dili: The World Bank.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Euro-JCS is indexed in CAPES/QUALIS (Category: Education |  Classification: B3)

ISSN: 2182-7168



Associação Portuguesa de Estudos Curriculares (NIPC: 506240061)

Instituto de Educação da Universidade do Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal

The journal is associated with the European Association of Curriculum Studies.