Thesis

Cambodian cultural elements in western aid workers' teaching practices

The country of Cambodia, located in Southeast Asia, had a long history of oppressive governments and a deeply held Buddhist acceptance of oppression. Cambodian people believed very strongly in a strict hierarchical social order where they did not question those in power. Sadly, Cambodia was best known throughout the world because the country suffered a terrible genocide from 1975-1979. Led by the notorious Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge regime executed nearly all of its educated citizens and its teachers, severely crippling the country. The Cambodian people were deeply traumatized from the experience.
 Since 1993, at least $500 million of foreign aid from Western countries has poured in annually to help Cambodians rebuild their country. The general consensus among scholars was that the aid failed to improve the lives of Cambodians. Reasons for this failure included assumptions made by Western aid workers regarding the nature of Cambodians, their government, their values, their ideas surrounding education, and their meta-cognitive abilities. This study attempted to generate evidence that Westerners’ lack of understanding of Cambodian culture played a part in preventing their efforts to help Cambodians. This thesis reported the results of an online survey given to Westerners who lived and taught in Cambodia. The purpose of the survey was to question Westerners on their knowledge of the Cambodian mindset. Although the number of responses to the survey was small, some evidence suggested that Western efforts to educate Cambodians might have failed because Westerns were unaware of aspects of Cambodian cultural traits that stood in the way of true learning and comprehension.

The country of Cambodia, located in Southeast Asia, had a long history of oppressive governments and a deeply held Buddhist acceptance of oppression. Cambodian people believed very strongly in a strict hierarchical social order where they did not question those in power. Sadly, Cambodia was best known throughout the world because the country suffered a terrible genocide from 1975-1979. Led by the notorious Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge regime executed nearly all of its educated citizens and its teachers, severely crippling the country. The Cambodian people were deeply traumatized from the experience. Since 1993, at least $500 million of foreign aid from Western countries has poured in annually to help Cambodians rebuild their country. The general consensus among scholars was that the aid failed to improve the lives of Cambodians. Reasons for this failure included assumptions made by Western aid workers regarding the nature of Cambodians, their government, their values, their ideas surrounding education, and their meta-cognitive abilities. This study attempted to generate evidence that Westerners’ lack of understanding of Cambodian culture played a part in preventing their efforts to help Cambodians. This thesis reported the results of an online survey given to Westerners who lived and taught in Cambodia. The purpose of the survey was to question Westerners on their knowledge of the Cambodian mindset. Although the number of responses to the survey was small, some evidence suggested that Western efforts to educate Cambodians might have failed because Westerns were unaware of aspects of Cambodian cultural traits that stood in the way of true learning and comprehension.

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