The role of education in development of an indigenous Mexican community : indigenous perspectives : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University


This thesis is concerned with the role of formal education in development for indigenous peoples. To shed light on the complex relationship between education and development, it presents an in-depth exploration of the experiences, concerns and aspirations of members of one indigenous Mexican community concerning the issues of identity, development and schooling. It investigates how the people of this location, a Zapoteco village in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, see development for their community, and how formal education could best contribute to the achievement of these aspirations. Education is considered within the context of different social processes taking place in the community. Attention is focused on the perspectives of indigenous parents and young people, in accordance with a view of development which recognises the expertise of local people in analysing their situation, and respects their opinions and ideas as paramount to achieving appropriate development. Data from interviews with community members is analysed to reveal a number of themes running through respondents' opinions on culture, identity and development, and the interaction of formal education with these. Their ideas concerning education and cultural autonomy are considered in the light of educational and cultural theories sustained by research, and an analysis of the potential of formal education to contribute to the achievement of expressed development goals is presented. Development for most Tabaeños consisted on the one hand of cultural continuity, in terms of traditional livelihoods, forms of social organisation and language, and on the other of the acquisition of skills, knowledge and institutions that will allow for the economic, social and cultural development of the community and its individuals. Research and the experiences of indigenous communities elsewhere in the world suggest that education has the potential to support community development in both of these aspects. Tabaeños are beginning to take a more active role in formal education, and the existence of a solid and autochthonous foundation for participation and locally controlled development in the community offers grounds for cautious optimism regarding its ability to continue to define and achieve both the education and the development talked of by community members

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