University of Oulu

Intersection of gender & education : experiences and perspectives of highly educated women in Laos

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Author: Shaw, Claire1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.5 MB)
Pages: 68
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Language: English
Published: Oulu : C. Shaw, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-06-18
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Lehtomäki, Elina
Reviewer: Järvelä, Maria-Liisa
Lehtomäki, Elina


Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, is generally considered an under researched context; the majority of data related to gender and education comes from INGOs or international organizations and focuses on gender parity. As the government of Laos works to better the opportunities of women and girls nationwide, gender parity has improved across all levels of education. It is unclear, however, in what ways women’s experiences of education have changed, highlighting a need for qualitative data in this area.

In this research, highly educated Lao women were interviewed in order to discover the different ways women conceptualize what it means to be “educated” in the Lao context, their perceptions of how education and gender influence each other, and their journeys to becoming educated. By looking at the stories of women who have achieved academic success, we can build an understanding of some of the catalysts and hindrances impacting educational attainment.

Twelve interviews were conducted over summer 2019 with women in two provinces of Laos, all of whom have graduated from at least one tertiary education program. The data were analyzed using a phenomenographic approach, focusing on the women’s conceptions, perceptions, and experiences.

Initial findings highlight the changing nature of gender roles and gendered expectations in Laos, particularly in regards to women’s abilities and opportunities in education, careers, and at home. In particular, a shift in women’s motivations and attitudes towards education as well as government and international scholarship programs seem to have driven this change. Significantly, there was a clear differentiation between how women viewed gender equality in the cities compared to the rural or ‘local’ areas. Conflicting ideas emerged of whether equality had been achieved (as evidenced by the women in successful careers and with high educational qualifications) or whether more work needs to be done. Finally, the concept of an ‘educated person’ involves more than just a degree, diploma, or qualification; rather, an educated person is marked by their mindset and the values they hold.

The findings of this research have potential implications for educational policy and practice throughout Laos at all educational levels, as well as how gender mainstreaming is applied in all spheres.

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Copyright information: © Claire Shaw, 2020. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.