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Title: Education and the risk of violent conflict in low-income and weak states, with special reference to schooling : the case of Sierra Leone
Author: Matsumoto, Mitsuko
ISNI:       0000 0003 9940 0305
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Broadly, the study examines the argument that education potentially contributes to violent conflict or, on the contrary, acts as a mediating factor in the reconstruction of divided or fragmented societies; indeed, as a driver for peace and unity. It looks at the case of Sierra Leone, a country emerging from a decade-long civil war (1991–2002). There are four aims to the study:
  • (1) To examine, by drawing on a number of disciplines, the theoretical explanations of what puts societies at risk of violent conflict;
  • (2) Using these interdisciplinary perspectives, to identify the features of educational systems that are considered to be associated with or give rise to violent conflict;
  • (3) To examine which of these characteristics are present in post-conflict Sierra Leone; and
  • (4) Based on the findings, to formulate a number of general theoretical propositions about the characteristics of educational systems that might put society at risk of conflict.
The research question for the study is: Which features of the educational system in Sierra Leone might put the country at risk of further conflict? Importantly, the research question is approached theoretically; a study attempting to demonstrate this solely empirically would not be feasible. The study adopts a robust interdisciplinary approach. It seeks explanations across the social sciences for the causes of violent conflict and identifies three theories that bear upon the key features that characterise many contemporary conflicts, i.e. ethnicity or cultural identities, status as a low-income country, and ‘fragile’ or failing states. The explanations revolve around the theories of: 1) ‘horizontal inequalities’ by Frances Stewart; 2) the ‘opportunity cost of rebellion’ by Paul Collier et al.; and 3) the role of state and ruling elites by Robert Bates. The study, then, together with an analysis of education and its relationship to conflict, creates an interdisciplinary theoretical and conceptual framework on the characteristics of educational systems associated with a risk of violent conflict. Methodologically, the study examines the educational system of post-conflict Sierra Leone as a case study, focusing on young people’s experiences, perceptions, and expectations of education. Three groups of young people with different educational experiences in Makeni city are selected as principal cases: (1) 15 students in a secondary school; (2) 15 students in technical and vocational training; and (3) 10 out-of-school informants. Additionally, 49 adult key informants were interviewed (among which 34 were ultimately analysed) and documentary analyses were conducted. The findings from the study reveal a number of features in the educational system in Sierra Leone (in areas such as access, curriculum, and governance) that the theoretical lens adopted in the study suggests as being associated with a risk of violent conflict. The analysis that follows seeks to further elucidate these features and recognise their complexity. The analysis is enriched by the perspectives and experiences of the beneficiaries of education who participated in the study. This sets it apart from other studies. The limitation of the study lies in the fact that it cannot demonstrate a causal relationship between the features of education and possible further violent conflict in Sierra Leone (a challenge most studies of this kind would face). The study does, however, offer a rich theoretical and conceptual framework and a robust set of theoretical propositions in relation to the question it poses. In contribution to the field and the growing literature on this topic, the study offers a theoretical and conceptual base for future research tackling the role of education in violent conflict and for building (and modifying) knowledge on the topic.
Supervisor: Johnson, David F. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Comparative and international education ; education and conflict ; education in Sierra Leone ; contemporary conflict