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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Prof Joe Elliott

Nguyen, M., Elliott, J., Terlouw, C. & Pilot, A. (2009). Neocolonialism in education: Cooperative learning, Western pedagogy in an Asian Context. Comparative Education 45(1): 109-130.

Author(s) from Durham


This article is concerned with the influence of western educational approaches in non-western countries and societies. This influence is frequently referred to as educational neocolonialism in the sense that western paradigms tend to shape and influence educational systems and thinking elsewhere through the process of globalisation. Given the perceived pressure to modernise and reform in order to attain high international standards, educational policy makers in non-western countries tend to look to the west. Thus they may 'borrow' policies and practices that were originally developed and operated, and which appeared to be effective, in a very different cultural context to that of their own societies. In effecting such transfer, detailed consideration of particular aspects of the culture and heritage of the originating country is often neglected. To illustrate some of the problems that result from this, the article presents a case study of the application of Cooperative Learning, an educational method developed in the west, within an Asian context. Drawing upon Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner's typology of seven cultural dimensions, our examination of western method and eastern context reveals a complex web of cultural conflicts and mismatches. The paper concludes by suggesting that non-western cultures should seek to reconstruct imported pedagogic practices in accordance with their own world views and in line with their own norms and values.