Tue. Nov 30th, 2021

My PhD Journey and the Tip of the Iceberg

By Dr. Reshma Parveen

I am pleased to share the news of accomplishing my PhD degree in the field of education. However I do not want to risk the illusion of an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is no doubt a successful completion of the degree, however underneath this iceberg is tension, frustrations, hard work, sacrifices, failure and attempts to stay strong. To put it straight, the journey was much more than the sum of the process and it was not always smooth and straight. Moving, working and studying in a different country is hard. I have been through failures and faced disappointments. I had to work hard and discipline myself and be persistent in the face of atrocities. I have dedicated valuable time and energy to the process. I only had a lovely family on whose shoulder I could put my head to cry. 

I completed my studies from the University of Queensland (UQ) Australia. My thesis, entitled ‘Curriculum Policy Enactment and Spaces of Change: A Bourdieuian Field Analysis’, used Bourdieu’s theoretical resources and explored the spaces of changing practices at school level while implementing a curriuclum.

Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist whose work has inspired critical researchers not only in the field of sociology but education, institutional development, politics and his ideas have even been applied in religion, gender studies and many other fields.  Bourdieu believed that education is the cause of creating inequality in society. Schools are a major source of re-producing the already existed class system in the society (read more here https://edulog4learning.blogspot.com/2016/08/schools-reproducing-inequalities-do-they.html). His book ‘Reproduction in Education’ gained a lot of attention around the world.

So, using Bourdieu’s notion of field, habitus, capital and hysteresis, the thesis argues that there is reproduction in education but change is also an integral part of society. The agents’ habitus though relying on its durable disposition is also prone to the changes in the field structure. The main argument in the thesis is that curriculum as a document can set high standards and goals to be achieved, but when this document comes in contact with the local context, it is not necessary that the same goals could be achieved. Rather the outcomes of curriculum could be very diverse. This is because teachers have their own understanding, knowledge and skills. Teachers makes decisions on daily bases about what to teach and how to teach it. They may not find the solution to their daily teaching problems in the curriculum. They have many students with diverse needs. The school in itself evolves with time. There are rules and activities already in place at a school. Hence the schooling field with its agents (people) is dynamic and moving. When a documented curriculum comes in contact with such a lived and dynamic schooling field, curriculum enactment/implementation becomes complex. We should be comfortable with such complexity and accept that there can be diverse outcomes of one standard curriculum.

I started my career as a high school science teacher at Al-Amyn Model School Gulmit Hunza, then worked as a Teacher Educator for Math and Science in Aga Khan Education Service, Gilgit before joining Aga Khan Higher Secondary school Karachi as a Vice Principal. Now I work as a research fellow in a project on STEM Education for Science teachers.

As I said my journey was more than the sum total of what I have gone through. The journey was tough with frustrations, disappointments, failed attempts but at the same time little achievements and support made it possible to the end. I have cried but also danced: these two means of expression should be every individual’s right. I am an advocate of change in this fast changing but complex times.

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