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Kim Chi Tran is an ISS PhD student working on ICTs and schooling among children and youth in Mongolia. In her work, she employs a range of innovative participatory research techniques on which, among other things, she reflects in this BLOG posting.

In commemoration of the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child today, October 11, the ISS Children and Youth Studies Interest Group is launching a series of events to celebrate the power of the adolescent girl. This theme ties in to the general targets of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Through this initiative we hope to unveil the status of the girl child and highlight the challenges they face to realize their potential. As one of our main activities, we will produce a short film and a photo exhibition about what it means to be an adolescent in today’s society.
Here is a little teaser to get you excited. Stay tuned to the ISS Children & Youth Interest Group page (https://www.facebook.com/issycsinterestgroup?fref=nf) for more information about how you can participate and share your story with us!12162400_10153248399078262_342684278_o


Thesis drafts presented in the current Research Paper Drafts seminars suggest we may expect some very strong theses in the field of Children, Youth and Development at the ISS.

The research draft paper seminar week is an important step in the MA in development studies programme at the ISS. Following course work, students work full-time on their research projects in July and August and present the first drafts of their thesis during seminars scheduled late September.

In the seminars, each MA student presents her work for 20 minutes followed by discussion by peers and faculty.

This is some of the interesting work-in-progress that was presented before the weekend:

-Gifty Fosuaa Nuamah Youth: ‘Mobile Phone: A Blessing or a Curse? A case of Kintampo District in Brong Ahafo, Ghana’

-Stephen Ucembe: ‘How do care leavers make meaning of leaving care in relationship to institutional care?’

-Michael Sambo: ‘Youth and social movements: The conflicting relations between youth and the state in Mozambique over the last ten years’

-Mahardhika Sjamsoeoed: ‘Negotiating a Third Space: The construction of young Dutch Muslim’s identities and their daily secular realities’

And this is what’s still in stock:

Kristel Avila: ‘Contesting ‘youth at risk’ discourses through soccer practicing? Explorative research on young male subjectivities of El Agustino, Lima, Peru.’

Sandra Dewi Arifiani: ‘The role of child forum as a space for child participation in Indonesia’

Maria Camila Pachebo Blel: ‘Choosing motherhood? Understanding the factors that influence young motherhood in low socioeconomic contexts in Colombia’

Okoth Maurice: ‘Citizenship and sense of belonging: The experiences of second generation Somali immigrant youths in Eastleigh neighbourhood’

and much more!

posted by Roy Huijsmans

Guest post from Megan Baker, a current student in the ISS Child & Youth Studies in Development Context course

Leslie Moore’s presentation on ‘Leveraging Qur’anic schooling for Western-style educational goals’ was mainly centered on comparing Qur’anic schooling to western style schooling, and the ways in which the techniques/traditions of Qur’anic schooling can be leveraged to achieve western-educational goals. More specifically how can Qur’anic schooling be used in order to expand the provision and participation of basic education, as well as to improve educational outcomes for Muslim children who are perceived as being left behind? While these ambitions may be of honorable intention, we should be critical.

For example, looking at the title itself ‘Leveraging Qur’anic schooling for Western-style educational goals’ Moore defines the term leverage as ‘to use something valuable to achieve a desired result’. While this may be the chosen understanding of the verb, and the Merriam-Webstar dictionary does acknowledge this definition, it also presents the following definition, ‘to use for gain: exploit.’ A few of the synonyms listed include abuse, capitalize (on), impose (on or upon), and exploit.

Similarly, it’s important to break down what are the ‘goals’ of western style education that are trying to be achieved. Literacy as well as intellectual, spiritual moral, and community development are mentioned as ideal outcomes of schooling, and while Moore clearly acknowledges that pedagogical shortcomings remain in western style schooling, but highlights the ideal schooling as built on progressive pedagogies that include student-structured instruction, that is inquiry-based and promotes meta-cognition. This is in contrast to critical pedagogy theorists Friere (1970) and Illich (1971) who emphasize the repressive realities of schooling that institutionalize and legitimatize existing power hierarchies and inequalities.

Moore discussed how historically colonial support of Qur’anic schools was the result of goals to reduce Pan-Arab Islamic influence, and to preserve local Islam that fit the interests of the colonizers best. Equally, it’s important to now recognize the motivations behind the current interest in Qur’anic schooling. If the intention is to leverage Qur’anic schooling for Western-style educational goals, we must dig deeper into where goals of increasing literacy intersect with goals of fighting fundamentalism in a geo-political context of Islamaphobia.

We can see such a development initiative as part of the global diffusion of modern education. Andersen-Levitt (2005) explains how “The spread of western style schooling means children growing up around the globe have a more uniform experience of socialization than in the past (998)” and that “Western-style schools can be found everywhere now. They co-exist with other systems of formal education such as Quranic schools and have displaced alternative school systems” (991). This single global model of schooling is part of a much larger globalization process. Ansell (2005), who describes various approaches to development and the neglect of children and youth in these processes, shows how within modernization theory development is done by governments/institutions, and one criterion of ‘modernized children’ is that they attend school. But as Levinson and Holland (1996) remind us, schools are not innocent sites of cultural transmission. Schools tend to target the young, often by global powers, and thus such initiatives to ‘leverage’ Qur’anic traditions should by viewed with caution.


Anderson-Levitt, K. M. (2005) ‘The Schoolyard Gate: Schooling and Childhood in Global Perspective’, Journal of Social History, 38(4), pp. 987-1006.

Ansell, N. (2005) ‘“Development”, Globalisation and Poverty as Contexts for Growing Up’ in Children, Youth and Development. London: Routledge, pp. 38-62.

Friere, P. (1996 (1970)) ‘The “banking” concept of education as an instrument of oppression’ in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin Books. Chapter 2.

Illich, I. (1971) ‘Why We Must Disestablish School’, in Deschooling Society. New York Harper & Row, pp. 1-24

Levarage. 2015. In Merriam-Webster.com.Retrieved February 16, 2015 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/levarage

Levinson, B. A. and D.C. Holland (1996) ‘The Cultural Production of the Educated Person: An Introduction’, in B.A. Levinson, D.E. Foley and D.C. Holland (eds.) The Cultural Production of the Educated Person: Ethnographies of Schooling and Local Practice. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 1-30.

Who is a child?

Category: Uncategorized

28 Jan 2015

MRTThe question of who is a child is usually resolved by the measure of chronological age. The Bangkok public transport system provides some interesting alternatives.

The picture above is of a measure placed next to a ticket machine of the Bangkok underground system (MRT). Those less than 90 centimeters travel free of charge, and those less than 120 centimeter qualify for a discounted ‘child fare’.




Interestingly, this is only partly consistent with the measures used for the above-ground system: the Bangkok  ‘Skytrain’ (BTS). Here, children less than 90 centimeters also travel for free but there is no discounted ‘child fare’. The 140 centimeters line indicates free travel on Thailand’s annual children’s day only, which is celebrated each second Saturday in January and was this year themed ‘knowledge and morality lead to the future‘.

The use of height in defining who is a child, and thus qualifies for free or discounted travel, casts in an entirely different light a call in late 2013 (see also HERE) by the Thai Minister of Public Health to encourage young Thai to drink more milk in order to grow taller.




Category: Uncategorized

24 Dec 2014

imagesThe University of Bath offers some interesting PhD scholarships. One is advertised as ‘PhD in understanding childhood – growing up in hard times‘, which is a qualitative longitudinal research project on low-income childhoods in England. It focuses on the lives and experiences of 60 children in 6 school settings over 3-5 years.

The second Bath scholarship is advertised as ‘Mobile money and children’s wellbeing in Africa‘, which seeks to cut across research on micro finance/mobile money and children’s wellbeing, whilst also engaging with the literature on the anthropology of mobile telephony. The research seeks to investigate how mobile money is entering into young people’s lives, by examining its effect on young people’s livelihood opportunities, as well as relational and subjective assessments of what young people are able to do and be.

Then there are Erasmus Mundus funded MA scholarships for a ‘European Master in Social Work with Families and Children‘. This is a two year master programme of 120 ECTS requiring students to spend a semester each in Lisbon, Stavanger and Gothenburg.


PhD scholarship

Category: Uncategorized

28 Nov 2014

downloadGlasgow Caledonian University calls for applications for a full-time PhD scholarship in a project entitled ‘Boys’ Toys’ and ‘Girls’ Toys’: Learning through play?.

The project is located at the Institute for Society and Social Justice Research (ISSJR), which is part of the Glasgow School for Business and Society.

The research project is described as follows:

With the resurgence of targeted marketing of ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ toys there has been concern that boys and girls are being channelled into restrictive gender specific play. The Curriculum for Excellence focuses much attention on the importance of learning through play and the Caledonian Club at GCU prioritises early intervention as a means for raising children’s own expectations. This PhD seeks to examine whether there are any links between children’s play, the gendered marketing of toys and their own expectations for the future. The scope of the PhD would be developed by the successful candidate and the supervisory team but we anticipate some of the following areas may be incorporated:

  • The impact of play on children? How do children learn through play?
  • Children’s own perspectives of toys
  • Can gender specific toys impact on children’s own expectations of self? What do toys teach children about gender?
  • The importance of early intervention in raising expectations and ambition at an earlier age
  • Adults’ roles in challenging or perpetuating gender expectations through toys, games and wider play
  • Developing innovative methods or working with children to answer the research questions

Further details on the scholarship (application deadline is 19 December) can be found HERE and HERE.

This PhD position connects to an earlier post on gender, toys, business and play (see HERE), and is nicely contrasted with this ONE.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


indexChildren’s rights feature prominently in the Nobel Peace Prize 2014, but are children’s right to education and a workfree childhood two sides of the same coin?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the prize jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai ‘for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education’.

Malala Yousafzai’s story is well-known, and described in much detail in ‘I am Malala‘. She was shot by Taliban fighters in rural Pakistan for her promotion of girls’ education. Malala survived the injuries and is since celebrated as an important global symbol for the right to education of girls in particular. Malala’s message is certainly an important one. However, critical voices have pointed at the silencing of other Pakistani children’s voices that happens at the same time that Malala’s story is celebrated. This echoes Spivak’s question whether the subaltern can actually speak.

Malala’s co-winner is Kailash Satyarthi, a long time anti-child labour activist from India. Kailash is the founder of the Indian Bachpan Bachao Andolan (‘save the childhood movement’), a key figure behind the ‘Global March Against Child Labour‘, one of the architectures behind the ‘rugmark’ initiative that is meant to guarantee child labour free carpets, and known for his raids aimed at rescuing working children from bonded and forced labour conditions (see HERE and HERE).

Together, Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai seem to represent an simple yet powerful message about children’s rights: the right to education and the right to a workfree childhood are two sites of the same coin. Hence, the joint award. However, here some nuancing is important.

For example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child does not speak about a ‘workfree childhood’. Instead, it calls in Article 32 for the regulation of children’s work and for the protection of children ‘from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.’ This is broadly in line with what working children themselves call for (see HERE and HERE), who furthermore also stress the importance of safety, respect and dignity in their work.

It is to be hoped that with the boost the theme of children’s rights receives with these two Nobel Peace Prize laureates such important nuancing is maintained.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

Are you an MA student and interested in studying young people’s trajectories into farming in India? Then, check this out:

Becoming a young farmer
Funded field research opportunity

Students currently enrolled in a Masters’ program are invited to undertake empirical research on young people’s trajectories into farming in India. The global phenomenon of an ageing farming population, poor returns on farming in the current economic paradigm and an apparent lack of interest among youth in agrarian and rural futures have attracted considerable attention among policy makers and researchers. At the same time, what is overlooked is that not all young people leave farming and the countryside, and some urban youth establish themselves as first-generation urban or rural farmers. By studying young people’s trajectories into farming futures we aim to fill an important void in current work on rural youth and agrarian studies and in policies related to rural poverty reduction and employment generation. First, the research studies will go beyond documenting the various barriers that keep young people from establishing agrarian futures to examining how at least some young people manage to overcome these. Second, they will assess the working of intergenerational dynamics underpinning trajectories into farming, ranging from inheritance to the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. Third, they will shed light on generational innovation in farming practices across the globe. Gender will be treated as a key relation of social differentiation shaping all three areas of inquiry.

Up to $3000 will be provided for two graduate students to undertake field research in India. Students will have the opportunity to interact with other researchers, to present in seminars/ workshops, and to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. Funding will be distributed on a competitive basis and selection will be based on submitted research proposals. The individual funds will be released in three installments. The first, following the submission of a detailed fieldwork plan and ethics approval; the second, following the submission of a report summarizing the research findings; and the final, following the submission of a substantial output (thesis, research paper). The funds will be allocated between March 2015 and June 2016.

Interested students please send a CV and a 1000-word research proposal (consisting of research objective, questions, data collection methods, budget and time table) to Dr.Sharada Srinivasan, University of Guelph, sharada@uoguelph.ca by 20 October 2014.

studying_SEA_comics-940x400Development studies and practice has a tendency to represent large parts of the world as places of poverty, misery and underdevelopment. In this regard, a look at the creative industry works as a useful corrective. It brings to the forefront the dynamic and creative dimension that is also part and parcel of the so-called ‘developing world’, and at times sheds an interesting light on questions of development.

The Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia presents a special issue entitled ‘Studying Comics from Southeast Asia’. As Jacqueline Berndt observes in her introductory essay:

…research on comics cultures is dominated by the comparison between North America, Western Europe and Japan, occasionally including Korea and also the Chinese-language markets, in particular with respect to manga. 

A focus on comics from Southeast Asia is thus much welcomed and the issue provides a useful introduction to the world of comics in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

From a youth studies perspective I would have liked to see more about the consumers of comics and the role of comics in youth sub-cultures. The contribution about Vietnam by Nguyen Hong Phuc goes someway into such a direction where it discusses the controversy around the picture book Sát Thủ Đầu Mưng Mủ by the Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thanh Phong. The book recreates Vietnamese proverbs and includes new slang which it does through a total of 120 drawings that are each accompanied by a short caption playing on common informal Vietnamese idioms. Nguyen Hong Phuc illustrates this with the following example:

…the traditional Vietnamese saying “when a horse is sick, the whole stable refuses grass”, which means “love people like loving oneself”, was revised to “when a horse is sick, the whole stable can eat more grass” which implies a degree of selfishness and uncaring for others. 

Although such creative use of language received considerable critique leading to a halt on the publication of the book, it also received support. Nguyen Hong Phuc reports that in a debate organised at the French Cultural Centre in Hanoi (in 2012) on ‘the language of youths in the internet age’ many youth voiced their support for Nguyen Thanh Phong’s work. Importantly, some Vietnamese scholars took side with these youth by pointing out that:

new ways of playing around with Vietnamese words and re-creating idoms were innovative since the official Vietnamese language could not reflect such expressions well enough, thus, it created new value from the old

Perhaps, then, development studies scholars have much to learn from reading comics as it arguably captures people’s experiences and perceptions of socio-economic change much more aptly than any large scale survey on such matters.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.