The Global Studies Seminar presents Andrew Frankel.

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The Global Studies Seminar presents “Strategic Supplementation: Navigating the Education Revolution in Amdo Tibetan areas in China” by Denison University’s Assistant Professor Andrew Frankel. 

How do Amdo Tibetans in China negotiate the influence that formal education exerts on society and the concomitant widespread perception of the legitimacy of schooling to exert this influence? This global ‘Education Revolution’ has created new opportunities for social mobility, the actualization of human potential, and the reconceptualization of what is worthwhile and ethical to learn (Baker, 2014). But it has also increased the capacity of schooling around the world to legitimize and reward some perspectives and behaviors while devaluing and marginalizing others – all while positioning itself as a legitimately fair and meritocratic institution. To help students navigate increasingly complex and influential schools, many educators – especially in East Asia – provide instruction ‘outside school time’ to students looking to supplement their educational achievement. Scholars and policymakers around the world often conceptualize such programs as ‘shadow education’ insofar as these programs are thought to mimic (largely ‘Western’ notions of) mainstream schooling in many ways (Bray, 2013). This research suggests, however, that supplemental programs may themselves be complex and meaningful institutions, especially when they serve populations minoritized in mainstream schooling.  

The principal research question I address is: How do Amdo Tibetan supplemental educators conceptualize what is educationally valuable and help students acquire it? Ethnographic data gathered at Amdo Tibetan community schools (Tib. sabjong) show, in part through comparison with neo-institutional claims about the global expansion of formal education, that such programs fulfill a variety of goals, some incongruent with those of mainstream schooling. Data show that it is sometimes through deviating from, rather than shadowing, the norms of mainstream schooling that these programs foster relationships and environments conducive to helping minoritized students of the Global South acquire what they need to be successful within and beyond schooling. Moreover, data reveal that even when such programs appear to mimic the mainstream, educators impart multiple ideological frameworks for understanding what and why students learn that challenge the rationales dominant in both Chinese society and ‘world culture’ scripts (Meyer et al. 1997). Reorienting the goals of education, Amdo Tibetan community members emphasize the ethical dimension of acquiring and transmitting cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986). Finally, this research suggests that supplemental programs, by virtue of the legitimacy accorded to them precisely because they resemble formal education, constitute effective platforms for challenging the hegemony of mainstream schooling and the values it prioritizes, especially in authoritarian states where overt resistance state policies can be politically dangerous. 

Frankel is an assistant professor in the Department of Education at Denison University. He conducts research and teaches courses on the social and philosophical foundations of education, which allow him to draw on his ten years of fieldwork and employment experience in Amdo Tibet and across the Himalayan region. While completing his Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia, he completed a Fulbright-Hays fellowship in Taiwan and always welcomes dialoguing with others about the process and consequences of global education expansion.

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