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Rather than regulating participation as a neutral technical input and assuming that
the term holds one meaning for all, this study takes the approach that emphasises
the importance of understanding the cultural context of participation practices
and recognises that there may be several interpretations of participation in a society.
Therefore, the approach to this study is an interpretive approach. This is the
approach to understand the human behaviours with their meanings (Cohen et al.
2003). Given the underlying assumption of an interpretive approach, often
contrasted with that of a positivist approach, that one event is seen differently from
one person to another and the same event has different meanings for different
people, an interpretive approach enables this study to attempt to examine how
Cambodian parents perceive their participation and actually participate in the
school-related decision-making processes.

This study also focuses on structural and external factors explaining why these
parents perceive their participation in those ways. An interpretive approach
neglects these external forces whereby one interprets a situation: an interpretive
approach is criticised for its narrowly micro-sociological persuasion (Cohen et al.
2003). A critical paradigm, on the other hand, complements this danger of an
interpretive approach, its intention being to realise the social, economic, political
and cultural backgrounds where specific phenomena occur (Merriam 2004). In this
sense, the style to this study, i.e. the research design is naturalistic and partly
ethnographic styles.

Being naturalistic literally means showing things as they appear in the natural
world. In naturalistic research, empirical data are gathered in their naturalistic
and real-life setting unlike in laboratories or controlled setting as in other forms of
research where variables are manipulated (Cohen et al. 2003). The ethnographic
style of field research was originally developed by anthropologists and is now used
in a good many studies of small groups (Bell 1999). Ethnography describes
activities in relation to a particular cultural context from the point of view of the
members of that group themselves (Cohen et al. 2003; Merriam 2004). Naturalistic
and ethnographic styles enable this study to understand the cultural backgrounds

of parents‟ perceptions and practices in regard to their participation, without
manoeuvring any variable.

Naturalistic research and ethnographies share with hermeneutic a concern with

meaning. That is, a concern with hermeneutic is a concern for interpreting and
recounting accurately the meanings that research informants and participants give
to the real-life setting around them (LeCompte and Preissle 1993). However,
naturalistic researchers and ethnographers can only see pieces of the reality of a
cultural scene, i.e. the product of the researchers and something produced by the
interaction between these researchers, and their informants and participants
(LeCompte and Preissle 1993). Hence, the sites, people and other study units
comprising the data sources are described in the next chapter as adequately and
accurately as possible, or thick description. As for the accuracy of the data
collected, triangulating with several sources of data is explained later in
VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY section in this chapter.

The unit of analysis of this study is an individual person such as a parent, a

schoolteacher, and another educational or community stakeholder. This is because
examining to what extent personal background characteristics explain each
informant‟s perceptions of parental participation and also exploring each
informant‟s perceptions themselves are of paramount importance to this study.


The population, potential respondents, in this study are every parent whose
children are enrolled to a primary school in Cambodia. The research sites selected
were Phnom Penh, a municipality and capital of Cambodia, and Kampong
Chhnang, a province located northwestward from Phnom Penh (see the complete
map of Cambodia in the opening part). Kampong Chhnang was selected because of
its several characteristics as a typical rural province in Cambodia. Phnom Penh
was chosen for its comparability to Kampong Chhnang, in terms of mainly
parents‟ background characteristics. Tables are showing demographic and
socio-economical situations of Phnom Penh and Kampong Chhnang.

Table . Population and demography of the research sites (1998)

land area population population density average
(km2) total male female (pers/ household size
Phnom Penh 290 999,804 481,911 517,893 3,745 5.7
Kampong Chhnang 5,521 417,693 197,691 220,002 76 5.0
Cambodia total 181,035 11,437,656 5,511,408 5,926,248 64 5.2

Source: MoP (2005) Chapter 3, Table 2

Table . Average monthly household income (1999)

income per monetary income (%)
household (riels) total wages & salaries non-agricultural activities agricultural activities other cash receipts other
Phnom Penh 1,139,553 63.18 14.24 40.21 1.19 7.31 0.23
Tonle Sap 344,308 69.50 6.62 33.56 27.22 1.99 0.11
Cambodia total 403,334 67.43 9.15 36.83 18.07 3.24 0.14

non-monetary income (%)
total agricultural products net rental of owner occupied house non-agricultural activities income in kind
Phnom Penh 36.82 0.55 26.51 8.97 0.79
Tonle Sap 30.50 16.28 6.35 7.17 0.70
Cambodia total 32.57 11.42 12.74 7.68 0.72

Source: MoP (2005) Chapter 10, Tables 10, 11 and 12

1) The original source is from the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey (SES) 1999.
2) Tonle Sap lake region includes Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong
Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Otdar Mean Chey, Pailin and Pursat.
3) Monetary and non-monetary income percentages are those of October 1993 –
September 1994.

Table . Educational attainment of household population in the research sites (2000)

Percentage distribution of the de facto male and female household population age
six and over by highest level of education attained
level of education
never pre-school some primary completed primary
male female male female male female male female
Phnom Penh 4.6 14.2 2.8 3.0 34.5 41.7 8.3 7.7
Kampong Chhnang 17.3 31.2 0.1 0.3 64.4 60.1 4.3 2.5
Cambodia total 19.2 34.2 1.2 1.2 52.8 50.3 6.6 4.2

level of education median year of
some secondary completed secondary more than secondary schooling
male female male female male female male female male female
Phnom Penh 29.5 26.0 12.2 4.9 7.2 2.3 941 2,737 5.9 4.0
Kampong Chhnang 12.2 5.5 1.4 0.4 0.2 0.0 2,401 1,107 1.7 0.7
Cambodia total 16.9 8.8 2.4 0.9 0.8 0.2 26,238 29,117 2.5 1.1

Source: MoP (2005) Chapter 6, Tables 11 and 12

1) The original source is from Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (DHS)

Phnom Penh is the most densely populated area in Cambodia: according to

General Population Census of Cambodia (GPCC) 1998, one of over eleven people
among the whole population lives in Phnom Penh that geographically accounts for
only 0.16 percentages of the whole country land area. Phnom Penh is economically
advantaged: its income level is nearly three times higher than the average income
level of the whole country. Compared to the other provinces, more people receive
their monetary income from wages and salaries, and much less people earn their
monetary or non-monetary income from agricultural activities or products.
Regarding people‟s educational attainment in Phnom Penh, compared to the other
provinces, it is suggested that more people have experiences of at least some
secondary education and much more people have ever studied at higher education.

Kampong Chhnang‟s land area is nineteen times bigger than Phnom Penh whereas
its population is less than half of Phnom Penh. It is also implied that the income
level of this province is slightly lower than the whole country average and only
thirty percentages of Phnom Penh, and much more population lives on agricultural
activities than people in Phnom Penh. The median years of schooling of people in
Kampong Chhnang is 1.7 for male and 0.7 for female, which supports the idea that
many people have ever studied only at the first or second grade while over sixty
percentages of this province‟s population surveyed have some primary education

Tables are showing the educational and school situations in Phnom Penh,
Kampong Chhnang and the whole country. Compared to the numbers of primary
school age children, the numbers of primary schools in these municipality and
province are not small whereas the numbers of pupils per school is rather big in
Phnom Penh. This might be a reason that GERs of both research sites are over a
hundred percentage and NERs are quite high especially in Kampong Chhnang.
This supports the idea that Kampong Chhnang has recently become an
educationally advanced province, since as having seen in Table , a good many of
the people in this province have some experiences of primary schooling but have
not yet completed this level of education.

One of the significant educational characteristics of Kampong Chhnang is that the
locations of secondary schools are scattered, and probably as a result, the number
of secondary level enrolments is fairly small and the transition rate to lower
secondary schools is not so high as in Phnom Penh.

The pupil flow rates in both sites follow the whole country‟s trend: more pupils
repeat the same grades at the early stage of primary schooling and less at the later
stage. The schoolteachers‟ profiles are not much different between Phnom Penh
and Kampong Chhnang: over half of the schoolteachers completed at least lower
secondary education and over twenty percentages of them graduated from upper
secondary schools whereas few have experiences of higher education.

Table . Number of schools and pupils in the research sites (2004/2005)

number of schools enrolment
pre-primary primary secondary
pre-primary primary secondary
total female total female total female
Phnom Penh 60 112 30 4,377 2,153 148,784 70,692 101,972 45,029
Kampong Chhnang 53 238 30 3,491 1,746 103,459 49,643 22,339 9,284
Cambodia total

Source: MoEYS (2005a, 2005b and 2005c) Tables 3, 4 and 7

Table . Indicators on primary school pupils in the research sites (2004/2005)

number of primary school age children GER NER transition rate to lower sec.
total female total female total female male
Phnom Penh 127,463 63,443 116.7 111.4 91.1 90.1 97.3
Kampong Chhnang 85,077 42,169 121.6 117.7 95.6 94.8 79.2
Cambodia total

Source: MoEYS (2005a, 2005b and 2005c) Tables 11, 12 and 29

Table . Primary pupil flow rates in the research sites (2003/2004)

grade 1 grade 2 grade 3
promotion repetition dropout promotion repetition dropout promotion repetition dropout
Phnom Penh 74.7(75.9) 13.5(12.3) 11.8(11.7) 84.2(85.6) 9.2(7.4) 6.6(7.0) 85.4(86.9) 7.4(6.1) 7.2(7.1)
Kampong Chhnang 67.9(69.3) 23.5(22.5) 8.5(8.2) 75(76.2) 17.6(15.3) 7.3(8.5) 81(83.2) 12.4(10.4) 6.6(6.4)
Cambodia total


grade 4 grade 5 grade 6
promotion repetition dropout promotion repetition dropout promotion repetition dropout
Phnom Penh 90.7(92.1) 5(4.3) 4.3(3.7) 90.1(90.2) 3.6(3.0) 6.3(6.8) 91.3(92.6) 2(1.8) 6.7(5.7)
Kampong Chhnang 85.8(87.5) 7.6(5.7) 6.6(6.9) 89.7(90.2) 4.1(3.2) 6.2(6.6) 89.3(89.1) 2.2(1.7) 8.5(9.2)
Cambodia total

Source: MoEYS (2005a, 2005b and 2005c) Tables 13, 14, 16 and 17
1) Numbers in brackets are for female pupils.

Table . Indicators on primary schoolteachers in the research sites (2004/2005)

teaching non-teaching education level without pedagogical
total female total female primary lower sec. upper sec. graduate training
Phnom Penh 4,019 2,943 631 290 73 2534 1325 87 50
Kampong Chhnang 1,689 544 420 97 101 1083 504 1 28
Cambodia total

Source: MoEYS (2005a, 2005b and 2005c) Tables 4 and 22

1) Teaching staff is the total number of teachers in the schools. Staff who are in
charge of teaching everyday, librarians, operational activity teachers, art home
economic teachers, lab staff, computer trainers, primary school principals in
school with six or less than six classes, and vice-principals in schools with ten
and less than ten classes (2005a).
2) Non-teaching staff is the total number of non-teaching staff in the schools. Staff
who are working everyday in school office, secretaries, accountants, dormitory
managers, health staff, drivers, cooks, primary school principals in schools
with seven or more than seven classes, and vice-principals in schools with
eleven or more than eleven classes (2005a).

Table . Community participation and financing in the research sites (2004/2005)

parent association community teaching PAP fund (riel)
exists held meet. members teahcers monks per pupil per school
Phnom Penh 126 126 15 0 0 8,058 14,176,739
Kampong Chhnang 278 276 7 0 0 9,683 4,844,699
Cambodia total

number of schools obtaining funds from
sch. income community gov.for building abroad IOs/NGOs
Phnom Penh 9 42 9 1 14
Kampong Chhnang 16 35 9 7 17
Cambodia total
Source: MoEYS (2005a, 2005b and 2005c) Table 27

The research was conducted in two primary schools: one in an urban area, Phnom
Penh Primary School (PP School) and the other in a rural area, Kampong
Chhnang Primary School (KC School): both are anonymous, i.e. the names of the
schools were changed for ethical consideration. Both PP and KC Schools were
introduced by Phnom Penh municipality and Kampong Chhnang provincial
government respectively, with the criteria of school size, school equipments and
school covering areas‟ socio-economical situations in order for the sample frame of
these two schools to become comparable. Tables are showing some characteristics
of KC and PP Schools.

Table . KC and PP Schools‟ enrolments (2005/2006)

Source: Interviews to KC and PP School principals and class teachers

Table . KC and PP Schools‟ pupil flow and academic achievements of last exam

Source: Interviews to KC and PP School principals and class teachers

1) Numbers in brackets are for female pupils.
2) Dropped-out pupils are for the academic year 2004/2005.

Table . KC and PP Schools‟ teachers (2005/2006)

Source: Interviews to KC and PP School principals and class teachers

PP School is located

KC School is located at nearly eleven kilometres by airline distance from Kampong

Chhnang provincial city and at four kilometres from a national road. Within its
commuting distance of school, there are three villages where most of the villagers
engage in agricultural activities. KC School is a cluster satellite school, and the
other primary schools under the same cluster are scattered in an area stretching
east to west over that national road.

The sampling strategies adopted were stratified random sampling for parents so as
to suffice the representativeness of the sample to its entirety, i.e. the parents of all

pupils at each primary school, and purposive non-random sampling for principals,
vice-principals, other schoolteachers and community stakeholders: Village
Development Committee members, village leaders, School Support Committee
members, Pagoda Committee members, and district and provincial office
education staff.

The minimum sample size for parents was determined at first as thirty-six in each
school for convenience‟ sake. However, sampling was continued until it reaches the
redundancy, that is, any new sample does not produce any new information. The
sample size for parents in each school would have been more than thirty-six if the
research did not gain enough information to answer each research question.

For selecting thirty-six parents in each of both PP and KC Schools, the whole
pupils in each school were divided into six groups in terms of their grades, and
then each group was further divided into two groups in terms of their academic
performance. Academic performance means here whether a pupil has poor
attendance record or had ever repeated the same grades. Therefore, thirty-six
parents, from each school, of thirty-six pupils divided into twelve groups as shown
in Table were to identify the parameters of the wider number of the parents that
must be included in the sample.

Table . Matrix of the sample

Performance 1 2 3 4 5 6

All the schoolteachers including principals in both PP and KC Schools were

selected unless they refused to become informants or could be respondents for any
other reasons – no specific sample strategy was used. Other stakeholders such as
district education officer, province education director and other relevant MoEYS
staff were built up as the sample. Each successive informant was named by a
preceding individual, and thus the selection of the respondent individuals was
collected on the basis of informant referrals. The process was repeated until the
information became saturated: until the sample produced no any other new
information and was satisfactory to the research needs. This sampling strategy is

often used when the potential individuals investigated are scattered throughout
populations and do not share a common geographical location (LeCompte and
Preissle 1993).


In order to achieve the purpose of this study, exploring the internal and external
factors whereby the parents of Cambodian primary school pupils participate in the
school management decision-making processes in Cambodian socio-cultural
contexts, three research questions were identified:

 How do Cambodian parents perceive their participation in the school-related

decision-making processes?
 To what extent do Cambodian parents‟ personal background characteristics
affect their perceptions of parental participation in the school-related
decision-making processed?
 Why do Cambodian parents perceive their participation in that way?

The findings of the first research question show how each parent understands
responsibility for educating his or her children and for managing the school, and
whether the parent perceives his or her participation as other stakeholders expect.
The second question makes it possible to consider the deference, if any, in parents‟
perceptions of their participation among parents with different background
characteristics. The findings of the last research question examine the underlying
structural factors whereby parents perceive and practice their participation.


The interview

Semi-structured interviews were used as the main research method in this study in
order to get the informants‟ own perceptions, viewpoints and interpretations. As
Bell (1999) says, the interview can develop a basic idea such as the idea given by
the questionnaire, by finding out details in order to make the idea complete. Unlike
structured interviews, which often take the form of a questionnaire or checklist
completed by the interviewer, the questions in semi-structured interviews are

tailored to the standpoints of each interviewee (Kane 1995). Examining each
informant‟s perceptions from the point of view of that informant is a focal point
for this study. For this reason, semi-structured interviews are more appropriate to
this study than structured interviews.

The interview nonetheless is a highly subjective research method and has a danger
of bias especially in condition that a researcher comes from a different cultural
background (Bell 1999). As Kane (1995 p.170) warns, researchers have to
acknowledge that in general, people in some societies give a brief or „to-the-point
summation‟ in response to a question whereas people in other societies talk
through considering all angles. Further, psychological factors such as the
perceptions, attitudes, expectations and motives of an interviewer affect an
interviewee‟s answer (Powney and Watts 1987). Powney and Watts (1987 p.36)

Unintentionally interviewers may give clues to their own attitudes and values
and even to the kinds of answers they would like to receive from their

LeCompte and Preissle (1993) also warn that interviews can be more reactive and
obtrusive, and interviewees may deliberately or unconsciously supply false or
misleading data. In order to alleviate the danger of bias and distortions and to
validate the data collected, the data obtained through structured observation and
secondary analysis was corroborated, the methods of which are illustrated later.

The interviews were conducted by myself as the only interviewer with the
assistance of Cambodian interpreter, on a one-to-one basis with: seventy-two
parents in PP School and KC School (PPp1, KCp1 through PPp36, KCp36); all
schoolteachers in both schools (PPt1, KCt1 through PPtn, KCtn); district and
provincial office education staff (PPdoe1, KCdoe1 and PPpoe1, and KCpoe1
through PPdoen, KCdoen and PPpoen, KCpoen,); Village Development Committee
members (PPvdc1, KCvdc1 through PPvdcn, KCvdcn); village leaders (PPvl1,
KCvl1 through PPvln, KCvln); Pagoda Committee members (PPpc1, KCpc1
through PPpcn, KCpcn); School Support Committee members (PPssc1, KCssc1
through PPsscn, KCsscn); and other relevant MoEYS staff.

All the interviews were tape-recorded unless an interviewee refused to be recorded.
The interviews to the parents, Village Development Committee members, village
leaders, Pagoda Committee members and School Support Committee members
were conducted in their own houses. The interviews to the schoolteachers were in
the schools and the interviews to district and provincial office education staff were
conducted their working places.

As Bentley (n.d., quoted in Powney and Watts 1987) says, in the case of the
interviews, an interviewer is a stranger to the interviewees, and the interviewer is
also putting them in a potentially uncomfortable situation, by sitting fairly close
and tape-recording what the interviewees are saying. Therefore, I attempted to
make each interview as informal as possible such as developing from some indirect
questions to supplement the questions directly related to the three research

Once we were seated, I explained who I was, why I was doing the research, what I
would do after the research placement and how long the interviews would take. I
asked their permission to tape-record the interviews and quote a part of them in
this study. I also told them that the tape-recorded interviews were heard by no one
else other than myself. I described that all the information which the interviewees
gave me would be treated with complete confidentiality, viz. their own names, the
names of the schools and the districts were changed in this study to preserve
anonymity. I then gave some of them – if they are literate – the letters on which I
had written in their original language what I told them together with my signature,
e-mail address and telephone number in Cambodia – if they have access to such
lines of communication, in order for them to be able to contact me if they had any
question and concern.

During the interviews, I was careful to display listening behaviours such as

nodding in agreement, smiling or maintaining eye contact. When the interviewees
looked confused about the meanings of the questions, the questions were slightly

Each interview was begun with asking demographic questions, for example age,
gender, educational level and length of residence. Some researchers recommend
spreading this kind of questions throughout an interview or leaving them for the

conclusion, since they find these questions less interesting than other questions
(Patton 1990b, cited in LeCompte and Preissle 1993). However, as LeCompte and
Preissle (1993) say, demographic questions are readily addressed and ease
interviewees into more difficult responses. Reserving more complex and
controversial questions for middle or later periods can wait for rapport established
and the interviewee‟s interest aroused (LeCompte and Preissle 1993).

Every predetermined question was grouped and ordered according to its topic. For
example, all questions about parents‟ perceptions of schoolteachers‟ aptitudes were
grouped together and separated from the questions asking about the academic
performance of their own children. Many questions were phrased in an indirect
form. The indirect approach, asking interviewees‟ views enables them to produce
more frank and open responses than a direct approach (Cohen et al. 2003). For
example, asking a parent how he or she understands the necessity of
communication with schoolteachers collects the data on his or her own and freely
described opinions while asking whether he or she thinks it is necessary to
communicate with schoolteachers gives more direct and obvious responses.

The response modes, i.e. the ways in which questions might be answered were
varied depending on the nature of each question. For example, some questions
were prepared to be answered in an unstructured way, giving the interviewees
freedom to give their own answers as fully as they choose; others were asked with
dichotomous variables such as yes/no questions, and fill-in and tabular responses
requiring the interviewees to give their statement by selecting from a number of
alternatives and filling in by words, figures and phrases. All the predetermined
questions to every type of the interviewees are shown in Appendices.

The observation

In addition to the interview, the structured observations of parent-teacher

meetings in both PP and KC Schools took place. According to Bell (1999) and
Cohen et al. (2003), observations enable researchers to look at what is taking place
in the original place, to discover things that may be missed or that informants may
not freely talk about in interview situations. Data from observations are „”live”
data from “live” situations‟ while data from interviews are perception-based
(Cohen et al. 2003, p.305, original emphases). In addition to the matter for validity,

combining a few means of gathering data, for example combining interviews with
observations is useful for revealing that people produce themselves in a particular
way in a particular situation: they show their identities in different ways in
different situations (Chege 2006).

Further, Morrison (1993, quoted in Cohen et al. 2003, p.305, original emphases and
brackets) says:

Observations … enable the researcher to gather data on … the interactional

setting (e.g. the interactions that are taking place, formal, informal, planned,
unplanned, verbal, non-verbal etc.)

Given these characteristics, observations are an appropriate data collection

strategy for this study seeking to examine the interactions between parents, and
schoolteachers and other relevant stakeholders, specifically from the standpoint of

On the other hand, structured observations generate numerical data that facilitate
the making of comparisons between the frequencies or patterns to be calculated
(Cohen et al. 2003). Structured observations concern participants‟ behaviours
whereas unstructured and participant observations focus on their meaning
(LeCompte and Preissle 1993). In this sense, the observations of parent-teacher
meetings in both PP and KC Schools generated the data on the behavioural
interactions, their frequencies and patterns between parents and others especially
schoolteachers in the meetings. Numerically measuring the behavioural
interactional frequencies and patterns was expected to remove the researcher‟s
subjectivity to the utmost since, as Cohen et al. (2003) state, structured
observations often have hypothesises already decided and are used to produce
evidence or counterevidence for these hypothesises.

Prior to conducting the observations, an observation sheet was prepared to record

speaking contributions by each participant over a fifteen-minute period (Table ).
The upper ten categories indicate to whom parent(s) is or are speaking while the
middle categories indicate to whom teacher(s) is or are speaking. The lower eleven
categories indicate to whom another or other stakeholder(s) is or are speaking.
Each column represents one-minute time interval, i.e. the movement from left to

right represents the chronology of the sequence. Each data was entered in a
forward slash (/) in an appropriate cell of the sheet. For example, a slash in a cell of
Row 1 and of its corresponding column, i.e. parent to parent, shows that there was
a speaking interaction between one parent and another parent for the first
one-minute of the observation. The data from the observations were quantitative.
This procedure reveals that if there are slashes in many cells in the same column,
many interactions were taking place among parents, schoolteachers and other
stakeholders during a meeting.

1min. 2min. 3min. 4min. 5min. 6min. 7min. 8min. 9min. 10min. 11min. 12min. 13min. 14min. 15min.
1.parent to parent
2.parent to parents
3.parent to teacher

4.parent to teachers
5.parent to another stakeholder
6.parent to other stakeholders
1.parents to teacher
2.parents to teachers

3.parents to another stakeholder

4.parents to other stakeholders
1.teacher to teacher
2.teacher to teachers
3.teacher to parent

4.teacher to parents
5.teacher to another stakeholder
6.teacher to other stakeholders
1.teachers to parent
2.teachers to parents

3.teachers to another stakeholder

4.teachers to other stakeholders
1.another stakeholder to parent
2.another stakeholder to parents
3.another stakeholder to teacher

4.another stakeholder to teachers

5.another stakeholder to another stakeholder
6.another stakeholder to other stakeholders
1.other stakeholders to parent
2.other stakeholders to parents

3.other stakeholders to teacher

4.other stakeholders to teachers
5.other stakeholders to another stakeholder

For the reliability of the observations, Cohen et al. (1993) recommend that
observations should be continued until the situations that are being observed
appear to be repeating data that have already collected. This continuation enables
researchers to find out „the most to the least common behaviours observed over
time‟ (Cohen et al., p.314). This means that the greater the number of observations,
the greater the reliability of the data might be. However, limitations imposed by
time and opportunities let me observe did not allow me to observe enough number
of parent-teacher meetings.

The participants in the meetings were n parents and n schoolteachers in PP School,

and n parents and n schoolteachers in KC School.

(illustrating the situations of each meeting; the place, time, duration, weather etc.)

The secondary analysis

The use of documentary evidence is the third strategy for data collection and
researching in this study. One of the greatest merits of using documents as a data
collection strategy is to reduce the problem of reactivity, viz. „the Hawthorne effect‟
(Cohen et al. 2003, p.156; Merriam 2004). Other data collection methods such as
interviews and observations cannot avoid the presence of the researcher, which
may alter the situation as interviewees and participants may wish to avoid, impress,
direct, deny and influence the researcher (Cohen et al. 2003). Therefore, the
analysis of documentary evidence has some advantages in triangulated with the
other two methods in this study.

The documents used in this study are: Cambodian government‟s publications, the
reports and studies by the major international agencies and organisations
including NGOs, and the reports by other organisations such as Cambodian local
research institutes. Field notes were kept as closely as possible after the occurrence
of the interviews and observations. Additionally, literature on the subject, but not
necessarily on Cambodia was used. Where relevant, newspaper articles and other
materials were also analysed.

In regard to the nature of these documents, since the majority of documents

analysed in this study were written for some purpose other than for the subject of

this study, i.e. parental participation, the purposes of these documents and studies,
the sources of the information collected, and when and where the information was
obtained were checked. They were produced by the processes of the government,
international agencies and other local institutes from the everyday working of the
education system. Therefore, in this study, they were to be used in a different way
from how they were originally intended.

Details of the nature of each document are described when it is referred to in the
next chapter, and hence it may suffice to say at this point that some of the
government documents were produced for the purpose disseminating the
government‟s current education policy and related reforms. Others were generated
for the use of educational administrators. Therefore, it has to be borne in mind
that these documents attempt to justify the government‟s policy and actions
accompanied. On this point, Merriam (2004) argues that authenticity of documents
have to be carefully checked. For example, like the documents generated by a
school for an inspection in order to give „the best possible impression on the
inspectors‟ (Duffy 1999, p.110), the education system in reality may not be so
prolific in its production of policy statements. The reality gained from the
interviews and observations are compared with the statements in the documents.

Regarding selection criteria of the documents, Duffy (1999) says that a balanced
selection of documents, i.e. sampling is necessary if the documents are bulky. Due
to the limited access to and availability of the documents in the subject category of
this study, no particular sampling strategy was necessary. However, the documents
and other artefact materials discovered were selected by the standards that
LeCompte and Preissle (1993, p.219) bring up:

Who produced it? For whom was it made? When and where was it
constructed? Under what circumstances and for what purpose was it
produced? If material and equipment were produced elsewhere, how did
participants in the group acquire them?

Regarding document collection techniques and procedures, most of the documents

were acquired by myself from the document and resource centres of MoEYS, the
major international organisations such as the United Nations Children‟s Fund
(UNICEF) and ADB, and the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) –

a local research institute in Cambodia. Of the few other documents, some were
given in person by government officials, and others by NGO staff and Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – a bilateral donor agency.

The documents and studies analysed in this study were collected on the occasions
while I was researching for this study. However, given the rapid and dramatic
changes in the education system of Cambodia, whether some of the documents and
studies found and collected at those points in time are still valid or not is in doubt.
Therefore, to make sure of the current validity of these and acquire some other
documents recently produced, I contacted those government officials, JICA experts
who were in charge of supporting the Cambodian government‟s education reforms
and NGO staff who also worked in the education sector.

Apart from the hard sources of information, some online sources of information
were also used. The information on the website of MoEYS was useful to „catch up‟
on the latest changes in the education system. However, the information found
there was analysed with especially careful consideration, given the possibility that
they are provisional, i.e. there are further changes before officially enforced, and
also given that as Merriam (2004) warns, the online information may be deleted.
The websites of other organisations were dealt with in the same way.


Validity in the interviews was attempted to be achieved by my attitude: not to see

each interviewee in my own image which was perhaps influenced by literature; to
occasionally ask the same interview question in a different way in order to make
sure that the interviewees do not misunderstand what was being asked; and to
sometimes repeat what the interviewees were saying so as to correctly perceive the
responses. According to Cohen et al. (2003), these researcher‟s attitudes minimise
the amount of bias, which is the most practical way of achieving greater validity in

On the other hand, reliability in interviews, as Oppenheim (1992, cited in Cohen et

al. 2003) says, is attained by asking each interviewee the same question without
changes in wording, context and emphasis. Therefore, during the interviews, the
key questions directly relating each research question were asked to all the

relevant interviewees without any changes regardless of the type of interviewee
while other questions were tailored to each interviewee.

Validity and reliability in observations are threatened when informants are

unrepresentative of the sample frame in the study (Cohen et al. 2003). For the
validity of the observations, after the occurrence of each observation of a
parent-teacher meeting, it was asked whether the meeting was typical of what
customarily occurs, i.e. whether or not the participants, times and discussion topics
of the meeting observed were as usual.

LeCompte and Preissle (1993, p.334) state that human behaviours are never static,
and no study is exactly replicated, regardless of its methods and design, but
qualitative researchers can enhance the external reliability of their data by
recognising the problems of „researcher status position, informant choices, social
situations and conditions, analytic constructs and premises, and methods of data
collection and analysis.‟ Regarding this indication, since the dependence of data of
this study is on the social relationship of myself as a researcher with the informants
and participants, my position as a researcher needs to be clearly stated.

For this study I stayed in Cambodia for two months from January 2003 through
February 2003, and for three months from March 2006 through June 2006. In both
occasions, I was visiting the research sites and interviewing the informants as an
individual researcher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). I explained
every informant that my visits to Cambodia and contacts to the informants were
purely for this study, writing up a doctoral dissertation. For researching about PP
School, I stayed in Phnom Penh, and for researching about KC School, I stayed
with one family in Kampong Chhnang.

For social situations and conditions, LeCompte and Preissle (1993) indicate that
the social settings where data are collected influence the nature of the data. For
example, what parents say at home about the school of their children may be
different from what they say at school about the school of their children. In order
to reduce this situation effect, as explained earlier, all the interviews to the parents
were conducted at their own houses, and all the interviews to the schoolteachers
were conducted at the school where they work and under the condition that no
other schoolteachers heard the interviews.

For a fourth element influencing the content of the data, analytic constructs and
premises, the concepts such as participation and culture were clearly defined in the
preceding chapter. However, these definitions were not shown to the informants of
this study since a goal of this study is to examine how they perceive parental
participation and why they perceive it in such a way.

To strengthen internal reliability, the direct quotations from the interviews and
documents, and other such raw data are shown in the next chapter to the utmost,
and unless it is appropriate, reporting the results based on what I already know is


The interview

The interviews tape-recorded were transcribed without any change from the
originals and then listened to for reconfirmation. Cohen et al. (2003) intend that
transcriptions lose data from the original encounter since they represents the
translation from oral and interpersonal systems to written language: they do not
tell something that took place such as the tone and inflection of the voice of the
interviewees. In this sense, the data transcribed are not already interpreted data in
themselves (Cohen et al. 2003).

Interpretation and analysis of the data for this study are „the combined
inductive-deductive approach‟ (Cohen et al. 2003, p.4, original emphases).

[A] back-and forth movement in which the investigator first operates

inductively from observations to hypotheses, and then deductively from these
hypotheses to their implications, in order to check their validity from the
standpoint of compatibility with accepted knowledge. After revision, where
necessary, these hypotheses are submitted to further test through the
collection of data specifically designed to test their validity at the empirical
(Mouly 1978, quoted in Cohen et al. 2003, pp.4-5)

Mouly‟s words above are true of interview data analysis. Kane (1995) and
Merriam (2004) also state that data analysis is the complex process of constantly
going back and forth between inductive and deductive approaches. Therefore, for
this study, firstly, the transcripts were checked and compared with each other. A
continual listening and comparison enabled me to notice several words and
comments that were often used by the interviewees, regardless of the type of
interviewees. Each interviewee‟s utterances were divided into the smallest pieces of
words as each piece makes sense in itself alone, viz. a unit of data. Lincoln and
Guba (1985, quoted in Merriam 2004, pp.262-263) indicate that one unit of data
has to be interpretable without any additional information other than the broad
understanding of the research context.

Second, all units of data were grouped into several categories so that every unit
was sorted into any one of the categories. These categories were created through
the processes of continual careful reading and comparison of the transcripts. Every
category created was named according to its characteristics. Table shows the list of
the categories.

Table . Category set

Since the tapes were transcribed within a few days of the interviews whenever
possible, this allowed me to go deep into these words and comments during the
interviews when the interviewees used these words. Once every unit of data was
sorted into any one of the categories, each category was connected to one another.
The connection was illustrated for clarifying the groupings and relationships, and
also for visually understood. This figure was rounded out as another new category
was created (see Figure in the next chapter). This series of processes enabled me to
create the hypotheses, collect new data and test these hypotheses.

Concurrently with this categorisation, the parents interviewed were sorted into
some groups according to their personal background characteristics. The
differences between what the parents with different personal background
characteristics said about their roles and actual conduct was checked as precisely
as possible, so that the data could be analysed in the context of the differences in
economic, cultural and social capitals. The parents‟ responses were also compared
with the other types of informants‟ responses in order to make sure whether or not

there was any difference between their responses to the similar questions.

The observation

The interpretation of the quantitative data from the observations first operates
summing up a total number of forward slashes in each row: fifteen cells in one row,
and then putting the figure in the corresponding cell in Table . For example, if a
total number of slashes in Row A in an observation sheet are twenty, the figure „20‟
was put in a cell of Row A and of its corresponding column, i.e. parent to parent.

Table . Frequency of speaking by stakeholder

parent parents teacher teahcers another stakeholder other stakehodlers total
A. parent to
B. parents to
C. teacher to
D. teachers to
E. another stakeholder to
F. other stakeholders to

After a series of this work for every observation, the data from the observations
was processed to be checked against what each participant, especially a parent,
said in the interview. How the parents‟ contributions to the discussions in the
parent-teacher meetings relate their perceptions of parental participation was
analysed. For example, if in the interview, a parent says that he or she feels free to
speak about any issue that concerns the education and schooling of his or her
children, it was checked whether he or she was actually taking much opportunity
to speak out during a meeting and why he or she contributed to discussions in such

The secondary analysis

For the analysis of the Cambodian government‟s documents and reports, whether
they take a view of what will happen and is happening to the day-to-day activities
as regards parental participation at school level was checked, by showing much
evidence obtained from the interviews and observations.

Following the government‟s current educational reforms in Cambodia as explained

in Chapter 2, the analysis of documentary evidence in the next chapter will start

with examining some underlying assumptions of the reforms. MoEYS (2001a;
2001b) are the broad national programme and plan for achieving EFA by 2015.
RGoC (2001) is also the government‟s document describing the overall national
development plan including the education sector. ADB (2004) is an assessment
report for ESP and ESSP produced by an international agency. These official
documents and report devote themselves to promoting the decentralisation of
education and other educational reforms. In addition to referring to LeCompte
and Preissle‟s (1993) indication – quoted earlier on page , the descriptions of these
documents are assessed and evaluated by certain standards like those that
LeCompte and Preissle (1993, p.219) propose:

Who uses it, and how is its use allocated? Who cannot or does not use it? Is it
used by individuals or by a group? How many people use it? Is it read,
manipulated, or displayed? Where and in how many different locations is it
used? Under what circumstances and for what purposes is the artefact used?
Is it used in different ways by different people? What meaning does the
artefact have for the users? Does it have different meanings for different kinds
of users?

In addition to these documents, some other reports and studies by the major
international organisations and NGOs will be also analysed. These documents and
reports are analysed in the same way as the government‟s documents, by showing
some evidence not only from Cambodia itself but also from other developing
countries that have recently introduced decentralisation of education and adopted
the notion of parental participation. Then, some challenges which Cambodian
government and individual schools are currently faced with are presented.

After discussing, by showing the evidence corroborated by the other two methods,
some of the reasons why these challenges occur and have not yet been met, I will
examine how the challenges can be dealt with successfully. Firstly, in relation to
parental participation in education, by using some of the government‟s documents,
I will look at the actual jobs that schoolteachers have to handle. This will give some
possibilities to consider about why school reforms associated with a
decentralisation movement in education have not always been as successfully
implemented as planned. In order to analyse the Cambodian government‟s
attention to parental participation, a series of MoEYS‟s documents are mainly

used given that these documents were produced for school principals to develop
their professional capacity to manage their schools. I will analyse thee literature
and documents from the perspective of interpersonal relationships among parents,
schoolteachers and other educational stakeholders; what is meant by this has
already been discussed in the previous chapter.

Secondly, culture and values embedded and widely seen in Cambodian society are
explored in order to consider the validity of MoEYS‟s documents for practical use,
namely whether the government considers how parents react to what is proposed
by the government. This exploration will provide some answers to firstly, what
types of interpersonal power relations commonly exist between parents, and
schoolteachers and other stakeholders in Cambodia and secondly, how Cambodian
national culture is linked to this structure of interpersonal relations.

After considering the relations between parents and other stakeholders in

Cambodian primary schools, this study will move on to its central theme, i.e.
examining the internal and external factors that promote and counter-promote
parental participation in the school management decision-making processes in
Cambodian socio-cultural contexts, in order to meet the challenges that individual
schools are facing under the current educational reforms. Throughout the analysis,
the conceptual framework developed at the end of the preceding chapter will be


Of some limitations of this study, the first one is the observation samples based on
a convenience sample. The parent-teacher meetings observed cannot be
generalised about other parent-teacher meetings in other primary schools. The
parents attending these meetings were not controlled, and thus, they may be unlike
most of the parents who were not there.

Snowball and network sampling also has the limitation that another stakeholder
recommended by the other stakeholder may be biased. However, given the
constraints on time available and researcher‟s personal connections, this study had
to rely on readily available respondents and could not create a sample frame of all
the educational and community stakeholders.

Thirdly, I have to bear in mind that transcribing the interviews also has a
limitation. As Powney and Watts (1987 pp.147-148 original emphasis) warn:

Given that a transcription cannot represent everything featured in the

original spoken language, it follows that any transcription is an interpretation
by the transcriber of what is being said. What is written down is inevitable
selective. … Where transcripts form part of the database it is important to
remember that they are not „raw‟ data, but represent a transcriber‟s eye-view
of the event.

This study fourthly has to accept a disadvantage of observation in that the

presence of the researcher might exert an influence on what were taking place
when the subjects observed knew that they were being observed, whereas ideally
observations are non-interventionist where researchers do not control the events
(Cohen et al. 2003). Also it has to be mentioned that only a few observations could
be done since not many parent-teacher meetings were scheduled during the
research placement. On the other hand, few opportunities for both parents and
schoolteachers to assemble mean something, which will be considered in the next

The observations were neither tape-recorded nor video-taped, which made it

impossible to analyse to which type of discussions the parents contributed more
and how this related the data collected from the interviews.

Concerning internal reliability, LeCompte and Preissle (1993) recommend the

presence of multiple researchers. However, this study was conducted by myself as
the only interviewer, and hence, there might be some limitations of avoiding the
subjectivity of judgements in the course of data analysis. Peer examination,
another mean for strengthen internal reliability, was impossible either for the same

In addition to the limitations above, it has to be mentioned that Khmer,

Cambodian local and most spoken language is not the researcher‟s first language,
and the conversations between the informants and participants, and me as a
researcher were through an English-speaking Cambodian. This affected the

quality and quantity of data obtained. To reduce this negative influence to the
minimum, all the pre-determined interview questions were double-translated: the
original questions in English were translated into Khmer by a Cambodian; these
translated questions were again translated into English by another Cambodia; and
then, these interview questions in English were checked carefully against the
originals, to make sure that there were no much differences in wording. Every
transcript was also checked by the Cambodian interpreter to check whether her
interpreting during the interview had been accurate.


In addition to the ethical considerations already described earlier in this chapter, a

few more issues are presented in this section. Prior to the research placement, the
formal permission to carry out the research was requested to Phnom Penh
municipality, Kampong Chhnang provincial government and the district office
that have jurisdiction over PP School and KC School. On the first day of the
research placement in each school, I spoke to the principals at school to explain
what I would need, such as whom I would like to interview and the conditions
under which the interviews would be conducted. I also asked the principals to
inform me in advance whenever any parent-teacher meetings were scheduled.

Online information‟s own kind of ethical issues should be also stated here. Online
sources of information are often made by general public, which is sometimes
forgotten, and these information can be easily accessed to, read and edited
(Merriam 2004). To avoid this problem, for every online information, its place of
origin and when it was accessed to were specified by necessity.