Inclusivity and Equity for Whom? Sustainable Development Goal 4’s Enactment for Ethnic Minorities in Laos

Conference: The Asian Conference on Asian Studies (ACAS2022)
Title: Inclusivity and Equity for Whom? Sustainable Development Goal 4’s Enactment for Ethnic Minorities in Laos
Stream: South-East Asian Studies (including Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos)
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Daeul Jeong, University of Queensland, Australia
Ian Hardy, University of Queensland, Australia


Focusing on inclusive and equitable quality education, Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) started with an ambition of reducing inequalities in education. Using Nancy Fraser’s three dimensions of social justice (distribution, recognition, and representation), this paper examines how inclusivity and equity have been conceptualised within the SDG4 framework and was enacted in Laos in relation to ethnic minority students. Laos is one of the few countries which directly embraced SDG4 into its national education policy. Findings show that SDG4 targets were drawing upon only distributive side of social justice; there was no evidence of addressing cultural recognition and political representation within the SDG4 framework. Lao policy document after SDG4 also only drew upon distributive justice. Looking closely through interviews with key policy actors (policy makers, donor agencies, and teachers), even the distributive justice for ethnic minorities (increased access to education) were limited to basic education and technical and vocational training; university scholarships, which were considered as a pathway out of poverty, were based on merits, which required them to compete with majority group students on an equal term despite existing economic, cultural and political inequalities. In the absence of policy support to alleviate inequalities in cultural recognition and political representation, this selective distributive justice may result in further difficulties for ethnic minority students’ upward mobility. The findings of this research suggest the need for multi-dimensional theorisation of inequalities facing ethnic minorities if SDG4 is to enable ‘inclusive and equitable quality education’ for ethnic minorities.

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