This study looks at how schooling in East Timor was affected by the political violence and human displacement that followed the consultation held in September 1999 to decide its constitutional future. The reports makes a critical examination of the steps taken to re-establish education under the auspices of the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) in 2002, and East Timor became the independent nation of Timor-Leste.
The author explores how political disputes and general governance issues slowed down the educational reform process, and how a declared focus on system reconstruction in reality emphasised physical infrastructure. She highlights the role played by donors, noting that geopolitical considerations influenced the support provided. The study also examines the implications of language policy, and other challenges facing the nascent national education system, including poor qualifications of teachers, high attrition rates in primary school, limited access to secondary school, widespread adult illiteracy, limited classroom resources and struggles to provide tertiary education.