Timor-Leste is a post-conflict nation that marked its independence in 2002, becoming the newest sovereign state in Asia. Due to prolonged periods of armed conflict and poverty worsened by the conflict, one-fifth of the population (200,000 people) were unable to complete their basic education. Against this background, the Timor-Leste government started the Equivalency Program (EP) in 2010, an accelerated education program for youths and adults whose education was interrupted. The program offers a condensed basic education curriculum that is equivalent to primary and pre-secondary education.
This paper examines the motives, experiences and circumstances of the youth and adult learners who have had the opportunity to receive second-chance education (SCE) in Timor-Leste. The study describes their life journeys in a conflict-affected environment with the goal of understanding the meaning of learning as they attend an education program. This study utilized a mixed methods approach, with life-story interviews being the primary data-collection method, complemented by focus-group interviews and a questionnaire survey.
The study finds that many participants indicate a longing to learn again, primarily from an intrinsic desire to seek greater knowledge and gain self-confidence, a desire that grew with the emergence of the post-war society. Their life-stories illuminate the ordeals of losing the opportunity for schooling amidst conflict, with many despairing that they had become a ‘lost generation.’ EP restored their chance to attain the inner satisfaction of learning and a sense of self-worth as they gained a sense of autonomy and agency. Their desire to learn was bolstered by the post-conflict euphoria and the advent of a new society that seemed to promise a better future. This euphoria offers a momentum that can be used to achieve learning for all and promote human dignity.
Keywords: Second-chance education, Timor-Leste, conflict, life-story interviews, youth