This study is a policy analysis of Cambodian education that benefits from an ‘insider’ view and from a robust and nuanced methodological approach drawn from Foucauldian discourse analysis, which, unlike traditional policy analyses, sets Cambodian education within global, historical, social, cultural, and political contexts. The key focus of the study was to examine the deployment of education by Cambodian governments of different periods and political regimes for socioeconomic development and the promotion of cultural values within Cambodian geopolitics and global relations between 1979 and 2013. A Foucauldian approach consisting of archaeology, genealogy and governmentality was used for the data collection and analysis. The primary data used for the analysis was the policy texts selected from 1979-2013. Some data from the French colonisation in 1863 to the Pol Pot regime 1975-1979 were used to create the disjuncture and continuities in policy discourses connecting education to development. Some international data on development from the end of World War II until 2013 were also used to establish the relation between the international development and the developing countries including Cambodia. In the process of the analysis, the discursive fields of education, national identity and national development, and the intersection between the three fields, are identified.
The study has argued that education has been used in different ways in the production of social-economic and cultural development in the Cambodian socialist years between 1979 and 1993 and the new era of neoliberalism between 1993 and 2013. Due to the influence of the Cold War on Cambodia and the Third World geopolitics, the deployment of education for Cambodian development has been entangled with international developments and relations since 1979. The analysis highlights that Cambodian governments have formulated education for development strategies that combine the global development discourse with national discourse in a distinctive way to meet global pressure and national development. The analysis also suggests that education was discursively used by governmental development strategies between 1979 and 2013 to govern the conduct of the population in accordance with their modes of governing.