Sheila Aikman

Sheila Aikman



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Personal profile

Academic Background

My PhD, from the Institute of Education, University of London, was in the field of education and international development and my doctoral thesis was an ethnographic study of Intercultural Education and Harakmbut language and Identity in the SE Peruvian Amazon. I have an MA from the Institute of Education in Education and International Development, an MA (hons) from the University of Edinburgh in Archaeology (with sociology and anthropology), and a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) from the Lady Spencer Churchill College (now Oxford Brookes University). I have held a Spencer Post-doctoral Fellowship with the National Academy of Education, USA.  In April 2018 I retired from teaching and am now a Research Associate in the School of International Development. 




I work in the field of education and international development with a particular focus on indigenous rights, gender equality and social justice, language diversity and interculturalism, drawing on approaches from critical theory, post-structuralism and anthropology and human development. I have a background in both academic research and teaching have been a Lecturer in Education and International Development at the Institute of Education, University of London and also experience in development practice, having worked with a wide range of NGOs from community-based and regional federations of indigenous peoples in South America to international NGOs such as the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen, and Oxfam GB where I held the post of Global Education Policy Adviser prior to joining UEA and DEV in March 2008.

Key Research Interests

Intercultural education and the indigenous movement, bilingual education and plurilingual language policy, curriculum development and teacher education in low income countries.  I have a regional focus on intercultural and indigenous education in Latin America (especially Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador) and a focus on gender equality and basic education in Sub-saharan Africa (especially Tanzania, Mozambique, Liberia) and in East Asia (Vietnam).


There are two major strands to my research. The first is in Latin America and particularly Peru, where I carry out ethnographic research on indigenous education, interculturalism, indigenous movements, bilingual education and plurilingual language policy. My monograph on the Arakmbut of SE Peru, first published in 1999, was revised and published in Spanish in 2003. Drawing on this and earlier work, I take a longitudinal approach to researching indigenous knowledge, learning and literacy in the Amazon region and to understanding relationships between education and social, cultural and environmental change.

My other research area is concerned with developing new insights into gender equality issues in formal education from a social justice perspective and with critically examining the theory and practice interface and concepts of quality and inequality in global discourses. I was co-director of the project: Beyond Access, Gender, Education and Development, with Professor Elaine Unterhalter, and have carried out work for different agencies and international NGOs on gender equality (such as OxfamGB, and the Commonwealth Education Fund) and have been active on programme advisory committees including the DFID RPC Edqual in Sub-Saharan African countries and the multi-country programme of UNESCO ‘Teaching Respect For All’. I am a member of the research programme ‘Paradigmas de Diversidad’ and the research network Red Saberes.


Teaching Interests


I have supervised PhD students, co-directed the MA Education and International Development between 2008 and 2017. I also taught on the undergraduate module on education and development as well as regional modules and teach modules on the Undergraduate BA on International Development. 

I have taught the following modules:

Masters level:

  •  Introduction to Education and Development
  • Educational Policy and Practice for Development


 Undergraduate level:

  • Engaging Anthropology in Development
  • Latin American Development
  • Education and Development

Doctoral research supervision

I co-supervised the following students:

Susan Conlon: Changing Water Use and Management in the Context of Glacial Retreat: a Case Study of the Peruvian Village of Huashao.

Demelash Woldu: Exploring Language Uses and Policy Processes in Karat Town, Konso Woreda, Ethiopia.

Rosanne Tromp: The Education Research-Policy Nexus in Mexico

Samuel Rushworth: Learning to Live Together: education, identity and citizenship in Rwandan schools

Eleni Konidari: Literacy practices and learning needs among marginalised groups in Greece.

Horacio Almanza Alcalde: Land dispossession and Juridical Land Disputes of Indigenous Peoples in Northern Mexico.  

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities