ERIC Number: ED329410
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990-Mar-22
Reference Count: N/A
Cultural Differences and Decision Making: The Example of the Support to Primary Education Project in Cameroon.
Lee, William B.
Cultural differences contributed to the withdrawal of U.S. funding for the Support to Primary Education Project (SPE) in Cameroon, West Africa. The SPE proposed to increase the quantity and quality of primary school teachers and improve the skills of personnel responsible for supporting the teachers through technical assistance, training, and construction of school facilities. As third Chief of Party of the SPE project, the author observed cultural differences between the Americans in the USAID building and the Cameroonians in the Ministry of Education building: (1) Unlike the Cameroonians, the Americans observed strict working hours and their building was kept clean; (2) social relationships in the USAID building were informal (first name basis), whereas relationships in the Ministry of Education building were formal and revealed the hierarchy; (3) Cameroonians relied on an oral system of communication rather than a systematic paper trail; and (4) Cameroonian decision makers used polychronic time by which many topics are under consideration at the same time, while Americans use monochronic time where one focuses on a single issue. Also, different views on what is "a long time" resulted in the U.S. withdrawal of funds. The Cameroonians did not adhere to their portion of the agreement within what the United States perceived to be "ample time," although the Cameroonians had every intention of eventually following through. The Mission Director's tactful (American) way of explaining the withdrawal of funds, was misinterpreted by the Minister of Education, resulting in a feeling of betrayal on both sides. Future projects should plan programs to help both parties deal with cultural differences. (KS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented to the National Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society (Anaheim, CA, March 22-25, 1990).