The 'maid phenomenon':
: home/school differences in pedagogy and their implications for children in two international schools in the Middle East

  • Gail Bradley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


A ‘new’ phenomenon in the form of employing foreign domestic workers (FDW), or maids, whose jobs often include caring for children, appears to be an increasing global trend. Consequently, migrant women from developing countries provide an inexpensive and accessible child care alternative, which could be regarded as widespread in certain regions. Growth in the movement of population and mounting global interdependence, has also contributed to an increase in educational institutions labelled international schools. As an educator in five of these diverse institutions, I became aware that the trend of hiring maids, who because of their social position often do many basic tasks for children in their care, has entered the world of international schools in particular geographical areas. This has often concerned professionals. This small-scale study, therefore, explores the perceived social and educational implications of home/school differences in pedagogic orientation in children who have maids, bringing to light a matter of consequence, to certain international schools in particular, in more academic terms. Two very different schools in the Arabian Gulf, both regarded as operating in an international context, were the focus for this study. Drawing on Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian theories, I used sociocultural theory and Engeström’s model of activity theory as a theoretical framework from which to design the inquiry, and carry out the analysis. Using the two sample schools to access key-stakeholders, this inquiry involved multi-methods of mainly qualitative data collection, which explored a situation where maids are often heavily involved in children’s upbringing. A range of nationalities were included. Important messages emerged, including the notion of maids appearing to be culturally embedded amongst a number of affluent host country nationals and expatriates in my context. Additionally, significant differences appear to exist between children with maids at home and those without, with implications for learning amongst ‘maid children’, which might be perceived as a result of maid intervention. The thesis concludes with recommendations for educationalists and parents. Views of most key stakeholders underpin a model which could guide new practice and go some way towards alleviating the consequences of such a situation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHarry Daniels (Supervisor)


  • sociocultural activity theory
  • maids
  • international school
  • Vygotsky

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