Comparative Education: Some Reflections
As we started discussing deep topics in our class, I came to analyze the need for comparative education in research and the practical use of it in schools. How do different cultures and countries deal with educational policy, issues, and curriculum? Can policy be borrowed and implemented the same way in a completely different context? Is educational research essential for policy making? We know that people in different cultures and nations behave different in many aspects. Is it unknown what aspects of humanity can be considered homogenous, therefore the questions of comparison and the need to sample data from a wide variety of nations and cultures becomes crucial. People in different cultures learn to learn differently, so if one wants to establish a proposition with a specific group of children, this is where an experiment should be performed with a different group of children from another culture and compare the results. There must always be compared data, since comparison now enters into the study of human behavior at this point (Farrell, 1979).
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If we want to take this position as valid, there is a need now for cross-national research, however, one must understand a single country first before comparing it to a second one. How can we compare the United States to New Zealand, if we do not provide an adequate explanation or research for the United States first? Comparative data can also explain single country findings and it is fundamental for the consequent comparisons of two countries. Now, who is to perform this job? A need for people engaged in educational research involving comparison arises since it would bring expertise from different fields into the field of comparative education. The term comparativist was created for this type of research, although, there is no concrete and specific field that must be acquired to be a comparativist. Researchers contribute their multi-disciplinary origins in different fields to inform their approaches and enrich the field of comparative education. Some requirements are needed though: intimate and expert knowledge of another society and its historical development, an acquired foreign language, they must be generalist scholars, well-traveled, and they must work within broader parameters, to have a wider perspective. Considerable knowledge of systems and different approaches and disciplines are necessary qualifications to be a comparativist and engage in studying education (Phillips, 2014).
What is it that comparativists are trying to compare? It is simple to state that these researchers want to study education, but what is education? As Bereday (1964) says, education is nothing else than an aspect of life, education includes the training of the body and the training of the intellect, it is something greater and deeper than physical and intellectual training, and a moral influence as well. Education is not a matter of schools and book-learning only, so in order to study foreign systems of education, our attention should not only be focused on the classrooms, teachers, and students only, we should go outside into the streets and homes of people, and engage into the intangible, spiritual force that holds the school system.
Comparativists should remember that the things outside the schools matter even more than the things inside of schools, and govern and interpret the things inside. Once that is done, the work of foreign systems of education will result in our being better fitted to study and understand our own (Bereday, 1964). However, not only comparativists can engage in studying comparative education. Any person who has worked in education before has some wise words to say, therefore it would be dangerous to just have the words of the specialist alone. We can all contribute to the field of education. What are some practical ways to engage on comparative education as a teacher or school administrator? An experienced teacher can learn significantly by visiting another school and watch another teacher at work. A very good way to improve this learning is if groups of experienced teachers could be sent abroad to see and to judge other systems of education. This way they would return home and inform their schools if what is been currently done is been executed correctly or needs improvement. Travel is important for educational researchers as well. Travel is one of the characteristics that most unites the work of contemporary comparative and international education researchers. The movement of educational policies, pedagogies, and curricula is much of what comparativists study as researchers and often engage in as practitioners (Sobe, 2002). This travel would create a view from the outside which is relevant for the social sciences, and also have the inside perspective that is already acquired and implemented. As Sobe states, these two components (the outside and the inside) should work in concert, integrally and mutually constituting one another to improve the study of comparative education.
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In conclusion, a wide approach and perspectives of research should be taken into account in comparative education. One approach adds to another and would consequently enrich the systems of education. Comparative studies should not become trapped in one single tradition and we should explore the outside world to benefit ours. Consequently, we should also compare objects that are more than the observable. More than just the sex, color, and school attendance of pupils, but also the factors of social status and other sources of social power and prestige in societies where observable traces are not important (Farrel, 1979). If somehow we can unite these ideas of the inside, outside, and external factors, comparativists and educators would create an effective system of comparative research and improve our systems of education.
- Bereday, G. Z. F. (1964). Sir Michael Sadler’s “Study of foreign systems of education.” Comparative Education Review, 307-314.
- Farrell, J., P. (1979). The necessity of comparisons in the study of education: The salience of science and the problem of comparability. Comparative Education Review, 23(1). 3-16.
- Phillips, D. (2014). ‘Comparatography’, history and policy quotation: some reflections. Comparative Education, 50(1), 73-83.
- Sobe, N. W. (2002). Travel, social science and the making of nations in early 19th century comparative education. (141-166).
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