The development of comparative education
Human beings are in the habit of making comparisons between things that around them. Comparison can take place wherever we have more than one thing that has the same purpose. We compare to make up our minds and to choose between two or more choices. Comparing can take place also for more scientific reasons for example to find out the relationship existing between, or among the things being compared.
But what is comparative education? It is fully established academic field of study that involves the analysis and comparison of educational systems, such as those in different countries. The main goal of this field is to improve the quality of educational systems. One example of large scale comparative macroanalysis is the PISA study, in which Finland has ranked very highly each year.
The historical development of comparative education can be divided into three or five stages depending on the bases the division has been made. The three stages are: descriptive stage, predictive stage and scientific stage. If the division is made according the motive of comparative study and genre of work the stages are (1) the travelers’ tales, (2) travelers with a specific educational focus, (3) understanding of other nations, (4) study of ‘national character’ and its deterministic role in shaping national systems of education, and (5) quantitative research. The first two of these are included in the descriptive stage, third in predictive stage and last two in the scientific stage.
The earliest stage, the period of travelers' tales, was prompted by simple curiosity. Second came a period of educational borrowing, when the desire to learn useful lessons from foreign practices was the major motivation. In the third stage, international educational cooperation was stressed in the interests of world harmony and mutual improvement among nations. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, two more stages have appeared, both concerned with seeking explanations for the wide variety of educational and social phenomena observed around the globe. The first of these attempted to identify the forces and factors shaping national educational systems. The second, and the latest, may be termed the stage of social science explanation, which uses the empirical, quantitative methods of economics, political science, and sociology to clarify relationships between education and society.
These stages are far from being discrete in time: each of these types of work in comparative education has persisted down to the present and may be observed in the contemporary literature, and rarely can any contributor to the field be confined within a single category. But the categorization suggested, loose though it is, provides a convenient, unforced framework within which to review the development of the field.
STAGE 1. The first and most primitive comparative education observations were the tales brought home by travelers to foreign parts. Such reports were essentially the work of amateurs who included in more general descriptions of institutions and practices abroad details of foreign ways of raising children. These rapporteurs tended to emphasize exotic information simply because it threw into sharp contrast the familiar practices and institutions of their homelands. Curiosity was the mainspring of their voyages, and local color the attraction of their descriptions. Only the rare observer could extract systematic conclusions with explanatory value from a mass of indiscriminately reported impressions. In the form of superior journalism, this style of work remains a prominent feature of writing on foreign countries today.
STAGE 2. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, coincident with the rise of national systems of education in Europe, journeys abroad were made by travelers with a specialized interest in educational matters. No longer motivated by general curiosity, they went the rounds of foreign...
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