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Evaluation of Comparative Education Research

Info: 2321 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 17th Mar 2021 in Education

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Comparative education is the study of education theories and practices in various countries and looking at reasons which may account for any similarities and differences. CE can help us deepen understanding of our own education and society, as the study of other education systems is a way of breaking prejudices and stereotype’s we have of one nations education. As Noah (1984) suggests CE will allow you to develop a deeper understanding with of others and help us understand better our pasts, locate ourselves in the present and discern clearly what our education future may be. (Noah, 1984).  ‘It is a diverse multidisciplinary area of inquiry, bringing together many fields of interests and styles of investigations.’ (Bartram, 2017).

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In this assignment I will analyse a piece of comparative education research, I will identify key issues and tensions in the article. I will start of by contextualising the field of CE, focusing on the advantages and disadvantages which may arise. I will then define the criteria, the first criteria I have chosen is; to what extent is the research contextualised within key tensions in the field, looking at whether it attends to an issue within the context of the relationship between globalisation and education. The second criteria is to what extent are the objects of comparison appropriately contextualised, within its historical and political contexts.

Talk about use and Abuse

Comparative education examine education in one country or groups of countries by using data and insights used in another countries. According to Harold Noah (1985) CE has four purposes to 1) describe educational systems processes or outcomes 2) to assist in development of educational institutions and practices 3) to highlight the relationship between education and society 4) to establish generalised statements about education that are valid in more than one country. CE is often assumed to encompass study which compare two different countries. However, since its early days, researcher’s in this field prefer to rather focus on comparisons in a single country overtime.

In the field of education globalisation is more apparent in this.  Many of the topics that are discussed now in relation to globalisation and education ie: borrowing and lending of policy, student achievement have in fact been studied quite some time in the field of comparative education before globalisation even existed. (pp64). The education for all movement suggests how a country education policy is not determined by its national government, but rather by declarations and commitments of international organisation. Every government in the world provides education to its citizens, this which is coordinated by a central ministry and delivered through a system of schools. (Shields, 2013).

Article Summary

The research I chose to critique gives the critical justifications for studying CE in 3 European countries Greece, the UK and Sweden.  It compares and analyses the origins of the current education systems considering historical and political facts. From the data we can see Sweden has had a smoother political past that the UK and Greece. It does not consider other variables e.g. population, national wealth, cultural factors etc.  The theoretical framework involves an analysis of the 3 countries; Greece, United Kingdom, Sweden.  It examines how neoliberalism and marketisation of education has produced and perpetuated educational inequalities. The main points from the research is that Sweden has the best most equal education system and makes many similarities between UK and Greece educational system. It argues that Sweden has gone further than the other countries just in its education system but also the services it provides both to parents and children.  The research consists of all quantitative analysis bringing in lots of statistics.  There is a logical comparative analysis of the three countries. Uses the Indirect Method of Analysis: this compares 2 classes of instances agreeing in nothing but the presence of a condition on one side and its absence on the other. The Methods consist of an analysis of PISA results, comparing of the countries through educational history, Maternity/ Paternity leave, Unemployment benefit, Preschool provision, Expenditure on education. From the research findings we can see Sweden uses mixed ability classes in schools which prevents educational inequalities. Conclusion from the research suggest, the reasons of education inequality are far from lying strictly within the educational system.  The educational inequalities seem to concide with low expenditure on education, especially when subject to private sector interference creates high educational inequality, low state welfare support and lack of universalism on services. High expenditure on education, particularly on early years provision provides high educational equality.  The effects of neoliberalism on educational inequality is clearly outlined.

Looking at the first criteria, what extent is the research contextualised within key tensions in the field, concentrating on whether it attends to an issue within the context of the relationship between globalisation and education, I will focus on how marketisation has perpetuated education and policy. From the research it is evident that the research is grounded with the globalisation and conflict theory.  As well as this it makes reference to historical context of the field.

The research looks at the way testing is done in each of the three countries being examined. In the UK for instance; the education went through many stages, each stage which was mainly encouraged by neoliberalists as it encouraged marketisation and competition. Neoliberalism ideology strongly encourages the idea of marketisation in schooling. Greece education resembles the tripartite system, as the only students who passed the exam were offered a place in secondary education. To add to this parental choice in the Uk has a big influence in what schools they choose for their children to go to.  Parents have a right to express a preference for a particular state school, and all schools (except grammar schools) must offer a place to every child who has applied if they have enough place.

Now in schooling Pisa assessment is used in schools which the OECD fund. This assessment tries to find out whether students can apply what they have learnt in schools to real life situations. This is a 3-year cycle which provides comparative data on 15 years old performance in reading, maths and science. (Barlett,2016). The analysis of PISA indicates that both Greece and UK show a degree of inequality in students’ achievement whereas Sweden demonstrates high levels of educational equality. Sweden spends much more on education and social benefits than the UK and Greece and has much higher educational equality, which suggests that poverty is synonymous with educational inequality. Cultural capital is significant in educational equality. This can be obtained through a strong parental leave system and good early years provision. In Sweden the parental leave system is considered to be one of the most developed in Europe. They provide paid ‘paternity leave’ OF 9.2 weeks which is not as common as in Uk paternity leave is just 0.4 weeks and in Greece 0.5 WEEKS. Swedish mixed ability classes further strengthen educational equality -Idea of it being the more knowledgeable student would help their peers.

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The second criteria is to what extent are the objects of comparison appropriately contextualised, specifically does it contextualise the objects of analysis within its historical and political contexts, by contextualising this we can understand the background In which these social inequalities happen. This is essential as opposed to doing quantitative studies which would be just about numbers and measurements here, we have a background and context and can understand the root causes of inequalities, and gives us a more complex picture of social inequalities as opposed to having just numbers or tables.

Looking at ways in which the 3 countries developed their educational systems, there are more similarities between the UK AND Greece. They were both actively involved in the second world war, and by its ends were both in ruins. The political parties who were in power the second world war have been influential in the formation of the educational systems. The second world war seriously disrupted educational services and developments. The evacuation of children from cities to the rural areas led to schools’ closures and discontinuation of experience for pupils. Thus, there was a concern to encourage the ‘spiritual, mental and physical’ well-being of the community. (Barlett,2016).  In Uk after world war 2 there was a huge expansion in public education as preparing students to contribute to democratic life became a major goal in society. It was seen as crucial that education became a public good, that all individual regardless, age/class/gender has access to.   In Sweden, the social democrats were in power and they exercised an important role in generating high levels of education equality.

This research provides a very reversed context for each of the countries that are being compared , ie: mentions the welfare state. Unemployment rate in Greece is quite high, working conditions are considered quite low and labour market policies are undeveloped.  Unemployment in Uk is higher than in Sweden. Part time work in encouraged as a response to neoliberal way of globalisation . This links in with the world system analysis theory, which is a theoretical perspective developed by sociologist Wallerstein. World system analysis is a perspective which claims there are unequal economic and political relationships in which certain industrialized nations and their global corporations dominate core of the world’s economic system. However, this world economic system is characterised by an unequal core/periphery relationship. Periphery country have a marginal economic status they are not entirely a dependant country but depend on the assistance of those core nations at times.  Wallerstein world system analysis is a widely used theory which falls into the dependency theory. Dependency theory talks about developing countries even whist making economic advances will remain weak to poor nations and large corporations. This reflects how it is a conflict type of theory the interdependency of industrialised nations allows them to exploit developing countries, the industrialised nations playing role of bourgeoisie and developing counties playing role of proletarians, the working class are dependent on the capital owners or the global core. In this context could be seen as UK and Greece and core country would be Sweden.


To conclude, when looking at variation in student performance within countries and what causes inequalities  it is important to consider external factors which result from outside the school system ie :  socio-economic backgrounds of students and schools;  and internal factors ie: the ways in which teaching is organised and delivered in classes; the human and financial resources available to schools; and system-level factors such as curricular differences and organisational policies and practices Also, parent’s occupational status, also has a strong association with students’ performance. The research looks at the idea that educational inequality is a global issue, with that it is grounded in globalisation theories, prides historical and political context, although they are contextualising, they don’t really acknowledge the differences between them. They are not similar, the way the Uk run and do things is completely different to Greece. Sweden is  seen to be the fairest education system as the political party is amazing and they support individuals thus no inequality with the political side which reflects education side.

In a world which is mainly focused on intense global economic competition and growing beliefs in the key role of education as the source of potential advantage, governments have become increasingly obsessed with the international rankings of measured educational outcomes. Educational policy is increasingly driven by national attempts to copy the perceived advantage associated with the educational strategies and techniques of other countries.


My article:

  1. Barlett. S and Burton. D (2016) Introduction to education studies. 4th edition., Sage publication
  2. Harold J. Noah (1984) The use and abuse of comparative education Comparative Education Review Vol. 28, No. 4 (Nov., 1984), pp. 550-562
  3. Shields, R. (2013) Conceptualizing Globalisation and Education., Bloomsbury: London, pp. 61-75


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