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Learning from Comparing: new directions in comparative education research - Volume 2
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Learning from Comparing: new directions in comparative education research - Volume 2

policy, professionals and development


2000 paperback 300 pages, £28.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-63-2

However, it is still available immediately as an eBook: please click on the links below to Amazon Kindle and/or Google Books.

About the book

Learning from Comparing is a major two-volume study which reassesses the contribution of comparative educational research and theory to our understanding of contemporary educational problems and to our capacity to solve them.

At a time when educational research is under attack on the grounds of ‘bias’ and ‘irrelevance’, and under pressure to address only those questions which are acceptable politically (as good a definition of bias as any), this is a serious attempt to bridge the worlds of research, policy and practice. The editors have put together a collection – in terms of both perspective and nationality – which ensures contrasting viewpoints on each topic.


Robin Alexander. Preface

PART ONE: The Comparative Study of Educational Policy

David Phillips. Introduction: the comparative study of educational policy
Val D. Rust. Education Policy Studies and Comparative Education
Joanna Le Métais. Snakes and Ladders: learning from international comparisons
Mary-Louise Kearney. Higher Education: polemic and policy imperatives

PART TWO: Research, Education and Development

Robin Alexander. Introduction: research, education and development
Michael Crossley. Research, Education and Development: setting the scene
Cheng Kai-Ming. Education and Development: the neglected mission of cross-cultural studies
Terry Allsop. The Department for International Development: knowledge generation after the White Paper
Colin Brock & Nadine Cammish. Developing a Comparative Approach to the Study of Gender, Education and Development
Rosemary Preston. Learning from Development Research in Educational Contexts
Michele Schweisfurth. Postscript: perspectives from the fourth seminar

PART THREE: Education Professionals Compared

Marilyn Osborn. Introduction: education professionals compared
Harry Judge. Comparing Education Professionals: an introductory essay
Theodor Sander. The Politics of Comparing Teacher Education Systems and Teacher Education Policy
Lynn Davies. Chaos and Complexity in the Study of School Management
Clive Hopes. System Supervisors and Evaluators Compared
Pam Poppleton & Theo Wubbels. Educational Change and its Impact on the Work Lives of Teachers in Eight Countries
Marilyn Osborn, Colin Richards, Meryl Thompson, Gérard Bonnet & Philippa Cordingley. Postscript: perspectives from the sixth seminar

Notes on Contributors


This is the second of two volumes bearing the general title Learning from Comparing: new directions in comparative educational research. The books are the outcome of a programme of seminars which took place over the period 1997–99 and were funded by the United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The seminars were organised by the Centre for Research in Elementary and Primary Education, the Centre for Curriculum and Assessment Studies and the Centre for Comparative Studies in Education, located, respectively, at the universities of Warwick, Bristol and Oxford.

The full background and rationale to this project are outlined in the introduction to Volume I. Suffice it to say here that the seminars provided a forum for international representatives from the constituencies of research and policy – ‘research providers’ and ‘research users’ in today’s research accounting jargon – to come together in order to reassess and perhaps help to redirect comparative educational research as a theoretical and empirical activity.

The initiative was prompted not just by a sense that this kind of appraisal would be helpful to the field’s intellectual vitality, but also in response to several rather more particular developments. Educational discourse, as an aspect of the more general globalisation of ideas, has become increasingly internationalised, though it is clear that this trend makes considerable assumptions about how well ideas generated in one national context will travel to others. International comparisons of educational systems, policies, practices and outcomes, sometimes well conceived but as often not, now feature regularly as an adjunct to national policy and programmes of bilateral or multilateral aid. Such comparisons encompass fields like pedagogy, assessment and teacher professionalism about which, traditionally, comparative educationists have had surprisingly little to say and for which the methodology of comparison may not be as rigorous as it ought to be. And there are particular dangers attaching to the application of these sorts of analysis in the context of the relationship between the world’s richer and poorer nations.

The two books contain revised versions of all the papers given at the seminars together with contributions which were commissioned subsequently in order to extend the analysis. Like Volume 1, Volume 2 is in three sections, each of which corresponds to a seminar theme. As the sequence of seminars was determined by operational contingencies as well as logic, readers will need to take both volumes together in order to appreciate that the six themes are less random than might be apparent from a brief glance at the contents of Volume 2 alone.

In this volume, then, we consider three broad questions. How, in an international context, can educational policies validly be researched and compared and what can be learned from the exercise (Part 1)? What can comparative research contribute to education in developing countries and how is the relationship between research, development and education best understood (Part 2)? What can we learn by studying comparatively the work of those professionals who are at the cutting edge of education, especially teachers, inspectors and teacher trainers (Part 3)?

The trio who initiated this project (Robin Alexander, Patricia Broadfoot and David Phillips) and the colleagues who joined with them in organising the seminars (Colin Brock, Marilyn Osborn and Michele Schweisfurth) would like to thank the many others who were involved: the two hundred or so seminar participants, some of whom were prepared to travel halfway round the globe to take part; those who produced papers for the seminars and then rewrote them for the two volumes of Learning from Comparing; those who provided additional papers; the ever-patient Roger Osborn-King of Symposium Books; and the Economic and Social Research Council, who funded the enterprise.

The Editors


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