METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES IN COMPARATIVE EDUCATION
After you have read this chapter, you should be able to;
i) State and explain the various methodological approaches used in the study of comparative education
ii) Explain how educational reforms can be instituted using either of these methodologies.
iii) Apply the various methodologies in solving educational problems faced by educational institutions.
There are a number of methodological approaches used by scholars in their approach to the study of comparative education. It is important to note that methodology in comparative education, as in other educational disciplines, is determined by the purpose of the study. Like other social sciences, comparative education has been studied at different times of its development with different methodological approaches. A close look at the various developmental phases reveal that, each phase has produced a different type of work, that mainly depend on the dominant views and motives for comparative education study. Starting with the simple narratives of education abroad during the phase of Travelers Tales, the methodological approaches of comparative education have progressively evolved into the current application of the sophisticated and complex methods of social sciences, which in most cases are empirically based. With a large clientele arising from its multi-disciplinary nature, comparative education scholars have not been able to agree on a single, universally accepted method of study. This view has resulted in a multiplicity of debates and opinions of what method is best suitable for use.
In this regard therefore, we note that methodological approaches used in comparative education are divided into two broad categories, namely traditional approach and modern approach. Under the traditional approach we have the descriptive/statistical method and the historical approach. Under the modern approach we have sociological, analytical and synthetic approaches. We now look at each method independently:
The statistical/ Quantitative method
This method emphasized the collection, interpretation, verification and comparison of data in education by using statistical/Quantitative analytical charts. The main aim was to facilitate borrowing of useful information or lessons from foreign countries.
In this method various type of educational data are collected about a country. For example, the data about the number of students at a certain stage of education, expenditure on them, the percentage of passes and failures at various stages of education, expenses on teachers' salaries, school building and other items are all collected and the same compared with identical data of another country. Thus, the progress or decline of education in any country is statistically analyzed.
Although the method is still in use today, it is faced with certain shortcomings worth
mentioning such as:-
- The unreliability of statistical data, particularly the inaccuracy of local record, which are compiled by officials who may exaggerate figures in order to hide any shortcomings. Generally, due care is not taken in the collection of data. Consequently, many of them are false.
- There is also the imprecision of certain non-standardized term, when applied in different national context. In many cases, the terms used do not connote the same sense. Therefore their statistical analysis is falsified.
- There is also the problem of feasibility of data interpretation without due regard to social influences and values and how they affect education.
- This means, through the statistical method, we cannot understand the educational characteristics that could be as a result of social, cultural, economic, political, and religions situations of a country.
The verification of data in international studies is not always possible due to cost and travel constraints. Evidently the use of the statistical method is very limited.
Limitations of this approach
This method was used in the 19th century because the main purpose then in comparative education was to incorporate the good points of another country. This approach therefore called for a detailed description of educational affairs of another country. So many comparative educationists presented detailed descriptive accounts of the educational systems of the countries they visited. Among them were Marc Antoinne Jullien de Paris, Victor cousin, Horace Man, Henry Bernard and Mathew Arnold. John Griscom of U.S.A (1918-19) visited Great Britain, France, and Holland, Switzerland and Italy and wrote a book entitled "A year in Europe'', he described their educational systems in detail. From his report, an attempt was made in U.S.A to incorporate some of the admirable characteristics of the educational system contained in his book. Victor cousin of France in (1831) published a report on the education system of France.
Some of the educational characteristics of Prussia that he described in his report were emulated in Great Britain and France. However, he did not make a comparative study of educational systems of other countries in his report. This meant that his report could only be evaluated by only persons who had a good knowledge of educational systems of other countries.
Mathew Arnold of Great Britain and Horace Man of U.S.A also did some work in the area of descriptive method approach. M. Arnold studied the educational system of France and Germany and published a report about France in 1859 and about Germany in 1865. In his description, he drew the attention of his readers to those factors which distinguish the educational system of one land from the other. Arnold's method was also followed by Sir Michael Sadder and Paul Monroe. From their views, the study of comparative education became better organized.
Horace Man visited Germany, Ireland, Great Britain, France and Holland. In 1843, he published a report on the educational systems of these countries. He pointed out the special characteristics of the educational systems that he had studied and specifically pointed out the specific elements that should be imitated by others.
He also paid attention to the evaluation of the educational characteristics and their utilities. As a result of his work, later educationist also paid attention to the evaluation and utilities of characteristics of educational systems of other countries.
Henry Bernard published thirty one volumes of "The American Journal of Education" between 1856-1881. In these volumes, he described the educational systems of the various states of U.S.A. and many other foreign countries. He interpreted the historical background of each educational system that he described. Michael Sadder on his part emphasized the point that we should study all those national factors, which influence the education system of a country and are responsible for its development and decline. To him, he considered the study of comparative education as useful for one to understand his own system of education. Thus, we can argue here that, in the 19th century only those persons who were able to understand comparative education are those who had a good knowledge of educational systems of their own country. These few example, are accounts, that show the descriptive method of comparative education and as a method, and was advocated for by those educationists who were interested in promoting and popularize the study of comparative education.
Limiations of this approach
Critically analyze the limitations in this approach.
The Historical Method Approach:
In this approach we study the modern educational problems. The method reveals the basis on which the modern education system is based. Knowledge gained at this point may help us in eliminating undesirable elements in the system and further strengthening of the desirable ones. It is important to note that, we employ historical method not only to know the past in order do to understand the present better, but so that we may improve the future by hinting at those factors which may be more useful. In this approach we also try to understand all those geographical, social, racial, political, religious and linguistic factors which influence the educational system of a country.
Scholars such as Nicholas Hans, Isaac Kandel, Schneider and Michael Sadler are known for popularizing this method. They basically agreed that selective cultural borrowing was possible and also emphasized that educational policies and practices have both cause and effect which is found in each society's unique historical experience, that Horace man called the national character. Most of these scholars suggested the development of a science of comparative education in which one could use to discover the universal causes or determinants of educational practices and also to establish terms of education.
Although the scholars who advocated for this approach did not offer a definite procedure to be followed, it is generally agreed that three things, stand out;
- One should study each national system separately in its historical context, taking note of differences in terminologies and methods of collecting and classifying data.
- One should also analyze the forces, and factors responsible for the noted differences that are grouped into four categories i.e. natural, religious, social- economic and political.
- One should also adopt only those ideas and practices that best approximate and can be adapted to the recipient country's historical context.
This approach however is faced by the following short comings;
- The data on which we base one study may not be reliable because in the collection of the same, due care is often not observed. As such the conclusions derived may not be very useful. One should therefore keep in mind that historical materials about education systems of various countries are generally not very reliable. This in turn limits the utility of historical data. Hence it suggests the need for more research do make the data more reliable.
- The other shortcoming is that, historians are generally not impartial in their accounts. In most cases they want to conceal undesirable elements about the history of their own country and look on facts relating to other countries with some perceived prejudice. In this scenario the truth is not known. Consequently we cannot reach the right conclusions using this approach.
- The third limitation of this approach is that, the past is unduly emphasized. Consequently the study of comparative education can be said to be unbalanced.
How would you use this approach in tackling educational problems in your country?
The Analytical Method Approach
This approach brings together the relationship that exists between the educational system of a country and its social, political and economical conditions. In any comparative study we have to use analysis. This is because through analysis one can separate the various elements and understand the importance of each independently. The analytical method is considered useful only when the social and educational organizations are compared.
The analytical method therefore follows the four main aspects of analysis.
i) Collect Educational Data: -This is where all educational information is gathered through descriptive and statistical methods and this forms the basis for the analytical method.
ii) Interpretation of related data: - This involves interpreting social, political, economic and historical data which is necessary in order to understand similarities and differences found in the educational systems of various countries.
iii) Determining standard for comparison: -In order for us to compare the educational systems fairly, we need to do so by having a certain standard. This standard will help us compare the similarities and differences of the various educational systems. The analytical method often formulates these standards. For example, the political philosophy, aims of education and the method of control of education are good examples of standards, for comparison. It is on the basis of these standards that one can analyze and understand the similarities and differences of the various educational systems of various countries. On the basis of these standards, for example, one can say that since there is a difference between the political philosophies of Kenya and Tanzania, then, we find differences in their educational systems
iv) Interpretation and conclusion; -From the above three aspects of analysis, we are able to interpret the collected data and make certain conclusions on the basis of comparison of the various educational systems of various countries.
However, the analytical method approach is also faced with the following two limitations;
i) This method does not pay adequate attention to the totality of the educational systems.
ii)The method is also prone to ignoring the inherent similarity, which exists in educational systems in spite of the differences in educational systems of the various countries.
Challenges of this approach
How would you address the challenges in this approach?
The Synthesis Method Approach
This method has been largely advocated for by Edmond King a renowned comparative educationist in his look "World Perspective in Education''. In this approach, the study of comparative education from an international point of view is considered to be of great significance. In this approach the problems of education are considered and studied on an international frame. This is evidenced by the fact that, when we study the problems of education in various countries, we find some universal truths in their inherent differences the main reason being that, there is much similarities in the needs and aspirations of the people of the globe. For example the United Nations organization, like UNESCO has contributed much towards the consciousness of this similarity. It is important to note that, the method of synthesis has not been fully developed, since it is at its infancy stage and comparative educationists need to develop it further. However an attempt to use it as a comparative study approach is still significant in comparative education.
The scientific method approach emerged in the current phase of the development of comparative education. Its time frame dates, back from 1960s. However during this period intense methodological debate centered on the following:
- The feasibility of relying on a particular method as opposed to a multi-dimensional approach.
- The feasibility of the nation- state as the dominant research framework as opposed to intra-national, regional, continental and world systems analyses.
- The over reliance on quantitative (statistical) as opposed to qualitative and descriptive research, and finally
- The range of research concerns that have traditionally dominated studies in comparative education.
The results of the methodological debate culminated in new approaches to the study of comparative education. Some of the scholars have engaged in developing new approaches to comparative education study, while bearing in mind the dynamic nature of the discipline. In fact, some scholars have demanded and attempted to develop a science of comparative education that would finally place comparative education in the family of social sciences and at the same time maintain its distinctive position from them.
As such, the methods considered to be scientific that have seen developed, differ in their procedures and focus. Some of these methods include;
The Systematic Area Studies Method Approach;
This method was developed and popularized by G.Z.F. Beredy in his book "Comparative Method in Education "(1964). He used the interdisciplinary approach to systematically survey and analyzes education in different countries. The aim is to understand differences and similarities before borrowing and making any predictions. He argues that, since the study has to make sense out of similarities and differences among different educational systems, it is possible to seek assistance from other fields of study such as History, Sociology and Philosophy. In fact educational facts are so enmeshed in a matrix of other social sciences that comparative education cannot be studied in isolation. According to Beredy, the following steps are to be followed;
i) Description of aspects of Education; - This involves identification of the problem by clearly describing the problem from eye witness accounts, observations or even reading.
ii) Interpretation and explanation using the interdisciplinary approach; -
This involves giving explanation of the data collected, of the way things are in each country. Some of the reasons could be historical, social, cultural or religious.
iii) Juxtaposition or classification of data; - This involves putting the information into groups in categories of contrasting and comparable features. In this way similarities and differences can be easily and clearly seen.
iv) Comparison; - This involves comparing features in one system with those of another system. This helps in the formulation of possible hypotheses.
v) Conclusions and generalization; -This involves testing of the hypotheses generated, drawing of valid conclusions and recommendations while focusing on the causes of similarities and differences.
The Problem Solving Method Approach.
This method was developed and popularized by Brian Holmes in (1964) in his look entitled "Problems in Education: A comparative Approach". He borrowed the ideas of John Dewey ( a famous American Educator) based on the five stages of reflective or critical thinking which Brian applied to the study of comparative education to solve educational problems. The stages are;
i) Problem Identification
ii) Problem Analysis
iii) Proposed problem solutions
iv) Specification of the context - this involves looking at the factors, and conditions that are likely to influence the outcomes of the proposed solution; such as, conservative mental states like traditions, morals and beliefs. Also it involves prediction of anticipated results - i.e. making informed guesses about expected outcomes.
v) Comparison and conclusion; - This involves comparing the predicted outcomes (based on the proposed policy solutions) with the actual observable practices. It is more of an evaluation stage (i.e. have things worked out as anticipated?). It also involves making recommendations and conclusions from the observations, and then new lines of action are made.
According to Brian Holmes, he argued that, in the face of a problematic situation, possible solution may spring to mind. On further reflection the problem is better formulated. This further directs the solution to a certain kind of data out of which emerge refined possible solutions, which are then put forward as a hypotheses, which are then tested one after the other and a solution is arrived at.
The Scientific Method Approach
This method was developed and population by Harold Noah and Marc Eckstein in 1960, when they wrote a book entitled "Toward, a Science of Comparative Education". In this approach, they recommended the following procedure;
i) Problem identification and review of literature
ii) Definitions of central concepts, terms and indicators
iii) Selection/sampling of units of study or cases o be studied
iv) Data collection
v) Data Analysis and manipulation
vi) Interpretation of data -finding & results
vii) Drawing of conclusions and recommendations
As already mentioned earlier, comparative education uses different methodological approaches in its study. For example, some of the scholars in the 1980s such as Robert Arnove, Edmond King and Philip Altbach also wrote on methodology in comparative education. To them they questioned some of the assumptions on which the scientific methods developed earlier were based. However, instead of recommending any particular method for comparative education study, they proposed a combination of methods approach (an eclectic). To them, they argued that the method to be used should largely be determined by the purpose and design of each study. They were indeed skeptical about the possibility of developing an exact science that would allow where possible accurate predictions as had been suggest by the scholars of the scientific method approach (i.e. Noah and Eckstein). In this regard, it is important to note that methodological debate continues to date, which is a sign of a continued evolving and development of a dynamic discipline that deals with the equally ever-changing and complex field of education i.e. study of comparative education discipline.
Comparing the synthesis apprach
Compare and contrast the Scientific Method Approach and the Problem Solving Method Approach.
i) Identify the various methodological study approaches used in comparative education and describe the main features of each of the methods identified.
ii) Identify an educational problem in your country and show how you would use any of the methods discussed to carry out a comparative study to solve it.
iii) Critically discuss the merits and demerits of the problem solving approach as advocated for by Brian Holmes.
iv) Assess the practicability of a multi-dimensional approach in the study of comparative education.