September 30, 2011
The History and Development of Comparative Education
While to me the idea of comparative education is a relatively new concept, its origins can be traced back for centuries, making it a rather old field of study. Humans are social creatures, we tend to interact with one another and in doing so we naturally make comparisons, when can then subsequently assume that the very first educational comparison arose out of this innate human drive to evaluate. While this drive is innately in our universal experiences as Homo sapiens the first documented assessments were found to be in the early nineteenth century where,” We can see the beginnings of a deliberate and systematic attempt to compare educational provision ‘elsewhere’ with that ‘at home’ (Philips and Sweisfurth, 27)”. This was largely due to modern innovations, interest and ability to travel.
The development of the field however occurred, according to comparative theorists Noah and Eckstein are, “ 1.Traveller’s tales, 2. Travelers with a specific educational focus; learning through example; improving circumstances at home, 3. Understanding of other nations; detailed accumulation of information; educational exchange, 4. Study of national character and it deterministic role in shaping national systems of education, 5. Quantitative research; explanation of educational phenomena. (28)”. These various components to the development coincide also with the changing times or zeitgeist of the periods in which they are developing. For example the emphasis or goal of comparative education during travelers tales would be political analysis, or in other words traveling to a foreign country and analyzing the difference between that country and your homeland in the theme of education. Ultimately we see that comparative education developed as a field in correspondence with what was going on at the time. For instance economic conditions of the time lead to a change in this field as the use of statistical data and information became more detailed, efficient and used as a method of recording and analyzing the social economic standings of the times.
We see with any type of field of study, the issues, innovations, inventions and ideas of a time period will dictate the way they evolve, mature and adapt. We see this as well with comparative education, it began centuries ago as a way to discuss the differences seen in the world and different cultures and evolved over time into the science that it is today.