Comparing and Contrasting How Social Justice is “Done” in Education? Critical Reflections on China and Finland
This article reflects on the meanings of comparing and contrasting in international and comparative education, using two education utopias as case studies. It is inspired by our visits to schools in rural China and Finland and by our interest in issues of social justice, equality/equity. The article also discusses the meanings of the fashionable but polysemic concept of social justice. How could the latter be used to compare two very different countries such as China and Finland, especially in relation to the work of the teacher? Calling for a perspective that takes into account the enmeshment of broader contexts (e.g. the residence permit-hukou system in China and the current education export initiatives in Finland) and of micro-contexts such as the work of a specific teacher in a classroom, the article also proposes an approach to comparing which takes into account difference and similarity between contexts, thus avoiding potentially unjustified and biased comparisons. A preliminary presentation of our observations in the schools in China and Finland illustrates this perspective. In the conclusion, we explain why there needs to be a shift in the way we compare education systems and give some recommendations as to how this could occur. We also suggest moving from the ideology of ‘learning from other countries’ to ‘learning with each other’ when one deals with social justice in education, as every single country faces issues of injustice. The article will appeal to novice and confirmed researchers who are struggling with comparing education systems across countries.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 May 2018
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