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A Century of Evolution in Comparative Studies

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Since 1900 comparative studies of education have repeatedly changed their content, focus, concerns, intentions and political significance. Their practitioners have also changed in their methods and awareness. For centuries before 1900, when Michael Sadler gave a new reorientation to comparative analyses of education, envy of other countries' military and technological prowess had caused much spasmodic copying of special institutions and methods of training. But in that year Sadler first gave prominence to the need for systematic study of other countries' entire context of educational influences, as an aid to understanding and reforming one's own matrix of learning. Stronger social inclusiveness and a wider cultivation of competences arose from new careers and the transformation of all communications. These gave new access to learning-by alternative modes and by alternations of study at different ages, in various settings, as occasion demanded. Meanwhile, colossal expansion and diversification in all kinds of formal provision after 1945, and growing concern for hitherto neglected populations, altered the conspectus of 'educational' needs and potentialities-together with old hierarchies of provision. Countries changed shape; some disappeared; new ones arose; empires and entire occupational prospects faded everywhere. Thus the texts, methods and presuppositions of older 'comparative' studies lost justification in a rapidly evolving context of world-wide and life long uncertainty. New participants and novel partnerships now take active responsibility for lifelong education far beyond older systems of provision and compliance. This article considers shifts in the whole contextual, conceptual and operational framework of education, together with their implications for the development of teaching, research, programming and partnerships in Comparative Education itself.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2000

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