Teaching Comparative Education: Trends and Issues Informing Practice
reviewed by Min Yu & Christopher B. Crowley - June 03, 2016
Title: Teaching Comparative Education: Trends and Issues Informing Practice
Author(s): Patricia K. Kubow and Allison H. Blosser (Eds.)
Publisher: Symposium Books, Oxford
ISBN: 1873927827, Pages: 212, Year: 2016
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Teaching Comparative Education: Trends and Issues Informing Practice examines the ideological and conceptual landscape of comparative and international education (CIE) and the intellectual and social aims surrounding teaching this subject. Editors Patricia K. Kubow and Allison H. Blosser argue for agentic practice on the part of comparative educators to mirror the field of CIEs agentic theoretical perspective, positions, and aspirations (p. 17). As such, the purpose of this edited volume is to reframe the teaching of CIE as it pertains to the underlying fundamentals of the field. As the editors state in their introduction, What CIE should be taught, and how, is examined in light of the ideological, sociocultural, political, and economic trends influencing education worldwide (p. 10). The book consists of three main parts: the first addresses the ideological and conceptual landscape of CIE, the second focuses on the purposes of CIE, and the third concludes by talking about the sociopolitical trends and issues influencing the practice of CIE.
Emphasizing the idea that teaching students to critique neoliberal policies and practices is one of the central responsibilities of CIE instructors both now and in the future (p. 8), the chapters in this edited volume provide in-depth analyses and rich descriptions of how to apply theories to understand educational policies and practices in an international context and how to re-conceptualize and teach CIE at levels ranging from undergraduate pre-service teacher education to advanced graduate study. Each of the contributing authors responds to the main question of the edited volume: what should the teaching of CIE look like going forward?
The contributors to Teaching Comparative Education explore the conceptual, normative, and practical ways in which the field of CIE is situated and some of the challenges surrounding comparative education teaching. For example, in the first part of the book, author Michael Crossley focuses on reconceptualizing CIE teaching by reexamining the development and place of key concepts, theories, ideologies and methodologies that have influenced the field (p. 41), in addition to identifying priorities related to future teaching and research. As such, he critically analyzes some of the challenges to the field, highlighting how neoliberal ideologies impact teacher education in ways that are preoccupied with demonstrations of standardized technical competencies and other types of bureaucratic performativity. This also calls important attention to three broader trends: comparative work that relies heavily on cross-national surveys and related international league tables, the big data movement, and the uncritical international transfer of the expensive, large-scale, and big science modalities for educational and social research (pp. 5152).
As part of the books second part, which addresses the purposes of CIE, Chapter Six works to affirm liberal inquiry as an alternative to the professional teacher education model by mapping out the landscape of higher education and the possibilities and attribution of comparative education in relation to teacher education. In this chapter, Irving Epstein discusses the pedagogical challenges and academic opportunities of translating various epistemological, theoretical, and methodological dimensions of CIE into undergraduate teacher preparation courses. Epstein focuses on developing a more profound understanding of ones role as a teacher, given that it involves an ethical calling, realized through using the tools of reasoning, curiosity, reflection, and empathy (p. 129). He emphasizes both the rewards and challenges of engaging and supporting students by examining relationships between different forms of knowledge.
In the third and final section of the book, which focuses on sociopolitical trends, Carlos Alberto Torres begins Chapter Nine with an introduction of his teaching philosophy based on Paulo Freires (1970/2000) work and the contributions of critical theory and feminism. He discusses global and local dialectics in teaching CIE by emphasizing the importance of rethinking global citizenship education and embracing new narratives of education. He advocates questioning the hegemonic methodological and ideological regimes in the field of CIE, such as the male-centric and Eurocentric models of inquiry and educational patterns that are associated with top-down neoliberal models of globalization (p. 177). Furthermore, he advocates for a new rationality and new narratives such as eco-pedagogy, postcolonialism, subaltern theories, critical theory, socialist theories of racism, or cultural-sensitive pedagogies (p. 177).
A key element in recognizing the contributions and significance of Teaching Comparative Education involves understanding how its arguments are situated within the field of teacher education where a number of debates related to competing reform agendas are currently unfolding. At their core, these debates stem from different beliefs about the kinds of teachers that students should have and what kinds of preparation these teachers should receive before and during their careers. Depending on how different stakeholders choose to frame different problems, reform advocates are oriented in ways that lead them to pursue particular approaches to address these issues. Zeichner (2003) offers one possible framework for understanding these debates by focusing on three broadly defined reform agendas in teacher education: professionalization, deregulation, and social justice. Each agenda draws upon different visions of what teaching entails and its purpose. These various strategies for reforming teacher education encompass a wide range of approaches. They include selecting candidates by particular dispositions or attributes, focusing on the scope and sequence of professional preparation, demonstrating technical competencies, and everything in between.
Along these lines, Kubow and Blossers book, in many respects, exists in dialogue with broader conversations about the field of teacher education, although it does not tackle these topics directly. Instead, it raises considerations that are valuable to the field as these ongoing debates continue to unfold. The book asks its readers to consider not only the degree to which comparative education has value for teacher education, but also the value and significance of comparative education in its own right.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, one of the greatest contributions of this edited volume is the way it speaks directly to the importance of CIE as an academic field. Further attention deserves to be paid to the critique of Eurocentric and Western centered discourses. Takayama (2016) notes, The practice of treating social theories born out of the particular temporal and spatial context of European modernity and the subsequent formation of liberal-democratic state as transcendent and universal remains largely unchallenged (2016, p. 71). The systematic and critical interrogation of practices surrounding the researching and teaching of CIE and how they are situated and represented is essential for building upon many of the crucial points raised in this volume. Ultimately, Teaching Comparative Education offers a worthwhile contribution to further discussions related to CIE research and teaching.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum. (Original work published in 1970)
Takayama, K. (2016). Deploying the post-colonial predicaments of researching on/with Asia in education: A standpoint from a rich peripheral country. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 37(1), 7088.
Zeichner, K. (2003). The adequacies and inadequacies of three current strategies to recruit, prepare, and retain the best teachers for all students. Teachers College Record, 105(3), 490519.