Comparative Education

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Phillips and Schweisfurth (2008) described several theories that arose from the circumstances of the change. The period of transition is described as the process of what happens in a country where there is a considerable amount of political and social upheaval to the educational system. Birzea, for instance, described transition in terms of phases of realizations. First is the blow of the upheaval, then as realization sets in, a period of depressive attitudes before the upswing of the recovery process takes place. Phillips and Schweisfurth also described McLeash’s work, where the process of transition is described in terms of the phases a country experiences when moving from an authoritarian system to a liberal system of government: after the social upheaval and overthrow of the more oppressive regime, a period of unsureness ensues, then as national and local governments are established and hold their own elections, the effects of the settling of the social and political climate will filter to the individual schools. Comparative researchers study the post-communist countries in order to see how many changes occurred within those systems. They look to see how much of the old system that worked was kept, and how much outside influences played in the creation of their new educational system.

Phillips and Schweisfurth (2008) described different theories of transition and the different perspectives they provided to help understand how these changes affected the educational systems in the post-USSR countries and other Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Poland who underwent changes in regime around the same time. As Phillips and Schweisfurth stated, the term transition refers to the occurrence of a change, with a definitive beginning and end. However, the problem was that in this period of political and social upheaval, where there were systems in place and then there was none, there wasn’t an end in sight for the educators in these countries.

According to Phillips and Schweisfurth (2008), for post-war countries and the effects of the political climate upon the educational system, many times physical sites must be rebuilt, people’s political affiliations must be examined, and there is much more of an emotional process as people in the country rebuild their infrastructures. Davies’ work reflects this process, stating that conflict-zone countries, educational systems must be transformed rather than reformed because the old educational system was part of the previous repressive political system. The focus of reform is upon cultural cohesion, curriculum, which dialect the country is going to use, and the governmental responsibility of which branch is going to oversee the new system.

Comparison of education systems in small geographic areas is also examined in comparative research. Phillips and Schweisfurth (2008) describe Brock’s work in helping to understand this area of study. The challenge that is apparent in the study of education systems in smaller areas is a scale of economies. The fewer students there are, the higher the educational cost is per student. Also, opportunities for education may be limited because of limited resources. One solution is for small institutions to network with large institutions for increasing available educational resources.

The last area Phillips and Schweisfurth (2008) approached is in the art and science of teaching and comparative research. One important work in this discussion is Edmund King, stated Phillips and Schweisfurth, who compared several countries’ teaching system. The importance of these types of studies is in opening educators’ minds so they are not limited by their own cultural upbringing. Studies generally focus upon the way teachers instruct students in their studies, delineating the types of instruction that seem to be culturally significant for that country.

Discussion Questions

1) What similarities in educational systems are there in Eastern European block post-Communism countries? 2) How are smaller geographic areas limited in their educational systems?


Phillips, D. & Schweisfurth, M. (2008). Outcomes of comparative education: Selected themes; Conclusions. In Comparative and International Education: An Introduction to Theory, Method, and Practice (pp. 130-157). London: Continuum Publishing Group.