Hannu Simola, Jaakko Kauko, Janne Varjo, Mira Kalalahti, and Fritjof Sahlström
The international debate on Finnish educational “success” had made relevant a cultural and historical analysis of Finnish education, with a focus on the effects of the ongoing preoccupation with the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results on basic education. Such international comparisons demand a strong theoretical approach, in part because the contrastive analysis of empirical “facts” and “realities” requires that they be situated in relation to their local and, in this case, national systems and contexts. It may be assumed that the quantitative indicators agreed on in intergovernmental negotiations between senior bureaucrats do indeed provide valid comparisons of education systems, as is the conventional wisdom in the field of economics. Nevertheless, these remain value-loaded collections of indicators of development that offer at best parallel lines of comparative analysis. The Finnish case argues for strong theory-based conceptualizations as the basis for, first, complex comparison and, second, shared models of policy action and intervention.
The comparative education field faces four interlinked challenges. First, there is a lack of theory building and development in the field, where politically and ideologically motivated investigative large-scale assessment practices are defining the state of the art. Second, the focus of the studies tends to be on empirically measurable end products instead of documented processes, which makes it possible to generate competitive rankings but reveals little about specific and shared developmental processes in educational systems. Third, although complexity and contingency are widely accepted in the social world on the general level, they appear to seldom reach empirical studies; the vast majority of standard approaches still advocate simple explanatory models. Finally, and paradoxically enough, there is a form of intellectual nationalism that inhibits the conceptualization and understanding of the relationship between, for example, transnational processes and nation-states. In this regard, comparative education needs a strong and ambitious theory-based framework with the potential to incorporate sociohistorical complexity, cultural relationality, and sociological contingency. Without a strong theory-driven approach, it is hard to go beyond merely listing the similarities and differences that facilitate the rankings but blur the processes.
At the research unit for Sociology and Politics in Education (KUPOLI) at the University of Helsinki, a new conceptualization was formulated in early 2010s and an ambitious research plan, Comparative Analytics of Dynamics in Education Politics (CADEP), was launched. The thesis was that to progress beyond the state of the art and arrive at a comparative understanding of educational systems, it would be necessary to focus on dynamics, with a view to grasping the fluid and mobile nature of the subject. This heuristic starting point echoed relativistic dynamics in physics, characterized as a combination of relativistic and quantum theories to describe the relationships between the principal elements of a relativistic system and the forces acting on it. It is curious that, though on the conceptual level the dynamics of a system are constantly referred to as being among its key attributes, there has been little progress on the analytical level in the social sciences since the seminal work of Pitirim Sorokin in the 1950s. The CADEP develops conceptually the theoretical understanding of dynamics to resubmit a specific social field of education to scrutiny by analyzing the relations between the main actors and institutions and essential discursive formations and practices. It is assumed that given its connection with relations and movement, the concept of dynamics will not reduce a mobile and fluid subject of study to a stagnant and inanimate object. There are four constitutive dynamics that make the Finnish educational success story understandable. Success and failure in basic education seem to be relative, and to reflect intertwined dynamics in policymaking, governance, families’ educational strategies, and classroom cultures. The emphasis of the understanding is on the contingent, relational, and complex character of political history.
The relationship between education and peace is an area of educational research that merits sustained attention from scholars. A recent review of literature on this relationship pointed out the lack of rigorous research studies and robust evidence showing this link. This is surprising, given its significant implications for policy makers and practitioners who wish to educate youths to build and sustain a peaceful and just society. In fact, those who are engaged in education and peace research often grapple with the gap between their intuitive belief in the power of education to transform individuals and society on one hand, and the difficulty in establishing the causal relationship between the two concepts on the other. Still, today’s incessant tide of violence around the world has been propelling researchers to investigate the intersection of education and peace in order to better understand this connection.
The change in the nature of conflict has also given a new impetus to the research on education and peace. Today’s conflicts are generally fought between cultural groups within a nation, rather than between nation-states. Less developed nations, many of them being multicultural, are particularly prone to the risk of violent conflict. A study suggesting that the percentage of extreme poverty in fragile and conflict-affected societies will increase from the current 17% to 46% by 2030 confirms the close relationships between conflict, poverty and development. Because violence caused by internal conflict is a major obstacle to achieving universal access to education and other development goals, research on education and peace has become an important agenda item in the development aid community. This has added international aid organizations to the major players in education and peace research.
To date, most research studies have attempted to determine how education contributes to, or negatively affects, peace, rather than the other way around. The notion of peace, in the meantime, is no longer merely defined as the absence of war, but has been expanded to include the absence of structural violence, a form of violence that limits the rights of certain groups of citizens. This definition of peace has enlarged the analytical scope for social science researchers engaged in peace-related studies. The research field of education and peace has expanded beyond curriculum, textbooks, and pedagogy to also include education policy, governance, administration, and school management. Research may explore, for example, the impact of equitable and inclusive education policy and governance on the development of citizenship and social cohesion in the context of multicultural societies.
Importantly, scholars engaged in education and peace research need to consider how peace-building education policy and practices can actually be realized in societies where political leaders and education professionals are unwilling to implement reforms that challenge the existing power structure. Normative arguments around education for peace will be challenged in such a context. This means that education and peace research need to draw on multiple academic disciplines, including political science, sociology, and psychology, in order to not only answer the normative questions concerning peace-building policies and practices, but also address their feasibility.
Finally, the development of education and peace research can be enhanced by rigorously designed evaluation studies. How do we measure the outcomes of peace-building policies and practices? The choice of criteria for measurement may depend on the local context, but the discussion and establishment of fair and adaptable evaluation methodology can further enhance education policy and practices favoring peace and thus enrich the research in this field.
Glenn M. Hudak
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Martin Heidegger’s conceptualization of Gestell—the essence of technology—is a useful notion that can help educational researchers to “frame” and understand the role of digital technologies within the context of education and schooling. As C. A. Bowers argues in The Cultural Dimensions of Educational Computing (1988), “Heidegger’s thinking about technology, . . . his way of approaching the question of what constitutes the ‘essence of technology’ in relation to human existence was to be more useful [for researchers] in developing a vocabulary for revealing how our relationships are framed . . . by the essential nature of technology” (p. 31). Likewise, as Norm Friesen states in The Place of the Classroom and the Space of the Screen (2011), Heidegger “insisted that [the essence of] technology frames our experience and understanding in particular ways . . . [Heidegger names this] totality in which it is manifested by using the German word Gestell” (pp. 11–12).
As such, an understanding of Gestell—the essence of technology—is foundational, and is essential in unpacking the interface between education and technology. For what is at stake is not the use of technological equipment in classrooms per se, rather it is the very way in which Gestell “frames” the way in which we encounter educational situations by amplifying instrumental thinking at the expense of more relational forms of thinking. Here Heidegger calls for a new form of thinking: Gelassenheit, a way of thinking outside the domain of techno-discourse. Can one fully break free of Gestell? Can educators actually stand outside the dominant discourse of technology, especially as schools integrate curricula with digital technologies? An in-depth understanding of the dynamic power of the essence of technology is necessary in order to address these and other related concerns.
Carlos Alberto Torres
The emergence of post-national citizenships questions the principles and values as well as the rights and responsibilities in which national citizenships were founded. Does this new reality reflect a crisis of classical liberalism and particularly of its neoliberal declination facing the new challenges of globalization and diversity? Multiculturalism, one of the answers to the dilemmas of citizenship and diversity shows signs of crisis. In these context concepts such as cosmopolitan democracies and global citizenship education have been invoked as solutions to the possible demise of the regulatory power of the nation-state and failed citizenship worldwide. The implementation of the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) in 2012 by the UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon sets a new program for education where Global Citizenship Education is predicated as a resource to enhance global peace, sustainability of the planet, and the defense of global commons.
Jane Kenway and Diana Langmead
Whatever else it involves, elite schools’ core work is to help to make and remake class through education. Here, we provide an overview of their everyday practices of class-making and present ways of categorizing them: the spatialization of their social imaginations, their mobilization of feelings, and their class-based disavowals. These practices are well established in the local (national/state) context, and we devote the first part of the article to these. In the second part, we shift the angle of scrutiny and outline such schools’ class-making practices in the contemporary global context.
Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Dustin W. Louie, Aubrey Jean Hanson, and Jacqueline Ottmann
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
The need to decolonize and indigenize education stems from shared experiences of colonialism across the globe. In a world divided by ongoing conflict and fueled by issues of power and control, the need to closely examine the ways that education has served hegemonic interests will help to inform future educational initiatives as well as serve as a form of reparation for those indigenous peoples who have endured the dire consequences of colonialism. Present-day efforts to reclaim and revitalize threatened traditions are supported by international bodies such as the United Nations, as articulated within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2008).
Decolonizing education entails identifying how colonization has impacted education and working to unsettle colonial structures and dynamics within educational contexts. Indigenizing education entails articulating and revitalizing indigenous understandings of education and reshaping education in ways that are responsive to indigenous communities’ knowledges. We use the term education broadly in these descriptions to name the sociocultural task of understanding ways of knowing and being within epistemological and ontological systems and the ongoing formation and transmission of knowledges: for instance, we mean both formal education as structured through Western schooling and other forms of education such as those traditionally practiced within indigenous families and communities. Decolonizing and indigenizing education fits within larger understandings of decolonization and indigenization at sociopolitical levels. However, these undertakings address in particular the colonization of the mind, of knowledge, language and culture, and the impacts of colonization at personal and collective levels of physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual experience.
From our perspectives, indigenizing is significant and distinct from decolonizing in that indigenizing work begins from indigenous perspectives and standpoints. Indigenizing is powerful for indigenous communities because it removes the colonial as a primary focus. Whereas the act of decolonizing challenges colonization and Eurocentrism, indigenizing fosters the resurgence and practice of indigenous knowledges and principles of self-determination by connecting indigenous pasts, presents, and futures. In this time of transition, the work of decolonizing schooling precedes that of indigenizing education for most educators and learners. Yet, in keeping with indigenous knowledge traditions, it must be acknowledged that education is in a state of constant flux as we come to know education as representative of diverse, and complex, worldviews.
James H. Williams
At the intersection of education, development, and international cooperation is a shift in trends, as well as ongoing challenges. Education has expanded rapidly throughout the world. Even so, the industrialized nations are decades, if not generations, ahead of parts of the developing world in terms of enrollment and learning attainment. For reasons of equity and economic development alone, it is imperative that all efforts be put to the task of achieving universal school enrollment and learning. To achieve such a goal in the context of what some researchers have termed a 100-year gap requires efforts on the part of national governments and international cooperation on the part of all nations of the world. International cooperation in education includes: (a) the institutions and architecture of international organizations; (b) development assistance, which is closely related; and (c) international agreements to promote education and other development goals. In a broad sense, these initiatives can be seen as moving toward increasingly cooperative relationships between wealthier nations and developing countries. International institutions involved in education include various agencies of the United Nations (e.g., UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO, UNHCR), as well as the multilateral development banks, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, International Development Association; regional development banks—Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and so forth; and bilateral development agencies. Development assistance is provided in the form of technical and financial assistance to national governments by bilateral development agencies, the multilateral development agencies, UN agencies, as well as an increasing number of non-governmental agencies (NGOs). The UN Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are foundational documents laying out the rights of all children to education and the obligation of governments to ensure that children have access to quality education. Several global initiatives have led the way toward increasing educational participation in developing countries, including Education for All, the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Global Education First Initiative, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
There are at least three approaches to Islamic education: interpretive, critical, and deconstructive understandings of Islamic education. These mutually intertwined approaches to Islamic education lend themselves to various practices through which they engender specific human actions. In the main, the notion of Islamic education can be attentive to some of the ethical dilemmas in the contemporary world, such as human trafficking, global warming, and global terrorism. First, education in Islam is constituted by the notions of hudā (guidance), tarbiyyah (socialization), and hikmah (wisdom)—underlying meanings that give Islamic education its distinctive form. These are also referred to as three intertwined theoretical approaches to Islamic education. In turn, these concepts can give rise to various human actions referred to as practices of Islamic education. Therefore, second, the aforementioned educative concepts engender a’māl (human actions) that can be responsive to undermining ethical dilemmas in the contemporary world, such as ijtihād (individual striving), shūrā (dialogical/deliberative engagement), and ummah (communal action). As a consequence of the prevalence of major ethical predicaments in and about Islamic education in especially the Arab and Muslim world, it is argued that dilemmas of parochialism and male chauvinism, religious and ideological differences, and Islamophobia can most appropriately be addressed through critical and responsible human action. Therefore, third, the a’māl of ijtihād (individual striving), shūrā (dialogical/deliberative engagement), and ummah (communal action) can cultivate responsibility, humanity, diversity, and concern for the other in dealing with the aforementioned human predicaments.
Winston C. Thompson
Notions of liberty and equality are often invoked in discussions about educational policy and practice. Whether one views education as a process of instrumentally necessary preparation for civic life in a liberal democracy or as organized by an inherently valued dedication to the universal development of capacities of freedom, liberty, and equality, these visions appear essential to a rather fulsome spectrum of claims and aims in education. As such, tracing these tandem commitments to their roots in various forms of liberalism enables educational researchers to better position their understandings and analyses in a historical and conceptual context.
Parental involvement is frequently touted as a key part of any solution to the achievement gap in US schools. Yet the mainstream model of parental involvement has been challenged on the grounds that it neglects parents’ political agency, the cultural diversity of families, and the empirical evidence of limited efficacy. This article argues that to understand parental involvement’s promise and limitations, it is necessary to consider it in historical context. Accordingly, it traces the history of “parental involvement” as a policy goal through the past half century. It provides an account of the mainstream parental involvement research, as well as critiques. Ultimately, the article argues that parental involvement is neither boon nor bane. As an important aspect of the politics of public schooling, parental involvement has diverse effects, which can support or hinder equity and student success.