Beyond Methodological 'ISMS' in Comparative Education in an Era of Globalisation
International Handbook of Comparative Education
In this chapter we review the main problems raised for comparative education by the current era characterised as globalisation. We see these as arising from an increasing distance between the emerging nature of education under globalisation and the focus and approaches that have dominated comparative education. The focus has been very much on 'national', 'education', 'systems'. We argue that this is not where 'education' is to be found in the current era of globalisation, and that this requires
... that this requires re-examination of each of the three components separately, and as a collection. To begin this process, we attempt to identify and problematise the three theoretical and methodological 'isms' that have characterized comparative education, and that assume and reinforce the national education system as the proper basis of its study. These 'isms' are: methodological nationalism; methodological statism; and methodological educationism. In each case the 'ism' is used to suggest an approach to the objects that takes them as unproblematic and assumes a constant and shared meaning. In the first part of the paper, we examine the first two isms, and seek to frame the implications of the changes that have developed through an era of neo-liberal for the governance of education; from being taken as the more or less exclusive preserve of nation states, this is now more effectively seen as made up of different combinations of (new as well as existing) agents, (new as well as existing) activities, not necessarily carried out at the national scale. We suggest that one consequence of this shift in the governance of education is a tendential functional and scalar division of educational governance, operating through both hybrid and parallel forms. In the second part of the chapter, we examine 'educationism', the tendency to regard 'education' as a single category for purposes of analysis, with an unproblematically accepted scope, and a set of implicitly shared knowledges, practices and assumptions. We advance three ways of moving beyond educationism: first, representing education as a set of questions/variables rather than as a homogeneous entity; second, examining the 're-sectoralisation' of education; and third, distinguishing competing representations of education that now characterise the field. We conclude by arguing that only when we challenge 'isms' in comparative education will we have a set of conceptual tools which might inform critical interventions in education.