1.4 Explain how traditional methods have been used in the studying of comparative education
a) Descriptive method
From the early times of the discipline development the most noticeable aspect was that of description only. This method had neither any methodology nor system nor details to the roots of the discipline. The method involved simple random surveys like those of Marco Polo, Hieun Tsang or Banche and had only some details of educational systems in other countries. Herodotus (484-425 BC) in his commentary on Persian wars, Xenophone (430-355 BC) in his details of training for citizenship in Persia, are some of the Greek interest in comparison. Plato (429-348 BC) in his Republic talks of improvement in society, Cicero (106-43 BC) in de Orator had compared Greek and Roman cultures and blamed Spartan training for encouraging homosexuality and robbery, Julius Ceaser had mentioned that Druids stressed memory and were not willing to commit their religious doctrines to writing. In these early descriptions, mostly the persons who traveled abroad were not basically interested in the educational systems of other lands for any utilitarian purpose but were curious to know the wide world and what people did there. These descriptions could not move beyond subjective interpretations
b) Selective education borrowing
The method involves the comparison of descriptive data inform of legislative details, statistics and description which form the basis of comparison. Pioneers in the discipline used this method in the pioneer phase of comparative education.
Their main aim was to facilitate transplantation of education system and to promote understanding among nations through sharing of educational information among them. Their approach calls for the task of educational fact finding and enlightenment through abstracting educational statistics and presenting them in charts for comparison e.g. comparison of the organizations and methods of instructions. The approach requires giving details of other states and foreign systems of education. Some of the materials to be collected may be historical and descriptive.
Experiences may help in the investigation of educational practices in other countries. Thus personal experience allied with social outlook would combine to give one a conclusion about an educational system. This approach involves looking what people in other countries are doing. If, what other people are doing in their countries were done in our country, on the same principle, then our education system would be better off. The approach involves stressing positive points of foreign education system so that current weakness of the system may be shown up. This is well illustrated by educational borrowing that took place in the early nineteenth century.
The beginning of 19th Century coincided with the rise of national system of education in Europe.
Travelers abroad made journeys with a specialized interest in educational matters. No longer motivated by general curiosity they went to foreign countries to discover information useful for charting the course of education in their countries.
This group of persons of modern comparative education was predominantly educational politicians experts and activists. Often they traveled not at their own expense, or following their private interest, but as emissaries sometimes self appointed of their national Government. They concerned themselves with educational theory, methodology, finance and organizations, teacher training, institutional methods and alternatives to traditional accepted curricular matters of major importance for them. They borrowed what they viewed to be important in the improvement of education in their country and left out what they viewed to be of little use. This brought about selective education borrowing of aspects that would improve their education system.
Though their reports now focused sharply upon the schools, characteristics associated with traveler’s tales persisted; many of the reports took the form of encyclopedic descriptions of foreign system, perhaps enlightened here and there with anecdotes, but rarely explanatory. Of necessity objectivity and detachment were lacking. These educational emissaries committed as they were, to the cause of education in their own countries, they mostly saw and reported from abroad merely what they judged would advance their domestic enterprises at home.
Characteristics of this approach
It is mainly descriptive, eulogistic and governed by utilitarian purpose of assisting national development of education based on certain values governing the improvement of education. Conscientious comparison which may be expressed in definite terms acknowledging national differences was lacking.
i. Government may invite foreign experts to advice on the reform of an institution/education system. Kenya Mackay report of 1982, Bessey report of 1972.
ii. Government may ask an individual in the country to set up a commission/panel to look into the reform aspect in the Members of the commission would study what happens elsewhere; select those features they think may help in the reform. They would put forward suggestion for reform and plan development for the institution and system of education. For example, the Koech, Ominde, and Gachathi commissions.
iii. Government may send officials to another country to study a particular kind of institution with the objective of setting up a similar kind of institution. The government may want to transplant aspects of education from a specific country for example institutes of technology, village polytechnics from Russia, China, and Japan.
iv. A specialist in a country may be given the task of collecting information on foreign improvement in education. For example use a member in the ministry to collect information and stock it locally for use. He would send questionnaires and circulars to embassies asking for information about various aspects of existing systems of education which may be useful in school reorganization at home.
v. Government may send individuals to study the work of an expert or specific institution where the expert works. For example to study the aspect of early childhood education, adult education.
Problems of the approach
i. Problem of the reliability of the data collected especially inaccuracy of local records and imprecision of the technical term when translated to other national context.
ii. The data need to be evaluated on the basis of each country for example the amount of money used in a country cannot be used to compare different countries due to the factors involved e.g. high population
iii. Valuable comparison of education has to consider social influences on the policy and its consequence.
iv. Political rivalry and economic competition among nations encourage imitations but national sentiments discourage it. For example the issue of 8-4-4 system of education in Kenya was faced with the problem of education specialist arguing against its implementation while politicians supported it.