1.5 Comparative Education: What is Social Science Methodoloy? What assumptions and shortcomings underlie its existence?

Chapter 1

1.5 Provide a description of the concept of Social Science Methodoloy, its assumptions and shortcomings.

Social Science Methodology

Under this approach several methods linked to the various social science disciplines have been brought forth. The development of social and behavioral science vastly expanded options for carrying out educational research. Various scholars from different disciplines have argued in favour of their area of specialization being used in comparative education. The vast methods available were found applicable to the study of comparative education. The result of this linkage to social science meant that trends in parents discipline shaped comparative education. The following are the methods that fall under this approach:

a) Historical Method

This method involves the search for cause and effects. It pursues antecedent causes of educational policy. In the use of this method it is assumed that the practice, device, methods, organizations all details which go to make up an educational system cannot be transferred intact from one environment to another. The educational practices are to be adopted and not assimilated. To adopt a practice requires that there be an understanding of the cause of its existence. The pursuit of historical approach motivates the desire to discover universal causes of education practice and to establish laws of education and science of education. In the historical method we try to understand all those geographical, social, racial, political, religious and linguistic factors, which influence the educational systems of a country.

In the 20th  Century, the historical approach was proposed by people like Isaac Kandel, who argued that the objectives of comparative approach to problems in education is in the analysis of the causes which have produced then and the underlying reasons across various education systems.

The causes were to be found in the forces and attitudes governing social organizations and economic and political conditions that determined its development. Nicholas Hans has added religious, linguistic, geographical, racial and political factors to historical causes. Friedrich Schneder included the nation character, culture, foreign influences and development of pedagogy itself. Horace Mann tried to reconcile those who advocated the historical approach only with those who included other factors. He emphasized that the past could not be changed and the future held infinite possibilities. The future was then the field of action, the past is only valuable as a furnishing light by which that field can be more successfully entered and cultivated.

Assumptions of the approach

The approach assumes that:

  1. Education practices devices methods, structures and organization are not transferable intact to different education environment s adaptation is vital.
  2. Education problems are generally universal but their nature is usually particular to a situation. That is an effort to make comparison between countries. Stress must be on certain factors like political, social and cultural that shapes the character of educational system Thus, as Michael Saddler emphasized, ‘things outside the school are even more important in determining the theory and practice in an education system’. This approach analyses the cause of similarities and divergences and is expected to expose the necessity of understanding the forces that influence any education system.


Shortcomings of historical method

  1. One of the greatest limitations of the historical method is that the data on which we base our study may not be reliable because in the collection of data, due care is not observed. Therefore the conclusions derived cannot be very useful.
  2. The historical  materials  about  educational  systems  of  various  countries  are generally not reliable This limits the utility of the historical data. Hence more research is needed for making them reliable.
  3. Another difficulty with the historical method is that historians generally are not impartial in their accounts. They want to conceal undesirable elements about the history of their own country and look on facts relating to other countries with prejudice. Thus the truth is not known and we cannot reach the right conclusions.
  4. Lastly, in the historical method, the past is unduly emphasized. Thus the study of comparative education becomes unbalanced.

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