1.7 Comparative Education: What do we mean by the philosophical analysis methodology in the context of comparative education?

Chapter 1

1.7 Examine philosophical analysis methodology in the context of comparative education

Philosophical Analysis

In using this technique, the main assumption is that a process of simplication would succeed in diminishing the number of diverse events to be considered.

Explanation of any education system is connected with the philosophy of that country. The national styles of philosophy or different styles of arguing for example America pragmatism of French nationalism can help in explaining the education system found in a particular country. Thus the establishment of a predominant mode of thought can be linked to every aspect of an educational organization of the culture and the methods of teaching employed.

In this approach we stress the need to collect reliable data on an international scale in order to facilitate comparison in education. We have to explore the possibilities of defining a number of national traditions stemming from each nation’s philosophical orientation.

The meaningful comparison and even prediction is done as to what may happen in future, according to the national styles of thinking and hence, of doing things.

Thus in advocating the isolation of only one main element, the ideology, the philosophical analysis may give us a manageable scheme, allowing a clear relationship to be established, if this exists, between educational practice and national thought or style.

Conventional methods

They are contemporary attempts to systematize methodology in comparative education research. These methods include:

  1.  Systematic area study (George E. Beredy)
  2.  Problem solving approach (Brian Holmes) Systematic area study approach

The approach makes the following assumptions:

  1. We can use this approach to make analytical surveys of systems of education in various countries or
  2. The study of other education systems acts as a mirror for evaluation of one’s education system
  3. This study approach is multi-disciplinary in character. It assumed that we can rely on many fields of study for example sociology, history, economics, philosophy, geography, and politics. Some of the issues we deal with are so complex that they present methodological problems. Solutions to these problems are not possible without multidisciplinary co-operation – we need skills other than educational knowledge, to make sense out of the similarities and differences among education system.



Constituents of systematic areas study approach

The following are the steps that could be followed when using systematic area study approach:

  1. Description
  2. Interpretation
  3. Juxtaposition
  4. Comparison
  5. Suggestions, generalization and conclusion


Description starts with extensive reading. The resources may be primary, secondary or auxiliary. These sources will help to describe how things are. For example, the primary sources will include:

  1. Eye witness accounts
  2. Reports and transcripts of proceedings iii. Written materials of various kinds
  3. Visits to schools

While secondary sources will include published works such as textbooks on education dealing with the countries under study. On the other hand auxiliary sources will include materials or sources of information, which may not be talking about education directly. Going through them one is able to gain certain information about the education of people in those countries. They include novels, storybooks, magazines, and journal.


The second step is that of interpretation. In this step we explain why things are as they are i.e. explaining/interpreting the collected information. We give reasons/justifications for the presence/absence of certain features in educational systems studied. The reasons may be historical, geographical, socio-cultural, economic, and political. Other disciplinary areas are used to explain why an educational/ aspect is as it is.


The third step is that of juxtaposition. In this step the information is put into groups or categories according to those features, which can be, comparable and non- comparable features. In this way similarities and differences can be clearly seen. The use of charts, bar graphs and sketches can be used to illustrate the information required. For example the table below shows the structural duration of education system in the East African countries. From the table one can deduce the similarities and differences of the structural duration in each of the five countries. Various reasons such as economic and political stability can be used to explain the differences and the

similarities prevalent in each country.

Level Primary Secondary Higher Total















4 + 2










4+ 2










3 + 3










3 + 3






We compare features in one system with those of other countries/institutions under study. We take note of the similarities and differences and reason why these are as they are.

Suggestions, generalizations and conclusion

On the basis of the findings in the foregoing steps we draw conclusions and put forward suggestions for new lines of action. These are based on factors behind the similarities and differences, which have been observed.

Problem Solving Approach

Brian Holmes envisioned the field of comparative education as eminently practical in nature, providing the basis for the solutions to educational problems. He spelt out a means of identifying a problem and its possible solutions and further suggested ways of predicting the greater like hood of a particular reform bringing about a desired result. For the success of approach Holmes upheld the following assumption.


  1. It is possible to use stages of reflective (philosophical) thinking as put forward by John Dewey
  2. That the functioning of reflective thinking is to clear up a confused situation i.e. to solve a problem.
  3.  That testing is possible that is making logical deduction from the hypotheses within the context of relevant factors and then comparing the predicted events with the actual events, which are observed to flow from a selected course of action.
  4. That agreement between the predicted and observed events provides verification of the hypothesis that  is  an  explanation  of  events  constitutes  a  successful  solution  of  the confused situation.
  5. That disagreement between the two types of events (predicted and observed) constitutes a refutation of hypothesis.


  1. Problem identification

Involves selection of vaguely perceived problem that catches our interest e.g. general dissatisfaction with an aspect of education for example poor examinations performance, students unrest, gender issues

  1. Problem analysis

Intellectualize the vaguely perceived problem in general terms. A description of the conditions under which the problem is found should be given. Describe the trends that are related to vaguely perceived problem.

  1. Proposed problem solutions

Describe the reform proposals and policies put forward as solutions to the problems. This will help by providing the suggested solutions to the problem.

  1. Specification of the context

The fourth step will involve the identification and description of factors, determinants and conditions likely to influence outcomes of the proposed policy solutions. These are factors, conditions, determinants, which, in our opinion, may have been over- looked by those who proposed solutions to the vaguely perceived problem.

  1. Comparison

Compare the predicted or anticipated functional activities (based on proposed policy solutions) with the actual observable practices. This is a verification stage. Have things worked out as anticipated by those proposed the solutions. Compare with what you find out in relation to step 3 and 4.

  1. Conclusion

On the basis of the findings from the study, conclusions and predictions made. Suggestions are then made for new lines of actions.


Today, comparative education is further away from a single methodology. Definitions and new disputes concerning the scope and analytic categories of scholarship have emerged since the 1970s giving rise to a wide diversity of approaches, perspectives and orientations. A number of factors have contributed to this:

  • Failure of traditional ideas to explain educational development world wide
  • Emergency of alternative ideologies, hence, the field still remains an ill- defined one. The research in the field has and will remain diverse, thus shifting the debate but perhaps not resolving issues and challenges concerning the theory and methodology in comparative education.

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