1.9 Comparative Education: Can you breakdown the different factors that influence education systems in the world?

Chapter 1

1.9 Breakdown the different factors that influence education systems in the world.


One of the purposes of comparative education is to develop general statements about the forces and factors that influence development of educational systems. There are certain similarities among the factors that determine and shape systems of education to be the way they are in the continents of the world. Europe for example suffered a major division based on polarized ideologies which involved eastern political ideology (communism socialism) different from that of the western (democratic). However, it has common Roman – Christian education and that both have contemporarily shared experience in industry and society.

Africa as a continent is characterized by common needs, associated with under development and a shared history of European colonization. North America shares a common heritage of democratic principles while South America shares cohesion linked to common cultural origins and similar kinds of social-economic development. Asia, however, has major cultural divisions especially  those  related  to  religious  obligations  and  is  also  affected  by  different  kinds  of historical and external interventions. It has different levels of economic development with some countries very poor while others very rich.

The specific factors that determine and shape system of education to be the way they are include:

  1. Economic factors

The level of economic development of a country, which is based on the level of industrialization, determines the decline or advancement of education. The indication depends on provision of education for all which entails free and compulsory or universal primary education. For example, industrialized and highly urbanized countries have high income. These countries include Japan, China, US, Britain, France, Australia, Italy and Germany. In these countries, universal free and compulsory elementary education has been achieved. Secondary education is also free in some of the countries. The newly industrialized countries have middle levels of income. These include Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Korea. Here universal primary education is nearly achieved. Even in those countries where is universal free and compulsory primary education, problems of non enrollment school dropout and low completion rates are inevitable.  On  the  other  hand,  in  those  countries  where  this  policy  (compulsory  primary education) has been achieved especially in developed countries, there are strict prohibitions of non-enrollments, school dropouts and low completion rates such that the parents of those pupils who do not enroll or drop out of school are charged accordingly in the court of law. As a result there are large numbers enrolled in primary schools as well as high completion rates.

  1. Social Cultural factors

School systems reflect the social patterns prevailing in any particular country. Education reforms reflect changing needs of and aspirations of a dynamic society. For example, after independence most African countries had to Africanize their systems of education so as to met needs of the African  societies.  Customs,  traditions,  beliefs,  and  local  developments  affect  the  education system in a country. All these factors affect the curriculum and influence educational development. Some schools of thought have divided these factors into three categories. Of them being those universal things which all the people in a country do the same way. These include speaking the same language, eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, and holding the same political and religious ideas. The second type of things are specialties of a nation or the people such as specialized vocational skills and training which make for division of labour in a society and the accepted ideas about class and social position within that culture. The third type of thing are the alternatives which are those things about which individuals exercise their own personal choice, such as making use of inventions and other new ways of doing things.

Another aspect here is language. This has implication on education in terms of medium of instruction. Depending on whether one or several languages are used in most of the communities it has implications on the cost of education system and national unity. For example, it is cheaper to train teachers with only one language as a medium of instruction compared to where more than one language is used. In Africa, it would be difficult and expensive because of the many different languages that exist and all are used a medium of instruction. In case a country has one language or an accepted language without intricate dialect, the organization of education systems becomes quite simple as in the case of England and USA. In the countries where national unity is quite strong the system of education is not much affected even with two or three languages are spoken in that country as in Switzerland where three languages are spoken and also in Wales where two languages are spoken by Masses.

On the other Hand, countries like India where a good number of languages are spoken and written, the organization of the system of the system of schools becomes quite problematic. Similarly, in the case where different languages corresponds to difference between national and semi- hostile groups, educational systems also become problematic when a number of dialects are spoken and written by the Masses. It is also so, if the language is quite complicated as in China. It takes long to learn it for example in India there are fourteen main languages and hundreds of dialects and the incidence of illiteracy is quite high. The British were able to deal with the problem of language by using English as the main language of instruction. Even after independence, though efforts were being made to popularize Hindu as a link language, yet it is not accepted by a good number of people. Certain state languages such as Tamil, Bengali and Punjabi are so popular with their people that they are reluctant to accept Hindi as their first language. So much so that in certain areas English is preferred to Hindi. In Canada, the province of Quebec uses French while the other provinces use English as a medium of instruction. This can be traced though the historical factors where by those who settled in Quebec province were immigrants from France while the other provinces were settled by people mostly from Britain and other countries of Europe.

The same problem of language has also been evident in Cameroon. The western Cameroon uses English while the eastern side uses French. This was as a result of the defeat of Germany and subsequent occupation of their colonies by France and Britain. This problem has persisted even after independence where people in the two regions have adamantly refused to accept the language used by the other region in their education system.

  1. Political Factors

This influences the kind and amount of education given. This is because it determines the policies  governing  education  in  terms  of  curriculum offered  and  the  type  of  education  for masses. It also affects the existence of either democratic or undemocratic systems of education. Political regimes existing in different countries across the world have also affected education systems for example socialist/communist regimes existing in countries such China, Afghanistan and Cuba have highly centralized systems of Government that is authoritarian. The Government control all aspects of education. The use of mass media in education to achieve ideological mobilization e.g. use of education system to socialize people as it was done in Tanzania, China, Cuba. On the other hand, parliamentary/capitalist regimes, which existed in countries such as USA and Britain, have made notable effort to ensure democratic participation in education. They allow fair allocation of resources. They also have decentralized system of education where federal government schools have little on education system. The political parties in power in

these countries influence the allocation of education resources to different systems e.g. the labour party  in  the  United  Kingdom  promoted  development  and  decentralization  of  education.  In Kenya, the NARC Government implemented the FPE in 2003 and later Subsidized Secondary Education in 2007.

  1. Climatic and Geographical Factors

The climatic and geographical and geographical conditions of an area may affect the school entering age. For example areas which are too cold or have long distances between home and school, children have to delay schooling. In the arctic region (Scandinavian countries) where temperatures are extremely cold children of Eskimos have to wait until such time when they are able to resist respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

Consequently, some countries in the Northern temperature zones start their compulsory schools attendance one or two years later because of the severity of the climatic conditions.

On the other hand, maritime climate influence the education system especially when deciding on vacations. Schools take vacations during cold Winter and also during hot Summers. This is particularly seen in North America and many countries in Europe. The hot climatic conditions experienced in arid and semi-arid areas of tropical zones influence activities in systems of education. However, learning takes place during morning hours when it is cool. At times in the afternoon, when it is hot, very little learning takes place.

The geographical conditions of a place influence the distribution of population and the functions of systems of education in a country. For example, Australia has the second largest desert in the world. Consequently, the population is sparsely populated to compared to the densely populated urban areas. Therefore, Australian has two systems of education one for the urban areas and another for rural areas. In urban areas there are big and well equipped schools with adequate facilities. Thus, in Scandinavian countries, because of extreme temperatures, there are not instant schools or early childhood education departments in some schools. This has also been the case with children in Norway and other Scandinavian countries where children start schooling at the age of seven. On the other hand, the long distance between the school and home makes the pupils tired and weak thus they have to wait until they attain an age, which they are strong enough to walk long distance to and from school.

The climate will also affect educational year calendars. For example in north Eastern Kenya children start their programmers very early in the morning, when the temperatures are conducive for  study.  Similarly,  the  hot  weathers  will  affect  the  architectural  designs  and  structure  of schools. This adds to the cost of building these structures if they are in cold climates where heating is required. The long distance will determine the existence of either day or boarding school i.e. if the distance is long, children cannot travel to and from school everyday thus they board. The distance as well affect attendance of schools by pupils and also affects safety especially to girls.

In areas where there are distinct seasons of Winter and Summer the school holidays are synchronized such that the holiday fall during Winter. In Kenya, the holidays have been determined by seasons whereby in order to reduce dropping out during seasons the April holiday corresponds with this season in most parts of the country.

Qualified teachers and administrative personnel in rural areas, schools are small with one teacher to teach up to 40 students. Farms are far from the nearest schools and daily attendance of school difficult. It is difficult for the families to educate their children. The central Government is responsible for their administration and financing. The Government also provides the means and organization of correspondence, tuition and travelling teachers.

  1. Colonialism, Racism and Foreign Domination

This has lead to existence of alien education system, philosophy and institutional management policy.  The  education  systems  are  modeled  alongside  the  foreign  countries  or  colonialist education systems. For example, French colonized countries liked Senegal and Algeria has modeled their education system along French education systems (Francophone) while British colonized  countries  like  Kenya,  Uganda  has  modeled  their  education  system  along  British education (Anglophone). Racist education system was provided in those countries, which were dominated by foreign powers e.g. as was in South Africa during the colonial period. During this period. During this period the education provided to the Europeans, Asians and Africans was different from each other. Colonialism and foreign domination have lead to the dependence by the colonized countries. In this case the colonies depend on the former colonial masters for donations  geared  to  education  development.  This  has  greatly  affected  the  culture  of  the dominated countries.

  1. Religious Factors

The  religious  factor  affects  the  mutual  educational  co-operation.  For  example,  the  one  of revolution in Russian and Muslims minority groups in South Asia were against the education of women. When the missionaries started educational reform some of them were assassinated. In areas where new schools were established, children came to them with strange symbols on their faces inscribed in blood and could not be persuaded to wash them off because they were placed there by spiritual doctors. In pure Islamic government like Pakistan, their education system has been given stronger Islamic orientation.

Religion is one factor that has influenced education more than any other single factor throughout the middle age. The church was the same agent which supplied the schools and kept flame of culture and civilization burning with the rise of national system of education, the hold of the church on the children has gone quite weak in India, USA, France and Australia. The schools supported by the state in these countries are secular in nature and no religious teaching is permitted during school hours. However, in England and Holland, denominational schools aided by the Government may become a definite part of the national education system. The Education Act of 1994 laid down that in England, in the school controlled by the state the schoolwork should continue with a religious devolution and also that religious instructions should be a definite form of the curriculum. This is no doubt done on the basis of an agreed syllabus, which is denominational and provides exceptions to those whose parents do not want their children to attend. China was an exception in that religion was banned in schools and was considered a reactionary influence associated with capitalism.

In Africa the missionaries played an important part in the establishment of education system in their home models and transplanted them to the colonies where they settled. In the areas where the missionaries did not start schools has lagged behind in education. For example in Kenya the missionaries settled in high potential areas and ignored the marginal areas. The marginal areas have lagged behind in educational provision compared to the high potential areas.

  1. Historical factors

The colonial legacy in Africa has been a major factor in the provision of education. The colonies have adopted education systems of their colonial masters. This has continued to affect the education system in those countries up to present.

On the other hand cries of wars, epidemics, hunger, strikes, influenced the education systems. In Europe, Belgium has been a victim of repeated wars. France Napoleon Bonaparte helped to create the strong centralized and departmentalized system that hold even today. He reconstructed the university and created the ‘lycee’ for secondary education but left the education of the masses to the churches. The colonization of Africa has left an imprint on the continent that has greatly shaped the education system in various countries.




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