Thursday, May 1, 2008

Comparative Education Epistemological Spectrum

Epistemological debates on the production of knowledge have existed for centuries. In 1817, Marc-Antoine Julien’s Esquisse et vues préliminaires d’un ouvrage sur l’éducation comparée[1] was published and the field of comparative education was established. In his seminal work, Julien writes, “researches on comparative education must furnish new means of perfecting the science of education.”[2] Comparativists heed this challenge proposed by Julien and, as the field of comparative education has developed and grown, scholars across the globe approach the study of education from a variety of different theoretical and methodological perspectives. Comparative education scholars range in their theoretical or epistemological approaches, from extreme positivism to extreme relativism, to understanding international issues of education. Additionally, comparativists actively engage, critique and challenge one another, in both the scholarly literature of the field and during academic conferences and related events/venues, on their epistemological and methodological positions.

Throughout the next several weeks I will review and rank the academic work of twelve authors or group of authors along a comparative education epistemological spectrum. The spectrum I will be working from for this analysis was produced by Erwin H. Epstein.
[3] Justification for author(s) placement along the spectrum will be provided primarily in the form of direct citation or quotation from the text of the author’s work that is being reviewed. The various epistemological approaches on the spectrum that I will review, from extreme positivist to extreme relativist, include: holocultural testing; positivism; cross-national analysis; historical functionalism; national character analysis; relativism; and, postmodern discourse.

[1] Plan and Preliminary Views for a Work on Comparative Education is the English translation of Julien’s original work in French.
[2] Julien, M.A. 1817. Esquisse et Vues Préliminaires d’un Ouvrage Sur l’éducation Comparée, in ELPS 457 Comparative Theory spring 2006 course packet, Loyola University Chicago, ed. E.H. Epstein, 30-49. Chicago: Loyola University Chicago.
[3] Epstein’s comparative education epistemological spectrum was distributed to registered students in his ELPS 457 Comparative Theory course in spring 2006.

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