Wednesday, June 24, 2009

System Transfer in Comparative Education

IHEC Blog readers who come from a comparative education background (the field of study for my doctoral program) will know what I'm referring to in this post. IHEC Blog readers who are not familiar with comparative education will hopefully find this short post on system transfer to be of interest.

System transfer in comparative education has to do with the transition or change of a country’s educational system during and/or after colonization. System transfer in education also occurs as a result of regime change such as in the case of the rise and fall of Communism. To be more specific, system transfer is a process of changing an educational system to conform with and to teach new principles of the ruling power or ideology. New curriculum or teaching methods and processes are introduced to an educational system to mirror the education system of the ruling power. There is also a goal of educating the people to new ways of thinking and allegiance to new ideologies and form of government. In this case, for example, textbooks and course requirements are revised and developed as a means of conveying this new information. System transfer can be accomplished by an overhaul of an educational structure such as occurred in India when the British took control. India is modeled after the British system of education and changes to the curriculum included the instruction of new religious and political philosophies.

Most of the changes tend to be slow and it appears that significant system transfer typically occurs in the immediate years following major political change. The introduction of new policies (political, religious, economic, cultural) during colonization or change as a result of revolution or dictatorship bring new and significant changes to educational systems. It should be noted that many nations that undergo a significant transfer of their educational system rarely can demonstrate success in all newly implemented programs or policies. Often times, policy change is implemented very rapidly which is one reason some programs are failures.

Examples of system transfer can be found in the educational systems of India, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Perhaps one of the best examples of system transfer where one party is the “donor” and the other party is the “recipient” is in the case of India. The British ruled India for well over two centuries and instilled many educational and government policy changes during this occupation. The Englishman Thomas Macaulay was charged with setting educational policy in India. The British also changed the structure of the Indian educational and examination systems which are still visible today. Since gaining independence from the British, India has been working through decolonization, which is a process of changing the curriculum from the occupiers imposed belief systems, but many remnants of the British educational system still remain.

In Cuba, General Wood of the United States was instrumental in the early educational changes after the Spanish-American War of 1898. Wood wanted to revolutionize Cuban society from its Spanish ties and saw education as the tool to accomplish his mission of Americanizing the citizens. Wood introduced English into the curriculum and translated textbooks used in the United States. Wood also coordinated a program with Harvard to send Cuban teachers to Cambridge each summer for training.

Similar to the circumstances of Cuba, the United States took possession of Puerto Rico from Spain after the Spanish-American War of 1898. The United States acted quickly to improve education in Puerto Rico by imposing its educational system and democratic values on the island. According to Erwin Epstein, in addition to introducing a coeducational system and incorporating English as a favored medium of instruction, the United States sought to infuse a sense of American patriotism by requiring students to salute the flag of the United States, sing patriotic songs and incorporate teachings on the United States into the curriculum. The Puerto Rican educational system of today was created between the start of American control (after the Spanish-American War) until it achieved it’s Commonwealth status. The Puerto Rican educational system is now a mix of both U.S. and Latin American influences.

[1] This post was taken from class notes and draft writings I prepared for my classes in comparative and international education at Loyola University Chicago.


  1. Hi David,
    I'm glad to see you're working with some of your own research. It reminded me of a UNESCO project to standardize history text books so that, for example, French and German students would receive the same information about the Second World War. I'm trying to track down the source.


  2. @Betsy ~ Thanks for your comment. The UNESCO project sounds very interesting and if you come across the source or citation I would love to track it down.

  3. Your research on system transfer interests me. How similar do you think are the Higher Educational systems of the British Commonwealth on the whole? I know there are many remnants of the British influence on Hg.Ed in India/Pakistan, because they controlled it for so long, but how about other countries within the CW?

  4. @Anonymous ~ Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it. I haven't studied the educational system of the British Commonwealth and it's been over 5 years since credential evaluation was part of my work portfolio so I'm a bit rusty but I think there are many similarities. Your comment has prompted me to investigat this more. Thanks again for your oomment.