Thursday, October 29, 2009

Research Notes: A Brief History of Comparative Education through the 1960s

When examining the literature in comparative education over the past 100 years it is clear that there has been an “identity crisis” regarding its boundaries and much of the confusion stems from the blurred boundaries of the field. Until the late twentieth century, few authors worked to clarify the distinctions between the two fields of comparative education and international education, and in fact, many authors carelessly used “comparative education” and “international education” either inter-changeably or simultaneously without distinction.

There is certainly an overlap in the histories of comparative education and international education, though comparativists seem to have a stronger sense of who their founding fathers are, what the key pieces of literature in its history are, and when important shifts have taken place.

Unlike international education, the founding fathers of comparative education are much more easily identifiable by those in the respective field. It is rare to find an article examining the early stages of comparative education or even current comparative theory without finding mention of Marc Antoine Jullien, Michael Sadler, and Issac Kandel. These authors provided the foundation of comparative education and serve as a reference point for emerging comparativists. Jullien was an early figure encouraging cross-national data collection, Sadler stressed the importance of looking at society as a whole when considering educational systems, and finally Kandel helped to clarify some of the goals of comparative education. In the mid to late twentieth century, as the field of comparative education strived for rigorous methodology, several authors such as Harold J. Noah and Max A. Eckstein, William W. Brickman, George Z. F. Bereday, C. Arnold Anderson, Erwin H. Epstein, and Irving Epstein helped to challenge and clarify comparative theory.

In 1954, The School of Education at New York University began a conference that would, at their third meeting two years later in 1956, establish the Comparative Education Society. Early activities of this organization included working to define the field of comparative education as an academic venture, creating study tours abroad, and publishing the Comparative Education Review, which now appears quarterly. Even then, the overlaps in the domains of comparative education and international education were illustrated by the Comparative Education Society changing its name to The Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) in 1968, the name by which the organization is known today. The 1960s saw the formation of the Comparative Education Society in Europe, which prompted the publishing of Comparative Education beginning in 1964. Several other countries, such as Canada, Japan, and Korea followed suit and created comparative education societies.

The World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES), a non-governmental organization under UNESCO, formed in the late 1960s and holding its first world council in 1970 with representatives from five comparative education societies including the United States, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Canada. The WCCES aims to promote the study of comparative and international education throughout the world and enhance the academic status of this field and to bring comparative education to bear on the major educational problems of the day by fostering cooperative action by specialists from different parts of the world.
[2] The organization typically meets every three years in a new country for each Congress.

I hope to be able to pull together a brief history of Comparative Education from the 1960’s to date in the near future.

Previous IHEC Blog on "System Transfer in Comparative Education" is available

[1] William Brickman, “Genesis and Early Development of the Comparative and International Education Society” Comparative Education Review 10, no. 1 (February 1966): 9-19.
[2] World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES) description of its two specific goals (2006),


  1. David,

    No K.D. Ushinsky?

    Do the Asian Comparative Education societies have a different perspective on the "founding fathers"?

    Yao Chen, a student from China in my class (ELPS 455), earlier this semester asked the following:

    "According to Wang Chengxu (1999), the first Chinese book on comparative education, named “Comparative Education of Foreign Countries” was authored by Zhuang Zexuan, who was the director of [the] Education School [at] Zhongshan University of China. The book was published in 1927, five years before Issac Kandel’s epic work Comparative Education came to the world. [As] noted by Gu Mingyuan and Qiaohe (2008), the first comparative education program and academic journal in China was established at Beijing Normal University in 1965, eight years after the establishment of CIES."

    I don't have near the authority to directly commnet on any of this, but I do think it's interesting to note varying international perspectives on comparative education.


    Jason Lemberg

  2. @Jason ~ Many thanks for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment. To be sure, my post is very US/Eurocentric and was only taken from my notes from my various classes and probably from ELPS 455. I think it's great that the statement about comparative education in China was brought up in class and that Zhuang Zexuan work “Comparative Education of Foreign Countries” was mentioned (I'm not familiar with this work but will investigate). I would have like to see that discussion. No K.D. Ushinsky in my notes but that doesn't mean he wasn't discussed in a class that I I may not have been listening. Thanks again for the comment and glad we are connecting here and on Twitter.

    Best, David

  3. Your blog is really Excellent. it inspires the reader who has that great desire to lead a better and happier life. Thanks for sharing this information and hope to read more from you..