What is the status of Comparative International Education (CIE) in UG Education programmes?

By Leanne Cameron, Rafael Mitchell, Martin Preston and Gurpinder Singh Lalli

About the HE Education Research UK Blog Series
To raise awareness of the HE Education Research Census and contribute to a conversation about HE education research in the UK, this blog series explores a wide range of issues at the forefront of education research today. It includes blogs from colleagues at all career stages, research areas and nations of the UK. Please get in touch if you too would like to contribute.

Education research is a diverse area, encompassing multiple research traditions and foci. Our own particular area of work is in Comparative International Education (CIE). In this blog, we discuss the role and contribution of CIE to education research.

The purported benefits of researching in CIE include “combat[ting] provincialism and ethnocentricity” and promoting reflexivity, intercultural understanding and cooperation (Phillips and Schweisfurth 2014: 25), important qualities in our increasingly interdependent world. For many in the UK, the first time that education is formally encountered as a field of study is at Undergraduate (UG) or at Postgraduate (PG) level, as part of the expanding enrolment in Education Studies degrees (McCulloch and Cowan, 2017) and in a period of significant change across higher education. Yet little is known about the status of CIE within these programmes and the extent to which CIE features as a mandatory or optional component, the geographical coverage, the issues which are addressed, and whose perspectives are included.

In expanding our understanding of CIE approaches, we have been working on a project which relates to theories and concepts in CIE education, understands how we might shape better pedagogical practices in higher education, and delves into deeper critical debates on issues and assumptions on decolonial questions. This is the first study of its kind to provide an empirical overview of CIE teaching in UK universities. Progress to date is informing debates and decision-making at UG level and, as we extend the research, a picture of PG courses will also emerge. Following the completion of a report on this study, a broad consensus emerged on the purposes of CIE at UG level, with respect to its ability to support critical thinking by disrupting existing assumptions; its potential to promote multi-cultural awareness and global-mindedness; and its contribution to enhancing students’ overall educational development.

We have also learnt that more research in this area is warranted as the empirical fieldwork in this area is lacking. We therefore invite opportunities for discussion which relate to navigating CIE through doing research with experts in the field and how we might be able to inform future curriculum decisions. We are currently collecting module guides and reading lists for PG Education programmes and would like to encourage your participation as we contact Education departments in universities across the UK.

CIE contributes to key debates on globally-oriented education research and so doing helps strengthen the international profile of education studies.

Find out more:

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  • McCulloch, G. and Cowan, S. (2017) A social history of educational studies and research, London: Routledge.
  • Phillips, D. and Schweisfurth, M. (2014) Comparative and International Education: An introduction to theory, method and practice, Edinburgh: A&C Black.

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