The theme of social justice appears to be central in education research. A polysemic and sometimes empty notion, social justice can be defined, constructed, and used in different ways, which makes it a problematic notion to work with intra- and interculturally. Global education research has often relied on constructions of the notion as they have been “done” in the West, leaving very little space to constructions from peripheries. This problematic and somewhat biased approach often leads to research that ignores local contexts and local ways of “discoursing” about social justice. Although some countries are said to be better at social justice in education (e.g., top performers in the OECD PISA studies), there is a need to examine critically and reflexively how it is “done” in different contexts (“winners” and “losers” of international rankings) on macro- and micro-levels. Two different educational utopias, China and Finland, are used to illustrate the different constructions of social justice, and more specifically marginalization and belonging in relation to migrant students—an omnipresent figure in world education—in the two countries. A call for learning with each other about social justice, and questioning too easily accepted definitions and/or formulas, is made.
Yongjian Li and Fred Dervin
Few would deny that processes of globalization have impacted education around the world in many important ways. Yet the term “globalization” is relatively new, and its meaning or nature, conceptualization, and impact remain essentially contested within the educational research community. There is no global consensus on the exact time period of its occurrence or its most significant shaping processes, from those who focus on its social and cultural framings to those that hold global political-economic systems or transnational social actors as most influential. Intersecting questions also arise regarding whether its influence on human communities and the world should be conceived of as mostly good or mostly bad, which have significant implications for debates regarding the relationship between globalization and education. Competing understandings of globalization also undergird diverse methodologies and perspectives in expanding fields of research into the relationship between education and globalization. There are many ways to frame the relationship of globalization and education. Scholars often pursue the topic by examining globalization’s perceived impact on education, as in many cases global convergence around educational policies, practices, and values has been observed in the early 21st century. Yet educational borrowing and transferal remains unstraightforward in practice, as educational and cultural differences across social contexts remain, while ultimate ends of education (such as math competencies versus moral cultivation) are essentially contested. Clearly, specificity is important to understand globalization in relation to education. As with globalization generally, globalization in education cannot be merely described as harmful or beneficial, but depends on one’s position, perspective, values, and priorities. Education and educators’ impacts on globalization also remain a worthwhile focus of exploration in research and theorization. Educators do not merely react to globalization and related processes, but purposefully interact with them, as they prepare their students to respond to challenges and opportunities posed by processes associated with globalization. As cultural and political-economic considerations remain crucial in understanding globalization and education, positionality and research ethics and reflexivity remain important research concerns, to understand globalization not just as homogeneity or oppressive top-down features, but as complex and dynamic local and global intersections of people, ideas, and goods, with unclear impacts in the future.
Lesley Bartlett and Frances Vavrus
Case studies in the field of education often eschew comparison. However, when scholars forego comparison, they are missing an important opportunity to bolster case studies’ theoretical generalizability. Scholars must examine how disparate epistemologies lead to distinct kinds of qualitative research and different notions of comparison. Expanded notions of comparison include not only the usual logic of contrast or juxtaposition but also a logic of tracing, in order to embrace approaches to comparison that are coherent with critical, constructivist, and interpretive qualitative traditions. Finally, comparative case study researchers consider three axes of comparison: the vertical, which pays attention across levels or scales, from the local through the regional, state, federal, and global; the horizontal, which examines how similar phenomena or policies unfold in distinct locations that are socially produced; and the transversal, which compares over time.
Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, there has been a great deal of criticism of the colonial heritage of early ethnographic research. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, scholars have also raised concerns also about the colonial heritage of comparative education. Erwin Epstein defined comparative education as “the application of the intellectual tools of history and social sciences to understand international issues of education.” Hence it is important for comparative education as a global field of study to engage with the recent debates in social sciences to generate deeper understanding about educational problems embedded within specific international contexts. The dominance of Northern theory in analyzing research data from the Global South has been increasingly critiqued by scholars in a number of scholarly publications since Raewyn Connell published her book Southern Theory in 2008. They have argued that Northern theory arising out of the colonial metropole is provincial in nature and, therefore, provides incomplete interpretation of data and generates misunderstanding or limited understanding of social phenomenon occurring in the hybrid contexts of the Global South. Therefore, lately scholars have been debating about postcolonial comparative education to argue for the relevance of Southern theory in conducting postcolonial comparative education research for both analytic (ideological), as well as hermeneutic (affective historical) engagement with research data. Drawing on the methodological insights from an empirical case study, this article demonstrates why Southern theory drawing on Tagore’s philosophy of education was found more suitable to analyze research data arising out of a case study designed to conduct an institutional ethnography in a particular international context. It demonstrates how contextually relevant Southern theory helped to provide deeper comparative understanding (verstehen) of a social phenomenon, i.e. inclusive pedagogic work of an old colonial school within a particular historical, geopolitical and cultural context in postcolonial India.
John M. Heffron and Rosemary Papa
The pressures—economic, political, and cultural—on educational leaders to think and act globally have perhaps never been greater than they are today. However, although it may go without saying that we live increasingly in a world of interdependent causation, of interconnectedness (and not simply between the local and the global, but between people and forces everywhere), this fact alone fails to fully explain the need for globally minded leaders in education. When so much of today’s interdependence tends to favor the strong over the weak on an essentially uneven playing field, a favorite complaint of critics on both the right and the left, the ways and means and ultimate purpose for producing such school leaders lie elsewhere, beyond today’s competitive stance. It lies in identifying and providing an unshakeable moral foundation for universal norms of social justice and equity; it lies in a revolutionary new approach to the knowledge base required of globally minded educational leaders, one that turns for guidance to humanistic thinkers around the world, past and present, the only test of their relevance being a philosophical one, not a psychological, an empirical, or a purely practical one; and it lies in embracing the multifaceted yet singularly cognizant of the human at heart. All this because the aim first and foremost is to develop thinkers, and then and only then practitioners. Practice follows from theory and theory from abstract, almost mathematical logic, a dialectical process of reasoning and argumentation. Globally minded school leaders distinguish themselves as masters of the lost art of argument, engaging actively in public dialogue and debate that seeks information, not some false standard of objectivity in the betterment of the human condition. Finally, the anthropological attitude that pursues processes of meaning making and value creation—not limited to an understanding of indigenous cultures, but extending to human and social relations in all their infinite variety—is the attitude of the globally minded leader. Such a one, in this sense of the term, is never finished, but in a perpetual state of becoming, a learning organization bound only by the self-imposed limits of his or her own curiosity and imagination. But the nature of one’s convictions is especially important here; it determines one’s actions, which in turn determine our value as human beings and as citizens of the earth, in linking commonalities of thought to actions that matter. Where do our convictions lie? This is the question globally minded educational leaders, in their challenges to sovereignty at home and abroad, are continually asking themselves on this journey with their learners.
Case study researchers have traditionally focused on micro-level analysis of a “bounded” case, yet this approach has come under methodological scrutiny in a world where phenomena are rarely isolated from globalization’s expansive reach. Social science and policy-oriented research in particular are nearly always subject to local and global histories as well as socio-cultural, political, and economic trends. Furthermore, the experience of individuals, organizations, and institutions are often tangled in interconnected webs of influence, such that a case study that does not trace these underlying relationships is likely to be analyzing only the tip of a phenomenological iceberg. Hence critical scholars call for the need to repurpose traditional case study research methods to embrace shifting contextual factors that surround a research project at multiple levels. Comparative case study methods answer this call by making socio-cultural and political analysis an explicit part of the research process. They expand the researcher’s methodological lens by advancing the analysis of processes across three axes: the horizontal (through distinct research sites), the vertical (through scales; e.g., local vs national) and the transversal (over time; e.g., historically). The methodology is particularly useful for social science research and policy studies, where complex interactions between actors and institutions are tied to socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts. Teacher education research is an area where comparative case studies can potentially contribute to policy formulation. Using the example of case study research on teacher education in India, the comparative case study methodology is shown to be an effective research tool. Through insights into the socio-cultural and political context surrounding pedagogical reform, case study research can generate corrective measures to improve policy effectiveness.
Rene Suša and Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti
Social cartography is a method for qualitative research in education. It has been used mostly in comparative and international education, but it has wider applications. It originated from the body of work of Rolland Paulston, who outlined its main conceptual premises and methodological propositions. Unlike other cartographic practices that are mostly concerned with mapping of physical space, social cartography was developed with the purpose of providing a research tool that is capable of mapping relations between and within various epistemic communities and discursive and interpretative frameworks. The practice of social cartography seeks to challenge the positivist and objectivist imperative for singular, “authentic” knowledge and to disrupt the universalizing and totalizing claims of dominant perspectives and frameworks. It does so by mapping the complex and overlapping relations between different discursive and epistemic communities and by situating them in a broader discursive field. Post-representational approaches to social cartography emphasize the agentic properties of maps. These approaches work both on and with the mapmaker and the map reader in ways that seek to trouble and interrupt usual investments in meaning-making and epistemic and discursive privilege.