Comparative education is a discipline in the social sciences that involves the analysis and comparison of educational systems, such as those in different countries. People in this field are interested in developing meaningful terminology and standards for education worldwide, improving educational systems and creating a framework for assessing the success of education programs and initiatives. Usually, graduate degrees are required to work in this field, although some people can find employment in this field after earning four-year degrees.
Evaluating Multiple Systems
In comparative education, analysts are interested in the systems that individual nations use to educate their citizens. The analysts examine the strengths and weaknesses of the different systems and might compare and contrast those in two or more nations. Another area of interest is in creating comparisons within a single nation over time, looking at how changes in the system have influenced educational outcomes, as well as examining variations in the systems from region to region.
Context is Key
An important aspect of comparative education is contextualization. A nation's educational system cannot be viewed properly without also looking at other things that might influence or affect it. Social, political and economic conditions are all involved in shaping educational systems and determining outcomes. Nations that have strong national traditions of education, for example, might have better outcomes with less funding than nations that historically have not placed a great value on education. Understanding cultural influences also is important when developing techniques for assessment and comparison or when working on new educational programs that can be introduced to specific regions. What works in one nation or region might not work as well in another.
How Comparisons Help
Comparative education is used in the development of educational testing procedures and the creation of educational programs and frameworks. Comparing systems can provide educators with ideas for revitalizing one system by incorporating elements of others, and it can allow people to track progress over time. This can strengthen an educational system in addition to creating an objective method of evaluation and study, providing meaningful data for people who are concerned about educational outcomes and techniques.
People who are interested in this field typically pursue graduate degrees in comparative education and might conduct extensive research during their careers. Some of them work in the academic field after they obtain their degrees, and others might work for government agencies, schools, education agencies or nongovernmental organizations that are interested in improving the quality of education and expanding access to education. The type of work that people in this field conduct can vary greatly, and there is considered to be room for researchers who have a great deal of interests, such as social psychology or international aid and development.