This chapter looks at how various scholars have attempted to structure the “infinite field” by defining the appropriate theory and methods. These efforts have centered on a conception of what it would take to make comparative education a “science,” and how one could achieve “objective knowledge.” While these concerns were important for comparative educationists throughout the nineteenth century, who mostly favored a historical approach, the debate became more heated and more urgent in the 1960s when a number of key players published competing positions. This coincided with a time when the claim to a basis in science was being used to introduce a range of new subjects to higher education and establish disciplines like sociology on a firm institutional footing. Subsequently some of the heat went out of the debate about theory and method. A number of possible causes can be identified, including (i) that it became apparent comparative education was not going to achieve disciplinary status on a par with sociology; (ii) de facto comparative educationists handed the palm to Bereday, and carried on doing comparative education as he had described it; and (iii) the appetite for global theorizing waned to be replaced by partial theories, many of them based on general concerns for social justice and drawing on a broadly Marxist definition of “science.” The chapter concludes with reflections on the fact that healthy debate about methodology and theory can drive the development of the field, and that in the absence of explicit debate there is the danger that certain assumptions, especially assumptions that do not recognize the importance of context, can come to dominate the field by stealth.
Turner, D.A. (2019), "Comparative and International Education: Development of a Field and Its Method and Theory", Wolhuter, C.C. and Wiseman, A.W. (Ed.) Comparative and International Education: Survey of an Infinite Field (International Perspectives on Education and Society, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 11-28. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-367920190000036002
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