Educational Change in a Global Era: A Theoretical Roadmap to Current Debates
The accelerating pace and global scope of educational change is virtually unprecedented in human history. New international large-scale assessments (ILAs) such as PISA, PIAAC, Pisa-for-Development, and the Global Higher Education Rankings grab most global headlines, but parallel changes are underway at the institutional level: university internationalization, Super Global High Schools, expansion of graduate programs, and introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula, to raise only a few prominent examples from Japan.
What is driving this momentous change? Is there a convergence in education policy and practice globally? Are we witnessing a consensual progress, coercive processes, or something else altogether? What are the likely effects of all this change? How might we begin to analyze all of this?
This course aims to provide a basic sketch – what we will call a ‘roadmap’ – to different theories that have attempted to answer these questions. It provides a general overview of 5-6 dominant theoretical schools: Functionalism, Micro-Realism, Historical Institutionalism, Macro-Realism (Marxism), World Culture (Neo-Institutionalism), post-colonialism, and perhaps post-structuralism, if time permits. Students who take the course will learn the historical backdrop of these theoretical schools, become familiar with representative works, and see how such theories are mobilized to explain empirical realities.
This course is perhaps particularly important in the Japanese context. Comparative Education in Japan has been largely dominated by two competing schools: those who work deeply with context and those who work on issues related to development (kaihatsu). Meanwhile, much of the Sociology of Education in Japan largely adheres to functionalism and historical institutionalism, and quite often begins with methodological nationalism (i.e., attempts to locate the drivers of educational change within a given national context). It is imperative that a new generation of Japanese scholars become familiar with and adept at engaging with theory: it is a crucial component of making Japanese educational research more visible and ‘intelligible’ on the global stage, as well as mount a response to theoretical schools that (mis)interpret empirical realities outside Western countries. More than anything, this course seeks to provide a space for students to understand the basics of theory and how it is an important entry-point for entering in on-going global debates. As such, no prior knowledge of theory is necessary, only a curiosity and ability to think in macro-sociological terms.
Please note: Students who took the course last year are welcome to attend again. We will cover some of the same material, but we will also think about a new way of 'mapping' the theoretical terrain, depending on who enrolls in the course. Closer to the time and depending on enrollment the instructor will adjust the course material, although the overall objectives/view discussed above will remain largely the same.