Xue Li-yin (1993)

Xue Li-yin (1993). Dang dai bi jiao jiao yu fang fa lun yan jiu: Zuo wei guo ji jiao yu jiao liu lun tan de bi jiao jiao yu (Inquiry into contemporary methodology of comparative education: comparative education as forums of international communication of education). Beijing: Shou-du shi fan da xue chu ban she

Abstract (1324 English words, cited from the book, pp.248-254).

Comparative Education has long been characterized by a number of different research orientations, controversial definitions and disciplinary identity crises. Through literature review and an ethnography study of the discipline, this author identifies a few problems in the comparative studies of education and the methodological descriptions. They are: fragmentation of the field, controversial purposes (theory driven study or policy oriented work), conflicting epistemological approaches, Euro-centrism style of research, uni-dimensional description of comparative methodologies, and finally, neglecting of the analysis of the role of subject, the implications of unbalanced access to information and production of knowledge between scholars from developing countries and from developed ones, and the challenge of new information technology.

This thesis reflects the shift from methodological prescription to socio-historical description in the meta-scientific discourse of Comparative Education in the last decade. It attempts to provide an analytical framework to integrate divergent Comparative Education activities and to synthesize different epistemological, socio-historical and cultural orientations. It treats Comparative Education as forums of international communication of education. In order to interpret and do justice to different trends of Comparative Education activities, the author classifies the objects of Comparative Education (within one comparison unit) into three categories: educational ideas and values, educational institutions and educational practice. They correspond to the objects of Wolfgang Brezinka’s three types of educational theories. I.e., Philosophy of Education, Science of Education and Praxiology of Education.

There are fourteen chapters in the thesis, which are grouped into four parts. In the first chapter (chapter 1 to 3), in order to break out of the circularity of methodological debate, the thesis gives a detailed examination of the five constituents of Comparative Education, i.e., subject, object, purpose, method and medium, and their relations. The author analyses object-subject relationships in the light of different epistemological traditions, taking account of the impact of new information technology, the development of modern physics and non-linear system theories.

In the second part (chapters 4 and 5), the thesis deals with models and reference systems in Comparative Education. The author borrows some models from Mass Communication (or Science of Communications), and applies them to the description and analysis of different kinds of Comparative Education activities, in the hope of exploring their implicit assumptions, heuristic potentials and intrinsic problems. A revised Lasswell’s 5-W model is introduced into Comparative Education to examine the frameworks of dependency and modernization, and Newcomb’s ABX model is introduced to construct an ideological identification model and international relations model, and to highlight the heuristic potentials of Edmund Kings’ ecological model. Neo-Marxist center-periphery’ model and Arnove’s world systems analysis model can be seen as two specific examples of the international relations model. The author adopts the “uses and gratifications approach” (a model of information-seeking) to analyze Jurgen Schriewer’s terminology: the need for externalization, to examine the epistemological orientations and methodological weaknesses of policy legitimation activities, and to describe the relationships among decision makers, comparativists and consumers of education. An “information gaps model” is introduces to reveal that the unbalanced access to information and production of knowledge between scholars from developing countries and developed ones would impede the development of Comparative Education. In the wake of the semiological model of communication studies, the author establishes the Cultural Patterns Model as the basis of classifying Comparative Education activities, positions or paradigms.

Erwin Epstein and Jurgen Schriewer have done heuristic works in methodological description, By contrasting their conclusions, we can identify that the former’s positivism corresponds to the latter’s scientific theory. However, what are the relationships between the former’s relativism and the latter’s  reflection theory? The author argues that in order to develop a synthesis we should not pay too much attention to such words as “exclusive? “incompatible? or “irreconcilable? We need to establish an analytical framework, within which different research orientations can be identified according to one criterion (as Epstein has done), while in terms of another criterion, they are compatible and reconcilable. Brian Holmes synthesized different orientations in the “problem-solving approach? Edmund King integrated together divergent activities in terms of complementary? The author puts forward an “internationalistic pattern?

Beginning with a brief introduction to reference systems, the thesis presents an analytical framework to classify divergent research patterns. In terms of the different reference systems as people perceive cultural otherness, four perception patterns are identified. They are: (I) ethnocentrism (including the hermeneutic interpretation pattern) , perceiving cultural otherness in terms of one’s own thinking pattern, conceptual system and value system (they are components of a reference system); (2) scientism, assuming that there exists a universal reference system, and studies can be objective and value free; (3) relativism, perceiving cultural otherness in terms of the other’s reference system, (4) internationalism, assuming that there exists an internationally sharable reference system, and through negotiation such a system can be reached. Of course, the reference systems mentioned above overlap. Now it is evident that Schriewer’s reflection theory corresponds to the ‘ethnocentristic pattern? tempered with some negligible scientistic and relativistic ingredients. The thesis gives a detailed analysis of the characteristics of the four patterns, including their basic assumptions, theoretical potentials, and roles in the forums of international communications of education. For example, within this framework, we can explain the different roles played by insiders’ articles, contributed to some Comparative Education journals, on their own educational phenomena and relativists’ “inside views” we can appreciate a positive aspect of ethnocentrism to cultural otherness. The author advocates the “internationalistic patterns? which can unify or synthesize the other three patterns. There are a lot of activities which can be categorized into the “internationalistic pattern? e.g. compiling an international encyclopedia, establishing a taxonomy of international educational systems and so on. The thesis justifies this argument in detail.

The third part of the thesis is Critical Review of  Methodologies of Contemporary Comparative Educationists (from chapter 6 to 13) . It is the biggest part of the thesis. According to some criteria, fourteen scholars are chosen to review. They are George Bereday, Arnold Anderson, Harold Noah, Max Eckstein, Brian Holmes and Edmund King, Martin Carnoy, Robert Arnove, Le Thanh khoi, Jurgen Schriewer, and four Chinese scholars, i.e. Teng Dachun, Wang Chengxu, Zhu Bo and Gu Mingyuan. Under the guidance of the analytical framework developed in the previous chapters, the author scrutinizes their methodologies, points out their strengths and weaknesses, theoretical potentials, usefulness, and potential or intrinsic problems, and appreciates them in terms of their importance in the forums of international communication of education, For example, while recognizing Holmes’ work is creative, the author identifies some “technical” problems in his “problem solving approach? and reveals the reason why his approach is idiosyncratic. However, instead of field works, his approach depends upon documentation and statistical analysis to a great extent, so it may be “useful” to scholars from developing countries for their urgent “problem-solving? whose resources are restricted. There are some flaws in Schriewer’s taxonomy, and it is difficult to explain some Comparative Education activities, such as “educational exporting? within his framework, but they cannot obscure the value of his work. The author argues that it should be foreseeable that a “systematic seld reflection’ of a “world educational system’ would become significant, and the construction of an intersubjectively sharable reference system (or “international perspective? would be a task of high priority to the future development of Comparative Education. It is interrelated with the “internationalistic pattern’ previously discussed. Therefore, the development of Comparative Education on a national level is to be tied to its growth and strength internationally.

In the final part of this thesis, the author tries to systematize the viewpoints presented in the previous chapters. The thesis legitimates divergent comparative activities and the four perception patterns by outlining their roles in the theory building and theory testing forum, educational ideas and educational values communication forum, and educational decision and educational practice forum. Finally, an analytical framework for the reconstruction of the history of Comparative Education is presented in terms of the formation, institutionalization and internationalization of the forums of international communication of education. ?

Xue Li-yin’s doctoral thesis earned Prof. Edmund King’s great appraisal on his great contribution to the field of comparative education. Being one of his panel examiners, King wrote to him in Beijing on 6 Oct. 1992:

With every confidence I recommend Mr. Xue Liyin to the examiners. The statement which follows is not an appraisal of the text of the thesis which Mr. Xue is presenting ofr his doctoral examination, because I can not read Chinese. However, it reflects a carefully considered evaluation of Mr. Xue’s research work as I have seen it in three ways. First, ….he was well informed on the various texts and authorities in Comparative Education in Britain, the United States, and continental Europe. He was able to penetrate the ideas of these authors, and to see their perspectives and implications in a critical but constructive way……..Secondly, the abstract presented with Mr. Xue’s thesis shows clearly how far he has developed his own researches and appraisals. My appreciation of his work has been heightened not only by the abstract written in excellent English and with clear clarity, but by further lengthy discussions with him in Beijing in October 1992….Yet Mr. Xue’s work has not been only a bibliographical study of authors; he has paid attention to the contextual and practical interests recognised by those authors over a long period. This affects the focus of interest in Comparative Education involving not only professors and teachers but the wider interests of educational policy-makers and evolving institutions . In this way he has touched on a key point for Comparative Education’s future……Mr. Xue’s abstract is indeed a short statement, but it is very efficient in its conciseness and shrewd presentation of the essential points. Of course, I would not venture to recommend him to the examiners on the basis of his abstract alone., but this admirable abstract, reinforced by my personal appraisal of the candidate and his work over many hours of close discussion, makes me glad to support his candidature with great conviction (..?.for omissions of detailed content)?

Background about the author:

Apart from earning a bachelor degree and a master degree in engineering, Dr. Xue Li-yin also obtained a doctoral degree in the field of comparative education at Beijing Normal University with Prof. Edmund King being one of his panel examiners in 1992. He currently works in the Dept. of Electrical Engineering at Beijing Normal University, doing various types of researches and teaching works including research methodologies, historical development of educational subjects, economics of education, educational technology and distance education.

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