MSc Education (Comparative and International Education)

The MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) provides students with the analytical and research skills needed to understand and critically evaluate the policies, politics, histories, and practices that shape education around the world.

The course has the following aims:

  • to steward and advance knowledge regarding the theoretical, historical and philosophical underpinnings of the field of Comparative and International Education
  • to develop in students a capacity to engage imaginatively and in a disciplined way with key questions in comparative education, including equality, equity, transparency and inclusiveness in educational provision
  • to cultivate in students a sense of professional collaboration and collective expertise that they carry with them upon graduation
  • to encourage students to identify, analyse, and critically reflect on educational policy options and potential drivers of change

Students will develop the ability to understand and critically engage with:

  • the theoretical, historical and philosophical underpinnings of Comparative and International Education
  • the empirical and theoretical work on education undertaken in other disciplines across the social sciences
  • the influence of history, worldview and politics on national educational systems and educational policy
  • the influences, principles and practices of various governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with education planning, research and development
  • educational developments in most regions of the world, including how these regions are networked globally
  • diverse historical perspectives and cultural practices that inform education locally and globally
  • methodological approaches to the comparative and international study of education
  • a wide range of issues pertaining to research strategies in education

The course consists of six papers and a dissertation. For the current year (2017/18) the following five papers are obligatory. More detail on each is provided in the programme specification below:

  • Comparative and International Education 1: An Overview of the Field
  • Comparative and International Education 2: Education and Skills Policy and Politics in Comparative Perspective
  • Comparative and International Education 3: Research in Comparative and International Education
  • Foundations of Educational Research 1: Concepts and Design
  • Foundations of Educational Research 2: Strategies and Methods

Students also choose one option from a list of option papers in Hilary Term.

These papers are taken during Michaelmas and Hilary Terms. In Trinity Term, students work on a research-based dissertation, reporting on an empirical study, of 15,000-20,000 (max.) words. The dissertations should demonstrate the students’ research and critical analysis skills as well as the ability to write clear and concise reports to a high level of academic competence.

Comparative and International Education 1: An Overview of the Field

This paper provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of comparative and international education (CIE). It pays particular attention to the historical development of the field, the nature of academic enquiry, theories and the characteristics that different academic disciplines bring into the field in order to examine some of the key factors that influence educational opportunity in a variety of economic, political, social, and cultural contexts.

Through a combination of theoretical and empirical readings, the course aims to develop a critical understanding of dominant and alternative theories and methodologies pertinent to CIE and how they translate into and/or are employed to explore educational policy and practice globally. The paper is taught by Dr Maia Chankseliani and is assessed by a 2,500-3,000 word (max.) written assignment.

Comparative and International Education 2: Education and Skills Policy and Politics in Comparative Perspective

This paper aims to explore what drives and shapes education and skills policies across the world. It will cover not just schools and higher education, but also broader elements of skills policy that include vocational learning – both in technical/vocational education institutions and also the workplace. The course will look at why education and skills have assumed such importance within national and international policy discourses, and what influence a range of structural factors, such as the economy and labour market, and social class, play in helping shape the options for the development of education and skills systems in different national contexts. In doing this it will examine a range of issues, such as:
• The role of politics in the policy process
• Design principles for developing a national education and skills system
• The relative merits and weaknesses of a systems logic versus a market logic
• International comparisons and policy borrowing
• The role of research and evaluation in policy formation
• The part played by different bodies of theory –for example, economics.

Comparative and International Education 2 is assessed by a 2,500-3,000 word (max.) written assignment, and is convened by Professor Ewart Keep. A range of staff are involved in teaching it, including Professor Keep.

Comparative and International Education 3: Research in Comparative and International Education 

This paper explores a range of macro themes and topics in comparative and international education and how these are approached in a cross section of disciplines and fields in the social sciences. It examines how educational problems are defined across the social sciences, the methods adopted to study them, how findings are interpreted, and in some cases, applied to specific national and cross national cases.
A number of countries are studied in detail and grouped by theme. The theme ‘education, society and state’ takes China, Russia, Japan, and Bhutan as countries of interest and examines the nature of the questions that political scientists, sociologists and historians might pose of the development of education in these societies. The theme of ‘Development and Education’ looks at, amongst other things, the relationships between education and poverty and the effects of war, forced migration and ethnic conflict on human endeavour. The international response to poverty and human development is of key interest and here we look at the ‘politics of aid’ in affected or ‘fragile’ states. Country studies include South Africa, Kenya and Sudan. We draw on research in Development Studies, Economics and Anthropology to tease out the ‘big’ questions for comparative education, how these are approached and studied.

In the final theme, the paper looks at the psychology and anthropology of ‘learning and cognition’. It looks at the manner in which anthropologists study cross-cultural aspects of human development and the implications of that for curriculum and informal learning in communities. The paper studies the work of psychologists on our understanding of cognition and interventions that seek to enhance learning. It examines data from international and national studies of educational achievement. Case studies include Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Kyrgyzstan. The paper is taught by Dr David Johnson and is assessed through an unseen written examination.

The MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) student group (October 2017)

Foundations of Educational Research 1 and 2

These two papers are part of the common core of all the MSc Education pathways and aim to develop students’ understanding of key concepts and basic principles of research design and methodology; introduce students to a range of challenges and approaches to formulating research questions, considering ethical implications of research, sampling, and reflecting on the philosophical underpinnings and the quality of research; introduce students to a range of methods and strategies for generating, managing, analysing and reporting research data and findings; develop critical analysis and research skills; and offer a sound basis for more advanced research training in the social sciences.

Seminars during the course are a combination of tutor and student input, and are based on preparation, response to a presentation and/or analysis of documents and various group activities. There is a programme of visiting speakers from around the world. In February each year the course moves to Paris for a week for specially run seminars at UNESCO, the OECD and the Institute for International Educational Planning (IIEP).

Examples of recent dissertations

  • Thomas Brotherhood Japanese Student Perspectives on Spatial Inequality During Transition to High School
  • Naseemah Mohamed Education in a Time of War: The Experiences of Victims of Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe.
  • Xia Wu Education of Migrant Children in Urban China – An Ethnographic Case Study of a Non-profit School in Beijing
  • Charleen Ning Chiong Unstable Boundaries: Analyzing Change in Citizenship Education Policy in England (1984-2014)
  • Danijel Cuturic Academic Integrity at Universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Plagiarism Regulations
  • Elodie Broady Opening a Black Box of Influence in the Transnational Governance of Education: a Case Study Inside the OECD
  • Rone McFarlane Mediating the Effects of Gang Violence and Related Activities in South African Schools
  • Kathleen Maffei Cultural Advocacy Strategies Amongst Parents of Intellectually Disabled Children in UK Schools
  • Morten Hansen A Way forward for EEPS: Interrogating and Consolidating Theories on the European Education Policy Space
  • Yanse Cooper Globetrotting Teachers: Understanding the ‘Brain-drain’ from Guyanese Classrooms through Diaspora Reflection
  • Theresa Salzer Student Participation and School Governance: A Case of Germany

During their time in Oxford course members will be part of a lively research community with interests in a wide range of topics in comparative and international education. The University of Oxford provides an ideal environment for graduate study: its resources are first-class and its graduate population is among the best qualified in the world. The Department of Education is a particularly friendly institution within the University, and the international constitution of the student body makes everyone feel at home.

Early application is advised. Those interested in applying are invited to contact the Higher Degrees Office. Please note that applicants should have a good (2.1) honours degree (equivalent to a GPA of at least 3.6).

Each year a Routledge Scholarship of £6,000 is awarded to one student taking the MSc course in Comparative and International Education. Given in collaboration with St Edmund Hall, the scholarship is awarded on the basis of: (1) strength of academic qualifications; (2) fit between the proposed research project and the research interests of the Department and (3) financial need. All those who apply by the March deadline are automatically considered – no separate application is necessary. The Routledge Scholarship cannot be used as evidence of funding to secure a place on the course.

Please direct all enquiries to Programme Leader Dr Maia Chankseliani.

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Page last modified: October 19, 2017