What Is Comparison?

Word count: 170

In “What Is Comparison? Methodological and Philosophical Considerations”, Reijo Raivola states that “Truth amounts to the subject’s interpretation of a problem he or she is faced with solving.” This statement which can be classified as the basic tenant of cultural relativism theory asks the read to consider whether truth and meaning are all concepts of relativity.

Although being culturally sensitive is of great importance, I feel that far too often especially between nations, it has been used far too often to justify mediocrity and at times atrocities. It is reminds me of yet another tiring excuse which relies on the “we are a developing country” to justify the right and wrong that are not depended on the economic level of a country.

I believe that regional and international organization such as UNESCO have grown out of this rebellion to cultural relativism and implicitly argue that even though differences should be respected, there are still ways to find common measurements and create ways to hold each other accountable.

Raivola, R. (1985). What is comparison? Methodological and philosophical considerations. Comparative Education Review, 362-374.

Reflections on a global educational curriculum

Word count: 150

The opinions and definitions one adopts of globalization often depend on the effects it has had on an individual’s circumstances or culture. In many situations the narrative surrounding “globalization” is romanticized and presented as a way to a more equitable world or as a way for the “developing world” to become “developed”. The effects of globalization on all aspects of life are well documented and continue to be researched. There are cases on the effects of globalization to the educational industry, however, the question that seems at times implicit and at times avoided in the various arguments would be: Is a globalised educational curriculum an unavoidable eventuality? Could there come a day where all children across the world would be required to learn the same exact things? Or in cases of regional organizations such as SADC, EU, AU, NATO, UNASUL, ASEAN, and others, could regional educational curriculum one day become the norm?

Transforming Adult Education

Word count: 265

The article “Adult Education and Social Transformation” left me with two main questions:
1) What is the difference between adult education and work place education?
2) Is adult education the way to bring about workplace transformation?

Groener implicitly argues that transformation of South Africa (SA) into the true “rainbow nation” that leaders such as Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela envision, requires the alignment of new social policy with adult education. However, the link between poverty, the shacks on the N5 freeway (most of which incidentally were covered up during the world cup), workplace learning, workplace transformation, and adult learning, for me was not as clearly discussed. Additionally, the definition of Adult Learning in the context of South Afrika and how it has changed through the years (pre, during & post apartheid) that the author has been an “activist” in was also missing.

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Comments on “Debates and Trends in Comparative Education”

The “Debates and Trends in Comparative Education” article outlines the progression of the field as it formulates its identity. The article is a good introductory and reflective piece on the comparative method. Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  1. The author states that “the field has always been influenced by contemporary event”. This was striking to me because in the next sentence there is a reference to the “third world” which is a term I consider offensive but was regularly use throughout the 70s and 80s (still in use today but not as frequent).
  2. A question was raised on whether or not “western social sciences [can] guide research on the third world.” I found this somewhat ironic because the person asking the question is a westerner. I would add a follow up question: ‘is a western social scientist best suited to guide research in the third world?’
  3. What was also striking for me was the absence and recognition of non-western researchers and their contribution to the field. Is comparative education purely a practice of western scientists studying non-western countries or can non-westerners also participate in this endeavour? Furthermore, how would the field change as those who have been consistently studied begin to enter the discussion and also become social scientist themselves?

Reference: Kelly, G. P. (1992). Debates and trends in comparative education. Emergent issues in education: Comparative perspectives, 13-22.
Word count: 217

Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Word count: 323

In reading Semali’s (2008) Cultural perspectives in African adult education: Indigenous ways of knowing in lifelong learning, the two things that kept coming to mind were: 1) the issue of labels in education and 2) the empowerment of indigenous groups to believe in the value their own knowledge.

To make sense of the world, all human beings participate in labeling or categorization. Shakespeare’s oft quoted phrase from Romeo and Juliet of “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” aptly captures the problem, the need, and restrictiveness of labels. In Semali’s article, the author mentions the complimentary relationship between adult education, lifelong learning, informal education, and indigenous knowledge. I think situating indigenous knowledge and adult education in the informal realm of education taints them and attaches to them the characteristics attached to the labels. Informal education and Formal education are themselves problematic labels. Often what is considered formal education is valued more than what is categorized as informal. The diffusion of educational technology however, is slowly blurring the line between the two dichotomies.

With regards to the value of indigenous, (especially Afrikan indigenous knowledge) the charge appears to often be led by those (myself included) educated outside of the continent. Moreover the argument for indigenous knowledge seems designed to seek acceptance for this form of knowledge in western societies and not necessarily in empowering the indigenous populations. In other words, the Indigenous knowledge conversation seems to be a battle by indigenous originating scholars educated in western or western style institution to gain acceptance for their way of life. What is often missing however, is the decolonizing of the mind that is espoused by Wa Thiong’o (1986) and the empowerment by indigenous communities to stop looking outward and attach value to their own knowledge. It is one thing to argue for the acceptance of one’s value by others, it is another to argue for the respect of self and one’s own values

Semali, L. (2009). Cultural perspectives in African adult education: Indigenous ways of knowing in lifelong learning. Global perspectives on adult education, 35-52.

Indigenous knowledge and Science

Word count: 208

In writing that “the historical origins and evolution of science within Euro-American cultures naturally causes its practitioners (today’s scientists) to embrace certain fundamental worldviews, epistemologies, ideologies, and values; all related to science’s origin and evolution”, I believe Aikenhead & Ogawa (2007) accurately captures the friction and superiority complex that some scientist from Euro-American cultures seem to have with science that originates outside of their borders. This passage reminded me of the first time I came to the US and the amount of paper I had to produced to prove that I was inoculated against numerous diseases only to find that some of my papers and the papers of other students from Asia and Latin America were looked at much more critically than those from European countries. The prevailing view seems to be that unless the science is Euro-American approved it needs to undergo further scrutiny.

The question that this article left me with was this: if inherent in the concept of Science is an Euro-American biases which leads many to dismiss the scientific nature of indigenous knowledge, what term can be invented to apply to the scientific nature of indigenous knowledge

Aikenhead, G. S., & Ogawa, M. (2007). Indigenous knowledge and science revisited. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 2, 539–620. doi:10.1007/s11422-007-9067-8.

Botswana Research notes

This morning I administered a survey to a class of about 100 students. While waiting for the students to finish, the professor and I had a discussion about technology in education, focusing specifically on the use of mobile devices. His comments on classroom management and the metaphor of a fast car stuck with me.

On classroom management
As we walked up and down the lecture hall, the professor pointed out students that Continue reading

Does “demigodification” or “vilification” prevent us from learning

Word count: 237

What is the role of the head of state in shaping or establishing an educational system? In “Mwalimu’s mission: Julius Nyerere as (Adult) Educator and Philosopher of community Development”, the authors, Mhina and Abdi (2008), argue that the president can shape the definition of an education in the country. The article leads one to believe that without Nyerere’s value and world views, education in Tanzania would have evolved very differently and that Nyerere’s policies could not be generalized to other countries because his values, beliefs, and backgrounds were so unique that only he possessed the ability to bring such transformation about.

Nyerere was a great man! However, as it is with any early leaders of a nation, Nyerere’s story is unfortunately told in a binary form. It is often a choice between “he screwed up the education system/country” or “he was the best thing for the education system/country.” What is often lost is the time period in which the person exist and how combined with many other factors contribute to the changes.

In reading the chapter the one thing that I was left with was: how does the “demigodification” or “vilification” of individuals/icons prevents us from learning and fully benefiting from their experiences? If we accept the premise that the definition adult education and educational reforms in Tanzania during the 60s/70s could only be achieved by one person does that limit the discussions and the lessons learned?

Mhina, Christine & Abdi, Ali A. (2008). Mwalimu’s Mission: Julius Nyerere as (adult) educator and philosopher of community development. In A. Abdi & D. Kapoor (Eds.), Global perspectives on adult education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


A reaction to “User centered design and international development.” Dearden, et al (2007)

The concept of User Centred Design (UCD) is predicated upon the idea that the needs of the end user are not only critical but must be considered throughout the whole design process. In a good design, “(1.) the user can figure out what to do, and (2) the user can tell what is going on” (Norman 1988, pg. 188). More specifically, Norman argues that design should:

  • Make it easy to determine what actions are possible at any moment (make use of constraints).
  • Make things visible, including the conceptual model of the system, the alternative actions, and the results of actions.
  • Make it easy to evaluate the current state of the system.
  • Follow natural mappings between intentions and the required actions; between actions and the resulting effect; and between the information that is visible and the interpretation of the system state. (Norman 1988, pg. 188).

The design principles espoused by Norman and others are often spoken about in a manner that implies that they are globally applicable. I’ve been questioning this assumption and have developed an interest in looking at the global applicability of Continue reading

Designers as neo-colonialist

Any good designer knows that involving users in the design process is crucial to the success of what is being created. Many scholarly works have been produced (Ashlund & Hix. 1992, Olson et al. 1992, Sugar & Boling 1995, Vredenburg et al 2002, Carr-Chellman 2007), espousing and extolling the virtues of user-centered design. However, some of the conversations, whether purposefully or inadvertently, do not acknowledgment the role culture plays in design. For far too long, creation of most technologies has reflected a  “design trickle down” approach, which ignores the global diffusion of technology, while upholding hegemonic paradigm of create in the global north and adapt/adopt in the global south with little adjustment or consideration for the adopter/adapters.

It is only recently that attention is given to include what has been termed the “developing world” into the design of technological tools and how these tools contribute Continue reading