Introduction Knowing, Comparatively

Lesley Bartlett, Frances Vavrus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


The field of Comparative and International Education (CIE) has long had an uneasy relationship with one of its central concepts: comparison. Scholars would likely agree that a study involving more than two countries is comparative, but what about multisited case studies in a single country? While such studies of education in Angola or Lebanon would qualify as international by North Atlantic standards, are they also comparative? Some would argue they are not. For example, in his presidential address to the Comparative and International Education Society, Carnoy (2006) asserted, “[A]lthough individual country case studies can be implicitly comparative, the best comparative research compares similar interventions, outcomes, processes, and issues across countries and uses similar methodology and data collection” (554). In contrast, others argue that qualitative research in international education entails inherent comparison because the norms from one’s own country cannot help but influence how another system is understood (see, e.g., Gingrich 2002). Further, some scholars have critiqued the ways in which rigid conceptualizations of comparison have regulated the production and uses of educational knowledge. For example, responding to Carnoy’s statement earlier, Levin (2006, 576) wrote, Comparative studies must not be a straitjacket for describing, explaining, and evaluating educational phenomena in different settings. Diversity cannot be extruded into similar methods, measures, and comparative interpretations. Does using PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment] data really help us understand much about educational development in Chiapas in the south of Mexico with its rural, impoverished, largely indigenous population and Nuevo Leon in the north with its urban, relatively prosperous, industrial population and U.S.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational and Development Education
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameInternational and Development Education
ISSN (Print)2731-6424
ISSN (Electronic)2731-6432

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009, Frances Vavrus and Lesley Bartlett.


  • Comparative Education
  • Educational Policy
  • Global Connection
  • Intercultural Education
  • Qualitative Case Study


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