Wednesday 11 September, UKFIET Conference, University of Oxford Exam Schools
Walking backwards into the future: A comparative perspective on education and the post 2015 development framework
ABSTRACT: Good education is central to many contemporary visions for a post 2015 framework, given prominence in popular consultation and official policy pronouncements. This places considerable responsibility on our network of academics and practitioners in commenting on how we can support this process. This BAICE Presidential Address reviews what special perspective a comparative approach brings to visions for the future. It comments on differences between the confident assumptions made about the world by the architects of the MDGs and EFA, and those we now draw on in which uncertainty plays a key role. It argues that our view of the present and the recent past are a crucial resource to use in considering the future. But the nature of this comparative process needs clarifying. Descriptive and prescriptive approaches to comparison, often isolating a single variable, are different to approaches which are more reflexive and pay attention to uncertainty and provisionality. In highlighting the scope of each approach to comparative education this lecture argues for greater clarity regarding what the grounds for comparison are in addressing some of the challenges of post 2015. Reflections are presented from a number of research projects I have contributed to over the last five years looking at the implementation of the gender, poverty, and education MDGs and aspects of EFA in different sites, ranging from multilateral organisations to local NGOs in a number of African countries. These suggest a number of concrete strategies for future research, policy development and approaches to measurement and practice, which acknowledge, and go with the grain of uncertainty. In this way, the Presidential Address attempts to draw out some of the potential of reflexive comparative education.