Recent Compare Forum Pieces

Understanding, embracing and reflecting upon the messiness of doctoral fieldwork

Authors: Arif Naveed, Nozomi Sakata, Anthoula Kefallinou, Sara Young & Kusha Anand

This Forum issue discusses the centrality of the fieldwork in doctoral research. The inevitability of researchers’ influence and of their values apparent during and after their fieldwork calls for a high degree of reflexivity. Since the standard methodology textbooks do not sufficiently guide on addressing such challenges, doctoral researchers go through stressful phases, at times revising various decisions they made before starting fieldwork. By drawing upon four case studies from varied contexts, this forum highlights some of these challenges including: going beyond signing the consent form and building rapport to elicit student voices;the ethical implications of White privilege of researchers turning consent into an obligatory contract with participants;unanticipated delays in the fieldwork opening up new possibilities;and tensions resulting from negotiating between insider and outsider identities while researching in two hostile contexts.

To cite this article: Arif Naveed, Nozomi Sakata, Anthoula Kefallinou, Sara Young &Kusha Anand (2017) Understanding, embracing and reflecting upon the messiness of doctoral fieldwork, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 47:5, 773-792, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1344031

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Did the shift to computer-based testing in PISA 2015 affect reading scores? A View from East Asia

Authors: Hikaru Komatsu &Jeremy Rappleye

Results of PISA 2015 released December 2016 revealed a major oddity: reading scores in several of the ‘leading’ East Asian countries had apparently plummeted (Hong Kong —18 points, South Korea —19 points, Japan —22 points, Taiwan —26 points). Ministry officials across the region quickly explained the drop as a result of the mandatory shift from paper-and-pencil tests in PISA 2012 to computer-based tests (CBT) in 2015. For example, Japan’s Ministry immediately held a press conference, arguing that: ‘The unfamiliarity with questions and formats associated with the shift to computer-based testing was the most probable reason for the decline from PISA 2012’ (quoted in Mainichi News 2016). Major media outlets around East Asia largely echoed these sentiments. This ‘East Asia’ reaction was in stark contrast to discussions in Anglo-American government media, and scholarly circles where the issue of the CBT barely featured at all – a crucial point we unpack below.

One major reason that the effects of the PISA 2015 shift would be immediately apparent in East Asia is that most of these countries do not rely on computers in schools. PISA 2009 questionnaire data showed that Japan, for example, virtually never utilizes computer-based technologies in reading classes. Data from PISA 2012 revealed that Japan, Taiwan, Korea and – interestingly – Finland have some of the lowest ratios of computers to students anywhere in the entire world. Moreover, an Index of ICT Use at School developed by the OECD that measured the percentage of students engaged in various ICT-related activities at least one time per week ranked Korea, Japan and China (Shanghai) as the lowest three countries in the world, with Hong Kong and Taiwan not far ahead (OECD 2015a, 53).

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Education and Skills chief, justified the PISA 2015 shift to CBT by arguing it was a necessary reflection of changes in cognition, skills and learning following in the wake of recent technological advances. His comments largely echoed those he made earlier at the 2015 launch of a major OECD report entitled Students, Computers, and Learning: Making the Connection (OECD 2015a):

School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world.
(OECD 2015b)

This prophetic vision of the future was then punctuated with an ominous warning about the failure to connect learning to technology:

… the real contributions ICT can make to teaching and learning have yet to be fully realized and exploited. But as long as computers and the Internet have a central role in our personal and professional lives, students who have not acquired basic skills in reading, writing and navigating through a digital landscape will find themselves dangerously disconnected from the economic, social and cultural life around them.
(Schleicher 2015)

What is interesting here is that Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong are among the most advanced technological societies in the world and the highest scoring in international tests, but yet computers and the Internet are virtually absent from their classrooms. According to the World Economic Forum’s (2005) Technology Index, Japan and Taiwan rank in the top 5 countries globally, while another influential league table placed Japan and Korea in the top 10 (Martin Prosperity Institute 2011).1 So what is going on here?

Against this apparent paradox, our intent in this short piece is three-fold. First, we seek to empirically confirm the casual observations of Ministry officials and media around East Asia emerging in the wake of PISA 2015. We do so by reporting findings from our own original study. Second, we use these results to spotlight the implicit ideologies and obvious contradictions embedded in the work of the OECD. Third, we seek to show that the ‘view from East Asia’ is crucially important to help us – as scholars – locate our own implicit assumptions about education. We wanted to bring these concerns to the fore soon after PISA 2015 in hopes that they might open up fresh lines for future research.

To cite this article: Hikaru Komatsu &Jeremy Rappleye (2017) Did the shift to computer-based testing in PISA 2015 affect reading scores? A View from East Asia , Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 47:4, 616-623, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1309864

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The rise of international large-scale assessments and rationales for participation

Authors: Camilla Addey, Sam Sellar, Gita Steiner-Khamsi, Bob Lingard &Antoni Verger

This Forum discusses the significant growth of international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) since the mid-1990s. Addey and Sellar’s contribution outlines a framework of rationales for participating in ILSAs and examines the multiple localised meanings attached to ILSA participation. This framework is discussed under seven headings: (1) evidence for policy;(2) technical capacity building;(3) funding and aid;(4) international relations;(5) national politics;(6) economic rationales;and (7) curriculum and pedagogy. It shows how ILSAs can serve multiple purposes – a flexibility that has contributed to the rapid growth of the phenomenon. Steiner-Khamsi focuses on the local to understand why the global resonates and discusses how governments appropriate ILSAs for national agenda setting. Lingard examines the rationales of international organisations and the contribution of media coverage to the increasing significance of ILSAs. Finally, Verger theorises rationales for ILSA participation according to three frames for understanding global education policy: rationalism, neo-institutionalism and political economy approaches.

To cite this article: Camilla Addey, Sam Sellar, Gita Steiner-Khamsi, Bob Lingard &Antoni Verger (2017) The rise of international large-scale assessments and rationales for participation, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 47:3, 434-452, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1301399

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Gains and gaps in girls’ education

Authors: Xanthe Scharff Ackerman &Kaitlyn Scott

After more than 25 years of research on girls’ education, it is widely accepted among economists that investing in this area is one of, if not the most, effective development interventions. This research, as well as global advocacy and recent world events – including Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize and the #Bringbackourgirls campaign after Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of girls in Nigeria – have helped make ‘girls’ education’ a household term.

For a study published by The Brookings Institution in March 2015, the authors surveyed a group of 44 top funding institutions, two-thirds of which reported that in response to the growing support for girls’ education, their budgets for this work had increased over the past 10 years. Their work, combined with global and national efforts to promote universal primary-school enrollment, has paid off: since 2000, there are 84 million fewer children and adolescents out of school;52 million of these are girls (UNESCO &UNGEI 2015a).

Still, despite the groundswell of support for girls, we have to grapple with the fact that there are 62 million girls out of school globally at the primary and lower secondary levels (UNESCO &UNGEI 2015b). Girls are still less likely to enroll in primary school, although boys are more likely to drop out of upper secondary school (UNESCO &UNGEI 2015a).

The Millenium Development Goals were criticised for focusing on primary education to the relative exclusion of pre-primary or secondary education. And looking back on the gains made between 2000 and 2015, we see that the gap in girls’ enrollment at primary level shrunk significantly, yet in many countries the gender gap is now more visible at the upper primary levels or in secondary school (World Bank 2014). Our survey indicates that donors are responding to the changing landscape and focusing on postprimary education. In fact, more survey respondents reported working on postprimary education than any other level of formal education.

Yet although more girls and boys are going to school around the world, girls are still far behind in a set of countries, many of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there are almost 4 million more out-of-school girls of primary-school age than boys. There, girls’ secondary-school enrollment still lags behind boys’ by seven percentage points, more than it did in 1990 (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2015). This begs the question of whether societal transformation is taking place. In 25 countries globally, fewer than 85 girls are enrolled in secondary school for every 100 boys, and in some countries girls are outnumbered two to one (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2015).

So, what more can we do to address this?

We find that actors in girls’ education need new inroads in the countries where girls are furthest behind, despite the very serious challenges that often exist in these countries. We also see the power of research and advocacy, and local partners. The following are three policy priorities for closing the gender gap in girls’ education.

To cite this article: Xanthe Scharff Ackerman &Kaitlyn Scott (2017) Gains and gaps in girls’ education, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 47:1, 133-136, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2016.1241392

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Private actors and the right to education

Authors: Maria Ron Balsera, Delphine Dorsi, Andreu Termes, Xavier Bonal, Antoni Verger &Javier Gonzalez Diaz

Privatisation of education is on the rise, being offered as the best alternative to achieve universal education and improve its quality and cost-efficiency. However, the benefits of the entry of private providers in education are highly controversial and tend to be judged in terms of market criteria such as choice and efficiency, neglecting the effects in terms of human rights.

This forum provides a timely and much needed analysis of the spread of private education, when so many international donors are strongly in favour of private providers. It emerged from a panel at the International Conference on Education and Development in September 2015, held in Oxford, UK, where the four contributors presented their findings at the session: ‘Privatisation and Marketization of Education’. The great interest and debate that their presentations generated were the seeds of this forum.

The first contribution, by Delphine Dorsi, de-codifies the role of private providers in education under the international human rights framework. Presenting the tension between the freedom and social equality dimensions of the right to education, it clarifies what the content and limitation of freedom of education are and defines States’ obligations to ensure that the involvement of private actors in the provision of education does not violate the right to education.

The second contribution, by Maria Ron Balsera, presents a worldwide review of education laws analysing the landscape of provisions dealing with private provision of education. It analyses education laws using an innovative typology to categorise the different approaches to regulate private actors’ involvement in education. The piece argues that the regulation of private providers is lagging behind the evolving nature and expansion of the private sector in education, adding that the result of this gap between legislation and reality is a State’s failure to comply with its obligation to promote, protect and fulfil the right to education.

The third contribution, by Andreu Termes, Xavier Bonal and Antoni Verger, moves to a concrete case study and analyses the quality and equity implications of a paradigmatic type of public-private partnership, the charter schools Colegios en Concesión in Colombia. The piece discusses the assumptions behind the promotion of this charter school programme in Colombia, studying whether they are met in practice. Thus, it analyses whether these schools increase the academic performance of poor students, whether they contribute to enhance the diversification of pedagogical models, to what extent they are more autonomous than regular public schools, whether the programme has been effectively controlled by the administration and whether there were elements of discrimination, such as screening of students.

The fourth contribution, by Javier Gonzalez Diaz, analyses the political economy of vouchers in Chile, assessing the Chilean educational system in regard to its capacity to increase quality of education, reduce inequality of outcomes and promote social inclusion. It uses empirical evidence to refute the assumptions that were used for promoting the most extensive and paradigmatic voucher system in education in history. The piece also provides indications for policy making and the ongoing reforms currently debated in Chile in order to tackle the negative consequences of this type of voucher system.

To cite this article: Maria Ron Balsera, Delphine Dorsi, Andreu Termes, Xavier Bonal, Antoni Verger &Javier Gonzalez Diaz (2016) Private actors and the right to education, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 46:6, 976-1000, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2016.1207939

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Recent migrants and education in the European Union

Authors: Robert Osadan &Elizabeth Reid

To cite this article: Robert Osadan &Elizabeth Reid (2016) Recent migrants and education in the European Union, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 46:4, 666-669, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2016.1163871

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