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III. Detradtitionlization in Positivism

Heir to the Enlightenment optimism, positivism and functionalism dominated in comparative education in 1950s and 1960s confidently claimed to be progressing and toward the development of law-like statement and generalizations to explain and predict educational trends. The culminating point of comparative education is, according to G.Z.F. Bereday(1964:25), to be concerned with the over-all impact of education upon society in a world perspective. The final stage of this discipline is thus concerned with the formulation of “laws” or “typologies” that permit an international understanding and a definition of the complex interrelation of the schools and people they serve.

Underscoring the formulation of scientific law in comparative education, B. Holmes(1965:373)claimed that “sociological laws…bear to man’s social environment the relationship that natural laws’ of science have to his physical or natural environment. For those who wish to study the mechanics of curriculum development, the importance of studying modern opinions on the main characteristic of scientific laws is thus obvious. Models of investigation for comparative education must be identical with, and derived from used in the studies of physical sciences. Drawing heavily upon Karl Popper’s hypothetical-deductive approach, Holmes’ explicitly deductivist problem solving framework shows itself evidently technicianism-oriented and decontexualized similarly in the explanation of natural science.

Equally technicianism-oriented, while more inductivistic, the comparative education model in H.J. Noah and M,A. Eckstein’s Toward a Science of Comparative Education (1969)deems quantification and hypothesis testing paramount important in construction of rigorous science of comparative education. When closely examined, based largely on the psychometric principles, Noah (1973:114)proposed further: “A comparative study is essentially on attempt as far as possible to replace the names of systems(countries)by names of concepts(variables)” Describing scientific approach of Noah and Eckstein as methodologism, B. R. Barber(1972:424-436)comments: “it presumes that reliability, precision and certitude can be attained by the dutiful application of specific methods and techniques-irrespective of the nature of the subject under study.”

Rigorous quantitative hypothesis testing is also emphasized by G. Psacharopoulos(1990)in his study of the relationship of comparative education and educational planning. Unsatisfied with the long nonquantitative accounts of the educational system of a single country, Psacharopoulos (1990:380)advocates that the goal of linking comparative education research with educational policy and planning can only be achieved through “conceptualization, methodological design, statistical sampling, rigorous data analysis, and hypothesis testing.”

The monolithic claims of scientific reason of the foregoing recapitulated comparative education positivism tend to, in T. W. Adorno’s(1982:33)phrase, “eliminate qualities and to transform them into measurable definition.” Increasingly, rationality itself since Decartes is equated more mathematio with the faculty of quantification. The pure, perfectly sublimated subjects themselves are called upon to exercise scientific authority in formulating educational “laws” or “typologies.” The notions of tradition and culture are dismissed from process of scientific study in comparative education. Detraditionalization thus involves the radical turn from tradition intrinsic to positivistic reflection in comparative education research.

IV. Rehabilitation or Critique of Tradition

Detradtitionalization, as P. Heelas(1996:4)argues, “cannot occur when people think of themselves as belonging to the whole.” For the decline of the belief in tradition entails that people have acquired the opportunity to stand back from, critically reflect upon, and lose their faith in what the traditional has to offer. They have to arrive at a position where they can have their own say.

Similar argumentation is also offered in H.-G. Gadamer’s(1956:287)Wahrheit und Methode. For Gadamer, there is no such unconditional antithesis between tradition and reason. Tradition needs to be affirmed, embraced, cultivated. It is, essentially, preservation, such as is active in all historical change. But preservation is an act of reason, though as inconspicuous one.

The preservation and cultivation of tradition, as act of reason, constitute educational process. To become rational is, according to Israel Scheffler(1973:2), to enter into traditions, to inherit them and to learn to participate in the never-ending work of testing, expanding, and altering them for the better. Fundamental to educational process is thus the active rational participation into traditions and the renewal of them. This process presupposes, however, that “ we stand always within tradition, and this is no objectifying process, i.e. we do not conceive of what tradition says as something other, something alien”(H.-G. Gadamer, 1986:287).

Since tradition are always open to human agency. The effect of a living tradition and the effect of historical study must constitute a unity, the analysis of which would, according to H.-G. Gadamer(ibid:288), reveal only a texture of reciprocal relationship. The distinguishing mark of human sciences is thus that its constitution entails an element of tradition active inside it. Being aware of the tradition-embeddedness of human science, many educational comparativists begin to challenge the 1950-1960 positivism and functionalism. In his “Comparative Education from an Ethnomethodological Perspective”, R. Heyman criticizes the supposed objectivity of various categories of measurement used previously in macrocosmic comparative educational research and the use of large-scale questionnaire surveys, since their use is decontextualized without talking any account of subjective engagement in the research. Attention should be drawn to the lived world wherein the educational process occurs.

Culturalist approach advocated by W. D. Halls(1973)tries to formulate educational typology through study of cultural typology. Referring to Bourdieu and Passeron’s definition of culture as “standardized patterns of activity and belief that are learned and manifested by people in their collective life”, Halls maintains that cultural and educational features are linked, and act reciprocally upon each other. Cultural traditions that embed the studied education systems should be carefully investigated for the purpose of setting up educational typologies in comparison.

All the afore mentioned efforts left the tradition unproblematized. The culture was still perceived, as A. Welch(1998:11)argues, in terms of the received view, (the official version of culture, or the culture of the nation state). Little attention was drawn to the possible distortion implicit in the education process and comparative education.

In educational experience, traditions are continued, according to Shaun Gallagher(1992:99), not as are produced past, but as transformed past, insofar as they are challenged and questioned, and insofar as they take on new meaning in our present interpretations. Critical reflection is thus essential to make transparent the possible bias of process of tradition and cultural domination. The purpose of critical reflection is to assist in the achievement of emancipation from the constraints of tradition and ideology. Critical reflection makes, as J. Habermas(1970:129)maintains, “our own individual or collective life-history transparent to ourselves at any given time, in that we, as our own products, learn to penetrate what first confront us as something objective from the outside.”

In attempt to understand impartially culture and symbolic life of the actors, V. Masemann(1986)proposes to integrate critical theory with ethnography in comparative education. Through the lens of critical theory, all forms of penetration of dominant ideology or imported innovative “ rationality” could be studied in a comparative sense. Furthermore in her presidential address to the 1990 Comparative and International Education Society annual meeting, V. Masemann(1991)argues that a more grounded, realistic methodology is needed in comparative education. Knowledge form other than western rationalistic tradition-bonded should be carefully taken into account in the comparative education.

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