An interesting paper provide by Eldis on the limitations of comparative international education studies.

From Eldis:

Do the limitations of education cross-national studies render such work problematic?

Authors: M. Ginsburg
Publisher: USA Agency for International Development , 2006

This paper discusses the contributions that cross-national and comparative analyses can make to education policy and practice. It identifies limitations to be kept in mind in conducting, interpreting, and using the results of studies such as the cross-national syntheses on educational quality. Some of the key limitations highlighted include:

  • similarity or dissimilarity is not something which is necessarily inherent in the data. It is characteristic of the relationship between the observer and the data, and depends upon the conceptual structures within the mind of the observer
  • as comparative education scholars, you are more scientific in your own subjective involvement in the debates about education
  • in cross-national and other comparative studies this creates a particular challenge, since one of the most difficult problems of the comparative method is ethnocentrism.

Despite the limitations to cross-national studies, it seems that the potential contributions of such work make it worth pursuing. Otherwise, one relies on single country or project case studies and will tend to over-generalise the findings and contemplate contextual factors that may be particularly relevant in the next setting in which he or she should seek to adopt or adapt the lessons learned.