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Kéri, K. (2014). National Past And Worldwide Perspective: A Comparative Approach To The Research Of The History Of Education. Hungarian Educational Research Journal, 4(4), 4-15, DOI :10.14413/herj.2014.04.02.
National Past And Worldwide Perspective: A Comparative Approach To The Research Of The History Of Education
Katalin Kéri
Abstract
In the science of history nowadays, the intercultural comparative approach is spreading more and more, thus further elaboration on it and its application in the research of history of education is useful and inevitable. This study offers a starting point to the doing of the widely interpreted history of education.  There is a distinguished focus on the presentation of those books and studies that describe the past of the non-western education and in connection with that on the attributes of the genre and research methodology as well as on the consideration of the difficulties regarding comparison.
 
Introduction
Several objectives – that are often isolated in the sense of geography, approach, language, and more other reasons – with respect to the widening of the framework of history of education and the researches being comparative in space and time with intercultural approach, can be observed in the world nowadays. Our study offers a brief overview on the objectives, results and characteristics of these approaches by the evaluation of some typical and influential literature in the international history of education. We have used handbooks written in the past decades and analyzed their contents in a comparative way. Based on the concerning literature we summarize why it is essential to explore the national past and history of education, and besides but closely interwoven the worldwide perspective in the study of the history of education. Additionally, on the grounds of works from occidental and non-occidental authors, we present the most important changes in approaches in the past decades, emphasizing their mistakes and deficiencies.
The Necessity of a Worldwide Perspective
In the beginning of the 21th century it is needful to know and handle the economical, political, ecological, social and other kind of problems of our planet not only on a local level, but having a comprehensive approach concerning them. Each peoples, countries and continents need to take shared efforts as well for the sake of the future and survival of human civilization. Therefore it is necessary to unite the powers and knowledge, and in order to promote it, we need to know the most about others, about the other. This objective – being of special importance from the point of view of the history of education as well – may contribute to the clearer analysis of some problems. For the solution of these, a worldwide perspective is needed according to several researchers, for example Myers (1963), who, in Toynbee’s track, analyzes the history of education in a broad context.
A handbook about the history of education, that had been written in such an overall approach, that spans the continents, has created a great stir in the past few years. The editors of this book have written in the foreword that, because of the above, the education of young people is of crucial importance these days (as well); though it is not sufficient to give the students such advices for life as “Live in peace with others.” or “Accept the culture of others.”, but for the promotion of it all, continuous building is required every day. The modern point of view of the history of education on a global level may favorably form the scientific approach and the multi-perspective viewpoint and the attitude towards our own country and towards the peoples of other countries (Salimova & Dodde, 2000, p. 12). The study of the really universal history of education helps to seek for common intellectual connections, connective cultural elements between different peoples, and point the unique characteristics at the same time; which all are parts of the educational past and educational heritage of humanity.
However, this argumentation is accepted by more and more of the education focused historians, according to Reagan (2005), history of education which is being done and taught in his home country, the USA and generally in the Wset, concentrates primarily on their own traditions and other, non-western cultures are taken into consideration only in very rare cases. In his opinion, it is obvious on the one hand; and on the other hand, we have to aim for the educational traditions and achievements of other societies and peoples being also presented in the studies of the history of education, as it „may help us to think more clearly about some of our own assumptions and values, as well as to help us to become more open to alternative viewpoints about important educational matters” (Reagan, 2005, p. XIII). A decade ago, the author has already outlined that phenomenon which is noticeable not only in his home country but all over the world: in the field of teacher training, only a few tutors, researchers are able to present an overall and realistic picture regarding the non-western traditions of education, which of course, cannot be imagined without knowing the past of education in the West. In his work he emphasized that thought of key importance stating that western researchers, despite all their efforts, are not able to abandon their western point of view even in the course of studying non-western cultures and observing history of education from a worldwide perspective.
Essential Readings about the Past of the Western and Non-Western Education
Before reviewing the points of focus of some foreign handbooks written in the past decades about the history of education, containing details not only from the West (Europe), but from other parts of the world as well; it is necessary to briefly describe the sphere of concepts. The relationship of the “East” and the “West” can be highlighted as a not recent pair of concepts as they were already in use in the Middle Age. For the European people of the Middle Age, right until the colonialism, this pair of words was appropriate to describe and enforce their own occidental identity and values, opposed to the Orient, or more precisely, everything that is non-European. The more distant, formerly unknown areas the European people ventured to, the more they realized that the world has several places which are rather different from the western culture; in addition, the countries of the East have gone through a very diverse way of history and they are far from being the same regarding their culture, their educational conventions, their ideal of the world and humanity. No wonder that Géza Ankerl (2000), an outstanding figure of researchers regarding the fields of comparative law, sociology and cultural history, entitled his compilation book “Occident exists, Orient not.” In his analysis of that book, János Farkas (2001) writes that “The Occident, therefore, as a concept exists, but the same cannot be said of the Oriental civilization. The Chinese, Indian, Arabian-Muslim civilization included in the concept of the Orient, are not only different from the Occident but also different from each other. These diversities are so significant that the concept of the Orient is empty in fact. It is merely an ideological construction, and its only function is that Occident can emphasize and make accepted their »civilizing quest« with its creation and application”. The history and features of the Western people turning to the Orient from the Ancient times till today have been surveyed by Katalin Mund (2004) in her recently published study.
The attributes occidental and oriental are found quite often in the titles and subtitles of the foreign handbooks concerning the universal history of education. In the English-speaking world recently, beside the attribute occidental (that refers to the countries of the European continent and the North-American continent, and additionally, parts of the Australian continent as well); the term non-occidental is more and more frequently used pointing to all the other continents. Reagan (2005), for example, has created one of the most complex handbooks available these days about the history of the educational traditions of non-occidental cultures. His book, Non-Western Educational Traditions. Indigenous Approaches to Educational Thought and Practice is an essential reading within the foreign literature of the topic.
In the Foreword, the author indicates that his work is meant primarily for students taking part in the teacher training program and for keen professionals as a textbook; (there are questions and exercises at the end of each chapter), which has determined the size of the chapters. Besides the extension of the comparative study of education in time and space, and introductions from the field of historical philosophy and epistemology are characteristics of the book as well as sub-chapters that outline the possible future extensions of researches. Important clarifications of concepts are found in the book, for example, ethnocentrism and constructivist epistemology in terms of the conceptions of culture. Three of the ten major chapters of the book deal with the methodology and theoretical questions concerning research. In the major text, making the core of the book, Reagan summarizes the different attributes of history of education of the non-western cultures. The past of the education of the African, Mesoamerican (Mayan and Aztec), native North-American, Confucian Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist, Romany and Muslim are mentioned.
Similarly to Reagan’s work, the Kenyan pair of authors, Sifuna and Otiende (2006) outlinedHorgony
[2] Note: The book studied by us was the 15th release in 1973.