Schriewer, precisely when reforms become contested

Ask about terms like kaifang gongxiang

I would like to capture the discussion of the case studies on borrowing in terms of the proposed theoretical framework. In times of massive political changes, selfreferences to traditions, beliefs and organization, which, according to Luhmann and Schorr (1979) are the most commonly used internal references to justify the persistence or introduction of reforms, lapse as legitimacy strategies. In fact, what is politically required at these times of political change is a clear rupture with the detested past and a turning point that signals a new (political) future without the legacies of the past. Instead of carrying on with self-references, new references to lessons from elsewhere, policy borrowing, or externalization open up the chance to resituate an educational system internationally and domestically.

Novoa, Antonio; Lawn, Martin. Fabricating Europe. The Formation of an Education Space.

Hingham, MA, USA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002. p 82.

Copyright © 2002. Kluwer Academic Publishers. All rights reserved. 

The Theory of Self-referential Systems (see Luhmann & Schorr, 1979) asserts that educational systems perpetuate themselves by means of internal references, notably, references to tradition, beliefs and organization. In times of rapid social, economic and political change, however, internal references fail to justify the persistence or introduction of reforms. It is precisely in those times that externalization offers itself as a means to radically break with the past and import or borrow models, discourses, or practices from other educational systems. It is important to bear in mind that education constitutes an ideal site for studying referentiality. In fact, using references as sources of authority— internal or external, domestic or international— is endemic to education, which is under constant public pressure to legitimize its practices, values and forms of organization, since, in the domain of education, each and every citizen feels entitled to act as “natural expert”

Novoa, Antonio; Lawn, Martin. Fabricating Europe. The Formation of an Education Space.

Hingham, MA, USA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002. p 70.

Copyright © 2002. Kluwer Academic Publishers. All rights reserved. 


Iveta Silova

For all these achievements, the education systems of the post-socialist bloc were also rigidly bureaucratized, and narrowly and involuntarily vocational (Johnson, 2004). They were also institutionally fragmented, with different hierarchies of educational provision and training divided between different branch ministries, resulting in severe inefficiencies. The system was also characterized by uniform and exceptionally rigid conceptions of pedagogy and formal “didactic,” authoritarian and teacher-centered learning, overloaded and centrally mandated curricula, and insufficient attention to the quality and nature of individual student learning (Johnson, 2004; Silova, 2002).

Silova, I. (2006). From Sites of Occupation to Symbols of Multiculturalism: Re-conceptualizing Minority Education in Post-Soviet Latvia. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Silova, I. (2005). Traveling policies: Hijacked in Central Asia. European Educational Research Journal, 4(1), 50–59.

Silova, I. (2004). Adopting the language of the new allies. In G. Steiner-Khamsi (Ed.), The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing (pp. 75–87). New York: Teachers College Press.

Silova, I. (2002). Returning to Europe: Facts, fiction, and fantasies of post-Soviet education reform. In A. Nóvoa & M. Lawn (Eds.), Fabricating Europe: The Formation of an Educational Space (pp. 87–109). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

Silova, I., Budiene, V., & Bray, M. (2006). Education in a Hidden Marketplace: Monitoring of Private Tutoring. New York: Open Society Institute.

Silova, I. & Magno, C. (2004). Gender equity unmasked: Revisiting democracy, gender, and education in post-socialist Central/Southeastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Comparative Education Review, 48(4), 417–442.

Silova, I. & Steiner-Khamsi, F. (2008). How NGOs React: Globalization and Education Reform in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Mongolia. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.

Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2000). Transferring education, displacing reforms. In Jürgen Schriewer (Ed.), Discourse Formations in Comparative Education (pp. 155–187). Frankfurt & New York: Peter Lang.

Schriewer, J. (1988). The method of comparison and the need for externalization: Methodological criteria and sociological concepts. In J. Schriewer & B. Holmes (Eds.), Theories and Methods in Comparative Education (pp. 25–86). New York: Peter Lang.

Johnson, M. (2004). Trends in secular educational development in Azerbaijan and Central Asia: Implications for social stability and regional security. National Bureau of Asian Research Analysis, 15(4), 7–58. K

Meyer, J. & Ramirez, F. (2000). The world institutionalization of education – origins and implications. In J. Schriewer (Ed.), Discourse formation in comparative education (pp. 111–132). Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Schriewer, J. (2000). World system and interrelationship networks: The internationalization of education and the role of comparative inquiry. In T. Popkewitz (Ed.), Educational Knowledge: Changing Relationships Between The State, Civil Society, and the Educational Community (pp. 305–349). New York: SUNY Press.

As Schriewer and Martinez (2004) explain, externalizations “filter” the reception and description of an international environment according to the changing problem configurations internal to a given educational system. Their potential for selec- tion and interpretation rearranges references to international phenomena according to a given system’s internal needs for “supplementary meaning” (Schriewer & Martinez, 2004: 32). Moreover, the need for “supplementary meaning” not only varies between different societies or nations, but also changes over time in the course of successive political eras within the same society (Schriewer & Martinez, 2004: 32).

The concept of the “supplementary meaning” points to the discursive nature of educational borrowing, which has been frequently neglected in comparative educa- tion literature. For example, most comparative research on educational borrowing has focused on examining the implementation of specific education practices in different historical, political, and economic settings. However, it is important to recognize that transfer can involve not only practices, but also discourses

As Steiner-Khamsi (2000) points out, the fact that the borrowed education program was not implemented does not mean that the transfer did not occur. Instead, what is being transferred is not a specific aspect of education reform, but rather a political discourse associated with it.

While some scholars would argue that the apparent commonalities of educational reforms in the countries of the post-socialist bloc reflect the convergence of educational systems toward the same “world standards” with regard to the structure, organiza- tion, and content of education (Meyer & Ramirez, 2000: 120),

Undoubtedly, certain educational concepts or discourses go global, but they may play out differently in different political, economic, and cultural contexts (Anderson-Levitt, 2003) and they may resonate for different reasons in different educational systems (Schriewer & Martinez, 2004).

 the transfer of global concepts can be used by local agency as a mechanism for reach- ing its own needs such as legitimizing contested educational reforms domestically or “signaling” certain reform movements internationally (Silova, 2002)

Whereas education systems usually perpetuate themselves by means of internal refer- ences (e.g. references to tradition, beliefs, and organization), these references often fail to justify the continuity of education reforms during times of rapid social, economic, and political changes. As Schriewer (1988) and Steiner-Khamsi (2000, 2004) suggest, it is precisely in those times that externalization or educational borrowing becomes an effective means to radically break with the past through transferring education models, practices, and discourses from other educational systems.

For example, Jürgen Schriewer and his research team (see Schriewer & Martinez, 2004) produced one of the best sociological critiques of world culture theory. They distin- guish between ‘globalisation’ (real) and ‘internationality’ (imagined), and assert that policy-makers at times resort to an imagined world culture or ‘internationality’ when it serves them to generate (or ease) reform pressure in their own context. Similar to the anthropological project of the book, Schriewer and his research team at Humboldt University in Berlin (Germany) are eager to understand why, how and when individuals and institutions refer to experiences from elsewhere. Their interest lies in understanding the ‘socio-logic’ and the idiosyncrasies of global references and orientations. Using similar methodological tools as the Stanford group (longitudinal comparative studies) to understand the orientations of educational researchers, they found that there was not only one world culture or world system, but many (Schriewer & Martinez, 2004). One of the world systems, for example, which has been systematically neglected in the studies of world culture theory, until it completely dissolved in 1990 (no causal relation assumed), is the socialist world- system, consisting of over 30 countries.