Skip to main content


EDU3013 : Educational challenges: historical and comparative perspectives

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Anja Giudici
  • Owning School: Education, Communication & Language Sci
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module aims to develop students’ knowledge of the main challenges faced by contemporary education systems and their analytical understanding of how these challenges have been approached through history and across places. To this end, each week we will discuss the normative and theoretical underpinnings of an issue relating to one of the fundamental dimensions of change and variation of education systems (access, structures, control, and content) and illustrate its manifestation in varying historical and geographic contexts through case studies and original material. This combination of approaches aims to provide students with a broad comparative and historical knowledge of education politics and reforms, as well as with selected concepts, theories, and methodologies to analytically engage with educational debates and policies from comparative and historical perspectives.
The module aims to:
- Introduce students to a range of contemporary challenges faced by education systems across the world regarding access, structure, control, and content of formal education.
- Explore how these challenges, and related reforms, have developed through time and varied internationally.
- Analyse how these challenges have been shaped by changing and varying economic, political, and cultural contexts to identify potential drivers of change and variation.
- Allow students to analytically appraise the legacies, politics, and impact of specific educational debates unfolding across the world.

Outline Of Syllabus

What are the main challenges education systems are facing today? Where do these challenges come from, how have they been discussed and addressed in the past and across places? How can we account for changing and varying approaches to educational access, structures, control, and content? How can we leverage all this knowledge to intervene in, and improve, education?
This module, which forms part of the BA (Hons) in education, addresses these questions by focusing on selected topical issues of education reform and debate. For each issue, lectures will explore different normative philosophical, political, professional, and moral approaches, outlining how and by whom these approaches have been advanced in different places and time periods, and with which results. To develop an understanding of the change and variation of educational debates, reforms, and the result systems, lectures will introduce students to different drivers and mechanisms of change, as theorised by education, political science, and history, while the seminars will invite and support students in applying this knowledge to specific case studies from across the world.

Introduction: Where does (historical) comparative education research come from, what are its main approaches and concepts?

Block 1 - Access: This block will discuss change and variation in the expansion of access to formal education, focusing on debates concerning the distribution of power between family and state as well as how education systems have been adapted to labour market needs.

Block 2 - Structures: This block will focus on debates and reforms around the structure of education systems, and their relationship with issues of social (in)equality and professional identities of teachers and educators.

Block 3 - Control: This block will explore the historical change and variation of educational authority. It will address topics such as the role of religious groups and churches in state and private education, discussions and reforms around federalism, local control, and ethnic self-determination, as well as educational markets.

Block 4 - Content: This block will focus on the curriculum and therefore on the question, what knowledge should education systems convey to new generations? Specific topics will include debates around nationalism and cultural representation as well as around whether curricula should focus on traditional academic knowledge, on life skills, or on preparing pupils for specific vocational roles?

Module wrap-up session and conclusion

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Preparation and discussion of book review
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion162:0062:00Preparation of case study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00Lectures will consist of input together with interactive tasks and discussion
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading172:0072:00Readings for seminars and lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops31:003:00Workshops on book review and case-study writing
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module will include lectures and seminars. The lecture series will scaffold students’ understanding of the main dimension of change and variation of education systems, and how these have been debated and reformed across time and places. The course is broadly structured into an introduction followed by four sections, each addressing a different dimension of education reform and debate (access, control, structures, and content). The lectures will introduce students to concepts as well as theoretical and methodological approaches to education variation and change from comparative education and the history of education.
In the seminars, students will discuss the application of these concepts and theories on specific cases together, and then individually apply them on a specific case of education reform or debate. In order to develop both students’ comparative and historical knowledge of education systems and of the methodological approaches used for analysing them, the teaching method integrates elements of research-based learning. It therefore guides students towards using the insights and materials provided in class to seek answer to their own question by exploring a case study of their own choice.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Case study1A70ca. 3000 words
Written exercise1A30A book review, ca. 1000 words
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Case study1MOpportunity for Formative Feedback for Case Study
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The Intended Knowledge Outcomes will be assessed through all assessment components. The two assessments intend to help students improving their ability to critically engage with existing literature and use it in combination with the tools acquired in class to explore a context and debate that they are interest in.
There are two, related, assessment tasks:
- A book review (30%) (ca. 1000 words)
- And a case study (70%, ca. 3000 words)

Book review
As a first assessment students will be asked to read and evaluate an academic book or three articles (including articles from the reading list) on variation and change in education systems. Book reviews both enable students to assimilate and critically engage with a larger piece of academic work from the perspective of the module. By providing students with a deeper understanding of an issue as well as an overview over the literature in the field it also helps them building a sound foundation for the second assessment task – the case study. By reviewing an academic book, students can develop a deeper understanding of a topic, critically evaluate the strength and weaknesses of specific approaches to said topic, as well as train their writing skills.
To facilitate this task, in addition to the seminars, three workshops are planned, which will focus on analysing book reviews, peer-review, and improving writing skills. Students will receive a list of books from which they can choose, based on their interest in specific regions or topics – but they will also be invited to bring own suggestions.
The assessment is an individual (written) report (coursework) of ca. 1000 words with the option of submitting reviews about recent books to interested journals. Opportunities for formative feedback are provided during the seminars and workshop.

Case Study
As a second assessment students will be asked to write a case study. This will allow them to independently explore a specific case of educational reform and/or debate from either an historical or a comparative perspective. The case study will have two parts. A first part (ca. 1000 words) will describe the education system of a specific country, focusing on the main dimensions discussed in class, while a second part (ca. 2000 words) will analyse a specific policy or program that was implemented (or was attempted to be implemented) in that country.
Writing a case study will allow students to develop their knowledge about specific contexts and the literature about them, as well as to apply concepts and theories discussed in class on an issue they are interested in. It is thus meant to encourage individual choice in topical exploration as well as integrate pedagogy and research in order to allow students to the analytical tools acquired in class to new contexts and topics.
Students will be given the opportunity to share an outline (e.g., bullet-pointed plan with headings) of their work for formative feedback prior to the final submission.

Reading Lists