ABSTRACT

Educational borrowing is one of the central concepts in comparative education; yet, it is also one of the most contested. As Steiner-Khamsi (2004) observes, ‘a large rift yawns between those implementing and those studying educational borrowing and lending’ (p. 1). On the one hand, policy makers and practitioners are attracted to educational borrowing for its potential policy utility. From this perspective, educational borrowing is seen as a pragmatic tool for identifying and transferring ‘best practices’ from one context to another with the goal of improving educational systems in different national settings. Whether advanced by national governments or international development agencies (such as the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or the United Nations), the underlying assumption is that there exists a common and legitimate ‘blueprint’ of educational policies and practices, which would lead (if implemented properly) to increased educational opportunities and improved educational quality worldwide. On the other hand, many comparative educational researchers (starting from Sadler’s famous Guildford lecture of 1900) have continuously warned against uncritical, decontextualised educational borrowing. In particular, a growing number of scholars (Schriewer 2000; Phillips and Ochs 2004; Steiner-Khamsi 2004) have attempted to shift the focus from ‘a normative preoccupation with policy borrowing and lending to a more analytical approach’ (Steiner-Khamsi 2010: 323). Instead of examining ‘what’ can be imported from elsewhere, this type of research analyses the complex trajectories of educational borrowing and critically examines a variety of issues related to historical, political and economic dimensions of the educational borrowing process.