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The internationalization of education is a topic that receives plenty of buzz these days. Many students easily move across boarders to learn outside of their home country. Branch campuses by Western universities are popping up around the world. And Education businesses operate globally, selling educational materials and services to any school will to purchase them.

But can the phenomenon of international education exist within sites where there these practices don’t clearly exists?

My guest today is Phan Le Ha. She is a Professor in the College of Education, University of Hawai’i. Professor Phan has a forthcoming book entitled Transnational Education Crossing ‘the West’ and ‘Asia’: Adjusted Desire, Transformative Mediocrity, and Neo-colonial Disguise. Today Professor Phan and I discuss parts of this book, particularly related the the dominance of the English language in many Asia countries.

Professor Phan is currently developing a new interest in engaging with the arts, the media and the digital world to produce multimodal multidisciplinary scholarship and to push research and knowledge production into new directions. Her youtube channel can be found here.

Educational transfer or policy borrowing is one of the major topics in comparative education. When I spoke with Rattana Lao in episode 7 of FreshEd, we discussed the ways in which a culture of borrowing has emerged in Thailand’s educational quality assurance system.

On today’s show, I continue the conversation on educational transfer and policy borrowing with Jason Beech, a professor in the School of Education at the University of San Andrés in Buenos Aires.  Jason critiques the very terms of educational transfer, suggesting the language we use is limited. Why, he asks, is it that the focus is always on policy and not other aspects of education? And has the very notion of globalization lost its cutting edge in terms of theory and method?

Instead of using grand narratives of domination or resistance, Jason uses relational notions of space, which I have talked about on other shows with Marianne Larsen and Jane Kenway. New spatial thinking provides Jason a language to think through new theoretical approaches to educational transfer. In an article co-written in 2015 and published in the journal Globalization, Societies, and Education, Jason uses the case of the one laptop per child scheme in Argentina and actor-network theory to show how material and non-material actors create educational space and new vocabularies for educational transfer.

On today’s show we continue our conversation on PISA. Last week Bob Lingard walked us through the history of the OECDs work in education and compared the main PISA test with the new service called “PISA for Schools.”

Today, Keita Takayama provides a critical reading of the so-called “PISA debate.” This debate started in May 2014 when a group of scholars published an open letter in the Guardian newspaper to Andreas Schleicher, the head of OECD’s education and skills division, criticizing PISA. Two subsequent response letters (here and here) were published in the Washington Post responding to the open letter and critiquing PISA in ways left out of the original letter.

Keita Takayama, a professor at the University of New England in Australia, takes us through the arguments in these various letters. By looking at who wrote the letters, Prof. Takayama scratches the surface of the arguments to locate hidden agendas. In the end, he sees the so-called “PISA debate” as provincial.

Citation: Takayama, Keita, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 19, podcast audio, July 21, 2016. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/keitatakayama/

Transcript, Translation, and Resources: Read more

PISA stands for the Programme for International Student Assessment. It is a test administered by the OECD in many countries around the world. You might have heard about the test because of the international league tables comparing systems of education that are created after the results are released. In recent years, Finland and Shanghai have come out on top, unleashing a wave study trips to those place by policymakers who want to learn the secret of good education.

Bob Lingard, a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, has spent many years researching the rise of global education governance (see for example this article). He sees the PISA for Schools program as part of the expanding work in education by the OECD. He spoke with me in mid-January about his recent article and recounts the historical evolution of the OECD’s work in education. He ultimately questions the comparative value of the PISA for Schools program.

Policy borrowing is a major topic in field of comparative education. On the surface the idea is relatively simple: one group of policy makers borrow the ideas of other policy makers to improve a system of education. This usually is described as borrowing “best practices.” But the work of many comparative education researchers has shown that who borrows what policy and for what reason is much more complex. We cannot, as Michael Sadler warned in 1900, assume a picked flower in one part of the world will blossom in soil at home.

Routledge book coverMy guest today, Rattanna Lao, dives head first into the debates on policy borrowing in her new book, A Critical Study of Thailand’s Higher Education Reforms: The Culture of Borrowing, which was published earlier this year by Routledge.

She argues that although the Thai state has always been an active borrower of western ideas, the perseverance of a ‘Thai-ness’ discourse has often been used to suggest its so-called independence and idiosyncrasy.

Rattana Lao received a doctorate in Comparative and International Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and is currently a lecturer at Pridi Banomyong International College, Thammasat University in Thailand.