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Comparative and international studies in primary education

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In this module, you’ll explore learning and teaching around the world and some of the social, historical, political, cultural and philosophical influences on primary education in different contexts. At its heart is a discussion and comparison of the similarities and differences experienced by teachers and learners around the world. It will introduce you to theories and concepts of comparative education studies and some of the different pedagogical approaches in local, national and international contexts. You’ll examine the relationships between educational theory, policy and practice. You’ll consider different perspectives on educational issues and critically evaluate evidence to develop, synthesise and present arguments to explore different practices.

What you will study

This module consists of five blocks:

Block 1: Issues in comparative and international education
In this block, you’ll start with a look at classrooms around the world. It will then introduce you to some of the key concepts, theories, research methods and current topics in comparative and international education.

Block 2: Comparing through reading, watching and listening
The theme of this block is comparing and contrasting curriculums for young children, how they're taught, and the purposes of teaching them. You’ll read widely, and watch and listen to practitioners around the world, to examine how the process of teaching and learning takes different forms depending on context and participants.

Block 3: Inclusive education in different contexts
This block considers aspects of children’s lives that can have a significant influence on the development of their identity and their learning, including religion and migration experiences. You’ll also explore the way that being identified as disabled or having learning difficulties varies and may influence interactions, behaviour and educational progress in diverse contexts.

Block 4: Professionalisation, professional development and professional conversations
The theme of this study block is about teaching as a profession; how teachers continue their learning throughout their careers; and considers the many professional conversations through which different perspectives about primary education are revealed. You’ll consider the different ways teachers talk and think about teaching, and learn more about the variety of routes into teaching across the world.

Block 5: The global, the local, the national
This final block draws together key messages of the module, looking at local situations through the lens of key international initiatives including PISA (Programme for International Student Development) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This move to a macro and international viewpoint heightens and deepens the scope of comparisons across education systems and cultures and gives you an opportunity to review and reflect on the comparative theme implicit in all the blocks.

As appropriate for those studying at Level 3, you’ll critically and systematically analyse and evaluate concepts, theories, values, policy, curriculum and practice relating to children’s learning in a variety of primary contexts. In addition, you’ll consider your own learning and experience in the context of specific themes that take account of the local, national and global contexts for teaching and learning.

This is a practice-focused module. We advise you to arrange a placement of at least 10 days in a learning setting during your study. This experience will be essential if you wish to apply for postgraduate teacher training. As part of professional practice development, you’ll work collaboratively with other students on some assessment tasks.

You will learn

This module will provide you with knowledge and understanding of:

  • the comparative contextual factors, principles, issues, theories and research that underpin and inform national and international education policy and practices for primary children
  • the social, historical, political, cultural and philosophical influences on curriculums in different contexts for learning
  • the ways in which ethnicity, religion, class, gender, and sexual orientation impact on children’s learning and development, and how structures and provision can create or challenge inequalities
  • the ways in which the diverse needs of pupils – including those with Special Educational Needs, with disabilities, of high ability, learning additional languages – influence learner identities in different contexts
  • the political, legal, ethical and rights principles that guide practice in a range of national and international contexts
  • the central importance of positioning children’s voices and perspectives, in relation to the roles and responsibilities of members of the primary education community in different contexts.

Entry requirements

You must be 18 or over.

There are no formal academic or experiential requirements to study this module.

However, we strongly advise you to arrange a placement in a learning setting1 for children aged between 3 and 12 – for example a school, outdoor learning centre or museum – for at least 10 days to observe learning and teaching and gain exposure to a practice context, specifically when you study Blocks 4 and 5 (February–April).

If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

1Access to settings will require you to meet the ‘fit person’ criteria, in your country, to work with children. You and your setting are responsible for ensuring you meet these requirements, not the OU.

What's included

  • Access to the module study materials via the module website
  • One printed reader Learning and Teaching Around the World: Comparative and International Studies in Primary Education edited by Kimberly Safford and Liz Chamberlain

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a named tutor who will support your studies and mark and comment on your assignment work; you can also seek academic advice and guidance from them. Your tutor will offer support through email, telephone and online forum discussions. Additionally, there will be online tutorials. We will advertise tutorials before the module starts; E309 tutors will take them, but depending on the tutorial, not necessarily your own named tutor. We recommend you book online to attend these tutorials. There will be six module-specific online learning events and two module-wide online learning events.


You can find the assessment details for this module in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E309 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Comparative and international studies in primary education (E309) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school