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Comparative and international studies in primary education

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.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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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 educational provision for young children, how children are 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. 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 different contexts.

Block 4: Professionalisation, professional development and professional conversations
The theme of this study block is 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 concepts of the module, looking at local situations through the lens of international initiatives such as PISA (Programme for International Student Development) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This move to a macro and international viewpoint broadens the scope of comparisons across education systems and cultures and gives you an opportunity to review and reflect on the comparative theme of the module.

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 local, national and global issues 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.

You'll also be assessed on your collaborative work with other students on this module. This includes looking at, and commenting on, others’ work; reflecting on others’ comments about your work; and working together with fellow students on a project/task.

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 children’s voices and perspectives, in relation to the roles and responsibilities of members of the primary education community in different contexts.

Vocational relevance

The module will be of relevance to:

  • anyone with an interest in the education of children aged between 3 and 12
  • anyone with an interest in international education and development, sustainability and globalisation
  • teaching assistants, classroom assistants, school support-staff or volunteers (or similar) who wish to develop their knowledge and academic skills in their current role
  • those aspiring to apply for teacher training to qualify as a teacher
  • anyone currently working, volunteering, or aspiring to work in the third sector, including museum education, community education, NGOs, or educational administration.

E309 strongly positions students who, on completion of the degree, will seek employment within the education sector, wish to apply for teacher training in the primary age range, or who are considering further study at postgraduate level.

If you’re thinking about training to be a teacher, see our booklet Becoming a teacher.

Outside the UK

Synchronous tutorials and communications could be difficult to deliver to students outside UK due to time differences. If you can’t attend the synchronous tutorials or make synchronous communications, you’ll have to use asynchronous alternative methods, such as watching recorded tutorials and emailing your tutor with any questions.

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’ll 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 nine online learning events, four will be module-wide events and the other five will be for your tutor group or cluster group.


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

The tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) have a variety of written and visual assessment tasks including: essays, an information handout, a group reading report, a personal development plan, a recorded PowerPoint presentation (slides and audio narration recorded) and a report. Some tasks will be assessed on how you work with other students. This includes looking at, and commenting on, others’ work; reflecting on others’ comments about your work; and working together with fellow students on a project/task. 

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 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

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. This experience will be essential if you wish to apply for postgraduate teacher training.

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.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2026.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 14/04/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module study materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access

You'll also be provided with a printed reader Learning and Teaching Around the World: Comparative and International Studies in Primary Education edited by Kimberly Safford and Liz Chamberlain

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

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.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.