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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 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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 2024.

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

Course work includes:

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

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