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Meanings and Contexts of Education - EDU00018C

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jeremy Airey
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

The purpose of this module is to engage students in learning about the meanings, purposes and organisation of educational systems, taking an international perspective. The module will focus principally on the education of school-age children, but will give students a broad introduction to different contexts of education and to get them to think deeply about the meaning of education and what it means to be educated.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The key module aims are:

  • draw on students’ own experiences of education and also challenge their prior assumptions through thinking about how we understand education and how the meaning of education may differ in different contexts.

  • incorporate the study of the organisation of schools, cross-national and cross-cultural studies of education, and alternative and informal contexts of education.

  • facilitate an understanding that education is culturally situated and that learning can happen in many contexts, not only in formal education.

  • challenge assumptions about education seen through the lens of Western development and consider other approaches to learning.

  • develop skills of reading and note taking, class discussion and presentation, critical thinking and dialogue, writing that will help them in further undergraduate study.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students will be able to:

  • consider different contexts of education and think about the meaning of education in these different contexts.

  • understand international contexts of education and understand international agendas for education.

  • discuss school context and the organisation of schools and formal settings of education in different countries.

  • critically discuss alternative forms of education to conventional schooling, considering whether schooling fulfils its aims.

  • analyse accepted alternatives to conventional schooling and discuss their merits.

  • reflect on education in countries other than the UK and think about the different realities in which education takes place and how education has developed in different settings and why.

  • understand the role of education for a country’s development.

Academic and graduate skills

Students will have learned how to:

  • develop critical thinking skills, developing their abilities to draw on their own experiences and also challenge some of their prior assumptions by bringing those into dialogue with the perspectives of their peers and readings on diverse contexts of education.

  • develop their skills of communication, note taking, and searching for sources, at the undergraduate level

  • develop skills in order to analyse issues and ideas.

  • develop group work skills, formal and informal presentational skills, be able to identify suitable supplemental readings, and develop skills that allow them to critically examine issues and ideas relating to Contexts of Education.

  • develop their IT skills by interacting with the VLE.

  • develop writing skills at undergraduate level.

Module content

The following is indicative of the possible content:

The module will include the following themes:

Educational systems - a global view

  1. Reflecting critically on the different meanings that can be attached to the notion of education.

  2. The impact of colonisation and globalisation on education in the 21st Century

International perspectives on the organisation of schools

  1. Organising education; grouping by attainment

  2. Grouping by gender and faith

  3. How are schools held accountable?

Critiques of the mainstream

  1. How has Western education become a globalised mainstream? What is education for?

  2. The way things are is not how they must be (or even, perhaps, how they should be) - critiques; indigenous approaches to learning

  3. Alternatives as responses and rejections (e.g. Summerhill, homeschooling and unschooling, the School in the Cloud).

Education for the world

  1. International comparisons and policy borrowing: sharing ‘best practice’ and its risks

  2. Development and education

  3. Transnational educational initiatives and agendas e.g. the work of UNESCO and education for a sustainable future


Task Length % of module mark
Open Exam (3 days)
Open exam : 72 hr open exam
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be encouraged to produce annotated bibliographies on the main themes of the module. A mock exam will require students to draw on one of their annotated bibliographies in order to produce a concise policy brief; they will submit this and the associated bibliography for formative feedback, focused on their selection of quality source material, and their formulation of a critical argument that addresses the question. This formative assessment will directly support students in the summative assessment, which will require the writing of two policy briefs (each 900 words) on matters relevant to the module themes, chosen from three titles provided on the exam paper. The policy briefs should draw on high-quality source material to support relevant critical arguments.


Task Length % of module mark
Open Exam (3 days)
Open exam : 72 hr open exam
N/A 100

Module feedback

Individual written feedback reports, with follow-up tutor meeting, if necessary. The feedback is returned to students in line with university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information

Indicative reading

Matheson, D. (2015). An Introduction to the Study of Education. Routledge.

Torres, C. A. (2008). Education and Neoliberal Globalization (Vol. 18). London: Taylor and Francis.

Francis, R., Taylor, R., Hodgen, J., Tereshchenko, A., & Archer, L. (2018). Dos and don'ts of attainment grouping.

Reiss, M. J. (2017). The curriculum arguments of Michael Young and John White. Routledge.

Jain, M. (2013) McEducation for All : Whose agenda does Global Education really serve? Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices. 7(1) 84-90

Norbert-Hodge (2016) Learning for life. Chapter 4 In Skinner, Amy, Baillie Smith, Matt, Brown, Eleanor and Troll, Tobias (eds.) Education, learning, and the transformation of development. Routledge

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.