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Oxford Centre for

Comparative and International Education


Re-Examining the Meaning of Education in an Uncertain World

Department of Education and St. Antony's College, University of Oxford
Supported by the Aga Khan Foundation 


The Centre for Comparative and International Education, in the Department of Education, at the University of Oxford has partnered with the Aga Khan Foundation and launched a new programme of research that seeks to examine two pressing concerns:


First, that the rise globally of political and economic uncertainties has invited conflicting expectations of the role of education, and second that the world crisis in education has produced uncertainty about the meaning of learning and conflicting perspectives about where we learn, what we learn, when we learn, and how we learn.


We believe that now, more than ever, there is a critical need to reconsider the debates about the role of education and the meaning of learning in an uncertain world. We must think again about the shape of the institutional frameworks in which education is given and interrogate more robustly the discourse that seeks to define education – as being of good quality or not, inclusive or not, effective or not.


And that it is right to explore the tensions between the efforts that value the development of open-mindedness, of intercultural understanding and of comfort with diversity, and those that look towards education to retract in favour of singularity, of certainty and of definitive standards, at a time when the debate on this is at its most heightened.

The research programmeintends to inspire new conversations, scholarly papers, and empirical studies about the role of education and the nature and meaning of learning in a world in flux.


Our aim is to build a new interdisciplinary intellectual framework that guides debate about the nature of education in an unpredictable world.

We think it important to study the concept of uncertainty – and its form politically, economically and socially. By its nature, uncertainty has no boundaries. Political, economic and social uncertainties are enmeshed with uncertainties about our relationship with our environment, our relationship with technologies and scientific discovery, and our interpersonal relationships.


These uncertainties have called into question the broader role and mission of education and have placed new demands on educationalists in respect of what is taught and how it is taught; and on learners in respect of the value of what is learned, and why.


The conceptual framework seeks to tease out the complex relationships between uncertainty and education, in its mission and reach.

  • Seminar Series – The programme offers a dedicated seminar series in St Antony’s College that runs for 8 consecutive weeks in Hilary Term (January to March) each year. 

  • The Oxford Symposium in Comparative and International Education (OXSCIE – The programme hosts an annual symposium that asks the big questions in international education. 150 delegates are invited by the OXSCIE global leadership team each year to discuss the expectations we have about education in times of uncertainty.​

  • Empirical Research – The programme undertakes a number of empirical studies into learning in different ways and in different settings to better inform and influence comparative and international education policy, research and practice. The programme seeks to launch a longitudinal research agenda that seeks to investigate what children should learn, through a generational perspective, in order to navigate multiple pathways of uncertainty ahead. 

We are committed to a research programme that tests the 'certainties' of our responses to unpredictability and the world crisis in education. Ours is a programme that seeks to replace jargon with rigorous debate and by so doing to offer a more thoughtful approach to engaging with the important mission of education in these difficult times.

Global Symposium
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