Comparative education research framed by neo-institutional theory: A review of diverse approaches and conflicting assumptions

Alexander W. Wiseman, M. Fernanda Astiz, David P. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

27 Scopus citations


The rise in globalisation studies in comparative education places neo-institutional theory at the centre of many debates among comparative education researchers. However, uncertainty about how to interpret neo-institutional theory still persists among educational comparativists. With this uncertainty comes misinterpretation of its principles, variations and explanatory power. Two problematic misconceptions prevail: (1) the belief that the ‘world culture’ strand is the only version of neo-institutional theory applicable to comparative education research; and (2) the assumption that the global homogenisation of society, culture and schooling is a goal of researchers applying neo-institutional theory to comparative education phenomena. This article addresses these misconceptions, elucidating neo-institutional theory and its applicability to comparative education research. Our findings suggest that neo-institutional frameworks for comparative education research are useful, but that complementary approaches and methods are also necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-709
Number of pages22
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

Cite this