In the field of comparative and international education a major line of research developed from the 1970s that, in its comparative analyses, focuses on explanatory accounts of educational phenomena beyond the local / national level. Broadly described as world-systems approaches to comparative education, this research has been dominated by empirical and theoretical work describing a universal or 'world culture' of education, recently articulated by Jones (2007) as the"global architecture of education", whereby educational structures and ideas are diffused, adopted, transferred to nation-states across a single world-system. Baker and LeTendre (2005) stress that the concept of a world culture is inherently and unavoidably dynamic, bound up in the concept of schooling as a global institution across multiple contexts, such that while local, regional and national factors will almost inevitably shape its manifestation,"the basic image of a school - what it is and what it should do - is commonly defined in the same way globally"(p. 9). In world cultural accounts of the spread of mass education, evident currently in the Education For All (EFA) agenda linked to the Millennium Development Goals, we frequently find economic factors directly and indirectly incorporated into explanations for the expansion of mass education, typically linked to the global conception that investment in education would contribute to national economic development. In this context, I consider the work of Immanuel Wallerstein and its application in the broad field of comparative education, as a framework for understanding and explaining universal educational phenomena like classroom discipline. This work draws particularly on Wallerstein's argument that the capitalist world-system is in transition toward an uncertain, but potentially more equal, just and democratic alternative; and his work on the historical structures of knowledge and their role in supporting existing or potential alternative world-systems. I conclude by exploring two key questions that result from the use of such a framework: 1) Whether and to what extent national and local approaches to pedagogical practices, like classroom discipline, can contribute to any move to an alternative world-system with a more equal and just distribution of social and economic goods globally?; and 2) Whether and how classroom discipline can overcome the almost inevitable tension of operating to construct and/or reinforce conceptions of"others", which becomes just another way of justifying the inequitable but purportedly meritocratic distribution of outcomes and credentials under our current world-system?
AARE 2009 International Education Research Conference: Inspiring Innovative Research in Education (AARE 2009). Proceedings of the AARE 2009 International Education Research Conference: Inspiring Innovative Research in Education (Canberra 29 November - 3 December, 2003)