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Oshie Nishimura-Sahi: Educational policy transfer is not simply ‘borrowing’ reform ideas but co-producing knowledge and practices

Tampereen yliopisto
SijaintiKalevantie 4, Tampere
Keskustakampus, Päätalo, auditorio D10b ja etäyhteys
Ajankohta15.6.2024 9.00–13.00
PääsymaksuMaksuton tapahtuma
Puolikuva väitöskirjatutkija Oshie Nishimura-Sahista Päätalon edessä
Kuva: Tanja Skitovich
If education policies and practices cannot easily transplant from one country to another, what is the significance of policy transfer research, and more broadly, comparative education? In her doctoral dissertation, MEd Oshie Nishimura-Sahi delves into this question, challenging the normative-oriented policy transfer research. Nishimura-Sahi introduces novel perspectives, advocating for a reimagining of educational transfer as a collaborative process of co-producing knowledge and practices.

The Japanese education system has been acknowledged as a successful model of education for having achieved top-level results in OECD’s PISA in the last decades. But when it comes to its system of foreign language education, the country carries a poor reputation both at home and abroad. 

“In the very initial phase of my doctoral research, I was interested in analysing the policy problems with the Japanese system of foreign language education”, Oshie Nishimura-Sahi says.

To that end, Nishimura-Sahi focused on the current reform of foreign language education in Japan, particularly the adaptation of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR is one of the widely used Council of Europe (COE) policy instruments, exerting significant influence over language learning, teaching, and assessment in Europe and beyond. In the initial phase, Nishimura-Sahi was eager to identify the challenges inherent in the process of policy transfer and propose a better way to adapt the successful European model to the Japanese context.

Capturing the relational, networked, and co-constitutive nature of the ‘global’

However, as proceeding with her qualitative data analysis, Nishimura-Sahi shifted away from her normative-oriented approach. It became evident that policy transfer, particularly in this Japanese case, was not merely about borrowing. Instead, it involved the co-production of new educational policies, reform ideas, and practices through mutual learning. The findings indicated that the COE benefited from the Japan’s CEFR borrowing to develop the contents of the CEFR. 

“I also realised that the initial research design assumed the universality of the European framework and thus advocated for its proper adoption in the Japanese context. This mindset is problematic in the sense that its inherent exclusivity disregards alternative ways of being and knowing”, Nishimura-Sahi notes.

Consequently, Nishimura-Sahi redesigned her research to challenge the perception of policy transfer as a linear and hierarchical flow of knowledge between local ‘borrowers’ (the developing, disconnected, and premodern) and global ‘lenders’ (the advanced, hyperconnected, and modern). To that end, she analysed the trajectory of a global policy enacted in Japan, which then, in a circular movement, ‘goes global again’ shaping the original European policy. She empirically demonstrated how a global policy is translated in and through mundane practices and material artifacts. Based on the findings, Nishimura-Sahi argues that global is not a clean, futuristic, and transnationally hyperconnected space, but rather, it is a continuum of lived-in (local) places filled with messy practices and ordinary materials.

“My dissertation contributes to challenging the colonial understanding that innovative and advanced educational reform ideas and practices are developed in the West and spread to the periphery. But rather, these are co-produced by the myriad of various actors in different locations. Studying policy transfer as a process of co-producing educational knowledge, policies and practices enables to open up an avenue to a place where many different worlds can coexist on a non-imperial and non-hierarchical horizon”, Nishimura-Sahi recounts.

Public defence on Saturday 15 June

The doctoral dissertation of MEd Oshie Nishimura-Sahi in the field of comparative and international education titled Reimagining global education policy research: The case of the European language framework (CEFR) transfer to Japan will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University at 12 o’clock on Saturday 15 June 2024. The venue is the main building, Päätalo, auditorium D10b (Kalevantie 4, Tampere). The Opponent will be Professor Jeremy Rappleye from the University of Hong Kong. The Custos will be Professor Nelli Piattoeva from Tampere University.

The doctoral dissertation is available online

The public defence can be followed via remote connection