1. The Beginnings of ISCAE
for a .pdf of the following text
2. The Founder: Alexander Charters, Syracuse, USA
3. The meaning of "international comparative"
4. A difficult chapter: International research and volunteering in an international society
ISCAE can best be described as a network of about 200 persons
in 35 countries. Members meet at international
conferences where they anyway participate. A Statute did not exist before 2013,
there is no accounting or membership fees. And depending of the vocational
workload of the volunteers it gets sometimes for a while quiet
Nevertheless: those who know the international scene
of our subject and field will find many well-known names on the
membership-list of ISCAE. The insiders will recognize many names
from research works, publications, and conferences. Many colleagues
who are working in the field of international and comparative
adult education have been added for various reasons and occasions
to the mailing list of ISCAE, thus becoming a "member".
Perhaps this mailing list is, beside the direct meetings, the
most important treasure of ISCAE: It allows immediate access to
persons, institutions, and information in many countries. Information
about adult education in Alaska? No problem, send a fax to Gretchen
Bersch, University of Alaska. A short visit to Ljubljana, Slovenia?
Just call: Ana Krajnc or Zoran Jelenc will be glad to present
their work. One of my students was recovering from examination
stress in Australia. I gave her the address of Roger Morris: "Yesterday
he invited me to attend his class" she tells me on a postcard.
So the terms "network", "worldwide person-to-person
contacts", and "international research exchange"
may best characterize the work of ISCAE. And the term "beginnings",
because we can find in the development and status of ISCAE steps
and processes that are typical for the origin of a society.
Similar to other adult education initiatives the
name of one person symbolizes the beginning: Alexander N. Charters,
professor and vice-president for continuing education, now Professor
Emeritus at Syracuse University, New York, gave birth to the idea
of this society and developed it over more than three decades.
Later we will refer more to this founder of ISCAE. Here, first,
are some activities which shall be reported of the development
of this society.
1960: at the first world conference of the World
Council for Comparative Education in Ottawa, Alexander N. Charters
and Roby Kidd, a reputable Canadian scholar of adult education
organized a working group and presented papers about international
and comparative adult education.
1966: the legendary Exeter-conference took place
in New Hampshire; the "Exeter-papers" were published
by the Syracuse University Publications in Continuing Education
(SUPCE), and are still today an important historical document.
1970: Alexander Charters organized a series of meetings
about comparative Adult Education at the World Council of Comparative
and International Education in Montreal. He published the papers
together with Beverly Cassara, University of the District of Columbia.
1992: Colin Titmus, Great Britain, expert in international
and comparative adult education and author of leading publications
in this field, chaired a working group of members of this society
at the VIII World Council of Comparative Education Societies in
Until this year the society had been using the name
"Committee for Study and Research in Comparative Adult Education
(CSRCAE)". Alexander Charters, then more than 70 years old,
urged the members to convey the responsibility for the society
to younger scholars. At the 1992 annual conference of the American
Association of Adult and Continuing Education in Anaheim/Los Angeles
Jost Reischmann, University of Bamberg, Germany was elected for president and Marcie Boucouvalas, University of Virginia, USA for secretary . On
the same occasion the society was renamed as the "International
Society for Comparative Adult Education (ISCAE)".
The first conference initiated and organized by ISCAE took place in 1995 in Bamberg, Germany
(M. Charters 1996). Altogether 31 members from 14 countries attended
the conference. The central focus of this conference was the discussion
of methods, problems and pitfalls of international comparative
research. The second conference was held 1998 in Radovljica, Slovenia;
it was attended by 35 members from 16 countries. The third conference took place 2002 in St. Louis, USA, and the forth in 2006 in Bamberg, Germany. And 2012 the fifth conference convened in Las Vegas, USA. The intention is to plan conferences every three to four years, in different countries and continents.
There are different types of papers
that should be presented to this conference: Scholarship, as we
know, is an incremental process. Articles which appear in journals
or books are the end product of a long process. At conferences,
the papers delivered are usually ones which focus on findings
once research is already completed or nearing completion. This
type of presentation, in which research is fairly complete, is
welcome to the ISCAE-conferences. In order to expand the scope,
in addition to completed research also research in progress is
welcome, as well as research-ideas that provide feedback and critique,
and scholarly think-pieces to stimulate dialogue. But presentations
have to be "internationally comparative", meaning that
two or more countries are included in the research.
The first ISCAE-handbook, bringing together papers from the ISCAE conferences in Bamberg, Germany 1995, and Radovljica, Slovenia 1998, was published in 1999.
The second ISCAE-handbook, bringing together papers from the ISCAE conferences in St. Louis, USA 2002, and Bamberg, Germany 2006, was published in 2008.
This short description
reveals quite typical elements of the emergence of an organization.
At the beginning we find the interests of individuals. Conferences
and other meetings then prove to be - in the beginning often more
or less by chance - a concentration place for sharing such individual
interests, leading to contacts and the awareness of common interests.
Then it is important that the engaged persons focus on and become
identified with these topics: as a person (" ... is present
at all related meetings"), by his/her topics (" ...
always presents within the same topic field"), and in offering
an organized form (i.e. a journal, a yearbook, or by founding
"Alexander Charters has been in the forefront
of international adult education for many years": this is
the estimate of the editor of the reputable "International
Perspectives on Adult and Continuing Education"-series of
Routledge-Publisher, Peter Jarvis (1989). "Alex N. Charters'
contribution to the field of adult education amply deserve to
become part of its global history", Siddiqui summarized and
evaluated at the International Conference on the History of Adult
Education 1996 in Jena/Germany (in: Friedenthal-Haase 1998).
Alexander Charters started
his practical work in the 1930s, following a family tradition.
His aunt Jessie was the first female in the West of the USA to
receive a Ph.D., and offered the first graduate program in Adult
Education at Ohio State University. Charters' significant work
in international comparative adult education was developed at
Syracuse University, New York. Beginning as assistant-Dean of
University College in 1948, he rose through the ranks to become
Dean in 1952 and vice president for continuing education in 1964
- the first Vice President for Adult Education in an American
university. He retired in 1983, but has remained active in University
life and the field of adult and continuing education. He served
in substantial positions at this university, participated actively
at all important seminars, meetings, and conferences; he knows,
and is known by, all key-persons in the field, has supplied grants
for more than a million dollars to his university, and traveled
to more than 40 countries to exchange his expertise in adult education.
He also deals perfectly with all the acronyms which are even to
the experts not always understandable: NUEA (National University
of the Education of Adults), CAEO (Coalition of Adult Education
Organizations), ICUAE (International Congress of University Adult
Education) or CREA (Clearinghouse of Resources for Educators of
During his tenure at Syracuse University, Alex Charters
helped to establish what is today one of the largest compilations
of English-language materials in the field of adult and continuing
education. The collections occupy 900 feet of shelf space and
contain more than fifty groups of personal papers and organization
records, print- and non-print material (audio- and video-tapes,
hundreds of photos) that document the history and development
of adult education: for example, records from the Adult Education
Association from 1924 on, Malcolm Knowles' Papers from 1930 on,
and even ISCAE-files are collected there. To honor the efforts
of Alexander Charters and his wife Margaret, the collections were
renamed in October 1998 as the Alexander N. Charters Library of
Resources for Educators of Adults.
Alexander Charters passed away August 2018, just a couple of weeks short of his 102nd birthday.
If one asks for the characteristics of such a founder-personality,
what always comes to mind are his humility, hospitality, and his
open approach to more and less important persons. I can imagine
his amused-doubting smile when reading these lines: "Had
you nothing more important to write about?" These characteristics
open doors, especially in the international context. And this
may be one of the most rewarding aspects of working internationally:
that most people in this field are easy to deal with, and enriching
by their fantasy.
There exist many international organizations in adult
education (field of practice) and andragogy (scientific approach),
and national associations also have task forces or divisions to
deal with international topics. For example, the American Association
for Adult and Continuing Education has an "International
Task Force". What are the specifics of ISCAE?
The title of the society
describes the specifics with which ISCAE wants to deal: with International
Comparative Adult Education. But this does not finally clarify
the specifics, because "international comparative" is
a denomination that can be interpreted either broadly or narrowly.
Knowledge about the education of adults in other
countries can be gained from various sources:
A first source, mostly evaluated as "pre-scientific",
comprises "travelers tales", the reports we get from
international travelers. Such reports are mainly delivered by
traveling writers or vacationists, but also by scholars who attend
a conference abroad and have to report to their funding agency
- and publish this report at the same time in a journal. If these
descriptions are more systematic, they are labeled "travelers
reports", or - if they are less systematic, "travelers
These types of international documents are mostly
characterized as "subjective-impressionistic". Their
value is evaluated as ambivalent: Critically it is argued that,
because of the random observation and the subjective description,
it is not clear how reliable and how representative the descriptions
are. On the other hand the plea is made that especially in this
subjective focus of eye-witnesses there might be strength from
these type of reports. In the framework of a new appreciation
of qualitative research these reports may get a new interest.
At the scientific level, five different types of
international-comparative research are identified:
- During the 1970s and 1980s mainly country-reports
were presented. "Adult Education in the Republic of ..."
is a typical title of this type of report. These papers tried
to describe the system of adult and continuing education in one
particular country. They could be written by an author of this
country or by a person from outside. Some of these reports were,
and are, rather impressionistic. Others followed a well developed
outline and structure.
During and after the 1980s we find an increasing
number of program-reports. These describe foreign adult
education programs, institutions, and organizations. Examples
of this type can be found in the publications of Charters/Hilton
(1989) or the case studies collected by Knox (1989 - see the description
in Reischmann/Bron/Jelenc 1999). Included in this type (sometimes
presented in a separate category) are the topic-oriented studies
or the problem approach: a certain topic or problem
is discussed in the context of a nation.
Country reports as well as topic-oriented studies
and the problem approach focus more on "international",
less on "comparative". Because only one country or program
is presented, no comparable object is available. Especially when
an author presents his own country or program it is difficult
to refer to another national system. If, for example, a German
author describes a German program for a publication in English:
should parallels be drawn to the English, Scottish, US-American,
Canadian or Australian systems? If country-reports or program-reports
are collected in a reader or textbook, the readers have to draw
the comparative conclusions themselves.
- A third type is juxtaposition. Data from
two or more countries are presented. These reports show: In country
A we can observe a, in country B we find b. A series of statistical
reports represent this type. But no explicit comparison - where
are the similarities, what are the differences? - is given. An
example of this type in Germany is the international volume of
the Handbuch der Erwachsenenbildung (Handbook of Adult Education
1978), edited by Franz Pöggeler, or Peter Jarvis' "Perspectives
on Adult Education and Training in Europe" (1992). This juxtaposition
can also be topic- or problem-oriented when a topic is presented
in a series of contributions from various countries: In Pöggeler's
"The State and Adult Education" (1990) a series of articles
deal with the role of the state in individual countries.
- The comparison goes one step further: It
reports from two or more countries, and an explicit comparison
is offered which attempts to make the similarities and differences
understandable. ISCAE uses here mostly the definition of its founding
father: "A study in comparative international adult education
... must include one or more aspects of adult education in two
or more countries or regions. Comparative study is not the mere
placing side by side of data ... such juxtaposition is only the
prerequisite for comparison. At the next stage one attempts to
identify the similarities and differences between the aspects
under study ... The real value of comparative study emerges only
from ... the attempt to understand why the differences and similarities
occur and what their significance is for adult education in the
countries under examination ..." (Charters/Hilton 1989, p.
3). This for example can be found in the final chapter of Charters/Hilton
- Finally field- and method-reflections are
seen as part of international comparative adult education: reflections
about the methods, strategies, and concepts of international comparison,
and summarizing reports about developments in the international
comparative field on a material or meta level.
ISCAE tries to promote a narrow focus of its specific
task: The focus of ISCAE is type 4 and 5 (comparison and field-/method-reflections).
ISCAE tries to develop, support, and share standards of the methodology
of international comparison that might help researchers towards
a better understanding of comparison and more sound, reliable,
and economic ways of comparing internationally. That means that
ISCAE especially invites those researchers that are interested
in doing comparative work: researching one or more aspects of
adult education in two or more countries.
There are many other national and international organizations
where reports of interesting travels, "Adult Education in
the Republic of X" or "The Interesting Program or Idea
Y in Country Z", can be presented - this should not be a
topic at ISCAE-meetings. But the "should" and "tries"
indicates that the reality sometimes is different. The problem,
how to define and interpret the term "international comparative"
showed up at both ISCAE-conferences. Although the above definition
of comparison was cited in the "Call for Papers", country-
and program reports were presented as well. Should we reject the
papers of colleagues who traveled half way around the world and
needed an accepted paper to get funding for attending the conference?
That is also something which can be learned in the international
field: to avoid seeing things too narrowly.
4. A difficult chapter:
research and volunteering in an international society
It certainly is challenging to get a wider view of
our world through an international orientation. But there are
many handicaps that make this work difficult. Just to name three
A first handicap is language: international communication
takes place in English. For the majority of the world this is
a foreign language. Communicating, even more, publishing in this
foreign language takes many times more effort than doing research
in the native context: In discussions the native English speakers
are always faster; in publishing the secretaries are often not
trained to write English. For publication always a native speaker
has to be found for proofreading. Institutions, laws, political
or cultural background are often so different that it is very
difficult to find an appropriate translation. The English literature
often is not available, and it makes no sense to refer to the
knowledge and experience of non-English research literature, because
it does not exist for the international readership. That means
that people from non-English countries lose their whole theory,
methodology, and content research background when working in the
Another handicap is the reliable attendance at central
international meetings. Person-to-person-contacts are absolutely
necessary in this field. To enter this field and to stay in its
network is nearly impossible without traveling and being visible.
This means a high investment of time, energy and money. And this
investment has to be made also in times when no comparative project
is carried out and no extra project money is available. This makes
it difficult especially for young scholars to come into the field
of international comparative adult education or to stay in it
when a comparative project is finished.
Of course international comparative projects have
much higher costs and a lot more problems than research done in
one country (see the vivid description in the contribution of
Blais in the ISCAE-textbook edited by Reischmann/Bron/Jelnc 1999). A foreign partner has to be found and has
to be convinced to join a project. Many details have to be clarified
before and during the research process and at the end for the
publication, needing continuing exchange. In most cases one partner
has an extra load of translation, when the other partner does
not speak his language. It is difficult to find foundations that
are willing to support international projects. National foundations
are often not interested in paying the costs of the foreign partner.
Even when one researcher is able to travel to two or more countries
and thus avoids the handicap of co-authorship comparative research
means a high money-, time-, and effort-investment. Regarding the
outcome of these investments for the career of a scholar, it is
often more beneficial to work at the national level. Funding and
supporting agencies should do more not only to assist international
comparative research projects but also to encourage the possibility
of bringing young scholars into this field. Also, ways should
be found to support volunteering in international societies.
International-comparative adult education is basically
justified on the grounds of two central arguments (for a more
differentiated portrayal see Knoll in Reischmann/Bron/Jelenc 1999): On a practical
level "borrowing" is expected - that we learn from foreign
experiences to adapt successful experiences for our own practical
work and to avoid mistakes. On a theoretical level it is expected
that the international-comparative perspective helps to overcome
ethnocentric blindness - that we learn, irritated by observations
in a foreign context, to better perceive and understand our own
field and system.
Certainly cultural differences
limit the transfer from one country to another. Comparative research
- by helping to understand the differences/similarities and their
significance for adult education - clarifies the possibilities
and limits of understanding and borrowing. Both are indispensable
in a world where in many countries experiences in the various
fields of adult education are gained and needed.
The technical development in very few years has definitely
made international communication much easier: Fax, and even more,
E-mail have speeded up this exchange significantly. While for
the 1995 ISCAE-conference E-mail could be used in perhaps 10 percent
of the exchanges this increased to more than 80 percent at the
1998 conference. The ISCAE-report of these two conferences (Reischman/Bron/Jelenc 1999) with editors in three countries and more than twenty autors could only be prepared in the given time with the help of E-mail. But technology
is only one part of international exchange. ISCAE offers a person
at the other end of the telephone- or E-mail-line. And it offers
a chance not only to maintain virtual contact but also to have
face-to-face-contact. ISCAE wants to serve international comparison
- by supplying a network of contacts to other comparatists,
- by fostering exchange through conferences, and
- by documenting and sharing the developments and
standards in publications.
Persons interested in international comparative adult
education are invited to join ISCAE.
Charters, Alexander N., Ronald J. Hilton (ed.) (1989): Landmarks in International Adult Education. A Comparative Analysis. Routledge, London.
Charters, Margaret A. (1996): International Expert Seminar: Methods of Comparative Andragogy. In: ISCAE-Communication. No. 16, pp. 2-4, Bamberg.
Friedenthal-Haase, Martha (ed.) (1998): Personality and Biography of Adult Education. Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on the History of Adult Education. Lang, Frankfurt.
Jarvis, Peter (1989): Editor's Note. In: Alexander
N. Charters and Ronald Hilton (ed.) (1989): Landmarks in International
Adult Education. Routledge, London.
Jarvis, Peter (ed.) (1992): Perspectives on Adult
Education and Training in Europe. Krieger, Malabar, Fl.
Knoll, Joachim (1991): Zum gegenwärtigen Stand
der vergleichenden Erwachsenenbildungsforschung. In: Friedenthal-Haase,
Martha, Jost Reischmann, Hans Tietgens, Norbert Vogel, Norbert:
Erwachsenenbildung im Kontext, pp. 60-74. Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn.
Knox, Alan B. (ed.) (1989): World Perspective Case
Descriptions on Educational Programs for Adults. ERIC Document
Reproduction Service, Alexandria, VA.
Pöggeler, Franz (ed.) (1990): The State and
Adult Education. Lang, Frankfurt.
Reischmann, Jost (1988): Adult Education in West
Germany in Case Studies. Lang, Frankfurt, New York.
Reischmann, Jost/ Bron Michal jr/ Jelenc, Zoran (ed.) (1999): Comparative Adult Education 1998. The Contribution of ISCAE to an Emerging Field of Study. Slovenian Institute for Adult Edcation, Ljubljana Slovenia. Download
Reischmann, Jost & Bron, Michal Jr (2008) (Eds.): Comparative Adult Education 2008: Experiences and Examples. A Publication of the Inter-national Society for Comparative Adult Education ISCAE. Frankfurt, New York: Peter Lang Publishers. 282 pages; ISBN 978-3-631-58235-0. Download Intro Order book
Siddiqui, Dilnawaz A. (1996): Contributions of Alexander N. Charters to the Field of Adult Education. Paper presented at
the VI International Conference on the History of Adult Education: Personality and Biography. Friedrich-Schiller-Univerität. Jena.
Reischmann, Jost: ISCAE - International Society for Comparative Adult Education. At: http://www.ISCAE.org. Version September, 2009.