The History of Education Society seeks to further the study of the history of education by providing opportunities for discussion among those engaged in its study and teaching.

In this blog you'll find the latest news on research, events and literature in the history of education.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

‘My First Coup': autobiographies of childhood

By C E Hastings

"My auntie and the headmistress tried as best they could, with smiles and toffee, to shield me from their rising anxiety, but I could feel it bouncing off the quick sideways glances they shot each other and taking flight like some dark, winged creature on the breath of their long, exhausted exhales. It was rumoured that people had been executed. I knew the headmistress and my auntie were worried my father might have been among them. I was worried too…"

 John Dramani Mahama’s autobiography, My first coup d’etat: Memoirs from the lost decades of Africa is not the typical political autobiography. Thankfully.

The first chapter is the title story and presents him as a small boy of 7, how he hears of Nkrumah’s ousting, and the personal consequences. As the school holidays start, he is the last pupil left, waiting for his father to come.
He doesn’t come, and he and a school matron travel to the city centre to find his home surrounded by troops and his father jailed by the coup leaders. He writes that the ‘course of my future’ was changed by an ‘unspeakable period of violence’ that followed.
This opening does not reflect the almost idyllic childhood Mahama recounts in the remaining chapters. The reason for this opening can be related to his introduction.  Here, he suggests that he views his book as a paedagogic project, a way to educate his readers. He is going to be as specific as possible, because he is tired of people generalising about Africa, creating a ‘monolithic’ viewpoint. In this way, for example, he stresses the difference between growing up in Accra (with his father, and attending the elite boarding school Achimota) and in a small northern village that is difficult to reach and (he suggests) considered by many Ghanaians as foreign. He is keen to establish that there is purpose in writing: this is not an ego project, but an important way to generate understanding, believing that survival despite difficult political and economic situations ‘must be somewhere in our stories, in the seeming minutiae of the day-in and day-out’. There are clear echoes here of the Christian biographical narrative, the focus on what can be learned, improved upon over a lifetime: the belief that there is meaning in everyday experience. For Mahama the adult, as much as Mahama the small boy faced with intimidating soldiers and a father who disappeared (to prison) for a year, the coup has educative potential.
It is this focus on minutiae, the small parts of life, which is of great interest to me in his descriptions of history, and of school as I develop a project looking at West African autobiographies. I am particularly interested in childhood memories of school, given the focus in so many sources and studies on the experiences of teachers, parents and policy makers. Mahama’s account of facing a playground bully, in contrast to these top-down texts, presents the school as a community in which teachers know little of their charges’ life. Mahama (briefly) attended Achimota, a school that stressed cooperation, yet the author describes a systematic theft of food by a bullying pupil that went unnoticed by teachers. This may seem insignificant, but shouldn’t: a key way in which African pupils showed their opposition to school authorities was the so-called ‘food strike’. Protest could grow from young people’s concerns over what was available on the meal table.
Achimota Badge: The keyboard image symbolises cooperation
In the reverse of this process, large, globally significant events become small parts of everyday lives through the prism of the school. Politics (in the shape of the coup) is discussed in school.   Even if for the smallest boys it is in confusing, new terms, that are not fully understood, that seem to offer exciting possibilities.
The autobiography also provides insight into the ways in which families strategically managed educational opportunity. In his description of a family divided between different schools, it becomes clear just how some parents attempted to systematically improve the odds of their children’s success (separating them across different institutions). This is even though Mahama recalls his father’s attitude to schooling:
"He saw it as one of the few risk-free endeavours in life. There was nothing to be lost from it and everything to be gained."
Children’s views of the school concerned, not to mention separation from siblings and home do not seem to have mattered from Mahama’s account. The author makes clear that the ‘tradition’ and prestige of Achimota did not prevent him from hating the experience. Again, it is suggested here that we have the child’s eye view of school.  This contrasts to the fuzzy, often minimally defined, claims to ‘reputation’ which dominate many accounts of African schools I have read in the archives. Despite this apparent disempowerment, Mahama’s account also includes key moments in which school enabled him to shine in front of his father. Even before he is selected for Achimota, his father is called in to meet with his first teacher, who has spotted his potential.
She tells his father that Mahama: ‘has the potential to make you really proud’. He goes on to win prizes at Achimota, recalling of this experience that
"even considering all the accolades I have been blessed to receive thus far in my life, nothing can ever top those few precious moments of hearing my name called, of climbing up on that stage and having all the parents clap for me."
Education here is a publicly rewarded activity, but also one seen as all the more rewarding in retrospect. I connect this retrospective focus on the benefits of education to Mahama’s introduction, his goals for expanding his readers’ knowledge and understanding. For me, Mahama’s autobiography sparks important questions. How valuable are memories of school, if they are recalled to argue for the value of education?  How do we interpret the discordant notes (his hatred of much of life at Achimota) in the light of this focus?
 John Dramani Mahama, My first coup d’etat Memoirs from the lost decades of Africa (Bloomsbury, 2012)
With thanks to Liverpool City Library, where I loaned my copy.

* This post is cross-posted from Africa in Words, a blog that focuses on cultural production and Africa. We cover books, art, film, history, music, theatre, ideas and people and the ways they interact, through their publication and circulation, with societies, economies and space. Our name is intended to recognise that there are as many Africas and ways of talking about it as there are words to do it with. It reflects our shared understanding of the diverse networks across the continent that generate thought and action, that provoke people to produce, to curate, and to write, and that cross political, generic, and disciplinary limits. Ours is a collective space made up of regular authors and guest contributors, edited by Kate Haines, Charlotte Hastings, Nara Improta, Rebecca Jones, Katie Reid and Stephanie Santana. The post forms part of an ongoing project looking at a autobiographical work and the study of childhood in West Africa. The goal of cross-posting is to reach an audience who might not have found the original site of the post, despite an interest in childhood, memory, colonial schooling and/or Africa. *

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Peter Gosden Fellowship


In 2015, the History of Education Society will fund the second annual Peter Gosden Fellowship. The purpose of this Fellowship will be to build upon the achievements associated with the first Fellowship, in terms of establishing a higher public profile for the History of Education Society, its associated publications and conferences, and other activities concerned with the study and teaching of the history of education both in the UK and abroad. In particular, the Fellow will be tasked with maintaining a social media presence utilising a weblog (on the Society's website), Twitter and Facebook. This online activity will continue to develop an interactive web-presence in the period leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Society.

The Fellowship will start on 1st February 2015 and finish on 31st January 2016.

The Fellow will be mentored by the Society's publicity/website officer Dr Rob Freathy (University of Exeter).


  • The Fellow will be responsible for the following:
  • Ensuring that a weblog is posted on the Society’s website at least once a month;
  • Ensuring that regular Tweets are posted as and when necessary/appropriate/requested by the Society’s publicity/website officer;
  • Ensuring that regular entries are added to the Facebook page as and when necessary/appropriate/requested by the Society’s publicity/website officer;
  • Liaising on a regular basis with the Society’s postgraduate represent to maximise efficiency and effectiveness when publicising news and events pertaining to postgraduate students;
  • Liaising with the organisers of the annual conferences (student and main conferences) to ensure appropriate and timely publicity over calls for papers, Tweeting of conference content, blogging of conference reports, book prizes, and similar;
  • Consulting with the Society’s publicity/website officer on a regular basis, to be mutually agreed, with regard to the frequency, content and style of the ‘posts’, Tweets and Facebook entries; and
  • Attending History of Education Society Executive Committee meetings (when necessary).

Note: So long as the authorship of all ‘posts’, Tweets and Facebook entries is appropriately acknowledged, so as to avoid any contravention of copyright law, it will be permissible for the Fellow to simply co-ordinate the social media activity rather than write all of the content his or herself.


The Fellow will receive:

  • £1,000 as an honorarium
  • a year’s membership of the Society
  • free attendance at the Society's annual conferences (i.e. the student and main conferences).


  • The honorarium will be paid in four instalments (each of £250).
  • The year’s membership of the Society will entail receipt of free copies of History of Education Researcher and History of Education. (The second is additional to standard membership.)
  • Payment for attendance at the Society's conferences will include the conference fee (including conference meals if these are additional costs), accommodation costs (to be agreed in advance) and standard class travel expenses.

Application information

Applications are welcome from anyone interested in furthering the missions and aims of the History of Education Society. These include the promotion of the study and teaching of the history of education; promoting the public profile and an informed public understanding of the history of education by engaging in relevant debates; providing collaboration and exchange among those interested in the history of education in the UK and around the world; and promoting links with the study and teaching of history at all levels. Previous recipients of a Peter Gosden Fellowship are welcome to re-apply.

Applicants should ideally be undertaking or have completed a postgraduate degree in the history of education or a cognate field of enquiry. Personal or professional experience of utilising social media, such as weblogs, Twitter and/or Facebook, would be desirable. Applicants should also be able to name two referees whom we may approach for references.

Location: The Fellow can be based in any locality, but must have ready access to the relevant Information Technology and to a reliable internet connection.

Application closing date: 31st December 2014.

Short-listed applicants will be interviewed via Skype on a date and time to be arranged. Unsuccessful applicants will not be contacted.

Interested applicants should contact the President of the History of Education Society, Dr Cathy Burke, on

Monday, 24 November 2014

Review of History of Education Society Conference 2014: ‘Transnationalism, Gender & Teaching: Perspectives from the History of Education’

By Charlotte Rochez - @cdrochez 

The 2014 History of Education Conference was held at Bewley’s hotel, Dublin. The hotel was an ideal location for a conference for the society given its interesting history, and many delegates enjoyed discussing the building’s history and its original purpose as a Masonic Girls’ boarding School

The conference theme of ‘Transnationalism, Gender and Teaching: Perspectives from the History of Education’ was variously explored in over 60 conference papers responding to the theme. Delegates came from a wide number of places; beyond those from the UK and the Republic of Ireland, delegates came from Australia, Canada, Denmark,  France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and USA. Whilst papers spanned a variety of time periods, there was a predominant focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Within the conference sub-themes emerged including: travel; religion; social class; non-institutional education; literacy, writing, literature, publishing and painting; Empire, imperialism and imperial oppression; methodologies; transnational movements of thought, culture and practices; power; methods of communication; identity and understanding of the self and the other; identity and the relationship between the individual, the community and the nation. Taken collectively the papers and the discussions left me reflecting on the intersectionality of transnationalism and gender in educational experiences, particularly the individual's understanding of themselves and others. The conference suggested to me that whilst transnational experiences have been and often continue to be gendered, the reflections - on culture, politics and self - envoked by transnational experiences have at times challenged traditional gender roles and behaviours.  

The three keynotes took up the conference theme in various ways: Professor Joyce Goodman MBE on 'Becoming Visible: Gender in Transnational Space and Time - Kasuya Yoshi and Girls' Secondary Education; Professor Elizabeth Smyth on ‘The world wide web of teaching sisters: building networks beyond classroom walls over space and time’ and Professor Dáire Keogh on ‘Our Boys: the Christian Brothers and the formation of youth in the ‘new Ireland’ 1914-44'.

Professor Joyce Goodman, Professor Elizabeth Smyth and Professor Dáire Keogh

On Friday evening delegates joined Dr Professor J Deeks, President of University College Dublin in celebrating the book launch of Dr Deirdre Raftery and Dr Karin Fischer (Eds.), Educating Ireland: Schooling and Social Change 1700-2000 (2014, Irish Academic Press).

On the Saturday afternoon a well-attended AGM of the History of Education Society reported on the work of society. The AGM featured positive reports on the publications of the society. The society continues to encourage researchers to share their work in the History of Education journal, the History of Education Researcher, in this History of Education Society blog and in A History of Education in 50 Objects webspace. 

A highlight of the weekend was the Saturday evening conference dinner in the grand Thomas Prior Hall, where delegates had a three course meal whilst enjoying live Irish music.

Dr Catherine Burke

Dr Heather Ellis & Dr Maura O'Connor

With thanks to all the delegates, to the energies all the presenters gave to ensuring the high standard of presentations, to Bewley's hotel, Ballsbridge and their helpful staff and to Dr Deirdre Raftery and to her team for their dedicated hard work in organising such a successful and enjoyable conference. 

And With many thanks to our conference host:The School of Education, University College Dublin, Ireland

We are pleased to announce that in 2015 the History of Education Society conference will be hosted by Liverpool Hope University with the theme of 'Science, Technology and Material Culture in History of Education' - 20th-22nd November 2015.  

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Playcentre and DEHANZ

By Suzanne Manning@slmanning1

When my first child was about 10 months old, I met a woman in a nearby park.  She asked me what early childhood services I would be taking my daughter to; at that stage, I had no idea.  So she launched into her spiel about Playcentre, an Aotearoa/New Zealand parent co-operative that offers early childhood and adult education, creating a parent support community along the way.  The next week I went along to my local Playcentre… 

My daughter is now 21 years old.  I was a member of that centre for 10 years, contributing as a session supervisor, adult education officer, collage corner looker-afterer, and vice-president.  I absorbed the training as fast as I could.  I was an active member of the local Association working in the adult education programme, including a stint as librarian, and was made a life member (which now mostly means I’m called on to facilitate tricky meetings).  My Playcentre work was counted as “sufficient educational experience” to accompany my science degree when I wanted entry into the Masters of Education programme.  Further, I was on the national Federation education team for four years, coordinating all the Association education teams.

Playcentre has been a life-changer for me.  When I was raising young children, it opened up a world of parent support and intellectual stimulation, and a scholarly direction I hadn’t known I would enjoy.  The community networks that developed for me are now part of my way of life.  Yet I believe that the Aotearoa/New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) policy landscape is marginalising Playcentre and endangering its survival (I’m in favour of evolution of Playcentre, but not extinction).  No big surprise, then, that my doctoral research is a historical look at ECE policy over the last 25 years and its impact on Playcentre.  History has lessons for policymakers!

Although my research is examining the last 25 years of Playcentre history in detail, I have also been exploring its longer history to put the work in context.  Playcentres started during World War II (WWII) in Wellington middle class suburbs as self-help ventures, in contrast to the already well-established kindergartens that had originally been aimed at children of the poor.  These centres quickly formed a network, combining with other similar groups such as Gwen Somerset’s nursery school at the Feilding Community Centre and Doreen Dolton’s nursery school attached to a secondary school in Christchurch.  When Gwen became the first President of the New Zealand Nursery Play Centre Federation in 1948, she influenced the organisation to develop along progressive education lines - which was familiar territory for many of the well-educated founders.  Gwen championed free play, learning through play and parent education based on child development and the observation of children.

In the post-WWII era, government and society strongly reinforced the traditional nuclear family and the associated gender roles: male income earner, female household manager and child carer.  Playcentre was a mixed bag in this respect as it supported (rather than challenged) women as full time carers of their children, but on the other hand, it gave many women an acceptable outlet for their talents in the many jobs necessary to run a centre and/or a national organisation as a parent co-operative.

Second wave feminism from the late 1960s promoted accessible and affordable childcare as a means for women’s emancipation.  This required government support for childcare services on an equal footing to the half day services such as kindergarten and Playcentre that were seen as being ‘educational’.  The childcare advocate’s message was that care and education for young children were inseparable and that the services should not be treated differently.  In 1989 the Before Five reforms merged the administration and funding of all the ECE services under one umbrella, a big achievement for childcare advocates.  For Playcentre, however, the effects were mixed: more money and recognition, but more administration and striving to fit bureaucratic categories that were designed for teacher-led services and not parent co-operatives.

Since the Before Five reforms, there has been increasing professionalization of the ECE workforce, an ‘educationalisation of play’ (Stover, 2011), and the promotion of ECE as a child’s right.  With the rise of Human Capital Theory where education is integral to producing a productive citizen, ECE has come increasingly under government attention – partly because of its role in freeing women up to participate in the paid labour market but mostly (according to the dominant discourse) because of the educational benefits accrued to the child.  ECE has come to be seen as something that only qualified teachers in formal institutions can do.  Although partnership with parents is seen as important, the discourse firmly points to a care (parent) and education (teacher) divide, even though the rhetoric is still that care and education of young children are inseparable.  Where does this leave Playcentre, a formal education centre with educated parents as the teachers?  It is all these changes, policies and discourses, and their effects on Playcentre, that I am trying to tease out in my research.

As part of exploring the recent history of Playcentre, I have written and co-written entries for the Dictionary of Educational History of Australia and New Zealand (DEHANZ) at  One is an overview of Playcentre’s history, and the other is about the educational philosophy of one of Playcentre’s early influential leaders, Gwen Somerset.  DEHANZ is a new and expanding resource curated by the Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society (ANZHES) which is aimed at researchers and students interested in the history of education from our part of the world.  If anyone is knowledgeable about a particular area of antipodean history and would like to write an entry, contact the editors and make their day.

Stover, S. (2011).  Play’s progress? Locating play in the educationalisation of early childhood education in New Zealand. Unpublished PhD thesis, Auckland University of Technology.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The history of Scottish education: a window to the rural world

by Helen Young

I’m currently undertaking ESRC doctoral research into the history of the small rural schools of Scotland. Focusing on the period 1872-2000, I’m exploring a number of themes (including gender, citizenship and the nature of rurality) with an overarching emphasis on the role that these schools and their teachers played in community life. As well as drawing on archival evidence (both local records and central government files and reports), I’m undertaking oral history interviews to get a sense of lived experience and the material gathered to date is fascinating on so many levels.

For me, then, the history of education is very much a window to the socio-cultural, political and economic changes and continuities of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On one level, researching the intricacies of the education system itself, of policy and practice in relation to administration and governance, curricula, staffing and the like, opens up many lines of debate. Whether it be the professionalisation of teaching, the development of secondary education or the shift from local school boards to county education authorities, there is much to be gleaned from their examination. At the same time, exploring the everyday lives of those involved in education, a mere glimpse of which is given in the sources, is both captivating and historically important.

To give an example of this, I would like to share with you a few short extracts from the School Log Book for Fearnan School in Perthshire, Scotland.[1] Written between 1917 and 1918, these make specific reference to the First World War and the value of their content speaks for itself. The entries were written by the headmistress Miss Lizzie McLaren Roberts.

25th May 1917
The scholars were much grieved today to learn of the death of Hugh Cowan who fell in action on the 3rd May. He was well known having been brought up in the village and until he "joined up" had been a shepherd with his father at Balnearn.

25th October 1918
Attendance reduced owing to various causes. One girl absent owing to parents having gone to Northampton to visit their son who has been seriously wounded ... Sad news reached the village this week - the death through gas-poisoning of another of our brave soldiers at the Front. Duncan Fraser an old pupil of this school was amongst the first to "join-up" and has been in "the thick of it" for a considerable time.

8th November 1918
Again sad tidings! The brother of the brave soldier referred to a fortnight ago has succumbed at the Western Front to pneumonia whilst another who has been in the Transport Service for some time has been killed. Both these lads had seen four years’ service in the army and both deserved the high enconiums passed upon them by the villagers. Both were much beloved and are much mourned. A parcel was sent to one of our wounded soldiers in hospital by the children here. Each child also wrote a letter to him.

15th November 1918
The glad tidings that the armistice was signed and that peace once more reigned reached us on Monday about three o'clock in the afternoon. Captain Thistle and Mr Peter Dewar called and made known the welcome news. The children cheered and all at once hastened to hoist the "Union Jack". The children then sang the National Anthem and were dismissed. The village received the news quietly the bereavements being too recent to admit of any demonstration of joy. The lumber camp of Newfoundland solders ceased work until Wednesday but there was no disturbance in this village.

[1] At the time of digitisation and transcription this log book was held locally by Kenmore Primary School. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

International Standing Conference on the History of Education 2015 (ISCHE 2015): ‘Culture and Education’ Istanbul University, Turkey, 24th – 27th June 2015

By Meryem Karabekmez (student representative of ISCHE 2015)

ISCHE 37 will be held in Istanbul in 2015 on the theme of ‘Culture and Education’. The purpose of this conference is to examine the relations between education and culture in the historical process.

  • What is the relationship between culture and education?
  • What are the roles of educational reforms and educational borrowing in the cultural changes?
  • What are the roles of educational institutions, educators, and educational materials in culture formation and transformation?
  • How have education and elements of culture such as language, religion, symbols, and routines influenced each other throughout history?

These are the questions will be answered in the conference on the History of Education which will be organized at Istanbul University in 2015.


  • Cultural paradigm and education
  • Agents of intercultural interaction
  • Language and education
  • Religion and education
  • Symbols, heroes, stories, and myths
  • Rituals and routines

The deadline for the submission of proposal is 15 December 2014. Applicants will be notified of the acceptance or rejection of proposals at the beginning of February 2015. For those presenting a paper at the conference, the deadline for registration is 30 April 2015. We look forward to seeing you in Istanbul.

For more information about the conference please visit the ISCHE 2015 website 

You may also be interested in this review of ISCHE 2014 by Jonathan Doney. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Teachers’ Lives, Teachers’ Voices, and Educational Development in Central Asia

By Peter Cunningham

Teachers’ life histories make a significant contribution to educational development in a Central Asian centre of key economic growth.  Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education has recently published a project from within their Professional Development Programme.

Stepping Stones: Recording the Voice of the Past, is the product of 65 teachers from across Kazakhstan collecting oral testimonies as an integral component of their action research. The resulting data is published at  

The teachers’ accounts in Kazakh or in Russian languages are archived as edited video extracts conveniently subtitled in English, and edited transcriptions are available for download in the language of interview and in English.  The benefits of video for the oral historian are evident.  We see and hear the interviewees, their facial expressions, body language and gestures. Their transcribed memories are then also accessible for detailed analysis.

Teachers’ accounts provide immensely rich stories of learning and growing into their professional role.  Their own educational experiences in family, community and school evolve into reasons for career choice, patterns of initial training and career development.  Personal ideals, political and ideological contexts, economic conditions and geographical contexts all come into play in understanding the evolution of teachers’ identities.

Hugely encouraging is the view of this project’s integration into the overall programme of educational development in the republic.  Alongside the ‘drivers’ of ‘internationalization’ and ‘modernisation’, space is made for ‘preserving cultural values, contextual ambience, historical mores and grassroots perspectives’, as the project explains in its goals.  Cultural and historical content are seen as making a significant contribution to educational development, and authentic oral history research is identified as a key methodology.

The wide range of perspectives opened up by the project is reflected in captions chosen to title these oral accounts: ‘From a dream to reality’; ‘For the love of children’; ‘For the love of teaching’; ‘The language of my ancestors’; ‘Passion for music’; ‘”Think from your heart”’; ‘Teachers that inspired us’; ‘Through thorns to stars’; ‘A brilliant life of hands-on innovation and research’; ‘Looking back, moving forward’; ‘The best of the Soviet education system’; ‘Democracy and authoritarianism in the school’.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

What evidence do historians of education need to reconstruct the past?

by Heather Ellis and Stephen Parker

The History of Education Society was recently invited to take part in an open consultation process organised by National Archives regarding its operational selection policy (OSP) concerning the records of the Department for Education for the period 1974-1997. What at face value appeared to be a dry exercise, in fact raised some important historical methodological questions, centring upon ‘what should be kept for posterity in order for future historians to engage with and reconstruct the past, in all its multi-faceted complexity?’ The issues we raised in relation to the policy also required us to anticipate how historians of the future may wish to read these papers, predicting questions they might ask and gaps in the archive they would be frustrated by.

Having read the consultation document outlining a number of themes chosen as a basis for selecting particular documents to be preserved from the Department for Education’s (DfE) records, Stephen Parker and I, on behalf of the Society, prepared a detailed response requesting clarification on a number of key points. Amongst the issues were raised were matters around selection, such as who was responsible for selecting the material. Had the DfE itself been directly involved? We also wanted to know what would happen to material which was not selected: would it be digitised or simply destroyed? Likewise, we asked for more information regarding the rationale behind which particular themes and documents would be selected. We asked this, in particular, as we felt there were certain underlying preferences or biases apparent in the topics proposed for selecting material.

We also raised questions about the time span covered by the material, in this case 1974-1997. In particular, there seemed to be a decided emphasis on selecting material post-1979 with the years 1974-1979 receiving only scant attention. We wondered why this might be, given the importance of the shifts occurring in education policy in this period of Labour administration. Similarly, we wondered why there were no important events listed in the ‘timeline’ appendix prior to Thatcher’s Education Act of 1988. In some places, we were also struck by what seemed to be an undertone of criticism of the education policies of the Labour government in the 1970s. Point 5.3.1, for example, referred to school building programmes being ‘particularly badly hit’ by Labour’s ‘cuts in public expenditure’. We noted that there were likewise substantial cuts in education spending under Thatcher but (apart from the reference to the famous limiting of school milk at 5.23.1) these seemed to go largely undocumented. In this the policy interestingly appeared to reflect the politics of the selectors!

We were also concerned, from a methodological and policy perspective, that there was too strong an emphasis placed on the ‘finished products’ of educational reform. We stressed that key documents relating to the creation of particular reports and Acts of Parliament should also be preserved to illuminate process as well as end product. The role of the DfE in driving and promoting visible changes, especially Acts of Parliament, we felt, also received a decided focus, creating a particular impression of the Department as a dynamic and progressive actor in bringing about educational change. We wondered about the need to adequately represent the agency of other actors in educational reform and those policies which did not make it to statute, for example, those desired by lobbyists and opposed by elements inside the DfE. Although there were a few references to initiatives and policy directions which failed or lapsed (e.g. 5.2.1 – proposed organisational changes within LEAs; 5.5.2 – an abandoned voucher system and 5.8.1 – a rejected system of leaving certificates), these did not seem equally represented and were scattered throughout the proposal rather than being treated consistently. 

In the selection of themes such as the development of the National Curriculum, there appeared to be a focus on one narrative development - the increasing involvement of business and the private sector in education (and the attendant reduction in the role and powers of LEAs). There are other narratives of educational development from the years of Thatcher and the Conservative government which could be told, but the OSP appeared to us to be asserting one in particular. There seemed to be an assumption in the proposed selection of documents that the Conservative policy of reducing the powers of the LEAs was universally acknowledged as necessary. Thus, it was claimed in point 5.4.1 (without citing any evidence) that by the early 1980s ‘a need to radically overhaul the governance of both primary and secondary schools was recognised.’

As representatives of the Society (and as historians), we felt that the selection of themes had been driven primarily (if not entirely) by the topics of parliamentary legislation rather than events considered important in a broader historical context. Developments such as the race riots of 1981 were occasionally referred to (5.12.7), but there was no systematic attempt to situate legislative events against a broader historical framework, something we would recommend if a revision of the OSP were to be undertaken. The timeline of key events given in the appendix could have provided a good opportunity to do this but instead it comprised a simple list of Acts of Parliament and policy developments. 

There are also particular curriculum areas which do not seem covered in the detail which their historical and contemporary importance deserves. Although RE, for example, was mentioned briefly (in the context of the 1944 Act – 5.6.12), there was little, if any, consideration given to the significant role of church and faith schools during this period and the complex relationship which these schools enjoyed with LEAs. Likewise, the controversies around the changes occurring in curriculum RE from 1974 onwards were not explicitly mentioned. Other omissions would seem to include international influences, in particular, the substantial impact of EC/EU legislation and policy matters related to teachers’ professional development, especially major changes to teachers’ contracts and the creation of ‘Baker days’. 

Perhaps we’ve missed out other factors and issues you might have mentioned from all this. What was clear to us is archiving history as well as its researching requires methodological astuteness and historical awareness. Likewise, knowing what to keep and what to discard also requires a surprising degree of political sensitivity. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

November is #histedmonth

#histedmonth uses social media to encourage collaboration and networking between individuals and groups interested in the history of education. It seeks to promote the history of education by engaging the wider public. 

The theme of #histedmonth this year is: ‘Personalising the History of Education’

During #histedmonth we’ll be reflecting on questions like: 
  • What is my own history of education? 
  • What are the histories of the institutions I have attended (and taught at)? 
  • Why do I think the history of education is important and exciting? What aspects of the history of education inspire me, and why?

Here are some initial plans for #histedmonth. Please develop #histedmonth by adding your own initiatives and publicising them on social media.

#histedmonth on Twitter:

  • Share your favourite quotes from figures in the history of education or from historians of education (if the quote is too long, turn it into a picture using a text box on Microsoft paint – here you could also add a photo of the author too) – These are best posted on Tuesdays through November using both the hashtag #histedmonth and #TuesdayQuote.
  • Add posts relating to your own history of education. Share your school photos, toys you played with, educational television programs you enjoyed, events in education you experienced, images and videos from the institutions you attended. These are best posted on Thursdays through November: use both the hashtag #histedmonth and #tbt (‘Throwback Thursday’). Remember to include the twittertags for any institutions in your posts.
  • Recommend sources and ideas relating to the history of education to others – e.g. another Tweeter that they should follow, a website to look at, a book to read, a video to watch etc. This is a great way to publicise new books, journals, websites and writers. These posts are best added on Fridays through November: use both #histedmonth and #ff (‘Follow Friday’).

You might also like to include the following hashtags in your posts: #histed #twitterstorians and #edchat to connect with historians of education, historians and those interested in education.

#histedmonth blog posts:

Here at the History of Education Society UK blog we are inviting contributions to their blog in all forms (text, image, video, mixed). Here are some questions to prompt blog post ideas for #histedmonth: 

  • How do you define the ‘history of education’; what does it mean to you? 
  • How did you become interested in the aspect of the history of education you study? Why do you see it as important?
  • Which books or authors inspired you to study the history of education? Why?
  • Which figures in history or political developments inspired you to study the history of education Why?
  • What do you see as the biggest issues in the history of education today?
  • What are the histories of the institutions you attended or taught at (from schools through to higher education)? 
  • What was your own experience of education / childhood /adolescence / adult education / teaching. Think about and share aspects of your own experience such as learning resources, pedagogies, popular perceptions of schools and education, political developments in education…

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Summer Universities, within the international relationships of the Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University between 1920-1946

by Adrienn Sztana-Kovács                                                   

What kind of foreign educational opportunities did the Hungarian students have at an university, that was founded in Pozsony (Bratislava) in 1914, and quickly changed its seat  twice between 1919 and 1923? In our short writing we try to give an impresson of the summer universities' utilisation as a part of our wider research into the foreign relationships of Hungarian universities.

The birth of the Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University and its seat changes

The foundation of the University of Pozsony (Bratislava) and the University of Debrecen was declared by the Hungarian Parliament in 1912. The University of Pozsony was named Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University, and started the education with only the Faculty of Law opening in 1914. The organisation of the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Medicine had to wait until 1918. At the end of World War I. on the 1st January 1919 Bratislava was annexed by the Czechoslovak Republic. The new Slovakian administration took over the managment of the Hungarian University from the Council of  the University between the 22nd and the 25th of September 1919. At this time the university was cut into two parts. The Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Medicine moved to Budapest, while the Faculty of Law stayed in Pozsony (Bratislava) until the autumn of 1921.

The Hungarian Royal Ferenc József University moved to Budapest from Kolozsvár (Cluj Napoca) because of similar circumstances. The Erzsébet University in cooperation with The Ferenc József University continued their existence in Budapest between 1919 and 1921. The Ferenc József University changed its residence again, and moved to Szeged in 1921, than two years later the Erzsébet University also moved to its final residence to Pécs.

After the Treaty of Trianon was signed on 4th of June 1920, the diplomatic isolation of Hungary slowly started to disolve. The foreign cultural and academic relationships of the Erzsébet University started to develop from 1923.

The main building of The Royal Erzsébet University in Pécs

The major directions of education policy in Hungary between 1922 and 1946

One of the most important makers of Hungarian education-policy was Kuno Klebersberg Minsiter of Religion and Education (1922-1931), who in his cultural-political conception condemned - particularly in the case of small countries - the policy of  cultural isolation. He organized the network of  the Collegium Hungaricum-s [1] (Berlin 1924, Wien 1924, Rome 1927), the foreign scholarship programmes, and supported the creation of new positions of native speaker language teachers at universities, in the spirit of cultural and educational opening, but the great depression broke his initiative.

The other big influence as Minister of Religion and Education was Bálint Hóman (1932-1938, 1939-1942). In the first period of his ministership the budget of his portfolio was 33% less than during the time of his predecessor.[2] Hóman criticized Klebersberg’s exaggerated and expensive scolarship-system. He developed the relationships of higher education institutions through the cultural exchange agreements between Hungary and other countries.[3]

Hungary in the 1930’s built very close diplomatic links with Germany and Italy.[4] World War II. damaged the academic relationships with the Allied Countries in spite of the efforts Ministry of Religion and Education not to create difficulties over these. After the ratification of the Treaty of Paris the inter-state relations were restored. It serves as an example that a new hostel was opened in London for scientists, and that about this fact the Hungarian universities were informed by the Hungarian Ministry of Religion and Education. [5]

The holiday courses

The summer programmes of universities appeared at the Hungarian universities as an another alternative way of access to foreign education. Among the registered files of the Erzsébet University we found numerous application forms and brouchures for summer universities and summer language courses. Most of these arrived from Germany, France, England and Italy.

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII.101.b. 17d. 744/1928-29
Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII.101.b. 17d. 744/1928-29
We don't have any details on the numbers of applicants from the 1920s. This may be so, because students participating had to pay directly to the foreign institutions themselves. As far as we can see it, this was mainly true in the first half of 1920s. This situation changed, when the summer universities and courses were integrated into the national scholarship programme or when they became a part of the international cultural exchange agreements and they were subsidized by travel-aid. An example for this occuring was the German-Hungarian Cultural Exchange Agreement in 1934. The agreement included  six student-exchanges, German students participation in Hungarian summer universities and two university- or college-lecturer exchanges in each semester.

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII. 104.b. 18d. 366/1929-30

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII. 104.b. 18d. 366/1929-30

In the 1930s the applicants' number was very low, compared to the number of students at the faculties.  In 1935 two-two law students were supported by the programme to travel to Berlin and Perugia for holiday courses.[6] The travel-aid was 40 Pengő per person in that year.[7] 

Pécs University Archives, reference number:  VIII.101. b. 53. d. 1287/1933-34

Pécs University Archives, reference number: VIII.101. b. 53. d. 1287/1933-34

Pécs University Archives, reference number:  VIII.101. b. 53. d. 1287/1933-34

The number of the successful applications did not rise in the 1936/37 academic year. One law student went to study in Berlin, at the summer course of the Hochschule für Politik, a male arts sudent traveled to Munchen and a female arts student could study in Perugia. [8] In the 1938/39 academic year from the Faculty of Arts three students went to Germany and another one visited Italy. We have only sporadic data about medical students because some the files of the faculty are missing. The sources just mentioned one assistant-lecturer’s name in the summer of 1940, who travelled to the summer course of the Intstitute Forlanini in Rome.

After the end of the World War II., the students of the Erzsébet University got to Munchen and Oxford for the summer holiday courses.

What were the reasons for the students not taking advantage of summer courses? On one hand the cause was the monetarly cirsumstances of the students, on the other hand the lack of foreign-language skills, in spite the fact, that the Erzsébet University stressed the neccessity of the same skills.

Available foreign-language courses at the Royal Erzsébet University between 1918 and 1949
Academic year/time period
1918/19.; 1923−1949
1918−1923; 1925−1948
1918/19.; 1926−1948
1926/27. II.;1930−1936
1926/27. II.
1933−1935; 1942−1948

Language learning wasn’t an obligatory part of the university studies, therefore we don't have exact data about how many students learnt languages at the university, but we have some idea from the three notes of National Scholarship Council [9] about the lack of sufficient language skills amongst the applicants to study abroad.

[1] Hostels and studies for Hungarian students during their scholarship stay at foreign universities.
[2] Miklós Mann: Oktatáspolitikusok és koncepciók a két világháború között. (Educational Politicians and conceptions between the two World War.) Budapest. 1997. 105.
[3] Agreements: Poland, Italy, Austria (XVII., XVIII. and XIX. Acts of 1935), Germany  (V. Act of 1937 and XXXIV. Act of 1940) Estonia and Finland (XXIII. and XXIX. Acts of 1938), Japan  (I. Act of 1940) and  Bulgaria ( XVI. Act of 1941).
[4] Hungary joined to the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1939 and to the Tripartitive Pact in 1940.
[5] Society for Visiting Scientist, 5. Old Burlington Street, London. Pécs, University Archives VIII. 104. b. 411/1946–47., 27. April. 1947.
[6] The number of law students at the end of the 1934/35 academic year was 892, but only the third of them attended the seminars. The other two-third of them usually held a job and they just took their exams at the university in Pécs.
[7] A normal salary for an official in the private sector  was 200 Pengő. In 1937 1 USD was 5.40 Pengő. 1 GBP was 4.94 USD. 1 GBP was approx. 26.67 Pengő.
[8] Pécs, University Archives reference number: VIII. 101. a. 1936/37. Academic Year. Minutes of the first meeting of the University Council. 30. Szept. 1936. 19. point. The number of arts students was 120 at the end of the 1936/37. academic year.
[9] It was founded in 1927 with the main mission of award scholarships and travel aids. Pécs, University Archives reference number: VIII. 104. b. 294/1929–30., VIII. 107. e. 190/1930–31, VIII. 107. e. 67/1930–31.