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.

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’.