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Special Collections: Comparative Education

History of Education Sources

The Evolution of a Department: Timeline of the IOE's Colonial Department

About the Collection


This collection was originally two separate departmental libraries in the Institute: the Comparative Education Department Library and the Department of Education in Tropical Areas Library.

The Comparative Education Department Library was set up by Sir Percy Nunn in the early 1930s, and in 1935 it benefited from a generous grant given to the Institute by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Professor Fred Clarke later made an extensive tour of the Dominions and started the collection of annual reports and other official material.

The Department of Tropical Areas was founded in 1927 as the Africa Department; two years later it was renamed the Colonial Department, a name it retained until 1952 when its name was changed to the Department of Education in Tropical Areas. The American wife of Dr W. Bryant Mumford, the Head of the Department, established the May Esther Bedford Fund which enabled the Department's Library to be extensively developed.

The two libraries were amalgamated in 1969 during the Institute Library's move to new premises in Ridgmount Street.

The amalgamated collection consists of books and pamphlets from all over the world, mainly from the period 1900-1980. (Later material has been added to the main Library collections and is on the open shelves). The emphasis is on educational theory and practice, but there is also supporting literature on social and economic conditions, history, etc.

Size: 168 metres of shelving

Type/format: Books and pamphlets

Dates: 1900 - 1980

Accrual policy: Closed

Off-site (ES)

Reference only. By prior arrangement with the Special Collections Librarian. Contact the Library Enquiry Desk in the first instance.

This material is recorded in the card catalogue (author / title; subject; country) and the catalogue cards were published in book format in the
1970s.  See list on the RH-side of this page.

Catalogues of the Comparative Education Collections

Background and Useful Links

Comparative education is an academic and interdisciplinary subject which applies historical, philosophical and social science theories and methods to classify and explain characteristics of different national education systems. It studies why educational systems and processes vary and how education relates to wider social factors and forces. Comparative education grew from international education, which analyses and fosters international orientation in knowledge and attitudes, and, brings together students, teachers and scholars from different nations to learn about and from each other.

Comparative education first appeared in the early 19th century alongside the rise of national education, though it did not develop as an academic subject until the 20th century. Its early development was hampered by the two World Wars, where it was used for ideological competition. One of the most important books of the inter-war period was Comparative Education (1933) by Isaac Kandel, who also edited the Educational Yearbook from 1924-1944. Other important yearbooks were published in this period, including the Yearbook of Education and the International Yearbook of Education. The first academic courses and programs were also developed at this time, including a course at the Institute of Education.
The Second World War was a catalyst for the development of comparative education. The field developed to include not only school systems but understanding the role of education in shaping social structures and influencing economic development. Professional associations were also founded including the Comparative Education Society in 1956, followed in 1961 by the Comparative Education Society in Europe (CESE). National and international organisations, such as the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank, were also influential in the development of comparative education. The yearbooks were also large replace with academic journals, such as the Comparative Education Review, after the War.

Historically, the Institute of Education has been one of the leading centers of comparative and international education research since the 1930s, and has employed many important figures in the field, including Brian Holmes, Joseph Lauwerys, and Nicholas Hans. Today the Institute offers a MA in Comparative Education and the subject is taught by academic staff across the Institute