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Content Section

Setting Education on the Global Agenda: A Historical Perspective (Prospects #173)



This special issue uses a historical perspective to tackle three important aspects of education policies that are often addressed but rarely featured in an explicit and systematic way. These aspects are: the circulation of knowledge and the genesis of education policies; the mediators of dissemination (individuals and social groups); and the materials and channels to enable the “transit of knowledge”.

Focusing on the ways in which educational knowledge was produced and distributed during the 20th century, the issue also synthesizes recent contributions in this area. Since the 20th century was characterized by the “institutionalization of the international” in education, through new international organizations and associations, the authors in this issue pay particular attention to UNESCO and the IBE, as well as the League of Nations, the International Labour Office, and the International League for New Education. 

A deep historical perspective on these facets can enable us to re-evaluate our goals and to re-think and properly appreciate the merits—or realize the limitations—of some of our guiding principles. Investigating the history of ideas which have shaped education over the past century or so is a worthwhile effort in itself. In addition, getting to the ‘‘genetic code’’ of current trends in the field of education by understanding foundational documents and various shifts in education policy is bound to crystalize ideas that we may try to put into practice today, perhaps without always pausing to ponder their complex and revealing lineage. Although this stimulating collection of articles does not intend to answer such questions, it helps us begin to ask them.