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‘The Great Plan for Mass Education’: Twentieth-Century Colonial and Postcolonial Experiments in Education

Valeska Huber

For the year 2015, UNESCO has formulated the ambitious goal of ‘education for all’. Yet it is not the first time that this ambition has been voiced. Attempts to translate it into reality were at the centre of many late colonial and postcolonial education debates and programmes. My research project traces the genesis of ‘education for all’ as a global idea or slogan in the different guises of ‘mass education’, ‘fundamental education’, or ‘basic education’ through various times and contexts. The project starts by exploring how mass education policies were discussed in the context of the British Empire before, during, and after the Second World War. It then follows these ideas and policies into scientific circles (mainly meetings of educationalists), internationalist institutions (after the Second World War particularly UNESCO), and the sponsoring bodies behind specific programmes. These programmes were often explicitly framed as experiments at local level, yet they were also seen as part of education planning on a world-wide scale. In the course of my research, a number of projects, institutions, and individuals working towards ‘education for all’ will receive specific attention.