75 years  

Education in Tropical Areas 1952-1973

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Dr Nick Evans : lecturer from 1946-76

 Nick Evans describes the special characteristics of ETA, including the mutual respect of colleagues, their diverse experience and the anthropological ‘slant’ to the Department’s thinking on education:

"I thought it might be interesting to write a little about post years in the ETA Department in which I worked, a department now an essential element of EID.  I made so many friends, both in the ETA and the larger IOE which housed us, friends amongst the teaching staff, the Institute administration and, above all, the student body, that my time at the IOE represents some of the happiest years of my life. But friendships only flourish in a milieu which encourages them and the ETA provided that in abundance.

What gave the ETA such a special aura for those of us who worked in it?  It is very difficult to say, but it seems to me that among other factors three possibly stand out in pre-eminence: the real mutual respect we had for each other as colleagues, the extensive and very diverse field of experience most members of staff had overseas in tropical countries and to a lesser extent later in non-tropical countries like Japan. The third factor was the pronounced anthropological ‘slant’ of ETA educational thinking and planning. It is quite possible that the first factor (our mutual respect) for each other as colleagues, may in the past have been the consequence of the other two. None of us believed there were infallible answers to the very diverse problems of education in developing nations in the tropics. We were prepared to accept other solutions than our own and this, I think, made for considerable tolerance and mutual esteem. The geographical and cultural diversity of the countries represented in our experiences made any overall cut-and-dried solutions to educational problems impossible and, happily, this made for our mutual tolerance of each other’s views imperative.

Then there was the factor of the diverse educational experience we each had had abroad. (My own was rather less than some of my older colleagues). When I joined the ETA staff in 1947 (it was the Colonial Department then!), out of a total staff of some 11 men and women, two were experienced missionaries who had worked in Africa (later members who joined ETA had similar experiences as missionaries in Far Eastern countries); 3 were former Directors of Education; 4 were either teacher-training college principals or had had extensive teacher – training experience; 2 were specialists, one in rural and agricultural education, the other in community development.  The last had published a number of seminal books in this field, some of which were translated into as many as 24 foreign languages! And lastly, the head of the Department was a lady who had achieved an international reputation as an anthropologist.

The last component of the ETA mystique was the anthropological slant which influenced all our work. Concepts such as those of culture contact, culture shock, the nature of indigenous societies, the effects of contact with Western civilisation coloured all our work. The interesting thing for me was the increasing interest taken by the rest of the IOE in such a concept in relation to education. Anthropology is often taken to be (very erroneously, I fear) to be the study of primitive societies, whilst the study of more advanced societies is the field of sociology. Perhaps this was a growing feeling in the IOE for it was not many years after that the IOE founded its first chair of Educational Sociology!

I hope you will forgive all my pride in my old Department. I think it has made a real contribution to education and the study of it in various parts of the world. I know the tradition will be carried on in EID and that, perhaps in new ways, it will not only be an area of education study in its own right, but will act as a stimulus for educational thought and practice in the larger IOE."

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Compiled and edited by Clare Bentall and Angela Little. First issued Spring 2005.