Article Index

Second Part of the 20th Century

Ecole - Salle de Classe 2

Learning contents : 

In France: In May 1968, violent protests took place at the Nanterre Faculty. The protesters called for the independence of education from the political authorities, for equal rights to access higher culture and joint management. Strikes continued and barricades were erected. On July 24, 1968 Edgar Faure presented the draft act On Direction of Higher Education. It was almost unanimously approved and was based on the principles of autonomy and participation. The University must meet the requirements of modern life, offer accurate knowledge, and be open to all to ensure the best carrier choice. The University benefits guarantee freedom of information and vocational training. After 1991 the study of modern languages became compulsory, a joint management system was set up, new curricula were developed combining scientific rigor and creativity.

In the United States: the Cold War supported the priority of technical education and distanced itself from the Dewey concept of socialization. New technologies such as audiovisual media and Skinner’s concept of programmed education were used, facilitated by the use of computers.

In Japan: textbooks on the nationalist history returned in 1947. Only in 1993 were school textbooks more respectful of the historical truth reintroduced.


In France there was a growing interest in teachers’ training. In March 1968 the opinions expressed during the Amiens Symposium on Higher Education demonstrated the need to rethink the values and teaching methods. The Teachers’ Training Commission outlined a new program that met the Faure plan. The Degree and Masters in Educational Sciences was organised. Higher Normal schools were reformed and teachers’ training institutions were created, open to students with a Baccalaureat diploma and three years higher education.

Teaching methods:

Pedagogy concepts relate to those in psychology. Clifford Mayes developed the theory of archetypal pedagogy based on analytical psychology developed by Carl Gustav Jung in 1956.

In France the institutional pedagogy developed by Célestin Freinet, Fernand Oury, and Guy Vasquez, centred students in the organization of the classroom. It failed to integrate into the national education, which was struggling to make way for educational innovation.

More attention is given to children with difficulties: foreigners or persons with disabilities (support pedagogy, groups of pedagogic and psychological actions, creation of priority action areas). From the 60 s to 80's psychologists, psychoanalysts and child psychiatrists such as Winnicott and Dolto questioned the intransigence of childcare and an educational interest concerning the infant grew.

Outside the school, youth movements offered a variety of activities: scouting and other secular movements were introduced and were responsible for the physical, spiritual and artistic education of young people. Active education centers (C.E.M.E.A.) trained animators through inspiration from teachers.

School organization: 

In France: the state monopoly on schools was established. Reforms were implemented. Compulsory education was extended to the age of 16. In 1959 General de Gaulle described secondary schools as “the first cycle”, ie. for ages 11 to 15, accessible for everyone and designed to provide knowledge and assist with choosing a profession. By 1967 the pressure for change became apparent due to insufficient enrolment to educational institutions, significant population growth, elitism and the system’s inability to prepare young people for the world of work.

Host institutions for infants became more diverse (kindergarten with temporary stay, care centers). Nursery classes developed. The primary school curriculum was readjusted: programs were simplified, subjects were separated into periods. The baccalaureat years were better balanced and professional direction assistance was arranged.

Reformation in the Ministry followed. Technical training was reorganized (training to obtain a professional competency certificate and the diploma on vocational education). Kindergartens and primary schools underwent important reforms in 1990 (the first stage of learning – up to the age of 5, fundamental learning – from 5 to 8, applied education goes up to CM2). Colleges were reorganized and new methods of education were recommended. The third grade prepared students for one of three directions to choose: general education, technical or vocational. The sixth grade prepared students for self-learning. Each year the number of students leaving institutions without a qualification decreased. Technical and vocational education developed. Apprentice training centres were set up and the training period was extended to the age of 25. University institutes of technology designed to train technicians with a Baccalaureat diploma and two years higher education were successfully developing.

Continuing education for adults was introduced, and the Third Age University leads to an access to education for all.

In the UK: Schooling was extended from the age of 14 to 15 in 1947, and then to 16 in 1972. Secondary schools became free, however admission to the most reputable independent high schools (which are erroneously called public schools) was carried out on a competitive basis with very high tuition fees. Students, depending on their results, are enrolled in 3 types of institutions: grammar schools, public high schools, and technical colleges. Education is traditional and elitist, and an unjust distribution is made in favor of grammar schools. According to surveys, the Labor Government and the Conservatives follow one another and make proposals in the aim of establishing a unique school and routes allowing further career development. These attempts failed, and students with lower academic results obtained private education or attended courses for adults. The higher achieving students had access to the most prestigious institutions including Oxford and Cambridge universities. Only one third of a particular age group entered University.

In the United States: In the early 1970's the idea of equal opportunities emerged in favor of minorities. However, the cost of higher education was such that a significant number of scholarships were needed, and students as well as schoolchildren were forced to work in parallel. The number of school bankruptcies was high, and there were cases of violence in institutions. A university degree was no longer sufficient to get a job. The share of the national budget allocated to education remained small: around 6 % in 1994.

In the countries of the former USSR: schools were destroyed during the war, and the great teachers of the previous era died. In 1943 the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences was established. In 1966 a new 10-year system of secondary education was established. The polytechnic school where education starts at the age of seven and lasts eight years was the backbone of the system. A workman could obtain a qualification from the “Technical Professional School” in three years. There were a large number of technical schools that met the needs of enterprises. Postgraduate training was provided in institutions where classes were held in the evenings or remotely. The collapse of the Soviet Union led universities across the country to bankruptcy, the teachers emigrated, and many students had to stop their studies due to lack of scholarships.

In Japan: intellectualism was key and competition induced chaos. The number of suicides among young people was growing. The traditions were deeply rooted. A Japanese child had to master the three systems of writing.

In China: the Chinese bureaucracy-ridden and elite school was questioned by Mao Tse Tung during the economic revolution. Peasants were sent to support industrialization of villages and education. Public schools were directed by industrial associations. Ideological training took precedence over learning but in 1962, it was questioned and reduced in the same way as manual labor. Residents of rural areas encountered difficulties in gaining access to higher education. Mao created universities to educate workers, peasants and soldiers, but elitism and nepotism were still present. After Mao's death, the new leaders of the party adapted the education system in line with the new economic policy, which enabled its development. Research activities were carried out and the methods were free from ideologies. Education remained very expensive. Institutions were free to choose teachers, textbooks and curricula, although students were still under the government’s scrutiny.

Specificities: The reformed school remained faithful to verbalism, didactism and encyclopedism. Negative selection prevailed over progressive orientation. Elitism remained, which was apparent with the Bachelor exam’s passrate: 16 % of workers’ children compared to 74 % of the children of professionals obtained the certificate. Information technology was embedded in schools as the scientific and technological revolution evolved. Information and computer technologies were developed in education. Education was open towards Europe and the rest of the world.

Key concepts and important figures: Programmed education, Computer assisted education, Institutional pedagogy, ICT in education, Donald Winnicott, Françoise Dolto, K. Skinner, G. Jung, F. Oury, A. Vazquez.

Further readings (in French): 

Vial Jean, « Vers l'Avenir (deuxième moitié du XXe siècle)», Histoire de l'éducation, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, «Que sais-je ?», 2009.

Site web de Bernadette Moussy, si la Pédagogie m'était contée, le 20e siècle

Pédagogie selon la Wikipedia

Donald Winnicott selon la Wikipedia

Françoise Dolto selon la Wikipedia

Clifford Mayes selon la Wikipedia

Carl Gustav Jung selon la Wikipedia

Pédagogie institutionnelle selon la Wikipedia

Fernand Oury selon la Wikipedia

Aïda Vasquez selon la Wikipedia

Burrhus Frederic Skinner selon la Wikipedia

Technologies de l'information et de la communication pour l'enseignement

Enseignement assisté par ordinateur selon la Wikipedia

Centre d'entraînement aux méthodes d'éducation active selon la Wikipedia