The International Bureau of Education (BIE): A Laboratory of Educational Internationalism (1919-1952)


This two year research project commencing in January 2017 and funded by the Swiss National Research Council, will examine the educational internationalism developed at the International Bureau of Education (IBE). The IBE was founded at Geneva in 1925 to promote peace through science and education. It was headed for over 40 years by Jean Piaget and worked to federate international agencies working to promote peace through education. In 1929, the IBE became the first permanent intergovernmental organisation for education. It was the precursor to UNESCO.

The research project will map the networks that contributed to the construction of the IBE as institution and which contributed to the educational internationalism that the IBE developed and fostered. The project will unpack the conceptualisation of the IBE as a laboratory of educational internationalism. It will trace the interaction of key players in Geneva and internationally, as well as the organisations with which the IBE intersected.

The project has two inter-related work-streams. The first work-stream focusses on the IBE and how educational internationalism was operationalised from the inception of the organisation. This work-stream will look at the work that was discussed, systematised and diffused by the IBE. The second work-stream focuses on the networks that operated to internationalise education. It will look at both individuals and at organisations and their positioning. It will examine how Piaget and his successor Pedro Russell profiled the IBE as the centre of the comparative educational world. It will also look at how comparative education was conceived as a mode of work, as a form of governance between states, and as new scientific discipline. The two work-streams inter-relate because the knowledge produced by the IBE was embedded in the circulatory regimes in which it evolved and which resulted in the durability of the IBE as an organisation promoting international education and diffusing the methods of international cooperation.
The research will frame local and global interactions through a transnational approach combining micro, meso and macro levels of analysis. It will draw on the archives, publications and manuscripts deposited at the IBE, and at the Archives Jean Piaget, the Institute Jean Jacques Rousseau, the League of Nations, the Institute of International Cooperation, and UNESCO, all of which were significant institutions with which the BIE was in contact. Private archives will also be used, including those of the IBE’s director, Piaget.

The research team drawn from the University of Geneva will be led by Professor Rita Hoffstetter and Dr Joelle Droux. Professor Goodman is one of the project’s international collaborators. Professor Goodman was asked to collaborate in the project because her publications about women educators associated with the IBE draw on material in the IBE archives. She has also published on the development of comparative education as a discipline.

Layman's description

Project managed by the University of Geneva. I am an international collaborator
Effective start/end date1/01/1731/12/18