Windows into the past: Narrative insights into education

Year: 2013

Author: Peeler, Eleanor

Type of paper: Refereed paper

While the story of the narratives holds interest, the process of narrative inquiry is recognised as a valuable tool for research. The intent of this paper is to stress the importance of narrative and story, and to share the experience of opening the windows of memory to look into the past and uncover fascinating and valuable histories as portrayed in the present study.

The paper is based on a longitudinal study of an educator and his life in education. Set in Victoria, the study explores the founding of the State’s education system and followed its progressive development. The history of the system and philosophies held over time influenced the life of the subject and the study looks at how in turn these influenced his thinking.

The subject’s self-narratives, shared through conversational interview, were supported by family, friends and colleagues and led to exploration of the education system itself. As a starting point the study began with the 1872 Education Act when education in Victoria became compulsory, secular and free. It examined effects of the 1910 Education Act and subsequent development of Higher Elementary and District High Schools Continuation and Preparatory Trade Classes, Trade Schools and Technical Schools. In that pre-war era secondary education was born, its gradual growth and state-wide expansion benefited students who wished to progress to higher levels. Subsequently, depression, war and population growth following World War 2 posed administrative problems.

Within the time frame of the twentieth century the study explores the subject’s life. This paper considers how he benefited by policies established in the century’s early years, and how his experiences as a student, teacher and senior administrator shaped his thinking and policies he implemented in the latter years.