Poverty and Equality in Education: Transnational Survey of Historical Trajectories and Neoliberal Challenge

Andreas Gestrich  

(German Historical Institute, London)


This paper takes its start from a brief survey of Western theoretical texts on social inequality and its effects on society (Rousseau to Luhmann). It will then look at the question of how this theoretical thinking on inequality influenced concepts and policies in education and schooling from the late eighteenth to the twenty first century. Was education seen as a suitable or even necessary tool to reduce poverty and social inequality? What were other primary objectives of educational policy and how were they influenced by the problem of poverty and social inequality? The paper will outline some of the Western approaches, their transformation in colonial and post-colonial contexts, and try and put the contemporary global debate on neoliberal educational policies in the framework of these longer historical trajectories.