Christel Adick

A century ago: The first and only large scale education survey in the German colonial empire (1911)


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The following essay wants to remind international researchers of the 1st of June, 1911 – the date at which questionnaires for each and every educational institution in all the German colonies around the world had to be completed by the relevant governmental or missionary authorities responsible for them. The numerous questions touched upon quantitative and qualitative data such as enrolment data, numbers and status of teachers, school compound and classrooms, school attendance, curricula and syllabus, learning achievements, teachers’ attitudes towards the abilities and motivation of the ‘native’ children and youths and other variables. This large data collection was conducted under the auspices of the Hamburgisches Kolonialinstitut, the founding stock of today’s University of Hamburg. It aimed at covering all institutions of elementary, further and practical learning in the German colonial empire. More than 2,200 questionnaires were returned to Hamburg, where they were analysed by Martin Schlunk, Inspector of the Norddeutsche Mission in Bremen, who also published the findings in 1914. Even though this kind of educational research did not ‘measure’ attainments in the form of validated tests, its scope and aims come near to recent large scale data collections and surveys like e.g. the Global Monitoring Reports of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in that it tried to achieve a total coverage and include a broad scope of educational variables in order to ‘measure’ the status and achievements of education in the German colonies. It is therefore called a ‘large scale education survey’ in this essay. Although follow-up studies to the 1911 research had actually been envisaged, they never took place, because the German colonial era ended in the First World War. Hundred years later, scholars of Comparative Education may nevertheless benefit from the detailed information and numerical data which were collected in the 1911 research as well as critically examining their interpretations in the published reports.