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Kandel, Isaac Leon (1881-1965)

eric-kandelArticle by Erwin Pollack1

Isaac Leon Kandel was a leading comparative and international educator for many years. Born in Romania of British parents, he received his early education in Manchester, United Kingdom, along with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and his teaching certificate. His revered teacher at the University of Manchester, Sir Michael Sadler, influenced Kandel to study in America for his Ph.D. degree at Teachers College, Columbia University.

In 1908 Kandel arrived in the United States to study comparative and international education at Teachers College. In 1910, after only two years of study, Kandel received his Ph.D degree. His dissertation, The training of elementary school teachers in Germany, was based on scholarly research and his first-hand observations of teacher training schools in Germany. Teachers College Press published it as a book in 1910.

Paradoxically, Kandel saw little to recommend in the practices of German teacher training to educators from the United States. Yet he made it clear with his organized and detailed study, that he thought Germany was doing a creditable job in training its elementary school teachers.

He was able to see the unique strengths that grew out of a nation’s historical background and its socio-political and cultural underpinnings. Instead of viewing one nation’s education system as superior to another’s, he saw each nation as one which uniquely forged its own way. The weaknesses that Kandel often mentioned in a nation’s education system were those which were influenced by that nation’s political system. This meant the influence exerted by totalitarianism of the left (communism), or of the right (fascism or Nazism).

Kandel tried to be objective, but often wrote that it was acceptable for any nation to have the type of education systems of democratic nations. Perhaps this helps explain the paradox mentioned earlier. On one hand, he could see the real strengths in the totalitarian German education system of teacher training, but on the other hand, he would not recommend such a system to a democratic America.

Kandel was a leading proponent of the school of thought in comparative education known as historical-functionalism. The basic idea of this school is that education systems do not operate in a vacuum. They are intertwined inextricably with other social and political institutions and very often can best be comprehended by examining the historical, cultural, political, social and economic environments and contexts.

According to Kandel, a comparative educator who truly wants to understand various nations’ school systems must not be content with only gathering important factual information pertaining to those systems. The comparativist has to dig deeply to investigate the causes that have produced major problems in education systems worldwide. Armed with the view that education is not an autonomous enterprise, the comparativist who determines which causes generated these major problems in the first place then must determine which solutions are attempted by each nation, and why these particular solutions were selected. 2

Buttressing this was Kandel’s lifelong use of Sadler’s dictum: ‘The comparative approach demands first an appreciation of the intangible, impalpable, spiritual and cultural forces which underlie any education system: the factors and forces outside the school matter even more than what goes on inside’.1 For Kandel, ‘Comparative education may be considered a continuation of the study of the history of education into the present’.2


Among the theoretical and methodological ideas in comparative education which offered helpful guidelines for considerable research in the 1960s and well into the 1970s, Kandel’s historical-functionalism was perhaps the most widespread.

Kandel’s theory of comparative analysis required the researcher to have a working knowledge of two or more foreign languages and a respectable knowledge of political theory and practice, anthropology, economics, sociology and geography. Important as it was to be well grounded in educational theory and practice; it was even more relevant to have a vast storehouse of academic knowledge in preparation for the study of comparative and international education. The researcher who studied education systems in isolation, without searching for the deeper contexts in the social, political and cultural domains, would not be able to make a meaningful contribution, even if his study highlighted his own country.

Kandel was also one of those early twentieth century comparativists who developed the concept of studying a nation’s education system in order to understand the society’s general make-up. Emphasizing a comprehensive, linguistic, academic and educational approach to the study of comparative education, he believed that learning about a nation’s educational thought and practices was a pathway to comprehending its social dynamics. Added to this was the ability to understand the possibilities for change and improvement.

Kandel believed the capable researcher could learn how institutions developed and also determine the status of current major ideas that were being embraced globally. Kandel did not support the long-standing practice of comparative education, which includes focusing on the education system of a particular nation in isolation. Instead, he believed that it was crucial to write about a nation’s education system and use it as the unit of comparison between nations. He added to this by advocating the adoption of a process of discovering a nation’s political and religious ideology, as well as its values, attitudes and mores. All of this would be unfolded through the study of the nation’s school system. These important learnings led to the idea of the uniqueness of each nation’s school system.

Kandel relied heavily on qualitative rather than statistical studies in his comparative work. His examination of a nation’s education system, political framework, history, sociology and philosophy showed how such extra school forces and factors could lead to either innovation in education or to extreme reliance on traditional practices. Contemporary comparative educators could find Kandel’s ideas on educational borrowing useful. He was able to see the virtues of a particular nation’s educational practices and still be reluctant to advocate borrowing from that nation if the cultural and socio-political gulf separating nations was too wide. This was a major contribution to comparative and international education at the time.

As early as 1924 he was saying that one country’s solutions could not be entirely incorporated into the system of another country. He called for the borrower nation to adapt these solutions, fitting them into its own socio-political, cultural and economic framework. He pointed out that there are many educational improvements that have come about because of successful adaptation of one nation’s practices into another nation’s education system. He believed that educational failures also occurred when those responsible for 3 education did not study and learn how successful practices in one country could have been adapted to their own country.

Kandel believed that significant progress in the world could be made by an exchange of educational experiences between nations. He had faith in this process just as he did with the exchange of scientific and intellectual experiences that had contributed to the betterment of mankind. He wrote, ‘Educational systems cannot be transferred from one country to another, but ideas, practice, devices, developed under one set of conditions, can always prove suggestive even where conditions are somewhat different’.3

Kandel’s viewpoint of comparative and international education was melioristic. Living through two world wars with their unspeakable horrors heaped upon humanity, he still believed in the doctrine that the world will become a better place and that men and women have the power to assist in its betterment. He demonstrated his meliorism through a lifetime commitment to the improvement of education in the world. Kandel’s research and writings for more than five decades made it possible for educators to learn more about other lands and peoples, other educational theories and practices.

His works were frequently translated into other languages. He brought education and educators onto the centre stage in many parts of the world with his emphasis on better ways of educating people and a greater need for public participation. He was not an armchair educational theorist who issued empty shibboleths on matters pertaining to worldwide education. He travelled, he observed, he wrote profusely, and he spoke eloquently and carefully about different educational topics in many lands. He viewed the improvement of education as being the panacea for mankind.

The spirit of his lifelong mission to improve education and civilization can be felt when reflecting upon his voluminous writings in comparative and international education. Kandel married Jessie Sarah Davis in Manchester, United Kingdom, on 27 July 1915, and he became a United States citizen in 1920. Residing in Westport, Connecticut, the Kandels had two children, Helen Raphael and Alan Davis. In 1987 Helen donated her father’s personal papers to the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace in Stanford, California.

A leading figure in comparative education

Kandel showed an interest in comparative and international education very early in his career. In the summer of 1907 he travelled to Germany to study with the world famous Herbartian educator Wilhelm Rein at the University of Jena.

Kandel was appointed instructor at Columbia University Teachers College in 1913. In 1915 he was appointed associate professor, and he became a full professor in 1923. He was associated with Teachers College for almost four decades, becoming an emeritus professor in 1947. At the start of his career, Kandel met the United States Commissioner of the Bureau of Education who authorized him to write several monographs on European countries’ school systems, especially France, Germany and the United Kingdom. These works, published between 1913 and 1919 were known officially as bulletins. This early work of Kandel helped him begin to establish a reputation as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the education systems of these countries.

 As a research specialist for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching from 1914 to 1923, Kandel authored works on such diverse topics as vocational education, teachers’ pensions and examination systems. In 1918 he assisted Paul Monroe with a study commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson. The study consisted of translations, to be used by the United States Government, of laws and administrative regulations from foreign schools. 4 He was a visiting professor at several major universities, including Yale, Johns Hopkins and the University of California from 1919 to 1940. He also taught at the University of Mexico in 1927.

In the early 1930s, Kandel delivered important lectures at the University of London, Harvard and elsewhere. His London and Harvard lectures were published as books entitled respectively The outlook in education and the dilemma of democracy. Kandel says that democracy was weakened considerably when the culture within a particular democratic nation, especially the United States, gave free reign to individualism without teaching people to develop a sense of responsibility. This was a recurring theme in his work.

 Kandel’s most influential work was in comparative and international education, and he was the leading figure in the field for many years. From 1924 to 1944 he was the editor of the Education yearbook whose focus was on education throughout the world. Columbia University’s prestigious International Institute sponsored the publication of the yearbook. His book Essays in comparative education, published in 1930, was a compilation of articles and addresses he wrote and delivered in the 1920s. It focused on educational problems in Italy, Mexico and several Latin American nations, along with France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

In the 1930s he wrote about his educational work in New Zealand and Australia. In 1933, his landmark work entitled Comparative education was published. This became the bible in the field for many years to come. ‘The fact that it has been translated into Spanish, Chinese and Arabic speaks of the universality of its content’.4 He revised this work in 1955, renaming it The new era in education: a comparative study. Kandel was a member of the United States Education Mission to Japan. The mission concerned itself with the post-war reorganization of the Japanese school system, and it issued a report to the Supreme Commander, General Douglas MacArthur.

While Kandel was lauded for his contribution to the work of the Mission, it is a little known fact that he was none too pleased with some aspects of its work. Kandel’s criticism relates to the small number of members who were experienced with foreign education systems, causing him to remark, ‘Hence the imposition on Japan of the American system of education’.5 During the Second World War, the government of Jamaica invited Kandel to chair a committee that surveyed and helped upgrade secondary education in that island country.

Kandel was the only citizen of the United States to serve on the committee. The document that Kandel and his committee wrote soon came to be known simply as the ‘Kandel report on education’. Throughout his lifetime, Kandel travelled to many countries to study school systems, and he wrote and lectured extensively on what he observed. After his retirement from Columbia University in 1946 he remained productive for years to come. In 1947 he was the first Simon Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. He edited the British journal Universities quarterly from 1947 to 1949, and from 1948 to 1950 he was appointed professor of American Studies and Chairman of the new department at the University of Manchester.

He edited the well-known weekly education journal School and society from 1946 to 1953. He continued writing scholarly articles and books. He became a consultant to UNESCO, and wrote extensively for the Organization. He also served as a consultant to the United Nations. Throughout his long life he advocated world peace and international co-operation.

Kandel’s friend, the late William Brickman, himself a noted historian of education as well as a comparative educator, wrote about Kandel’s editing and his proficiency in ten foreign languages: As editor, he was responsible for selecting contributors, planning topics, and other duties customary to the office of directing a periodical publication. In addition he translated contributor’s articles from the German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Norwegian, and he was linguistically prepared to translate from at least four more tongues.6


Kandel was influenced greatly by the British educator Sir Michael Sadler (1861-1943). Sadler was a world famous authority on secondary education and a supporter of the British public school system. Knighted in 1919, Sadler was also an expert in comparative education. Kandel mentioned Sadler frequently in his writings on comparative education. He learned to look at comparative education through the wide-angled theoretical lens of Sadler’s political sociology.

Sadler believed that in order to understand education systems effectively, one must realize that studying the societal influences on education was more important than merely studying particular systems in isolation.

Another person who had an important influence on Kandel’s thinking was Paul B. Monroe (1869-1947). Monroe was a distinguished American educator. He was director of the School of Education at Teachers College from 1915 to 1923, and director of Columbia’s Institute of Education from 1923 to 1928. Kandel studied with and worked for Monroe on several long-term projects as assistant editor of Monroe’s Cyclopedia of education, and as editor of the Institute of Education’s Education yearbook. From Monroe, Kandel learned the importance of studying the history of education, especially as it applied to the developing field of comparative education.

A third person who had a significant influence on the work of Kandel was the noted educator and colleague of Kandel at Columbia University, William Chandler Bagley (1874– 1946). Bagley was a leading spokesman for the Essentialist Movement in education. Kandel embraced many of Bagley’s ideas: he argued for Bagley’s criticisms of progressive education, his emphasis on enhancing civilization through teaching the young their cultural heritage, and his ideas on the importance of the teacher in the process and system of education. Along with Bagley, whenever Kandel sought to improve education, he considered the teacher and his role to be of central importance.

Among Kandel’s prolific writings several stand out as major works. In The training of elementary school teachers in Germany, Kandel wrote of the evolution of German teachers into a class of professionals. The struggle of elementary teachers was a battle against obscurantism and clerical domination. The ‘normal’ schools responsible for teachers training were more victimized by tradition than were other institutions, which accounted for the rigidity in German education.

Comparative education was a study of educational changes and progress in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and the USSR, from the end of First World War to the early 1930s. This work included more than mere descriptions of foreign school systems from an educational viewpoint, as was typically the case in earlier comparative education textbooks. The plan of the book included differences in national environments, and it made comparisons on the basis of general trends and principles. It also conceptualized educational problems of each represented nation, a matter vitally important for the study of comparative education.

In his 1935 book, The making of Nazis, Kandel warned of the dangers of Hitler with his racist platform, and his emphasis on warfare, subjugation and bestiality. The book was an account of how Hitler and his followers gained complete control of the German apparatus of education, formal and informal, so as to mould German youth in ways which would ensure the goals of National Socialism. In 1955, Kandel produced a follow-up study to his 1933 Comparative education. It was entitled The new era in education: a comparative study. Using the same countries and comparing them, he wrote: The crisis through which the world has passed since then … as well as the challenge to the ideas of democracy from 6 Communist ideology, have intensified the recognition of the important part to be played by education for the fullest development of the individual and the greatest welfare of the nation. But the forces that determine the character of education in any nation have a significance that is of greater importance than the details of its organization and practice.7

Kandel thought that international education was not the same as comparative education. The former dealt with the development of particular intellectual and emotional attitudes toward other countries as directed by instruction in the school. In contrast, the latter dealt with determining the problems in school systems that are common to all nations, analyzing the problems and the reasons for them, and providing the best solutions.

In 1937, Kandel edited a book entitled International understanding through the public school curriculum. He wrote a chapter in the book called ‘Intelligent Nationalism in the Curriculum’. He advocated the teaching of international education in all of the world’s public schools: in every grade, in every subject, for every student. International education can only grow out of a proper teaching of nationalism. International understanding grows when nations are aware that every single nation among them could contribute to the cause of humanity.

Kandel believed each nation could contribute to the building of civilization. This must be taught to students and emphasized at grassroots levels in a nation’s local communities until the idea takes a firm hold throughout each nation. In his book International co-operation: national and international, published in 1944, Kandel outlined the idea of elevating education to an international status through an international organization. Every person must be educated to appreciate the importance of realizing the worth of every human being, regardless of race, colour or creed. He promoted the idea of a world citizenship that would develop from participation in local and national affairs. Nationalism in Kandel’s terms was not a pejorative word. Rather, he saw nationalism as the basis for teaching international education. He would highlight the contributions of scientists, mathematicians, writers, painters, composers, musicians, statesmen and sculptors. He provided specific examples of the contributions of different nations. In mathematics, for example, he cited India for its contribution to our common numerals, Iraq to the multiplication tables and algebra, Egypt to surveying, Greece to the scientific treatment of geometry, Rome to engineering, France to analytic geometry, England to Newtonian calculus and Scotland to logarithms. K

andel was the editor of Columbia University’s International Institute’s Education yearbook and of all its yearbooks published from 1924 to 1944. Each Yearbook consisted of approximately twelve sections on contemporary education in various countries. Noted indigenous educators wrote the articles. In addition to editing the yearbooks, Kandel wrote an introduction to each yearbook and he made other important written contributions as well. The goals of the Yearbook were to share educational experiences and to set standards.

The international scene

From 1946 to 1962 Kandel worked for both the United Nations and UNESCO as a writer, editor and consultant. Prior to UNESCO’s inception, Kandel wrote: The organization can make an important contribution by means of conferences, by collecting and disseminating accurate information on the developments in education, science and culture, and by directing attention to new areas that need to be explored. It can encourage co-operation between nations in all branches of intellectual activity through the exchange of persons, objects of artistic and scientific interest and other materials of information. It can serve in general as a clearinghouse of information’.8

In 1946 Kandel was a member of a special UNESCO committee which issued a report, 7 published as a book in 1947 under the title Fundamental education: common ground for all peoples. In 1947, as a consultant to UNESCO, Kandel edited a report entitled Suggestions for a study of education for international understanding in the schools of UNESCO member states. As a participant in 1949 in a UNESCO-sponsored human rights symposium, he wrote a chapter in a book entitled Human rights -comments and interpretation in which he suggested that education should become a human right and also become recognized as such universally. He emphasized that the right to an education was of even greater importance than UNESCO had previously recognized.

In 1951, Kandel wrote the first in a series of six books on compulsory education issued by UNESCO. Entitled Raising the school-leaving age, the book took a philosophical approach and it described the steps that were taken in countries that had established age 14 as the school leaving age, and which planned to raise the age limit beyond it. From March to September 1955, Kandel was a consultant to the United Nation’s Division of Human Rights. He engaged in a study of discrimination in education undertaken by the Sub-Commission of Protection of Minorities.

Lastly, Kandel wrote a book published in Spanish in 1962 by UNESCO’s office in Havana, Cuba. Entitled Hacia una profesión docente [Towards a teaching profession]; the book reflected Kandel’s lifelong concern with the improvement of teacher preparation and the enhancement of the teaching profession.

Kandel made important contributions to the history of education and the philosophy of education. From 1909 to 1913 he was assistant editor of the well-known Cyclopedia of education. During this period, he wrote many articles on a wide variety of topics on the history of education for the Cyclopedia. In addition to writing these articles and many other scholarly articles in this field, Kandel wrote such historical works as An introduction to the study of American education, History of the curriculum, History of secondary education, and American education in the twentieth century.

Progress and tradition

For Kandel, the history of education was a conflict between the ideal of freedom and the ideal of authority and control. He believed that Man’s quest for freedom has been challenged throughout history by the power of society to reign over the affairs of the individual. He thought freedom was a right that must be won, but obtaining it also implied a corresponding responsibility in its use.

Kandel was highly critical of those educators who denied that anything could be learned from the past. He criticized those who discounted all educational practices up to the present as contributing to a static society, or merely aiming for the transmission of knowledge. While admitting educational inadequacies in the past, he nevertheless discussed the positive steps he saw in previous generations of educational experiences. The goals of education were aimed at benefiting society.

‘That the world did progress, that it did produce intellectual giants, are facts which cannot be ignored and for which some credit must be given to centuries of forgotten teachers’.9 The primary characteristics of the philosophy of essentialism, which Kandel embraced, were those which placed an emphasis on student effort, classroom discipline, the accumulated knowledge achieved by human beings, long-range objectives, logical organization of subject matter, and teacher-initiated learning. He was steeped in what he felt were the best and most constructive aspects of traditionalism – not the punitive or harmful educational traditions, but the essentials. He viewed the traditionalist as one who sees particular ideas and values which are essential for society in 8 order to save itself, and which the school needed to transmit if the latest generation is to be induced to carry on its role in society.

As an essentialist, Kandel often criticized progressive education in his scholarly and satirical articles. He had a vast understanding of the progressive movement in education. He was in agreement with many progressive ideas, especially those that applied more modern psychological principles to teaching; but he felt he could not tolerate what he perceived as the missionary zeal and the lack of tolerance of many of the great progressives of the day. Modern progressives tried, he thought, to make a clean break with the past, while focusing on the present and looking forward to the future. Educational traditions were founded on social stability and the idea that life was predictable. Modern progressives would begin with unpredictability, find stability to be unacceptable, and they would rebuild society for some unknown future.

For Kandel, the argument was between a cult of change and disorganization, and a culture of permanence: between anomie, alienation and rootlessness, suffering from a lack of authority, and rooted authority which created social stability within a common culture. The role of the teacher was the pivotal point in Kandel’s essentialism.

He recognized the need for teachers to have better training worldwide, and the need for societies to attract and retain the best and the brightest candidates for teaching. Even toward the end of a long career, he wrestled with the complex issues involved in discussing the crucial role of the teacher. Kandel’s essentialism contended that having an adequate education depended on having mature, experienced and knowledgeable teachers who recognize student needs and interests. However, these teachers would first determine which educational experiences the learners needed in order to become serious and responsible citizens.

Kandel believed in more freedom for the teacher as well as the child. He castigated educational reformers who only saw the child in the educational landscape, without taking notice of the teacher and his vital role in the educational process. Freedom for the teacher needed to be linked to a sense of responsibility, both socially and professionally.

Kandel saw the teacher as having a much greater experiential background than the student has. Therefore, the teacher was the right person to impart information and plan for his students. If the student did not receive the teacher’s expert advice, he would certainly receive advice from less qualified or unqualified persons elsewhere. Among the most important honours Kandel received was his election into the prestigious National Academy of Education, an influential American organization. In 1937, the University of Melbourne awarded him a Doctor of Letters degree, and in the same year he was honoured by the French government as Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. In 1946, the University of North Carolina awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Kandel made many important contributions to the general field of education and to the specialized field of comparative and international education. International education, to be effective, must lead to the development of a worldwide spirit of internationalism based on a realistic idea that all nations contribute to the progress of the world through their systems of education. He said: Development must begin with the pupil’s own environment and branch out to the community, the nation, and the world. It is nothing less than the cultivation in each one of us of the recognition of the worth and dignity of human beings regardless of race, colour or creed.10 Kandel’s injunction against a nation’s wholesale educational borrowing from another nation because of cultural and social differences was a major contribution to comparative and international education. He called for careful study before adapting any borrowed ideas. These ideas and practices must be suited to each nation’s special culture and unique history. 9

Kandel’s historiography was an additional contribution to education worldwide. His comparisons were valid because he had a historical view of a country’s education system, its contemporary situation, and its likely future direction. Kandel’s tenet of having the best possible teachers in public school classrooms is an enormous boon to an insecure profession. He knew that a substitute for strengthening the role of the teacher was the frequent practice of accepting frivolous innovations that could, in some countries, change the educational focus rapidly. He cautioned against change for change’s sake in education.

Kandel’s philosophy of putting the teacher at centre stage in the process of education was summed up in a monograph he wrote for UNESCO: When so much depends on the quality of the teacher, he cannot be considered as an artisan, capable of using the tricks of an occupation learned in a relatively short period of time. Today teaching requires a preparation so complete and varied as in any profession. The public even in those advanced countries should realize that the best guarantee for education is the quality of the teacher, the soul and sustenance of the school.11

Kandel’s contribution

The distinguished educator George Z.F. Bereday commented on Kandel’s valuable work: Kandel’s contribution to comparative education is widely known. He was the first to chop up the national units and to discuss on a more transnational basis elements such as administration or teacher training, thus paving the way for the problem approach. His precepts about on-the-spot observation of schools have not yet been replaced, even in the age of interdisciplinary teamwork. He advocated meticulous attention to primary documents, a sort of comparative explication de texte, which is regrettably becoming rare at present.12

The major implications of Kandel’s work for today’s study of education systems are that we must look outside the educational institution, as well as within, to determine those forces and factors that have influenced such systems. Coupled with this is the idea of regarding the past as an important area of study, something to measure our progress against, instead of calling for continuous educational renewal and reform in a vacuum.

Many of Kandel’s ideas are fashionable today. Among these are support for effective parent participation in the public school, lifelong learning, a solid curriculum that promotes the established learnings from the past, and an effective teacher in every classroom. Books, such as The closing of the American mind and culture literacy, and other works of recent vintage have restated many of Kandel’s ideas.13

Writing in the early 1960s, Kandel discussed education in the newly independent nations, former colonies of the rich industrialized nations. He believed that the types of education systems that had been developed under industrial and technological conditions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were not appropriate for these underdeveloped agrarian nations.

He also recognized that a gap had to be closed between the poor and under-educated majority and the affluent minority who had access to much more education in developing countries. Discussing the need for an appropriate model of education, he called for a different approach in these nations. He knew that the grafting of models used in industrial nations onto the education systems of Third World nations was terribly ineffective. Searching for appropriate educational models for these countries, he said there was a need first to improve from within the basic conditions of life for people in these nations: The first need of the underdeveloped areas is not to disseminate literacy but to direct education to the improvement of living—of health and hygiene, nutrition, and methods of agriculture. A program of literacy can be built up after a 10 desire has been created to know more about the methods demonstrated; about care of health and hygiene (personal and public) and about the environment in which the school is located.14

Kandel wisely set priorities for citizens of developing nations that would enable them to benefit from participating in non-formal education prior to undertaking formal education. For primary education he recommended the need for compulsory education, entry to school at a fixed legal age, and separate classes for infants and pubescent children. Regarding a relevant curriculum for primary students, he said: ‘The gradual challenge of new ideas on matters recognized to be of direct concern and relevance should help to stimulate a desire to learn more and to lead to purposeful reading’.15 The problems of secondary education were more complex. He saw that too many people in developing countries equated secondary education with academic work exclusively, to the point where it caused many to separate themselves from those who did manual labour.

Kandel recommended that these poor countries look to countries like the United States and the USSR for successful vocational programmes. He believed that successful programmes geared to promoting marketable skills would thus help the populations in developing nations to overcome their perception of vocational education as being a watered-down curriculum. It was also important to modify the traditional forces of higher education if people were to receive adequate preparation for leadership roles in the developing countries.

Kandel recommended that working under the auspices of UNESCO and the United Nations, students in these countries should be trained as university teachers at universities in advanced countries, in order to set up universities in their own countries. It was important to adjust the number of admissions in the poorer countries so that these numbers related to employment opportunities. This would avoid the danger of cultivating an educated proletariate who would have little opportunity for social mobility. Summing up the legacy of Kandel’s oeuvre, Philip Foster wrote: Pride of place must be given to Isaac Kandel whose teaching and research, conducted primarily at Teachers College, Columbia University, spanned a period of some five decades.

With due deference to the work of other scholars, it would not be improper to regard Kandel as more responsible (in the English-speaking world at least) than any other scholar for the emergence of comparative education as a respectable teaching area in universities and other tertiary institutions concerned with educational matters.16


  1. Erwin Pollack (United States of America). Specialist in comparative and international education. He is currently a training specialist at Kennedy-King College, Chicago. Apperas in Who’s who in America: midwest (1994). Author of Leaders in education (1974) and Contemporary authors.
  2. I.L. Kandel, Comparative education, Boston, MA, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1933, p. xix.
  3. I.L. Kandel, The methodology of comparative education, International review of education (Dordrecht, Netherlands), vol. 5, no. 3, 1959, p. 273.
  4. I.L. Kandel, Education yearbook, New York, NY, The MacMillan Company, 1925, p. 1.
  5. W. Brickman, Kandel: international scholar and educator, The education forum (West Lafayette, IN, Kappa Delta Pi), vol. 15, no. 4, May 1951, p. 400. Brickman makes the additional point in the same article (p. 404) that Kandel’s works were also translated from English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch, as well as the Spanish, Chinese and Arabic already mentioned.
  6. I.L. Kandel, Letter to Mr Edward, 1 May 1950, Stanford, CA, The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. (Archives. Personal papers)
  7. W. Brickman, Kandel: international scholar and educator, op. cit., p. 399.
  8. I.L. Kandel, The new era in education: a comparative study, Boston, MA, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1955, p. ix.
  9. I. L. Kandel, UNESCO (an unpublished, updated paper), p. 17, Stanford, CA, The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. (Archives. Personal papers). 11
  10. I.L. Kandel, Conflicting theories of education, New York, NY, Russell & Russell, 1967, p. 2.
  11. I.L. Kandel, The teachers’ part in one world, State teachers college bulletin (Trenton, NJ, State Teachers College), vol. 12, no. 3, December 1945, p. 3-18.
  12. I.L. Kandel, Hacia una profesión docente, UNESCO, Havana, 1962, p. 14. This quote is an English translation from the Spanish.
  13. G.Z.F. Bereday, Memorial to Isaac Kandel 1881-1965, Comparative education review (Chicago, IL., University of Chicago Press), vol. 2, no. 3, June 1966, p. 149.
  14. A. Bloom, The closing of the American mind, New York, NY., Simon & Schuster, 1987; E.D. Hirsch Jr. ed., Cultural literacy, Boston, MA, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.
  15. I.L. Kandel, Comparative education and the underdeveloped countries: a new dimension, Comparative education review (Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press), vol. 4, February 1961, p. 130-35.
  16. Ibid., p. 134.
  17. P. Foster, Teaching and graduate studies: comparative education, T. Husén and T.N. Postlethwaite, eds., The international encyclopedia of education, New York, NY., Pergamon Press, 1985, vol. 9, p. 5085.

Copyright notice

This text was originally published in Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIII, no. 3/4, 1993, p. 721-739.

Reproduced with permission. Read the PDF version of the article here.

Photo source: International Psychoanalysis


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