Handbook of International Development and Education
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Handbook of International Development and Education

Edited by Pauline Dixon, Steve Humble and Chris Counihan

This Handbook considers the myths and untruths that currently exist in international development and education. Using historic and contemporary evidence, this compendium redefines the international development narrative through a new understanding of 'what works', drawn from pragmatic ideas and approaches.
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Chapter 16: Endogenous education in India and the implications of universal peer teaching in the 19th century

Chris Counihan


This chapter considers the historical roots of the first widespread diffusive model of education during the early part of the 19th century. It was first observed along the western shores of India and paved the way for a rigorous learning system before being disseminated across the world. The ‘Madras Method’ of education was originally an experiment involving children as teachers, who cooperatively instructed in peer teaching techniques, creating large communities of learning with great success. At the height of its popularity, the method garnered interest from kings, tsars and early educational reformers who were keen to raise standards, particularly access to education for the poor. It’s a truism that the ‘monitorial schools’ movement flourished largely because of freedom from state involvement in education. Its timely intervention reshaped the elementary education system that was severely redundant in the early 19th century. It recognised a need to improve access and offer a structured pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. The network ran successfully, applying simple economic principles, enabling it to reach the poorest of society, and it is arguably the reason why widespread literacy in England was achieved. Schools were small enterprises charging low fees, and they accepted generous philanthropic donations to increase provision and access. Monitorial schools regularly published results from experimental pedagogies and student achievements. As these schools grew in popularity so did the method to accommodate larger student numbers.

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