Accepted paper:

The « model of Ecole polytechnique » and the national systems of technical education in Europe: from general reference to local peculiarities


Irina Gouzevitch (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)
Dmitri Gouzevitch (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)

Paper short abstract:

The study of the international dimension of the French Ecole polytechnique is closely interrelated with the history of circulation of knowledge. However its adequate interpretation depends on the way in which this common reference was understood and applied (or not) in concrete national contexts

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to analyze the confusions that creates the uncontrolled and abusive use of the expression the "model of the Ecole polytechnique" in connexion with the study of the history of national systems of higher technical education in the 19th century Europe and beyond its limits. If the reference to the famous French model is formally claimed by many national engineering schools (in Spain and in Russia, in Italy and in Belgium, in Germany and in the United States), a more detailed study reveals a great deal of rhetoric and semantic nuances in the concrete use of this common reference. The evidence is also given of the very different ways in which "the model of Ecole polytechnique" could be understood and implemented in each of the local contexts. The polysemy of the term is even so important, that some historians manage to conclude about its lack of pertinence for the historical analyze of the process of circulation of knowledge. Our approach is more flexible: it aims to define a "semantic field" covered by this term and to establish a kind of hierarchy in the way it could be used. Different semantic levels could be then established: nominative, correlative, structural, pedagogic/didactic and discursive - each of them illustrated by one or more national examples. That of the Russian Empire, with its global reform of the higher technical education based upon the declared "polytechnical" model is particularly explicite of the variety and plurality of possible approaches

panel P31
International circulation of engineering teaching models in the 19th and the 20th centuries: the creation of European and Latin American engineering schools in historical and comparative perspectives