18 julio, 2024

Hilda Taba: biography and contributions to education

hilda taba (1902-1967) was a distinguished Estonian-born educator. Her work on the planning of educational curricula implied important advances; Taba’s approach to educational processes was revolutionary. Her investigations meant a substantial shift in the previous approach: she went from the behaviorist view to humanism.

Likewise, this educator considered that educational models should start from cultural as well as social needs. This pedagogue was innovative with her model focused on the integration of different groups as a result of the social situations that arose in the postwar period.

This was vital to ensure the peaceful coexistence of students of different origins. His model was applied to students whose families came from rural areas and were integrated into industrial cities such as postwar Detroit. Taba’s ultimate goal was an education based on democratic principles; his masterpiece was Curriculum Development (1962).


Birth and early years

Hilda Taba was born in the town of Kooraste, in Estonia, on December 7, 1902. Her father was an educator named Robert Taba and her family was large, to the point that Taba was the eldest of nine children.

In 1921 Taba opted for a teaching career after graduating from college. However, at that moment began a brief period in his life that was marked by the erratic and economic difficulties.

After obtaining a license as a schoolteacher at the Tartu Didactic Seminary, she began a short-lived approach to economics at the University of Tartu. This attempt was abandoned almost immediately.

Later he entered the Faculty of Philosophy, from which he graduated in 1926 with an emphasis in the area of ​​history and education. During this time Taba had to finance his studies by giving private classes.

Residence in the United States

In 1926 he obtained a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation and moved to the United States, where he studied for a master’s degree at Bryn Mawr College. In 1927 he applied for a doctorate in education at Columbia University, a degree he obtained in 1932.

During the time that her master’s and doctoral studies lasted, Hilda Taba was associated with prominent figures in the world educational and intellectual field.

These included EL Thorndike, GC Gounts, Ralph Tyler and John Dewey, among others. However, these last two were probably the greatest influences on his work.

After graduating from his doctorate, one of the most paradoxical events occurred in Taba’s life. She returned to Estonia to try to become a professor at the University of Tartu, a position that she was denied. Faced with this and the fact of not getting a job at her level, she returned to North America.

experimental study

Back in the United States, he became involved in an important research project for the reform of the educational curriculum. This was the 8-year experimental study.

This experiment took place under the patronage of the Dalton School and made it possible to contrast the new curricular schemes for the time with the traditional schemes that came from the 19th century.

Hilda Taba’s participation in this project occurred as a researcher and this allowed her to notice several of the aspects that were capital in her postulates.

Among these aspects is the fact that the educational process requires an approach to cultural needs, and that said system must have a democratic essence whose reforms must start from its bases.

Likewise, it was in this instance that Taba met and was noticed by Ralph Tyler, who hired her as coordinator of the curriculum evaluation team in the social field of the aforementioned project. It has been said that Taba’s work was a continuation of Tyler’s postulates.

Integration projects

Between 1945 and 1947 he became deeply involved in another of the central areas of his research: the integration of students from different groups.

This was very relevant in the postwar era due to the mobility of groups that moved to urban environments in search of work.

This group teaching project was based in New York City and was run under the direction of Taba.

The precedents of social unrest made these studies a necessity. This evidenced one of the substantial postulates of Hilda Taba’s research, in the sense that education must respond to the needs of society and culture.

Between 1948 and 1951, the researcher directed the Inter-Group Teaching Center at the University of Chicago, along the same lines as the one in New York. Finally, from 1951 the last period in Hilda Taba’s career began.

In this phase he settled in Contra Costa County, in San Francisco. The primary work carried out at this time was focused on the development of curricula for the social areas of said area.


Hilda Taba passed away early on July 6, 1967.

theoretical postulates

For Hilda Taba, education fulfills a triple purpose:

It allows the transmission of culture, of the human spirit.
It helps to make individuals social entities.
It allows society to be structured in a coherent way.

Likewise, the approach to education must respond to a totality and not be a mere transmission of data. The individual must be able to reason and infer about future situations.

According to Taba, it is imperative that education forms full individuals enrolled in democratic ideas. This is vital so that societies are not vulnerable to totalitarianism and the economy thrives.

Education must respond to the needs of society. In the same way, education must be focused on the processes inherent to the student. In addition, there must be an approach based on the very nature of the knowledge to be imparted.

When structuring an educational curriculum it is necessary to consider several factors sequentially.

In the first place, the needs must be established, focused according to the culture. Once that north is established, work is done based on objectives for said needs.

This is how the contents to be taught are selected and organized in a coherent way. It is also vital to choose the type of experiences that will accompany said contents and establish the forms and contexts of evaluation.

The work of this researcher gives her a privileged rank in the field of world education.

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