Who was Cunningham?

Dr Kenneth Stewart Cunningham was the founding director of ACER, a position he held for 25 years.

Cunningham was born in 1890 in Ballarat, Victoria, the son a Presbyterian minister and was educated in a variety of state and private schools in Victoria and Tasmania. In 1909 he began his teaching career in charge of a one-teacher school in an old selector's hut at Gunbower Island on the Murray River. In 1912 he was selected for a two-year primary teacher training course at the Melbourne Teachers College. He then transferred to secondary teacher training and started an arts course at the University of Melbourne in his second year.

In 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in the Army Medical Service. He remained in the military forces until 1919, serving as a private and a lance corporal until eventually being appointed a lieutenant in the Army Education Service after the armistice.

In 1919 he resumed his studies, graduating in 1920. In 1920 he was appointed to the staff of the Melbourne Teachers College. He remained there until he was appointed Executive Officer of the ACER in 1930.

He came to this new job at the age of 40 with a background of practical experience in small rural schools, ten years of study and teaching in the area of research and experimental education, and some modest achievement in research on educational testing.

He retired from ACER in 1954 and took the opportunity to join a UNESCO mission working on teacher education. He died on 27 June 1976, aged eighty-six.


Connell, W. F. The Australian Council for Educational Research 1930-80. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, 1980.

Cleverley, J. F. Research director and educator - K.S.Cunningham. In 'Pioneers of Australian Education: studies of the development of education in Australia 1900-50, volume 3' edited by C. Turney, pages 272-295. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1983.