Formally, SACHES was established in 1991 at the annual conference of the Kenton Education Association (KEA), a general education society with which it has retained close links, and even overlapping memberships. The organization, guided by its founders Harold Herman, Peter Kallaway, David Gilmour and Crain Soudien, came into being as both a comparative and history of education society.  Its founders felt the need for a society that would devote itself to the issues of comparison and history because, critically, especially with respect to the former, none of the existing societies in the region paid particular attention to the issues of CE. KEA, the leading English-speaking education association, focused its work on curriculum and sociology of education.

The Afrikaner education society, the Education Association of South Africa (EASA), on the other hand, regularly included CE in its sessions, but it did not enjoy the kind of credibility that would have easily encouraged liberal and radical scholars of CE to seek refuge within it. The Southern African Society of Education (SASE), which served academics working within historically-black universities and colleges, the third major general education society, also did not have a significant CE interest. While none of these three organizations, to be fair, was, at the time of the formation of SACHES, racially exclusive, they tended to operate with, respectively, a predominant, English-speaking white, an Afrikaans-speaking white and a black membership.

Against this backdrop SACHES emerged as a society that sought not only to focus on CE but simultaneously to emphasize an inclusive racial and geographic agenda. Unlike the other societies, with the exception of SASE which had members in the wider region, it specifically sought to establish itself as a regional organization with the objective of building a membership in the immediate region, i.e., in countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Uganda and Lesotho, but also to attract participation from Kenya and Tanzania. In the context of a traditional South African reserve towards the idea of being African, it deliberately projected itself as an African association. Given the historic divide between South Africa and the rest of the country, this is an enormously important point to recognize.