Importance of Education | The Value of Education | Define Education | Education Information | Kinds of Education | The Importance of Education








The Role of Education Quality in Economic Growth

by Eric A. Hanushek and Ludger Wößmann

The importance of education is emphasized by society.  However, the role of improved schooling, a central part of most development strategies, has become controversial because expansion of school attainment has not guaranteed improved economic conditions. This paper reviews the role of education in promoting economic well-being, with a particular focus on the role of educational quality. It concludes that there is strong evidence that the cognitive skills of the population – rather than mere school attainment – are powerfully related to individual earnings, to the distribution of income, and to economic growth. New empirical results show the importance of both minimal and high level skills, the complementarity of skills and the quality of economic institutions, and the robustness of the relationship between skills and growth. International comparisons incorporating expanded data on cognitive skills reveal much larger skill deficits in developing countries than generally derived from just school enrollment and attainment. The magnitude of change needed makes clear that closing the economic gap with developed countries will require major structural changes in schooling institutions. 

Read this paper on the importance of education here.


President Obama’s Speech on the Importance of Education


What is Education?

The Value of Education

by Oskar Anweiler, Robert F. Arnove, James Bowen, et. al.

Education, as a discipline, is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments as opposed to various nonformal and informal means of socialization (e.g., rural development projects and education through parent-child relationships).

Education can be thought of as the transmission of the values and accumulated knowledge of a society. In this sense, it is equivalent to what social scientists term socialization or enculturation. Children—whether conceived among New Guinea tribespeople, the Renaissance Florentines, or the middle classes of Manhattan—are born without culture. Education is designed to guide them in learning a culture, molding their behaviour in the ways of adulthood, and directing them toward their eventual role in society. In the most primitive cultures, there is often little formal learning—little of what one would ordinarily call school or classes or teachers. Instead, the entire environment and all activities are frequently viewed as school and classes, and many or all adults act as teachers. As societies grow more complex, however, the quantity of knowledge to be passed on from one generation to the next becomes more than any one person can know, and, hence, there must evolve more selective and efficient means of cultural transmission. The outcome is formal education—the school and the specialist called the teacher.

As society becomes ever more complex and schools become ever more institutionalized, educational experience becomes less directly related to daily life, less a matter of showing and learning in the context of the workaday world, and more abstracted from practice, more a matter of distilling, telling, and learning things out of context. This concentration of learning in a formal atmosphere allows children to learn far more of their culture than they are able to do by merely observing and imitating. As society gradually attaches more and more importance to education, it also tries to formulate the overall objectives, content, organization, and strategies of education. Literature becomes laden with advice on the rearing of the younger generation. In short, there develop philosophies and theories of education.

This article discusses the history of education, tracing the evolution of the formal teaching of knowledge and skills from prehistoric and ancient times to the present, and considering the various philosophies that have inspired the resulting systems. Other aspects of education are treated in a number of articles. For a treatment of education as a discipline, including educational organization, teaching methods, and the functions and training of teachers, see teaching; pedagogy; and teacher education. For a description of education in various specialized fields, see historiography; legal education; medical education; science, history of. For an analysis of educational philosophy, see education, philosophy of. For an examination of some of the more important aids in education and the dissemination of knowledge, see dictionary; encyclopaedia; library; museum; printing; publishing, history of. Some restrictions on educational freedom are discussed in censorship. For an analysis of pupil attributes, see intelligence, human; learning theory; psychological testing.
Education in primitive and early civilized cultures

Prehistoric and primitive cultures

The term education can be applied to primitive cultures only in the sense of enculturation, which is the process of cultural transmission. A primitive person, whose culture is the totality of his universe, has a relatively fixed sense of cultural continuity and timelessness. The model of life is relatively static and absolute, and it is transmitted from one generation to another with little deviation. As for prehistoric education, it can only be inferred from educational practices in surviving primitive cultures.

The purpose of primitive education is thus to guide children to becoming good members of their tribe or band. There is a marked emphasis upon training for citizenship, because primitive people are highly concerned with the growth of individuals as tribal members and the thorough comprehension of their way of life during passage from prepuberty to postpuberty.

Because of the variety in the countless thousands of primitive cultures, it is difficult to describe any standard and uniform characteristics of prepuberty education. Nevertheless, certain things are practiced commonly within cultures. Children actually participate in the social processes of adult activities, and their participatory learning is based upon what the American anthropologist Margaret Mead called empathy, identification, and imitation. Primitive children, before reaching puberty, learn by doing and observing basic technical practices. Their teachers are not strangers but rather their immediate community.

In contrast to the spontaneous and rather unregulated imitations in prepuberty education, postpuberty education in some cultures is strictly standardized and regulated. The teaching personnel may consist of fully initiated men, often unknown to the initiate though they are his relatives in other clans. The initiation may begin with the initiate being abruptly separated from his familial group and sent to a secluded camp where he joins other initiates. The purpose of this separation is to deflect the initiate’s deep attachment away from his family and to establish his emotional and social anchorage in the wider web of his culture.

The initiation “curriculum” does not usually include practical subjects. Instead, it consists of a whole set of cultural values, tribal religion, myths, philosophy, history, rituals, and other knowledge. Primitive people in some cultures regard the body of knowledge constituting the initiation curriculum as most essential to their tribal membership. Within this essential curriculum, religious instruction takes the most prominent place.

Education in the earliest civilizations

The Old World civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and North China

The history of civilization started in the Middle East about 3000 bce, whereas the North China civilization began about a millennium and a half later. The Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations flourished almost simultaneously during the first civilizational phase (3000–1500 bce). Although these civilizations differed, they shared monumental literary achievements. The need for the perpetuation of these highly developed civilizations made writing and formal education indispensable.


Egyptian culture and education were preserved and controlled chiefly by the priests, a powerful intellectual elite in the Egyptian theocracy who also served as the political bulwarks by preventing cultural diversity. The humanities as well as such practical subjects as science, medicine, mathematics, and geometry were in the hands of the priests, who taught in formal schools. Vocational skills relating to such fields as architecture, engineering, and sculpture were generally transmitted outside the context of formal schooling.

Egyptians developed two types of formal schools for privileged youth under the supervision of governmental officials and priests: one for scribes and the other for priest trainees. At the age of 5, pupils entered the writing school and continued their studies in reading and writing until the age of 16 or 17. At the age of 13 or 14 the schoolboys were also given practical training in offices for which they were being prepared. Priesthood training began at the temple college, which boys entered at the age of 17; the length of training depending upon the requirements for various priestly offices. It is not clear whether or not the practical sciences constituted a part of the systematically organized curriculum of the temple college.

Rigid method and severe discipline were applied to achieve uniformity in cultural transmission, since deviation from the traditional pattern of thought was strictly prohibited. Drill and memorization were the typical methods employed. But, as noted, Egyptians also used a work-study method in the final phase of the training for scribes.


As a civilization contemporary with Egyptian civilization, Mesopotamia developed education quite similar to that of its counterpart with respect to its purpose and training. Formal education was practical and aimed to train scribes and priests. It was extended from basic reading, writing, and religion to higher learning in law, medicine, and astrology. Generally, youth of the upper classes were prepared to become scribes, who ranged from copyists to librarians and teachers. The schools for priests were said to be as numerous as temples. This indicates not only the thoroughness but also the supremacy of priestly education. Very little is known about higher education, but the advancement of the priestly work sheds light upon the extensive nature of intellectual pursuit.

As in the case of Egypt, the priests in Mesopotamia dominated the intellectual and educational domain as well as the applied. The centre of intellectual activity and training was the library, which was usually housed in a temple under the supervision of influential priests. Methods of teaching and learning were memorization, oral repetition, copying models, and individual instruction. It is believed that the exact copying of scripts was the hardest and most strenuous and served as the test of excellence in learning. The period of education was long and rigorous, and discipline was harsh.

North China

In North China, the civilization of which began with the emergence of the Shang era, complex educational practices were in effect at a very early date. In fact, every important foundation of the formation of modern Chinese character was already established, to a great extent, more than 3,000 years ago.

Chinese ancient formal education was distinguished by its markedly secular and moral character. Its paramount purpose was to develop a sense of moral sensitivity and duty toward people and the state. Even in the early civilizational stage, harmonious human relations, rituals, and music formed the curriculum.

Formal colleges and schools probably antedate the Zhou dynasty of the 1st millennium bce, at least in the imperial capitals. Local states probably had less-organized institutions, such as halls of study, village schools, and district schools. With regard to actual methods of education, ancient Chinese learned from bamboo books and obtained moral training and practice in rituals by word of mouth and example. Rigid rote learning, which typified later Chinese education, seems to have been rather condemned. Education was regarded as the process of individual development from within.
The New World civilizations of the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas

The outstanding cultural achievements of the pre-Columbian civilizations are often compared with those of Old World civilizations. The ancient Mayan calendar, which surpassed Europe’s Julian calendar in accuracy, was, for example, a great accomplishment demonstrating the extraordinary degree of knowledge of astronomy and mathematics possessed by the Maya. Equally impressive are the sophistication of the Incas’ calendar and their highway construction, the development of the Mayan complex writing system, and the magnificent temples of the Aztecs. It is unfortunate that archaeological findings and written documents hardly shed sufficient light upon education among the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas. But from available documents it is evident that these pre-Columbian civilizations developed formal education for training the nobility and priests. The major purposes of education were cultural conservation, vocational training, moral and character training, and control of cultural deviation.

The Maya

Being a highly religious culture, the Maya regarded the priesthood as one of the most influential factors in the development of their society. The priest enjoyed high prestige by virtue of his extensive knowledge, literate skills, and religious and moral leadership, and high priests served as major advisers of the rulers and the nobility. To obtain a priesthood, which was usually inherited from his father or another close relative, the trainee had to receive rigorous education in the school where priests taught history, writing, methods of divining, medicine, and the calendar system.

Character training was one of the salient features of Mayan education. The inculcation of self-restraint, cooperative work, and moderation was highly emphasized in various stages of socialization as well as on various occasions of religious festivals. In order to develop self-discipline, the future priest endured a long period of continence and abstinence and, to develop a sense of loyalty to community, he engaged in group labour.

The Aztecs

Among the Aztecs, cultural preservation relied heavily upon oral transmission and rote memorization of important events, calendrical information, and religious knowledge. Priests and noble elders, who were called conservators, were in charge of education. Since one of the important responsibilities of the conservator was to censor new poems and songs, he took the greatest care in teaching poetry, particularly divine songs.

At the calmecac, the school for native learning where apprenticeship started at the age of 10, the history of Mexico and the content of the historical codices were systematically taught. The calmecac played the most vital role in ensuring oral transmission of history through oratory, poetry, and music, which were employed to make accurate memorization of events easier and to galvanize remembrance. Visual aids, such as simple graphic representations, were used to guide recitation phases, to sustain interest, and to increase comprehension of facts and dates.

The Incas

The Incas did not possess a written or recorded language as far as is known. Like the Aztecs, they also depended largely on oral transmission as a means of maintaining the preservation of their culture. Inca education was divided into two distinct categories: vocational education for common Incas and highly formalized training for the nobility. As the Inca empire was a theocratic, imperial government based upon agrarian collectivism, the rulers were concerned about the vocational training of men and women in collective agriculture. Personal freedom, life, and work were subservient to the community. At birth an individual’s place in the society was strictly ordained, and at five years of age every child was taken over by the government, and his socialization and vocational training were supervised by government surrogates.

Education for the nobility consisted of a four-year program that was clearly defined in terms of the curricula and rituals. In the first year the pupils learned Quechua, the language of the nobility. The second year was devoted to the study of religion and the third year to learning about the quipus, a complex system of knotted coloured strings or cords used for sending messages and recording historical events. In the fourth year major attention was given to the study of history, with additional instruction in sciences, geometry, geography, and astronomy. The instructors were highly respected encyclopaedic scholars known as amautas. After the completion of this education, the pupils were required to pass a series of rigorous examinations in order to attain full status in the life of the Inca nobility.

Education in classical cultures

Ancient India

The Hindu tradition

India is the site of one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. The Indo-European-speaking peoples who entered India in the 2nd millennium bce established large-scale settlements and founded powerful kingdoms. In the course of time, a group of intellectuals, the Brahmans, became priests and men of learning; another group, of nobles and soldiers, became the Kshatriyas; the agricultural and trading class was called the Vaishyas; and artisans and labourers became the Shudra. Such was the origin of the division of the Hindus into four varnas, or “classes.”

Religion was the mainspring of all activities in ancient India. It was of an all-absorbing interest and embraced not only prayer and worship but also philosophy, morality, law, and government as well. Religion saturated educational ideals too, and the study of Vedic literature was indispensable to higher castes. The stages of instruction were very well defined. During the first period, the child received elementary education at home. The beginning of secondary education and formal schooling was marked by a ritual known as the upanayana, or thread ceremony, which was restricted to boys only and was more or less compulsory for boys of the three higher castes. The Brahman boys had this ceremony at the age of 8, the Kshatriya boys at the age of 11, and the Vaishya boys at the age of 12. The boy would leave his father’s house and enter his preceptor’s ashrama, a home situated amid sylvan surroundings. The acarya would treat him as his own child, give him free education, and not charge anything for his boarding and lodging. The pupil had to tend the sacrificial fires, do the household work of his preceptor, and look after his cattle.

The study at this stage consisted of the recitation of the Vedic mantras (“hymns”) and the auxiliary sciences—phonetics, the rules for the performance of the sacrifices, grammar, astronomy, prosody, and etymology. The character of education, however, differed according to the needs of the caste. For a child of the priestly class, there was a definite syllabus of studies. The trayi-vidya, or the knowledge of the three Vedas—the most ancient of Hindu scriptures—was obligatory for him. During the whole course at school, as at college, the student had to observe brahmacharya—that is, wearing simple dress, living on plain food, using a hard bed, and leading a celibate life.

The period of studentship normally extended to 12 years. For those who wanted to continue their studies, there was no age limit. After finishing their education at an ashrama, they would join a higher centre of learning or a university presided over by a kulapati (a founder of a school of thought). Advanced students would also improve their knowledge by taking part in philosophical discussions at a parisad, or “academy.” Education was not denied to women, but normally girls were instructed at home.

The method of instruction differed according to the nature of the subject. The first duty of the student was to memorize the particular Veda of his school, with special emphasis placed on correct pronunciation. In the study of such literary subjects as law, logic, rituals, and prosody, comprehension played a very important role. A third method was the use of parables, which were employed in the personal spiritual teaching relating to the Upanishads, or conclusion of the Vedas. In higher learning, such as in the teaching of Dharma-shastra (“Righteousness Science”), the most popular and useful method was catechism—the pupil asking questions and the teacher discoursing at length on the topics referred to him. Memorization, however, played the greatest role.

The introduction of Buddhist influences

By about the end of the 6th century bce, the Vedic rituals and sacrifices had gradually developed into a highly elaborate cult that profited the priests but antagonized an increasing section of the people. Education became generally confined to the Brahmans, and the upanayana was being gradually discarded by the non-Brahmans. The formalism and exclusiveness of the Brahmanic system was largely responsible for the rise of two new religious orders, Buddhism and Jainism. Neither of them recognized the authority of the Vedas, and both challenged the exclusive claims of the Brahmans to priesthood. They taught through the common language of the people and gave education to all, irrespective of caste, creed, or sex. Buddhism also introduced the monastic system of education. Monasteries attached to Buddhist temples served the double purpose of imparting education and of training persons for priesthood. A monastery, however, educated only those who were its members. It did not admit day scholars and thus did not cater to the needs of the entire population.

Meanwhile, significant developments were taking place in the political field that had repercussions on education. The establishment of the imperialistic Nanda dynasty about 413 bce and then of the even stronger Mauryas some 40 years later shook the very foundations of the Vedic structure of life, culture, and polity. The Brahmans in large numbers gave up their ancient occupation of teaching in their forest retreats and took to all sorts of occupations, the Kshatriyas abandoned their ancient calling as warriors, and the Shudras, in their turn, rose from their servile occupations. These forces produced revolutionary changes in education. Schools were established in growing towns, and even day scholars were admitted. Studies were chosen freely and not according to caste. Taxila had already acquired an international reputation in the 6th century bce as a centre of advanced studies and now improved upon it. It did not possess any college or university in the modern sense of the term, but it was a great centre of learning with a number of famous teachers, each having a school of his own.

In the 3rd century bce Buddhism received a great impetus under India’s most celebrated ruler, Ashoka. After his death, Buddhism evoked resistance, and a counterreformation in Hinduism began in the country. About the 1st century ce there was also a widespread lay movement among both Buddhists and Hindus. As a result of these events, Buddhist monasteries began to undertake secular as well as religious education, and there began a large growth of popular elementary education along with secondary and higher learning.

Classical India

The 500 years from the 4th century ce to the close of the 8th, under the Guptas and Harsha and their successors, is a remarkable period in Indian history. It was the age of the universities of Nalanda and Valabhi and of the rise of Indian sciences, mathematics, and astronomy. The university at Nalanda housed a population of several thousand teachers and students, who were maintained out of the revenues from more than 100 villages. Because of its fame, Nalanda attracted students from abroad, but the admission test was so strict that only two or three out of 10 attained admission. More than 1,500 teachers discussed more than 100 different dissertations every day. These covered the Vedas, logic, grammar, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy (Sankhya, Nyaya, and so on), astronomy, and medicine. Other great centres of Buddhist learning of the post-Gupta era were Vikramashila, Odantapuri, and Jagaddala. The achievements in science were no less significant. Aryabhata in the late 5th century was the greatest mathematician of his age. He introduced the concepts of zero and decimals. Varahamihira of the Gupta age was a profound scholar of all the sciences and arts, from botany to astronomy and from military science to civil engineering. There was also considerable development of the medical sciences. According to contemporaries, more than eight branches of medical science, including surgery and pediatrics, were practiced by the physicians.

These were the main developments in education prior to the Muslim invasions, beginning in the 10th century. Nearly every village had its schoolmaster, who was supported from local contributions. The Hindu schools of learning, known as pathasalas in western India and tol in Bengal, were conducted by Brahman acaryas at their residence. Each imparted instruction in an advanced branch of learning and had a student enrollment of not more than 30. Larger or smaller establishments, specially endowed by rajas and other donors for the promotion of learning, also grew in number. The usual centres of learning were either the king’s capital, such as Kanauj, Dhar, Mithila, or Ujjayini, or a holy place, such as Varanasi, Ayodhya, Kanchi, or Nasik. In addition to Buddhist viharas (monasteries), there sprang up Hindu mathas (monks’ residences) and temple colleges in different parts of the country. There were also agrahara villages, which were given in charity to the colonies of learned Brahmans in order to enable them to discharge their scriptural duties, including teaching. Girls were usually educated at home, and vocational education was imparted through a system of apprenticeship.

Indian influences on Asia

An account of Indian education during the ancient period would be incomplete without a discussion of the influence of Indian culture on Sri Lanka and Central and Southeast Asia. It was achieved partly through cultural or trade relations and partly through political influence. Khotan, in Central Asia, had a famous Buddhist vihara as early as the 1st century ce. A number of Indian scholars lived there, and many Chinese pilgrims remained there instead of going to India. Indian pandits (scholars) were also invited to China and Tibet, and many Chinese and Tibetan monks studied in Buddhist viharas in India.

The process of Indianization was at its highest in Southeast Asia. Beginning in the 2nd century ce, Hindu rulers reigned in Indochina and in the numerous islands of the East Indian archipelago from Sumatra to New Guinea for a period of 1,500 years. A greater India was thus established by a general fusion of cultures. Some of the inscriptions of these countries, written in flawless Sanskrit, show the influence of Indian culture. There are references to Indian philosophical ideas, legends, and myths and to Indian astronomical systems and measurements. Hinduism continued to wield its influence on these lands so long as the Hindus ruled in India. This influence ceased by the 15th century ce.

Ancient China

Ancient Chinese education served the needs of a simple agricultural society with the family as the basic social organization. Paper and the writing brush had not been invented, and the “bamboo books” then recorded to be in existence were of limited use at best. Oral instruction and teaching by example were the chief methods of education.

The molding of character was a primary aim of education. Ethical teachings stressed the importance of human relations and the family as the foundation of society. Filial piety, especially emphasizing respect for the elderly, was considered to be the most important virtue. It was the responsibility of government to provide instruction so that the talented would be able to enter government service and thus perpetuate the moral and ethical foundation of society.

The Zhou period

Xi (Western) Zhou (1046–771 bce)

This was the feudal age, when the feudal states were ruled by lords who paid homage to the king of Zhou and recognized him as the “Son of Heaven.”

Schools were established for the sons of the nobility in the capital city of Zhou and the capital cities of the feudal states. Schools for the common people were provided within the feudal states in villages and hamlets and were attended, according to written records, by men and women after their work in the fields. There were elementary and advanced schools for both the ruling classes and the common people. Separate studies for girls were concerned chiefly with homemaking and the feminine virtues that assured the stability of the family system.

The content of education for the nobility consisted of the “six arts”—rituals, music, archery, charioteering, writing, and mathematics. They constituted what may be called the “liberal education” of the period. Mere memory work was condemned. As Confucius said of the ancient spirit of education, “learning without thought is labour lost.”

Dong (Eastern) Zhou (770–256 bce)

This was a period of social change brought about by the disintegration of the feudal order, the breakdown of traditional loyalties, the rise of cities and urban civilization, and the growth of commerce.

The instability and the perplexing problems of the times challenged scholars to propose various remedies. The absence of central control facilitated independent and creative thinking. Thus appeared one of the most creative periods in China’s intellectual history, when the Hundred Schools of thought vied with one another to expound their views and proposals for attaining a happy social and political order. Some urged a return to the teachings of the sages of old, while others sought better conditions by radical change. Among the major “schools” of this age were Daoism, Confucianism, Mohism, and Legalism. No one school was in the ascendancy. Each major school had its followers and disciples, among whom there was a vigorous program of instruction and intellectual discussion. Most active in the establishment of private schools were Confucius and his disciples, but the Daoists, the Mohists, and the Legalists also maintained teaching institutions.

Another form of educational activity was the practice of the contending feudal states of luring to their domain a large number of scholars, partly to serve as a source of ideas for enhancing the prosperity of the state and partly to gain an aura of intellectual respectability in a land where the respect for scholars had already become an established tradition. The age of political instability and social disintegration was, thus, an age of free and creative intellectual activity. Conscious of their importance and responsibility, the scholars developed a tradition of self-respect and fearless criticism. It was this tradition that Confucius had in mind when he said the educated person was not a utensil to be used, and it was this spirit the Confucian philosopher Mencius described when he said that the great man was a man of principles whom riches and position could not corrupt, whom poverty and lowliness could not swerve, whom power and force could not bend.

The teachings of the Hundred Schools and the records of the feudal states meant a marked increase in literature and, consequently, in the materials for instruction. The classical age of China, the period of the Dong Zhou, left an intellectual and educational legacy of inestimable value. Its scholars propounded theories of government and of social and individual life that were as influential in China and East Asia as the Greek philosophers of almost contemporary age were in the Western world.

The Qin–Han period

Qin autocracy (221–206 bce)

Of the various schools of thought that arose in China’s classical age, Legalism was the first to be accorded official favour. The policies of the Qin dynasty were based on Legalist principles stressing a strong state with a centralized administration. Many of its policies were so different from past practices that they incurred the criticism of scholars, especially those who upheld the examples of the ancient sages. To stop the criticism, the ruler—who called himself the first emperor—acting upon the advice of a Legalist minister, decreed a clean break with the past and a banning of books on history and of classics glorifying past rulers. Numerous books were collected and burned, and hundreds of scholars were put to death.

Though condemned for the burning of books and the persecution of scholars, the Qin dynasty laid the foundation for a unified empire and made it possible for the next dynasty to consolidate its power and position at home and abroad. In education, the unification efforts included a reform and simplification of the written script and the adoption of a standardized script intelligible throughout the country. First steps were taken toward uniform textbooks for the primary schools. The invention of the writing brush made of hair, as well as the making of ink, led to the replacement of the clumsy stylus and bamboo slips with writing on silk.

Scholarship under the Han (206 bce–220 ce)

The Han dynasty reversed many of the policies of its short-lived predecessor. The most important change was a shift from Legalism to Confucianism. The banned books were now highly regarded, and the classics became the core of education. An assiduous effort was made to recover the prohibited books and to discover books and manuscripts that scholars had concealed in secret places. Much painstaking work was done in copying and editing, and the textual and interpretative studies of the Han scholars accorded a new importance to the study of the classics. The making of paper further stimulated this revival of learning. Critical examination of old texts resulted in the practice of higher criticism long before it developed in the West.

There were historians, philosophers, poets, artists, and other scholars of renown in the Han dynasty. Deserving special mention is Sima Qian, author of a monumental history of China from the earliest times to the 1st century bce, whose high level of scholarship earned him the title “Chinese Father of History.” An illustrious woman of letters, Ban Zhao, was named poet laureate. A bibliographer collected and edited ancient texts and designated them as classics. The first dictionary of the Chinese language was written. Since the discovery and interpretation of ancient texts had largely been the work of Confucian scholars, Chinese scholarship from now on became increasingly identified with Confucianism. Most of the Han rulers gave official sanction to Confucianism as a basis of conducting government and state affairs. There was, however, no action to exclude other schools of thought.

There were a variety of schools on the national and local levels. Increasing activity in private education continued, and much of the study of the classics and enriched literature was done in private schools. Of considerable influence in the country and abroad was a national university with an enrollment that soared to 30,000. The classics now became the core of the curriculum, but music, rituals, and archery were still included. The tradition of all-round education in the six arts had not vanished.

Introduction of Buddhism

The Han dynasty was a period of territorial expansion and growth in trade and cultural relations. Buddhism was introduced at this time. Early information about Buddhism was probably brought into China by traders, envoys, and monks. By the 1st century ce an emperor became personally interested and sent a mission to India to seek more knowledge and bring back Buddhist literature. Thereafter Indian missionaries as well as Chinese scholars translated Buddhist scriptures and other writings into Chinese.

Indian missionaries not only preached a new faith but also brought in new cultural influences. Indian mathematics and astronomical ideas enriched Chinese knowledge in these fields. Chinese medicine also benefited. Architecture and art forms reflected Buddhist and Indian influence. Hindu chants became a part of Chinese music.

For a couple of centuries after its introduction, however, Buddhism showed no signs of popular appeal. Han scholarship was engrossed in the study of ancient classics and was dominated by Confucian scholars who had scant interest in Buddhist teachings that were unconcerned with the practical issues of moral and political life. Moreover, the Buddhist view of evil and the Buddhist espousal of celibacy and escape from earthly existence were alien to China’s traditions. Daoist scholars, finding in Buddhism much that seemed not too remote from their own spiritual message, were more inclined to study the new philosophy. Some of them aided in the translation of Buddhist texts, but they were not in the centre of the Han stage.

The fall of the Han dynasty was followed by a few hundred years of division, strife, and foreign invasions. China was not united again until the end of the 6th century. It was during this period that Buddhism gained a foothold in China. The literary efforts of Chinese monks produced a Chinese Buddhist literature, and this marked the beginning of a process that transformed an alien importation into a Chinese religion and system of thought.

Ancient Hebrews

Like all preindustrial societies, ancient Israel first experienced a type of education that was essentially familial; that is to say, the mother taught the very young and the girls, while the father assumed the responsibility of providing moral, religious, and handcraft instruction for the growing sons. This characteristic remained in Jewish education, for the relation of teacher to pupil was always expressed in terms of parenthood and filiation. Education, furthermore, was rigid and exacting; the Hebrew word musar signifies at the same time education and corporal punishment.

Once they were established in Palestine, at the crossroads of the great literate civilizations of the Middle East in the beginning of the 1st millennium bce, the Jewish people learned to develop a different type of education—one that involved training a specialized, professional class of scribes in a then rather esoteric art called writing, borrowed from the Phoenicians. Writing was at first practical: the scribe wrote letters and drew up contracts, kept accounts, maintained records, and prepared orders. Because he could receive written orders, he eventually became entrusted with their execution; hence the importance of scribes in the royal administration, well-attested since the times of David and Solomon. The training given these scribes, moreover, included training of character and instilling the high ideal of wisdom, as would befit the servants of the king.

Writing found another avenue of application in Israel—in religion. And the scribe again was the agent of education. He was the man who copied the sacred Law faithfully and established the canonical text. He was the one who read the Law to himself and to the people, taught it, and translated it when Hebrew ceased to be the vernacular or “living language” (into Greek in Alexandria, into Aramaic in Palestine); he explained it, commented on it, and studied its application in particular cases. After the downfall of Israel in 722–721 bce and Judah in 586 bce and their subjection to foreign rule, Jewish education became characterized more and more by this religious orientation. The synagogue in which the community assembled became not merely a house of prayer but also a school, with a “house of the book” (bet ha-sefer) and a “house of instruction” (bet ha-midrash) corresponding roughly to elementary and secondary or advanced levels of education. Girls, however, continued to be taught at home.

The role of writing in this Oriental world should not be exaggerated, of course; oral instruction still held first place by far. Although a pupil might learn to read aloud, or rather to intone his text, his main effort was to learn by heart fragment after fragment of the sacred Law. Alongside this written Law, however, there developed interpretations or exegeses of it, which at first were merely oral but which progressively were reduced to writing—first in the form of memoranda or aide-mémoire inscribed on tablets or notebooks, then in actual books. The diffusion of this religious literature called for an expansion of programs of instruction, evolving into diverse stages: elementary, intermediate, and advanced—the latter in several centres in Palestine and later in Babylonia. This religiously based education was to become one of the most important factors enabling Judaism to survive the national catastrophes of 70 and 135 ce, involving the capture and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem. In their dispersion, the Jews clung to Hebrew, their only language for worship, for the study of the Law, for tradition, and consequently for instruction. From this evolved the respect with which the teacher was and is surrounded in Jewish communities.

Ancient Greeks


The history of the Hellenic language, and therewith of the Hellenic people, goes back to the Mycenaean civilization of about 1400–1100 bce, which itself was the heir of the pre-Hellenic civilization of Minoan Crete. The Mycenaean civilization consisted of little monarchies of an Oriental type with an administration operated by a bureaucracy, and it seems to have operated an educational system designed for the training of scribes similar to those of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East. But continuity did not exist between this education and that which was to develop after a period of obscurity known as the Greek Dark Age, dating approximately from the 11th to the 8th century bce.

When the Greek world reappeared in history, it was an entirely different society, one headed by a military aristocracy as idealized in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. During this period, sons of the nobility received their education at the court of the prince in the setting of a guild companionship of warriors: the young nobleman was educated through the counsel and example of an older man to whom he had been entrusted or had entrusted himself, a senior admired and loved. It was in this atmosphere of virile camaraderie that there developed the characteristic ideal of Greek love that was enduringly to mark Hellenic civilization and to deeply influence its conception of education itself—for example, in the relation of master to pupil. Yet these warriors of the Archaic period were not coarse barbarians; by this time the Homerids (reciters of Homer) and the rhapsodists (singers-reciters and sometimes creative poets) were taking the great epics of Homer and Hesiod throughout the far-flung Greek settlements of the Mediterranean, and a new, cultivated civilization was already emerging. Dance, poetry, and instrumental music were well developed and provided an essential element in the educational formation of the dominant elites. In addition, the idea of aretē was becoming central to Greek life. The epics of Hesiod and Homer glorified physical and military prowess and promoted the ideal of the cultivated patriot-warrior who displayed this cardinal virtue of aretē—a concept difficult to translate but embodying the virtues of military skill, moral excellence, and educational cultivation. It was an ethic of honour, which made virtues of pride and of jealousy the inspiration of great deeds and which accepted it as natural that one would be the object of jealousy or of enmity. Reverence for Homer—which until the end of antiquity (and in Byzantium even later) was to constitute the basis of Greek culture and therewith of Greek education—would maintain from generation to generation this “agonistic” ideal: the cult of the hero, of the champion, of high performance, which found an outlet outside the sphere of battles in games or contests (agōnes), particularly in the realm of athletics, the most celebrated being the Olympic Games, dating traditionally from 776 bce.

Profound changes were introduced into Greek education as a result of the political transformations involved in the maturing of the city-state. There developed a collective ideal of devotion to the community: the city-state (polis) was everything to its citizens; the city made its citizens what they were—mankind. This subordination of the individual exploit to collective discipline was reinforced by the strategic military revolution that saw the triumph of heavy infantry, the hoplites, foot soldiers heavily armed and in tight formation.


It is in Sparta, the most flourishing city of the 8th and 7th centuries bce, that one sees to best advantage the richness and complexity of this archaic culture. Education was carried to a high level of artistic refinement, as evidenced by the events organized within the framework of the city’s religious festivals. The young men and women engaged in processions, dances, and competitions in instrumental music and song. Physical education had a like part, equally for both sexes, given status by national or international contests; the Spartans regularly took more than half of the first places at the Olympic Games. But military and civic education dominated, as it was expected that the citizen-soldier be ready to fight—and, if necessary, to die—for his country.

This last aspect became not merely dominant but exclusive from the time (about 550 bce) when a conservative reaction triumphed at Sparta, bringing to power a militarist and aristocratic regime. Arts and sports gave way completely to an education appropriate to men of a warrior caste. The education of girls was subordinated to their future function as mothers; a strict eugenic regime pitilessly eliminated sickly and deformed children. Up to the age of seven, children were brought up by the women, already in an atmosphere of severity and harshness. Education—properly speaking, agōgē—lasted from age 7 to 20 and was entirely in the hands of the state.

The male youth of Sparta were enrolled into formations corresponding to successive age classes, divided into smaller units under the authority of comrades of their own age or of young officers. It was a collective education, which progressively removed them from the family and subjected them to garrison life. Everything was organized with a view to preparation for military service: lightly clothed, bedded on the bare ground, the child was poorly fed, told to steal to supplement his rations, and subjected to rigorous discipline. His virility and combativeness were developed by hardening him to blows—thus the role of ritual brawls between groups of boys and of the institution of the krypteia, a nocturnal expedition designed both to terrify the lower classes of slaves (helots) and to train the future fighter in ambushes and the ruses of warfare. He was also, of course, directly apprenticed to the military craft, using arms and maneuvering in close formation. This puritanical education, proceeding in a climate of austerity, had as its sole norm the interests of the state, erected into a supreme category; the Spartan was trained under a strict discipline to obey blindly the orders of his superiors. Curiously, the child was at the same time trained to dissimulation, to lying, to theft—all virtues when directed toward the foreigner, toward whom distrust and Machiavellianism were encouraged.

This implacably logical education enabled Sparta to remain for long the most powerful city, militarily and diplomatically, of the entire Greek world and to triumph over its rival Athens after the long struggle of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 bce), but it did not prevent Sparta’s decadence. Not that Sparta ever relaxed its tension: on the contrary, in the course of centuries, the rigour and ferocity were accentuated even as such behaviour became more and more anachronistic and without real use. Rites of initiation were transformed into barbarous tests of endurance, the boys undergoing flagellation and competing in enduring it—sometimes to the very death—under the eyes of tourists attracted by the sadistic spectacle. This occurred in times of complete peace when, under the Roman Empire, Sparta was nothing but a little provincial city with neither independence nor army.


Beginning at a date difficult to fix precisely (at the end of the 7th or during the 6th century), Athens, in contrast to Sparta, became the first to renounce education oriented toward the future duties of the soldier. The Athenian citizen, of course, was always obliged, when necessary and capable, to fight for the fatherland, but the civil aspect of life and culture was predominant: armed combat was only a sport. The evolution of Athenian education reflected that of the city itself, which was moving toward increasing democratization—though it should be noted that the slave and the resident alien always remained excluded from the body politic. The Athenian democracy, even in its most complete form, attained in the 4th century bce was to remain always the way of life of a minority—about 10 to 15 percent, it is estimated, of the total population. Athenian culture continued to be oriented toward the noble life—that of the Homeric knight, minus the warrior aspect—and this orientation determined the practice of elegant sports. Some of these, such as horsemanship and hunting, always remained more or less the privilege of an aristocratic and wealthy elite; however, the various branches of athletics, originally reserved for the sons of the great families, became more and more widely practiced.

Education of youth

Schools had begun to appear in those early centuries, probably on eastern Mediterranean models run by private teachers. The earliest references are, however, more recent. Herodotus mentions schools dating from 496 bce and Pausanias from 491 bce. The term used is didaskaleion (“a place for instruction”), while the generic term scholē, meaning leisure—a reference to schooling being the preserve of the wealthier sector—was also coming into use. There was no single institution; rather, each activity was carried out in a separate place. The young boy of privileged rank would be taken by a kind of chaperone, the paidagōgos, who was generally a respected slave within the parents’ household. The elements of literacy were taught by the writing master, known as a grammatistes, the child learning his letters and numbers by scratching them on a wax-coated wooden tablet with a stylus. More advanced formal literacy, chiefly in a study of the poets, playwrights, and historians, was given by the grammatikos, although this was restricted to the genuinely leisured. Supremely important was instruction in the mythopoeic legends of Hesiod and Homer, given by the lyre-playing kitharistes. In addition, all boys had to be instructed in physical and military activities in the wrestling school, known as the palaestra, itself part of the more comprehensive institution of the gymnasium.

The moral aspect of education was not neglected. The Athenian ideal was that of the kalos k’agathos, the “wise and good” man. The teachers were as much preoccupied with overseeing the child’s good conduct and the formation of his character as with directing his progress in the various subjects taught him. Poetry served to transmit all the traditional wisdom, which combined two currents: the ethic of the citizen expressed in the moralizing elegies of the 6th-century lawmaker Solon and the old Homeric ideal of the value of competition and heroic exploit. But this ideal equilibrium between the education of the body and that of the mind was interrupted before long as a result on the one hand of the development of professional sports and the exigencies of its specialization and on the other by the development of the strictly intellectual disciplines, which had made great progress since the time of the first philosophers of the 5th century bce.

Higher education

A system of higher education open to all—to all, at any rate, who had the leisure and necessary money—emerged with the appearance of the Sophists, mostly foreign teachers who were contemporaries and adversaries of Socrates (c. 470–399 bce). Until then the higher forms of culture had retained an esoteric character, being transmitted by the master to a few chosen disciples—as in the first schools of medicine at Cnidus and at Cos—or within the framework of a religious confraternity involving initiate status. The Sophists proposed to meet a new need that was generally felt in Greek society—particularly in the most active cities, such as Athens, where political life had been intensively developed. Henceforth, participation in public affairs became the supreme occupation engaging the ambition of Greek man; it was no longer in athletics and elegant leisure activities that his valour, his desire to assert himself and to triumph, would find expression but rather in political action.

The Sophists, who were professional educators, introduced a form of higher education whose commercial success attested to and was promoted by its social utility and practical efficacy. They inaugurated the literary genre of the public lecture, which was to experience a long popularity. It was a teaching process that was oriented in an entirely realistic direction, education for political participation. The Sophists pretended neither to transmit nor to seek for the truth concerning man or existence; they offered simply an art of success in political life, which meant, above all, being able on every occasion to make one’s point of view prevail. Two principal disciplines constituted the program: the art of logical argument, or dialectic, and the art of persuasive speaking, or rhetoric—the two most flourishing humanistic sciences of antiquity. These disciplines the Sophists founded by distilling from experience their general principles and logical structures, thus making possible their transmission on a theoretical basis from master to pupil.

To the pedagogy of the Sophists there was opposed the activity of Socrates, who, as inheritor of the earlier aristocratic tradition, was alarmed by this radical utilitarianism. He doubted that virtue could be taught—especially for money, a degrading substance. An heir of the old sages of former times, Socrates held that the supreme ideal of man, and hence of education, was not the spirit of efficiency and power but the disinterested search for the absolute, for virtue—in short, for knowledge and understanding.

It was only at the beginning of the 4th century bce, however, that the principal types of Classical Greek higher education became organized on definitive lines. This was the result of the joint and rival efforts of two great educators: the philosopher Plato (c. 428–348/347), who opened his school—the Academy—probably in 387, and the orator Isocrates (436–338), who founded his school about 390.

Plato was descended from a long line of aristocrats and became the most distinguished of Socrates’ students. The indictment and execution of Socrates by what Plato considered an ignorant society turned him away from Athens and public life. After an absence of some 10 years, spent traveling the Mediterranean, he returned to Athens, where he founded a school near the grove dedicated to the early hero Acadēmos and hence known as the Academy. The select band of scholars who gathered there engaged in philosophical disputations in preparation for their role as leaders. Good government, Plato believed, would only come from an educated society in which kings are philosophers and philosophers are kings.

Plato’s literary dialogues provide a comprehensive picture of his approach to education. Basically, it was built around the study of dialectic (the skill of accurate verbal reasoning), the proper pursuit of which, he believed, enables misconceptions and confusions to be stripped away and the nature of underlying truth to be established. The ultimate educational quest, as revealed in the dialogues, is the search for the Good—that is, the ultimate idea that binds together all earthly existence.

Plato’s educational program is set out in his most famous dialogue, the Republic. The world, he argued, has two aspects: the visible, or that which is perceived with the senses; and the nonvisible, or the intelligible, which consists of universal, eternal forms or ideas that are apprehensible only by the mind. Furthermore, the visible realm itself is subdivided into two: the realm of appearances and that of beliefs. Human experiences of so-called reality, according to Plato, are only of visible “appearances” and from these can be derived only opinions and beliefs. Most people, he argued, remain locked in this visible world of opinion; only a select few can cross into the realm of the intelligible. Through a rigorous 15-year program of higher education devoted to the study of dialectics and mathematical reasoning, this elite (“persons of gold” was Plato’s term) can attain an understanding of genuine reality, which is composed of such forms as the Good, the True, the Beautiful, and the Just. Plato maintained that only those individuals who survive this program are really fit for the highest offices of the state and capable of being entrusted with the noblest of all tasks, those of maintaining and dispensing justice.

The rival school of Isocrates was much more down-to-earth and practical. It too aimed at a form of wisdom but of a much more practical order, based on working out commonsense solutions to life’s problems. In contrast to Plato, Isocrates sought to develop the quality of grace, cleverness, or finesse rather than the spirit of geometry. The program of study that he enjoined upon his pupils was more literary than scientific. In addition to gymnastics and music, its basics included the study of the Homeric classics and an extensive study of rhetoric—consisting of five or six years of theory, analysis of the great classics, imitation of the classics, and finally practical exercises.

These two parallel forms of culture and of higher education were not totally in conflict: both opposed the cynical pragmatism of the Sophists; each influenced the other. Isocrates did promote elementary mathematics as a kind of mental training or mental gymnastics and did allow for a smattering of philosophy to illumine broad questions of human life. Plato, for his part, recognized the usefulness of the literary art and philosophical rhetoric. The two traditions appear as two species of one genus; their debate, continued in each generation, enriched Classical culture without jeopardizing its unity.

Before leaving the Hellenic period, there is one other great figure to appraise—one who was a bridge to the next age, since he was the tutor of the young prince who became Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Aristotle (384–322 bce), who was one of Plato’s pupils and shared some of his opinions about education, believed that education should be controlled by the state and that it should have as a main objective the training of citizens. The last book of his Politics opens with these words:

No one will doubt that the legislator should direct his attention above all to the education of youth.…The citizen should be moulded to suit the form of government under which he lives.

He shared some of Plato’s misgivings about democracy, but, because he was no recluse but a man of the world acquainted with public affairs, he declared his preference for limited democracy—“polity”—over other forms of government. His worldliness also led him to be less concerned with the search for ideas, in the Platonic mode, and more concerned with the observation of specific things. His urge for logical structure and classification, for systematization, was especially strong.

This systematization extended to a youth’s education. In his first phase, from birth to age seven, he was to be physically developed, learning how to endure hardship. From age seven to puberty his curriculum would include the fundamentals of gymnastics, music, reading, writing, and enumeration. During the next phase, from puberty to age 17, the student would be more concerned with exact knowledge, not only carrying on with music and mathematics but also exploring grammar, literature, and geography. Finally, in young manhood, only a few superior students would continue into higher education, developing encyclopaedic and intensely intellectual interests in the biological and physical sciences, ethics, and rhetoric, as well as philosophy. Aristotle’s school, the Lyceum, was thus much more empirical than Plato’s Academy.

The Hellenistic Age

Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian empire between 334 and 323 bce abruptly extended the area of Greek civilization by carrying its eastern frontier from the shores of the Aegean to the banks of the Syr Darya and Indus rivers in Central and South Asia. Its unity rested henceforward not so much on nationality (it incorporated and assimilated Persians, Semites, and Egyptians) or on the political unity soon broken after the death of Alexander in 323 but on a common Greek way of life—the fact of sharing the same conception of man. This ideal was no longer social, communal in character, as had been that of the city-state; it now concerned man as an individual—or, better, as a person. This civilization of the Hellenistic Age has been defined as a civilization of paideia—which eventually denoted the condition of a person achieving enlightened, mature self-fulfillment but which originally signified education per se. The Greeks succeeded in preserving their distinctive national way of life amid this immense empire because, wherever numbers of them settled, they brought with them their own system of education for their youth, and they not only resisted being absorbed by the “barbarian” non-Hellenic peoples but also succeeded somewhat in spreading Greek culture to many of the alien elite. It is important to note that, although Hellenism was finally to be swept away in the Middle East by the Persian national renaissance and the invasions originating from Central Asia beginning in the 2nd century bce, it continued to flourish and even expand in the Mediterranean world under Roman domination. Hellenistic civilization and its educational pattern were prolonged to the end of antiquity and even beyond; it was to be a slow metamorphosis and not a brutal revolution that would later give birth to the civilization and education strictly called Byzantine.

The institutions

Hellenistic education comprised an ensemble of studies occupying the young from age 7 to age 19 or 20. To be sure, this entire program was completed only by a minority, recruited from the rich aristocratic and urban bourgeois classes. The students were mostly boys (girls occupied only a very modest place), and of course they were usually free citizens (masters, though some slaves were given a professional education occasionally reaching a high level).

As in the preceding era, education continued to be dependent upon the city, which remained the primary frame of Greek life. To facilitate control of his empire, Alexander had commenced the process of founding a network of cities or communities organized and administered in the Greek manner. In effect, the creation of vast kingdoms did not eliminate the role of the city, even if the latter was not altogether independent; the Hellenistic state was not at all totalitarian and sought to reduce its administrative machinery to a minimum. It relied upon the cities to assume responsibility for public services, that of education in particular. The city, in turn, looked to the contributions of the richest and most generous private individuals, either by requiring them to fill magistracies and supply costly services or by appealing to their voluntary generosity; the proper functioning of the Hellenistic city presupposed the willing contributions of “benefactors.” Thus, certain educational institutions were supported—and in fact sometimes set up—by private foundations that specified exactly the use to be made of the income from their gift of capital. Many schools were private, the role of the city being limited to inspections and to the organization of athletic and musical competitions and festivals.

Physical education

The Hellenistic school par excellence was still the school of gymnastics, the practice of athletic sports and the nudity that they required being the most characteristic feature contrasting the Greek way of life with that of the barbarians. There were, at least in sufficiently large cities, several gymnasiums, separately for the different age classes and on occasion for the sexes. They were essentially palaestrae, or open-air, square-shaped sports grounds surrounded by colonnades in which were set up the necessary services: cloakrooms, washstands, training rooms, massage rooms, and classrooms. Outside there was a track for footraces, the stadion.

The foundation of the training always consisted of the sports properly called gymnastic and field. Horsemanship remained an aristocratic privilege. Nautical sports had a very modest role—a curious thing for a nation of sailors, but the fact is the Greeks were by origin Indo-Europeans from the interior of the Eurasian continent. The other sports—ball games and hockey—were considered merely diversions or at best preparatory exercises. As the competition of professional sports grew, however, education based on sports progressively—though no doubt very slowly—lost its preeminent position. The popularity of athletic sports as spectacle endured, but educational sports moved into the background, disappearing altogether in the Christian period (in the 4th century ce) in favour of literary studies.

There was a similar progressive decline, a similar final effacement, of artistic—particularly musical—education, the other survivor from the Archaic period. The art of music continued to flourish, but like sports it became the concern of professional practitioners and a feature of public spectacles rather than an art generally practiced in cultivated circles.

The primary school

The child from 7 to 14 years of age went to the school of letters, conducted thither, as in the Classical period, by the paidagōgos, whose role was not limited to accompanying the child: he had also to educate him in good manners and morals and finally to act as a lesson coach. Literacy and numeration were taught in the private school conducted by the grammatistes. Class sizes varied considerably, from a few pupils to perhaps dozens. The teaching of reading involved an analytical method that made the process very slow. First the alphabet was taught from alpha to omega and then backward, then from both ends at once: alpha–omega, beta–psi, and so on to mu–nu. (A comparable progression in the Latin alphabet would be A–Z, B–Y, and so on to M–N.) Then were taught simple syllables—ba, be, bi, bo—followed by more complex ones and then by words, successively of one, two, and three syllables. The vocabulary list included rare words (e.g., some of medical origin) chosen for their difficulty of reading and pronunciation. It took several years for the child to be able to read connected texts, which were anthologies of famous passages. With reading was associated recitation and, of course, practice in writing, which followed the same gradual plan.

The program in mathematics was very limited; rather than computation, the subject, strictly speaking, was numeration: learning the whole numbers and fractions, their names, their written notations, their representation in finger counting (in assorted bent positions of the fingers and assorted placements of either hand relative to the body). The general use of tokens and of the abacus made the teaching of methods of computation less necessary than it became in the modern world.

Secondary education

Between the primary school and the various types of higher education, the Hellenistic educational system introduced a program of intermediate, preparatory studies—a preliminary education, a kind of common trunk preparing for the different branches of higher culture, enkyklios paideia (“general, or common, education”). This general education, far from having “encyclopaedic” ambitions in the modern sense of the word, represented a reaction against the inordinate ambitions of philosophy and, more generally, of the Aristotelian ideals of culture, which had demanded the large accumulation of intellectual attainments. The program of the enkyklios paideia was limited to the common points on which, as noted earlier, the rival pedagogies of Plato and of Isocrates agreed—namely, the study of literature and mathematics. Specialized teachers taught each of these subjects. The mathematics program had not changed since the ancient Pythagoreans and comprised four disciplines—arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and harmonics (not the art of music but the theory of the numerical laws regulating intervals and rhythm). The primary function of the grammatikos, or professor of letters, was to present and explicate the great classic authors: Homer first of all, of whom every cultivated man was expected to have a deep knowledge, and Euripides and Menander—the other poets being scarcely known except through anthologies. Although poetry remained the basis of literary culture, room was made for prose—for the great historians, for the orators (Demosthenes in particular), even for the philosophers. Along with these explications of texts, the students were introduced to exercises in literary composition of a very elementary character (for example, summarizing a story in a few lines).

The program of this intermediate education did not attain its definitive formulation until the second half of the 1st century bce, after the appearance of the first manual devoted to the theoretical elements of language, a slim grammatical treatise by Dionysius Thrax. The program then consisted of the seven liberal arts: the three literary arts of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic and the four mathematical disciplines noted above. (These were, respectively, the trivium and the quadrivium of medieval education, though the latter term did not appear until the 6th century and the former not until the 9th century.) The long career of this program should not conceal the fact that, in the course of centuries, it fell into disuse and became rather largely a theory or abstraction; in reality, literary studies gradually took over at the expense of the sciences. Of the four mathematical disciplines, only one remained in favour—astronomy. And this was not merely because of its connections with astrology but primarily because of the popularity of the basic textbook used to teach it—the Phaenomena, a poem in 1,154 hexameters by Aratus of Soli—whose predominantly literary quality was suited to textual explications. Not until about the 3rd and 4th centuries ce was the need of a sound preparatory mathematical education again recognized and put into practice.

Higher education

Higher education appeared in several forms, complementary or competitive. First was the ephebeia (“youth” culture), a kind of civic and military training that completed the education of the young Greek and prepared him to enter into life; it lasted two years (from 18 to 20) and corresponded quite closely to the obligatory military service of modern states. It was a survival from the regime of the old Greek city-states, but in the Hellenistic Age the absence of national independence erased all reason for this military training; between the 3rd and 2nd centuries bce the Athenian ephebeia (eventually reduced to a single year) was transformed into a leisured civilian college where a minority of rich young men came to be initiated into the refinements of the elegant life. Military training came to play only a modest role and gave way to athletic competition. To this were added lectures on scientific and literary subjects, assuring the ephebe a polish of general culture. The same evolution took place in other cities: the ephebeia became everywhere more aristocratic than civic, more sporting than military. What the Greeks, especially those who had emigrated to the barbarian lands, demanded of it was above all that it initiate their sons into Greek life and its characteristic customs, beginning with athletic sports. Especially in Egypt, it was intended to legitimize the privileged status of the Hellene relative to the “native” Egyptian. In any event, the ephebeia no longer was the setting for the highest forms of education.

Formal education in science also lacked any institutionalization. There were, however, some establishments having scientific staffs of high competence, of which the most important was the Mouseion (Museum) established at Alexandria, richly endowed by the Ptolemies; but, at least initially, it was an institute for advanced research. If the scholars endowed there were also teachers, this meant only that they dispensed instruction to a small circle of chosen disciples. The same informal character of personal training was to be seen in all the special disciplines—medicine, for example, which saw such a fine development between the time of Hippocrates (5th century bce) and that of Galen (2nd century ce). If there were in the Hellenistic era certain “schools” of medicine—old (Cnidus, Cos) and new (Pergamum, Alexandria)—these were less the equivalent of today’s medical faculties than simply centres to which the presence of numerous qualified masters attracted a large number of aspirants. Whatever theory these “students” were able to learn, they learned largely through self-training and practice—by associating themselves with a practicing physician whom they accompanied to the bedsides of patients, taking part in his consultations, profiting by his experience and advice.

Philosophy and rhetoric were subjects of education most highly institutionalized. Although philosophy was taught privately by individual masters-lecturers—who could be either itinerants or residents of one place—these teachers were well organized and, in groups, possessed a kind of institutional character. On the model of Plato’s Academy, the new Athenian schools of philosophy—Aristotle’s Lyceum, Epicurus’ Garden, the Porch (stoa), which gave its name to the Stoics—were brotherhoods in which the posts in both teaching and administration were passed from generation to generation as a kind of heritage. It was in philosophy that the personalistic character of the Hellenistic era most clearly asserted itself in contrast to the more communal idea of the preceding period; when philosophy turned to the problem of politics, for instance, it dealt less with the citizens of a republic and more with the sovereign king, his duties and character. The central problem was henceforth that of wisdom—of the purpose that man should set for himself in order to attain happiness, the supreme ideal. The teaching of philosophy was not entirely contemplative: it involved the disciple in an experience analogous to a religious conversion, a decision implying a revision of his life and the adoption of a generally ascetic way of life. Such a vocation, however, could obviously appeal only to a moral, intellectual, and financially secure elite; philosophers were always quite a small number within the Hellenistic (and Roman) intelligentsia.

The reigning discipline was always rhetoric. The prestige of the oratorical art outlived those social conditions that had inspired it; political eloquence operated only in the context of an embassy coming to plead the cause of a particular city or pressure group at the court of the sovereign. Legal eloquence maintained its function, and the profession of advocate retained its attractiveness, but it was above all the eloquence of showy set speeches—the art of the lecturer—that experienced a curious blossoming. Also, as a result of the customary habit of reading aloud, there was no sharp line between speech and the book; thus, eloquence imposed its rule upon all literary genres—poetry, history, philosophy. Even the astronomer and the physician became lecturers.

Hence, great importance was attached to the teaching of rhetoric, which developed from century to century with an ever more rigorous technicalism, precision, and systematization. The study of rhetoric had five parts: (1) invention (the art of finding ideas, according to standard schemes), (2) disposition (the arrangement of words and sentences), (3) elocution, (4) mnemonics (memory training), (5) and action. Action was the art of self-presentation, the regulation of voice and delivery and above all the art of reinforcing the word with the expressive power of gesture. Each of these parts, equally systematized to the tiniest detail, was taught with a technical vocabulary of extreme precision. Such an education—which in addition to theory comprised a study of the great examples to be imitated and exercises in practical application—required many years of study; in fact, even in maturity, the cultivated Hellene continued to deepen his knowledge of the art, to drill himself, to “declaim.”

A rivalry existed between philosophy and rhetoric, each trying to draw into its orbit the best and the most students. Even in the time of Plato and Isocrates, this rivalry did not proceed without mutual concessions and reciprocal influences, but it remained one of the most constant characteristics of the Classical tradition and continued until the end of antiquity and beyond. The long summer of Hellenic civilization was extended under the Roman domination; the great centres of learning also experienced a long prosperity. Athens in particular was the unchallenged capital of philosophy; its ephebeia welcomed foreigners to come to crown their culture in the “school of Greece.” Its masters of eloquence also had a solid reputation, even though they had competition from such schools of Asia Minor as those of Rhodes (in the 1st century ce) and Smyrna (in the 2nd century bce). Under the later Roman Empire, Alexandria—already famous for medicine—competed with Athens for preeminence in philosophy. Other great centres developed: Beirut, Antioch, and the new capital Constantinople. The quality of the teachers and the number of students attending permits one to apply to these centres, without too much anachronism, the modern designation of “universities,” or institutions of advanced learning.

Ancient Romans

Early Roman education

The quality of Latin education before the 6th century bce can only be conjectured. Rome and Roman civilization were then dominated by a rural aristocracy of landed proprietors directly engaged in exploiting their lands, even after the establishment of the republic. Their spirit was far removed from Greece and Homeric chivalry; ancient Roman education was instead an education suitable for a rural, traditional people—instilling in youth an unquestioned respect for the customs of the ancestors: the mos maiorum.

Education had a practical aspect, involving instruction in such farm management concerns as how to oversee the work of slaves and how to advise tenant farmers or one’s steward. It had a legal aspect; in contrast to Athenian law, which relied more on common law than on codified law, Roman justice was much more formalistic and technical and demanded much more study on the part of the citizen. Education also had a moral aspect, aiming at inculcating rural virtues, a respect for good management of one’s patrimony, and a sense of austerity and frugality. Roman education, however, did not remain narrowly utilitarian; it broadened in urban Rome, where there developed the same ideal of communal devotion to the public weal that had existed in Greece—with the difference that in Rome such devotion would never be called into question. The interests of the state constituted the supreme law. The ideal set before youth was not that of the chivalrous hero in the Homeric manner but that of the great men of history who, in difficult situations, had by their courage and their wisdom saved the fatherland when it was in danger. A nation of small farmers, Rome was also a nation of soldiers. Physical education was oriented not toward self-realization or competitive sport but toward military preparedness: training in arms, toughening of the body, swimming across cold and rapid streams, and horsemanship, involving such performances as mounted acrobatics and cavalry parades under arms.

Differing from the Greeks, the Romans considered the family the natural milieu in which the child should grow up and be educated. The role of the mother as educator extended beyond the early years and often had lifelong influence. If, in contrast to the girl, the boy at 7 years of age was allowed to move away from the exclusive direction of his mother, he came under the control of his father; the Roman father closely supervised the development and the studies of his son, giving him instruction in an atmosphere of severity and moral exigency, through precept but even more through example. The young Roman noble accompanied his father as a kind of young page in all his appearances, even within the Senate.

Familial education ended at age 16, when the adolescent male was allowed to wear adult dress—the pure white woolen toga virilis. He devoted one year to an apprenticeship in public life, no longer at his father’s side but placed in the care of some old friend of the family, a man of politics laden with years and honours. Then came military service—first as a simple soldier (it was well for the future leader to learn first to obey), encountering his first opportunity to distinguish himself by courage in battle, but soon thereafter as a staff officer under some distinguished commander. Civil and military, the education of the young Roman was thus completed in the entourage of some high personage whom he regarded with respect and veneration, without ceasing, however, to gravitate toward the family orbit. The young Roman was brought up not only to respect the national tradition embodied in the example of the illustrious men of the past but also very specifically to respect the particular traditions of his own family, which also had its great men and which jealously transmitted a stereotype, a specific attitude toward life. If ancient Greek education can be defined as the imitation of the Homeric hero, that of ancient Rome took the form of imitation of one’s ancestors.

Roman adoption of Hellenistic education

Something of these original characteristics was to survive always in Roman society, so ready to be conservative; but Latin civilization did not long develop autonomously.

It assimilated, with a remarkable faculty for adaptation, the structures and techniques of the much further evolved Hellenistic civilization. The Romans themselves were quite aware of this, as evidenced by the famous lines of Horace: “Captive Greece captivated her rude conqueror and introduced the arts to rustic Latium” (“Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artis intulit agresti Latio” [Epistles, II, i, 156]).

Greek influence was felt very early in Roman education and grew ever stronger after the long series of gains leading to the annexation of Macedonia (168 bce), of Greece proper (146 bce), of the kingdom of Pergamum (133 bce), and finally of the whole of the Hellenized Orient. The Romans quickly appreciated the advantages they could draw from this more mature civilization, richer than their own national culture. The practical Romans grasped the advantages to be drawn from a knowledge of Greek—an international language known to many of their adversaries, soon to be their Oriental subjects—and grasped the related importance of mastering the art of oratory so highly developed by the Greeks. Second-century Rome assigned to the spoken word, particularly in political and legal life, as great an importance as had Athens in the 5th century. The Roman aristocrats quickly understood what a weapon rhetoric could be for a statesman.

Rome doubly adopted Hellenistic education. On the one hand, it came to pass that a Roman was considered truly cultivated only if he had the same education, in Greek, as a native Greek acquired; on the other hand, there progressively developed a parallel system of instruction that transposed into Latin the institutions, programs, and methods of Hellenistic education. Naturally, only the children of the ruling class had the privilege of receiving the complete and bilingual education. From the earliest years, the child, boy or girl, was entrusted to a Greek servant or slave and thus learned to speak Greek fluently even before being able to speak Latin competently; the child also learned to read and write in both languages, with Greek again coming first. (Alongside this private tutoring there soon developed, from the 3rd century bce, a Greek public education in schools aimed at a socially broader clientele, but the results of this schooling were less satisfactory than the direct method enjoyed by the children of the aristocracy.) In following the normal course of studies, the young Roman was taught next by an instructor of Greek letters (grammatikos) and then by a Greek rhetorician. Those desiring more complete training did not content themselves with the numerous and often highly qualified Greeks to be found in Rome but went to Greece to participate in the higher studies of the Greeks themselves. From 119 or 118 bce onward the Romans secured admission to the Ephebic College at Athens, and in the 1st century bce such young Latins as Cicero were attending the schools of the best philosophers and rhetoricians at Athens and Rhodes.

Roman modifications

The adoption of Hellenistic education did not proceed, however, without a certain adaptation to the Latin temperament: the Romans showed a marked reserve toward Greek athleticism, which shocked both their morals and their sense of the deep seriousness of life. Although gymnastic exercises entered into their daily life, it was under the category of health and not that of sport; in Roman architecture, the palaestra or gymnasium was only an appendage of the public baths, which were exaggerations of their Greek models. There was the same reserve, on grounds of moral seriousness, toward music and dance—arts suitable for professional performers but not for freeborn young men and least of all for young aristocrats. The musical arts indeed became integrated into Latin culture as elements of the life of luxury and refinement but as spectacle rather than as amateur participation—hence their disappearance from programs of education. It must be remembered, however, that athletics and music were in Greece itself survivals of archaic education and had already entered upon a process of decline.

This education in a foreign language was paralleled by a course of studies exactly patterned upon those of the Greek schools but transposed into the Latin language. The aristocracy was to remain always attached to the idea of private education conducted within the family, but social pressure brought about the gradual development of public education in schools, as in Greece, at three levels—elementary, secondary, and higher; they appeared at different dates and in various historical contexts.

Education of youth

The appearance of the first primary schools is difficult to date; but the use of writing from the 7th century bce implies the early existence of some kind of appropriate primary instruction. The Romans took their alphabet from the Etruscans, who had taken theirs from the Greeks, who had taken theirs from the Phoenicians. The early Romans quite naturally copied the pedagogy of the Hellenistic world: the same ignorance of psychology, the same strict and brutal discipline, the same analytical method characterized by slow progress—the alphabet (forward, backward, from both ends toward the middle), the syllabary, isolated words, then short sentences (one-line moral maxims), finally continuous texts—the same method for writing, and the same numeration, rather than computation.

It was only between the 3rd and the end of the 1st century bce that Latin secondary education developed, staffed by the grammaticus Latinus, corresponding to the Greek grammatikos. Since the principal object of this education was the explication of poetry, its rise was hindered by the slowness with which Latin literature developed. The first-known of these teachers, Livius Andronicus, took as his subject matter his own Latin translation of the Odyssey; two generations later, Ennius explicated his own poetic works. Only with the great poets of the age of Augustus could Latin literature provide classics able to rival Homer in educational value; they were adopted as basic texts almost immediately after their appearance. Thereafter, and until the end of antiquity, the program was not to undergo further change, the principal authors being first of all Virgil, the comic author Terence, the historian Sallust, and the unchallenged master of prose, Cicero. The methods of the Latin grammarian were copied directly from those of his Greek counterpart; the essential point was the explication of the classic authors, completed by a theoretical study of good language using a grammar textbook and by practical exercises in composition, graduated according to a minutely regulated progression and always remaining rather elementary. Theoretically, the curriculum remained that of the seven liberal arts, but, as in Greece, it practically neglected the study of the sciences in favour of that of letters.

It was only in the 1st century bce that the teaching of rhetoric in Latin was established: the first recorded Latin rhetorician, Plotius Gallus, appeared in 93 bce in a political context—namely, as a democratic initiative to counter the aristocratic education given in Greek—and as such was soon prohibited by the conservative party in power. It was not until the end of the century and the appearance of the works of Cicero that this education would be revived and become normal practice. First, Cicero’s discourses offered the young Latin the equivalent of those of the Greek Demosthenes, and, second, Cicero’s theoretical treatises provided a technical vocabulary obviating the need for Greek manuals. But this instruction was to remain always very close to its Hellenistic origins: the terminology used by Rome’s greatest educator, Quintilian (c. 35–c. 100 ce), was much more impregnated with Hellenism, much less Latinized, than that which Cicero had proposed. At Rome, too, rhetoric became the form of higher education enjoying the greatest prestige; as in Greece, this popularity outlived the elimination of political eloquence. More than in Greece, legal eloquence continued to flourish (Quintilian had in mind particularly the training of future advocates), but—as in the Hellenic milieu—Latin culture became predominantly aesthetic: from the beginning of the empire, the public lecture was the most fashionable literary genre, and the teaching of rhetoric was very naturally oriented toward the art of the lecturer as the crowning achievement.

Higher education

Because the oratorical art was incontestably the most popular subject of higher education, the Romans did not feel the same urgency to Latinize the other rival branches of knowledge, which interested only a small number of specialists with unusual vocations. To be sure, the philosophical work of Cicero had the same ambition as his oratorical work and proved by its existence that it was possible to philosophize in Latin, but philosophy found no successors to Cicero as rhetoric did. There was never a Latin school for philosophy. Of course, Rome did not lack philosophers, but many used Greek as their means of expression (even the emperor Marcus Aurelius); those who, like Cicero, wrote in Latin—Seneca, for example—had taken their philosophy studies in Greek. It was the same in the sciences, particularly in the medical sciences; for long, there were no medical books in Latin except encyclopaedias on a popular level.

On the other hand, Rome created in the school of law another type of higher education—the only one that had no equivalent in Hellenistic education. The position of law in Roman life and civilization is, of course, well known. Perhaps even more than rhetoric, it offered young Romans profitable careers; very naturally, there developed an appropriate education to prepare them. At first elementary in character and entirely practical, it was given within the framework of apprenticeship: the professor of law (magister juris) was primarily a practitioner, who initiated into his art the group of young disciples entrusted to him; these listened to his consultations and heard him plead or judge. Beginning in Cicero’s time and undoubtedly under his influence, this instruction was paralleled by a systematic theoretical exposition. Roman law was thus promoted to the rank of a scientific discipline. True schools were progressively established and took on an official character; their existence is well attested beginning with the 2nd century ce. It was at this same time that legal education acquired its definitive tools, with the composition of systematic elementary treatises such as the Institutiones of Gaius, manuals of procedure, commentaries on the law, and systematic collections of jurisprudence. This creative period perhaps reached its peak at the beginning of the 3rd century ce. The works of the great legal authors of this time, which became classics, were offered by the law professor with much interpretation and explication—very similar to the way in which grammarians offered literature.

Rome, the capital, remained the great centre of this advanced study in law. At the beginning of the 3rd century, however, there appeared in the Roman Orient the school of Beirut. The teaching there was in Latin; and, to hear it and profit by the advantages that it offered for a high administrative or judicial career, many young Greeks enrolled at the school, in spite of the language obstacle. Only a legal career could persuade the Greeks to learn Latin, a language that they had always regarded as “barbarous.”

The Roman world became covered with a network of schools concurrent with the Romanization of the provinces. The primary school always remained private; on the other hand, many schools of grammar or rhetoric acquired the character of public institutions supported (as in the Hellenic world) either by private foundations or by a municipal budget. In effect, it was always the city that was responsible for education. The liberal central government of the high empire, anxious to reduce its administrative apparatus to a minimum, made no pretense of assuming charge of it. It was content to encourage education and to favour teaching careers by fiscal exemptions, and only very exceptionally did an emperor create certain chairs of higher education and assign them a regular stipend. Vespasian (69–79 ce) created two chairs at Rome, one of Greek rhetoric and the other of Latin rhetoric. Marcus Aurelius (161–180 ce) similarly endowed, in Athens, a chair of rhetoric and four chairs of philosophy, one for each of the four great sects—Platonism, Aristotelianism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism.

Education in the later Roman Empire

The dominant fact is the extraordinary continuity of the methods of Roman education throughout such a long succession of centuries. Whatever the profound transformations in the Roman world politically, economically, and socially, the same educational institutions, the same pedagogical methods, the same curricula were perpetuated without great change for 1,000 years in Greek and six or seven centuries in Roman territory. At most, a few nuances of change need be noted. There was a measure of increasing intervention by the central government, but this was primarily to remind the municipalities of their educational duties, to fix the remuneration of teachers, and to supervise their selection. Only higher education received direct attention: in 425 ce, Theodosius II created an institute of higher education in the new capital of Constantinople and endowed it with 31 chairs for the teaching of letters, rhetoric (both Greek and Latin), philosophy, and law. Another innovation was that the exuberant growth of the bureaucratic apparatus under the later empire favoured the rise of one branch of technical education, that of stenography.

The only evolution of any notable extent involves the use of Greek and Latin. There had never been more than a few Greeks who learned Latin, even though the growing machinery of administration and the increasing clientele drawn to the law schools of Beirut and Constantinople tended to increase the numerical size of this tiny minority. On the other hand, in Latin territory, late antiquity exhibited a general recession in the use of Greek. Although the ideal remained unchanged and high culture always proposed to be bilingual, most people generally knew Greek less and less well. This retrogression need not be interpreted solely as a phenomenon of decadence: it had also a positive aspect, being an effect of the development of Latin culture itself. The richness and worth of the Latin classics explain why the youth of the West had less time than formerly to devote to the study of the Greek authors. Virgil and Cicero had replaced Homer and Demosthenes, just as in modern Europe the ancient languages have retreated before the progress of the national languages and literatures. Hence, in the later empire there appeared specialists in intercultural relations and translations from Greek into Latin. In the 4th and particularly in the 5th century, medical education in Latin became possible, thanks to the appearance of a whole medical (and veterinary) literature consisting essentially of translations of Greek manuals. It was the same with philosophy: resuming Cicero’s enterprise at a distance of more than five centuries, Boethius (c. 480–524) in his turn sought with his manuals and his translations to make the study of that discipline available in Latin. Although the misfortunes of Italy in the 6th century—including the Lombardian invasion—did not permit this hope to be realized, the work of Boethius later nourished the medieval renaissance of philosophic thought.

Nothing better demonstrates the prestige and the allure of Classical culture than the attitude taken toward it by the Christians. This new religion could have organized an original system of education analogous to that of the rabbinical school—that is, one in which children learned through study of the Holy Scriptures—but it did not do so. Usually, Christians were content to have both their special religious education provided by the church and the family and their Classical instruction received in the schools and shared with the pagans. Thus, they maintained the tradition of the empire after it had become Christian. Certainly, in their view, the education dispensed by these schools must have presented many dangers, inasmuch as Classical culture was bound up with its pagan past (at the beginning of the 3rd century the profession of schoolteacher was among those that disqualified one from baptism); but the utility of Classical culture was so evident that they considered it necessary to send their children to these same schools in which they barred themselves from teaching. From Tertullian to St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, Christian scholars were ever mindful of the dangers presented by the study of the classics, the idolatry and immorality that they promoted; nevertheless, they sought to show how the Christian could make good use of them.

With the passage of time and the general conversion of Roman society and particularly of its ruling class, Christianity, overcoming its reserve, completely assimilated and took over Classical education. In the 4th century Christians were occupying teaching positions at all levels—from schoolmasters and grammarians to the highest chairs of eloquence. In his treatise De doctrina Christiana (426), St. Augustine formulated the theory of this new Christian culture: being a religion of the Book, Christianity required a certain level of literacy and literary understanding; the explication of the Bible required the methods of the grammarian; preaching a new field of action required rhetoric; theology required the equipment of philosophy. The synthesis of Christianity and Classical education had become so intimate that, when the “barbarian” invasions swept away the traditional school along with many other imperial and Roman institutions, the church, needing a literary culture for the education of its clergy, kept alive the cultural tradition that Rome had received from the Hellenistic world.

Education in Persian, Byzantine, early Russian, and Islamic civilizations

Ancient Persia

The ancient Persian empire began when Cyrus II the Great initiated his conquests in 559 bce. Three elements dominated this ancient Persian civilization: (1) a rigorous and challenging physical environment, (2) the activist and positive Zoroastrian religion and ethics, and (3) a militant, expansionist people. These elements developed in the Persians an adventurous personality mingled with intense national feelings.

In the early period (559–330 bce), known as the Achaemenian period for the ancestor of Cyrus and his successors, education was sustained by Zoroastrian ethics and the requirements of a military society and aimed at serving the needs of four social classes: priests, warriors, tillers of the soil, and merchants. Three principles sustained Zoroastrian ethics: the development of good thoughts, of good words, and of good actions. Achaemenian Zoroastrian education stressed strong family ties and community feelings, acceptance of imperial authority, religious indoctrination, and military discipline.

Education was a private enterprise. Formative education was carried on in the home and continued after the age of seven in court schools for children of the upper classes. Secondary and higher education included training in law to prepare for government service, as well as medicine, arithmetic, geography, music, and astronomy. There were also special military schools.

In 330 bce Persia was conquered by Alexander the Great, and native Persian or Zoroastrian education was largely eclipsed by Hellenistic education. Greek practices continued during the Parthian empire (247 bce–224 ce), founded by seminomadic conquerors from the Caspian steppes. Thus, truly Persian influences were not restored until the appearance of a new, more sophisticated and reform-minded dynasty, the Sāsānians, in the 3rd century ce. In what has been called the neo-Persian empire of the Sāsānians (224–651 ce), the Achaemenian social structure and education were revived and further developed and modified. Zoroastrian ethics, though more advanced than during the Achaemenian period, emphasized similar moral principles but with new stress upon the necessity for labour (particularly agriculture), upon the sanctity of marriage and family devotion, and upon the cultivation of respect for law and of intellectualism—all giving to education a strong moral, social, and national foundation. The subject matter of basic education included physical and military exercises, reading (Pahlavi alphabet), writing (on wooden tablets), arithmetic, and the fine arts.

The greatest achievement of Sāsānian education was in higher education, particularly as it developed in the Academy of Gondēshāpūr. There Zoroastrian culture, Indian and Greek sciences, Alexandrian-Syrian thought, medical training, theology, philosophy, and other disciplines developed to a high degree, making Gondēshāpūr the most advanced academic centre of learning in the later period of Sāsānian civilization. Students from various parts of the world came to the academy, which advanced, among other subjects, Zoroastrian, Greek, and Indian philosophies; Persian, Hellenic, and Indian astronomy; Zoroastrian ethics, theology, and religion; law, government, and finance; and various branches of medicine. It was partly through the Academy of Gondēshāpūr that important elements of Classical Greek and Roman learning reached the Muslims during the 8th and 9th centuries ce and through them, in Latin translations of Arabic works, the Schoolmen of western Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the Roman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean area after the loss of the western provinces to Germanic kingdoms in the 5th century. Although it lost some of its eastern lands to the Muslims in the 7th century, it lasted until Constantinople—the new capital founded by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great in 330—fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The empire was seriously weakened in 1204 when, as a result of the Fourth Crusade, its lands were partitioned and Constantinople captured, but until then it had remained a powerful centralized state, with a common Christian faith, an efficient administration, and a shared Greek culture. This culture, already Christianized in the 4th and 5th centuries, was maintained and transmitted by an educational system that was inherited from the Greco-Roman past and based on the study and imitation of Classical Greek literature.

Stages of education

There were three stages of education. The basic skills of reading and writing were taught by the elementary-school master, or grammatistes, whose pupils generally ranged from 6 or 7 to 10 years of age. The secondary-school master, or grammatikos, supervised the study and appreciation of Classical literature and of literary Greek—from which the spoken Greek of everyday life differed more and more in the course of time—and Latin (until the 6th century). His pupils ranged in age from 10 to 15 or 16. Next, the rhetorician, or rhētor, taught pupils how to express themselves with clarity, elegance, and persuasiveness, in imitation of Classical models. Speaking style was deemed more important than content or original thinking. An optional fourth stage was provided by the teacher of philosophy, who introduced pupils to some of the topics of ancient philosophy, often by reading and discussing works of Plato or Aristotle. Rhetoric and philosophy formed the main content of higher education.

Elementary education was widely available throughout most of the empire’s existence, not only in towns but occasionally in the countryside as well. Literacy was therefore much more widespread than in western Europe, at least until the 12th century. Secondary education was confined to the larger cities. Pupils desiring higher education almost always had to go to Constantinople, which became the cultural centre of the empire after the loss to the Muslim Arabs of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt in the 7th century. Monasteries sometimes had schools in which young novices were educated, but they did not teach lay pupils. Girls did not normally attend schools, but the daughters of the upper classes were often educated by private tutors. Many women were literate, and some—such as the hymnographer Kasia (9th century) and the historian-princess Anna Comnena (1083–c. 1153)—were recognized as writers of distinction.

Elementary education

Elementary-school pupils were taught to read and write individual letters first, then syllables, and finally short texts, often passages from the Psalms. They probably also learned simple arithmetic at this stage. Teachers had a humble social status and depended on the fees paid by parents for their livelihood. They usually held classes in their own homes or on church porches but were sometimes employed as private tutors by wealthy households. They had no assistants and used no textbooks. Teaching methods emphasized memorization and copying exercises, reinforced by rewards and punishments.

Secondary education

The secondary-school teacher taught the grammar and vocabulary of Classical and ecclesiastical Greek literature from the Hellenistic and Roman periods and explained the elements of Classical mythology and history that were necessary for the study of a limited selection of ancient Greek texts, mainly poetry, beginning with Homer. The most commonly used textbook was the brief grammar by Dionysius Thrax; numerous and repetitive later commentaries on the book were also frequently used. From the 9th century on, these books were sometimes supplemented with the Canons of Theognostos, a collection of brief rules of orthography and grammar. The grammatikos might also make use of anonymous texts dating from late antiquity, which offered word-by-word grammatical explanations of Homer’s Iliad, or of similar texts on the Psalms by Georgius Choiroboscos (early 9th century). Pupils would not normally possess copies of these textbooks, since handwritten books were very expensive, but would learn the rules by rote from their teacher’s dictation. Beginning in the 11th century, much use was made in secondary education of schedē (literally, “sketches” or “improvisations”), short prose texts that often ended in a few lines of verse. These were specially written by a teacher to illustrate points of grammar or style. From the early 14th century on, much use was also made of erotemata, systematic collections of questions and answers on grammar that the pupil learned by heart.

Secondary schools often had more than one teacher, and the older pupils were often expected to help teach their juniors. Schools of this kind had little institutional continuity, however. The most lasting schools were those conducted in churches.

Higher education

The rhetorician’s textbooks included systematic handbooks of the art of rhetoric, model texts with detailed commentaries, and specimens of oratory by Classical or post-Classical Greek writers and by Church Fathers, in particular Gregory of Nazianzus. Many Byzantine handbooks of rhetoric survive from all periods. They are often anonymous and always derivative, mostly based directly or indirectly on the treatises of Hermogenes of Tarsus (late 2nd century ce). There is little innovation in the theory of rhetoric they expound. After studying models, pupils went on to compose and deliver speeches on various general topics.

Until the early 6th century there was a flourishing school of Neoplatonic philosophy in Athens, but it was repressed or abolished in 529 because of the active paganism of its professors. A similar but Christian school in Alexandria survived until the Arab conquest of Egypt in 640. For the next five centuries, philosophical teaching seems to have been limited to simple surveys of Aristotle’s logic. In the 11th century, however, there was a renewal of interest in the Greek philosophical tradition, and many commentaries on works of Aristotle were composed, evidently for use in teaching. In the early 15th century the philosopher George Gemistos Plethon revived interest in Plato, who until then had been neglected for Aristotle. All philosophical teaching in the Byzantine world was concerned with the explanation of texts rather than with the analysis of problems.

Because higher education provided learned and articulate personnel for the sophisticated bureaucracies of state and church, it was often supported and controlled officially, although private education always existed as well. There were officially appointed teachers in Constantinople in the 4th century, and in 425 the emperor Theodosius II established professorships of Greek and Latin grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. However, these probably did not survive the great crisis of the Arab and Slav invasions of the 7th century. In the 9th century, the School of Magnaura—an institution of higher learning—was founded by imperial decree. In the 11th century, Constantine IX established new schools of philosophy and law at the Capitol School in Constantinople. Both survived until the 12th century, when the school under the control of the patriarch of Constantinople—with teachers of grammar, rhetoric, and biblical studies—gained predominance. After the interval of Western rule in Constantinople (1204–61), both emperors and patriarchs gave sporadic support to higher education in the capital. As the power, wealth, and territory of the empire were eroded in the 14th and 15th centuries, the church became the principal and ultimately the only patron of higher education.

Professional education

Teaching of such professional subjects as medicine, law, and architecture was largely a matter of apprenticeship, although at various times there was some imperially supported or institutionalized teaching.

Strangely, there is little sign of systematic teaching of theology, apart from that given by the professors of biblical studies in the 12th-century patriarchal school. Studious reading of works by the Church Fathers was the principal path to theological knowledge in Byzantium, both for clergy and for laymen. Nonetheless, religious orthodoxy—or faith—was Byzantium’s greatest strength. It held the empire together for more than 1,000 years against eastern invaders. Faith was also the Byzantine culture’s chief limitation, choking originality in the sciences and the practical arts. But within this limitation it preserved the literature, science, and philosophy of Classical Greece in recopied texts, some of which escaped the plunders of the Crusaders and were carried to southern Italy, restoring Greek learning there. Combined with the treasures of Classical learning that reached Europe through the Muslims, this Byzantine heritage helped to initiate the beginnings of the European Renaissance.

Early Russian education: Kiev and Muscovy

Properly, the term Russia applies only to the approximate region occupied by the empire or republic of Russia since the 18th century. It is sometimes less strictly employed, however—as in this section—to refer to that area from ancient times as well.

The influences of the Byzantine Empire and of the Eastern Orthodox Church made themselves strongly felt in Russia as early as the 10th century, when Kiev, the first east Slavic state, was firmly established. At that time, Prince Svyatoslav, a determined pagan, failed to maintain control of the route “from the Varangians to the Greeks” (south from Novgorod through Kiev, along the Dnepr River), and the Byzantine Empire expelled him from its Balkan possessions, which he was attempting to conquer. After his death in 972, the way lay open for sustained penetration of cultural influences emanating from Byzantium into the Kievan state, although formal relations between the two powers were seldom harmonious. Byzantine cultural materials entering the Kievan state were translated into Old Church Slavonic; thus, there was no language barrier. A famous tale in an early chronicle recounts how Grand Prince Vladimir in 988 ordered the people of Kiev to receive baptism in the Orthodox Christian rite. It is, however, highly dubious to claim that this event, which established Christianity as the predominant cultural force in the Kievan state, also marked the beginning of an institutionalized system of education. A few sources of the time spoke of “book learning,” but all this actually meant was that people were expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of Holy Writ.

The next epoch in Russian history is known as the appanage period. This period runs roughly from the decline of Kiev in the 11th century to the rise of the Grand Principality of Moscow (Muscovy) in the 14th century. It was characterized by the appearance of numerous autonomous fiefdoms and a population shift from southern plains to northern forests, brought about in large part by attacks from steppe nomads. Although the church and monasteries continued to acquire wealth and property, anarchic decentralization was not conducive to the development of any kind of widespread, uniform educational apparatus.

During this time of instability, in 1240 the Mongol (or Tatar) empire, known as the Golden Horde, sacked and devastated the European Russian Plain and imposed its control over the region—although with diminishing efficiency—until 1451. Mongol rule had a debilitating effect on all phases of Russian culture, including the church, which became more formalistic and ritualistic. What little can be learned about education at this time must be culled from later biographies of contemporary saints. It is not clear who served as teachers, how many there were, where they taught, or how many and what kind of pupils they had. What instruction they gave was of an uncompromisingly religious nature: seven-year-olds did little more than read aloud and chant devotional materials or, very rarely, recite the numbers from 1 to 100. Because students uttered their assignments simultaneously, the result was often chaotic.

By the time the Mongol rule came to an end, the welter of independent Russian principalities had been united under the authority of the Grand Principality of Moscow, which began a successful program of territorial expansion. Controversies over religious issues, particularly the respective roles of church and state, flared up but failed to bring about any real improvement in education. The church’s inability to provide adequate education was recognized, however, and in 1551 a church council known as the Hundred Chapters was convened at the initiative of the tsar Ivan IV the Terrible. The council heard many stories of clerical ignorance and licentiousness, and its deliberations made it clear that no effective system or institution existed to educate the clergy, the key class in the cultural establishment.

It is misleading to think of education solely in institutional terms, however. Another system existed in early Russia: the highly developed family system, within which from generation to generation parents handed on to their children skills and knowledge. Indeed, the very strength and tenacity of the family unit may well have retarded development of a more formal educational structure.

Things began to change in the 17th century. It is necessary to bear in mind that Kiev and much of western Ukraine had for centuries been under the control of the Roman Catholic Polish-Lithuanian state, where intellectual achievement and ferment—especially during the Renaissance and Reformation—had been considerably greater than in Muscovite Russia. The people of Ukraine were determined to preserve Orthodoxy from Roman Catholic pressure, which grew intense when the Jesuits employed their excellent schools as one means to spearhead the Counter-Reformation. Different Orthodox groups responded to the challenge by forming schools at many levels, culminating in the foundation of the Kievan Academy by Peter Mogila, the energetic metropolitan of Kiev, who strove to adapt Western educational techniques to defend Orthodoxy. It should be noted, however, that, although these schools adopted portions of the broader Western curriculum, their goal continued to be what it always had been: the inculcation of traditional religious values.

By the mid-17th century much of the western Ukraine had come under Muscovite control, enabling a number of educated Ukrainians—some trained in Poland, a few even in Rome—to come to Moscow. They arrived under the auspices of Patriarch Nikon, who was then engaged in correcting what he saw as errors in Orthodox church books, but their appearance aroused deep suspicion on the part of the Orthodox establishment, many of whose members displayed little interest in or sympathy for the establishment of schools, an undertaking the newcomers considered to be of primary importance. Educational reforms nevertheless continued, albeit slowly.

The reign of Peter I the Great (1682–1725) ushered in a new and more dynamic age, although even this ruler’s reforming zeal proved inadequate to the central task of creating a national school system, particularly at the elementary level. Religion was deemphasized as Peter strove to establish at least a few institutions that would provide graduates trained in practical subjects for government and military service. Church schools were brought under state control, and the Academy of Sciences was established. Nevertheless, the creation of a network of schools capable at all levels of responding to Russia’s rapidly changing priorities was a task that awaited the future.

The Islamic Era

Influences on Muslim education and culture

The Greco-Byzantine heritage of learning that was preserved through the medium of Middle Eastern scholarship was combined with elements of Persian and Indian thought and taken over and enriched by the Muslims. It was initiated as early as the Umayyad caliphate (661–750), which allowed the sciences of the Hellenistic world to flourish in Syria and patronized Semitic and Persian schools in Alexandria, Beirut, Gondēshāpūr, Nisibis, Haran, and Antioch. But the largest share of Islam’s preservation of Classical culture was assumed by the ʿAbbāsid caliphate (750–c. 1100), which followed the Umayyad and encouraged and supported the translation of Greek works into Arabic, often by Nestorian, Hebrew, and Persian scholars. These translations included works by Plato and Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ptolemy, and others. The great mathematician al-Khwārizmī (flourished 9th century) compiled astronomical tables, introduced Hindu numerals (which became Arabic numerals), formulated the oldest known trigonometric tables, and prepared a geographic encyclopaedia in cooperation with 69 other scholars.

The transmission of Classical culture through Muslim channels can be divided into seven basic types: (1) works translated directly from Greek into Arabic, (2) works translated into Pahlavi, including Indian, Greek, Syriac, Hellenistic, Hebrew, and Zoroastrian materials, with the Academy of Gondēshāpūr as the centre of such scholarship (the works then being translated from Pahlavi into Arabic), (3) works translated from Hindi into Pahlavi, then into Syriac, Hebrew, and Arabic, (4) works written by Muslim scholars from the 9th through the 11th century but borrowed, in effect, from non-Muslim sources, with the line of transmission obscure, (5) works that amounted to summaries and commentaries of Greco-Persian materials, (6) works by Muslim scholars that were advances over pre-Islamic learning but that might not have developed in Islam had there not been the stimulation from Hellenistic, Byzantine, Zoroastrian, and Hindu learning, and, finally, (7) works that appear to have arisen from purely individual genius and national cultures and would likely have developed independently of Islam’s Classical heritage of learning.

Aims and purposes of Muslim education

Islam placed a high value on education, and, as the faith spread among diverse peoples, education became an important channel through which to create a universal and cohesive social order. By the middle of the 9th century, knowledge was divided into three categories: the Islamic sciences, the philosophical and natural sciences (Greek knowledge), and the literary arts. The Islamic sciences, which emphasized the study of the Qurʾān (the Islamic scripture) and the Ḥadīth (the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) and their interpretation by leading scholars and theologians, were valued the most highly, but Greek scholarship was considered equally important, albeit less virtuous.

Early Muslim education emphasized practical studies, such as the application of technological expertise to the development of irrigation systems, architectural innovations, textiles, iron and steel products, earthenware, and leather products; the manufacture of paper and gunpowder; the advancement of commerce; and the maintenance of a merchant marine. After the 11th century, however, denominational interests dominated higher learning, and the Islamic sciences achieved preeminence. Greek knowledge was studied in private, if at all, and the literary arts diminished in significance as educational policies encouraging academic freedom and new learning were replaced by a closed system characterized by an intolerance toward scientific innovations, secular subjects, and creative scholarship. This denominational system spread throughout eastern Islam from Transoxania (roughly, modern-day Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and southwest Kazakhstan) to Egypt, with some 75 schools in existence between about 1050 and 1250.

Organization of education

The system of education in the Muslim world was unintegrated and undifferentiated. Learning took place in a variety of institutions, among them the ḥalqah, or study circle; the maktab (kuttab), or elementary school; the palace schools; bookshops and literary salons; and the various types of colleges, the meshed, the masjid, and the madrasa. All the schools taught essentially the same subjects.

The simplest type of early Muslim education was offered in the mosques, where scholars who had congregated to discuss the Qurʾān began before long to teach the religious sciences to interested adults. Mosques increased in number under the caliphs, particularly the ʿAbbāsids: 3,000 of them were reported in Baghdad alone in the first decades of the 10th century; as many as 12,000 were reported in Alexandria in the 14th century, most of them with schools attached. Some mosques—such as that of al-Manṣūr, built during the reign of Hārūn al-Rashīd in Baghdad, or those in Isfahan, Mashhad, Ghom, Damascus, Cairo, and the Alhambra (Granada)—became centres of learning for students from all over the Muslim world. Each mosque usually contained several study circles (ḥalqah), so named because the teacher was, as a rule, seated on a dais or cushion with the pupils gathered in a semicircle before him. The more advanced a student, the closer he was seated to the teacher. The mosque circles varied in approach, course content, size, and quality of teaching, but the method of instruction usually emphasized lectures and memorization. Teachers were, as a rule, looked upon as masters of scholarship, and their lectures were meticulously recorded in notebooks. Students often made long journeys to join the circle of a great teacher. Some circles, especially those in which the Ḥadīth was studied, were so large that it was necessary for assistants to repeat the lecture so that every student could hear and record it.

Elementary schools (maktab, or kuttab), in which pupils learned to read and write, date to the pre-Islamic period in the Arab world. After the advent of Islam, these schools developed into centres for instruction in elementary Islamic subjects. Students were expected to memorize the Qurʾān as perfectly as possible. Some schools also included in their curriculum the study of poetry, elementary arithmetic, penmanship, ethics (manners), and elementary grammar. Maktabs were quite common in almost every town or village in the Middle East, Africa, Sicily, and Spain.

Schools conducted in royal palaces taught not only the curriculum of the maktabs but also social and cultural studies designed to prepare the pupil for higher education, for service in the government of the caliphs, or for polite society. The instructors were called muʾaddibs, or instructors in good manners. The exact content of the curriculum was specified by the ruler, but oratory, history, tradition, formal ethics, poetry, and the art of good conversation were often included. Instruction usually continued long after the pupils had passed elementary age.

The high degree of learning and scholarship in Islam, particularly during the ʿAbbāsid period in eastern Islam and the later Umayyads in western Islam, encouraged the development of bookshops, copyists, and book dealers in large, important Islamic cities such as Damascus, Baghdad, and Córdoba. Scholars and students spent many hours in these bookshop schools browsing, examining, and studying available books or purchasing favourite selections for their private libraries. Book dealers traveled to famous bookstores in search of rare manuscripts for purchase and resale to collectors and scholars and thus contributed to the spread of learning. Many such manuscripts found their way to private libraries of famous Muslim scholars such as Avicenna, al-Ghazālī, and al-Fārābī, who in turn made their homes centres of scholarly pursuits for their favourite students.

Fundamental to Muslim education though the circle schools, the maktabs, and the palace schools were, they embodied definite educational limitations. Their curricula were limited; they could not always attract well-trained teachers; physical facilities were not always conducive to a congenial educational environment; and conflicts between religious and secular aims in these schools were almost irreconcilable. Most importantly, these schools could not meet the growing need for trained personnel or provide sufficient educational opportunities for those who wished to continue their studies. These pressures led to the creation of a new type of school, the madrasa, which became the crown and glory of medieval Muslim education. The madrasa was an outgrowth of the masjid, a type of mosque college dating to the 8th century. The differences between these two institutions are still being studied, but most scholars believe that the masjid was also a place of worship and that, unlike the madrasa, its endowment supported only the faculty and not the students as well. A third type of college, the meshed (shrine college), was usually a madrasa built next to a pilgrimage centre. Whatever their particularities, all three types of college specialized in legal instruction, each turning out experts in one of the four schools of Sunni, or orthodox, Islamic law.

Madrasas may have existed as early as the 9th century, but the most famous one was founded in 1057 by the vizier Niẓām al-Mulk in Baghdad. The Niẓāmīyah, devoted to Sunni learning, served as a model for the establishment of an extensive network of such institutions throughout the eastern Islamic world, especially in Cairo, which had 75 madrasas; in Damascus, which had 51; and in Aleppo, where the number of madrasas rose from 6 to 44 between 1155 and 1260.

Important institutions also developed in western Islam, under the Umayyads, in the Spanish cities of Córdoba, Sevilla (Seville), Toledo, Granada, Murcia, Almería, Valencia, and Cádiz. The madrasas had no standard curriculum; the founder of each school determined the specific courses that would be taught, but they generally offered instruction in both the religious sciences and the physical sciences.

The contribution of these institutions to the advancement of knowledge was vast. Muslim scholars calculated the angle of the ecliptic; measured the size of the Earth; calculated the precession of the equinoxes; explained, in the field of optics and physics, such phenomena as refraction of light, gravity, capillary attraction, and twilight; and developed observatories for the empirical study of heavenly bodies. They made advances in the uses of drugs, herbs, and foods for medication; established hospitals with a system of interns and externs; discovered causes of certain diseases and developed correct diagnoses of them; proposed new concepts of hygiene; made use of anesthetics in surgery with newly innovated surgical tools; and introduced the science of dissection in anatomy. They furthered the scientific breeding of horses and cattle; found new ways of grafting to produce new types of flowers and fruits; introduced new concepts of irrigation, fertilization, and soil cultivation; and improved upon the science of navigation. In the area of chemistry, Muslim scholarship led to the discovery of such substances as potash, alcohol, nitrate of silver, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and mercury chloride. It also developed to a high degree of perfection the arts of textiles, ceramics, and metallurgy.

Major periods of Muslim education and learning

The renaissance of Islamic culture and scholarship developed largely under the ʿAbbāsid administration in eastern Islam and later under the Umayyads in western Islam, mainly in Spain, between 800 and 1000. This latter period, the golden age of Islamic scholarship, was largely a period of translation and interpretation of Classical thoughts and their adaptation to Islamic theology and philosophy. The period also witnessed the introduction and assimilation of Hellenistic, Persian, and Hindu mathematics, astronomy, algebra, trigonometry, and medicine into Muslim culture.

Whereas the 8th and 9th centuries—mainly between 750 and 900—were characterized by the introduction of Classical learning and its refinement and adaptation to Islamic culture, the 10th and 11th were centuries of interpretation, criticism, and further adaptation. There followed a period of modification and significant additions to Classical culture through Muslim scholarship. Creative scholarship in Islam from the 10th to the 12th century included works by such scholars as Omar Khayyam, al-Bīrūnī, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā), al-Ṭabarī, Avempace (Ibn Bājjah), and Averroës (Ibn Rushd). During the 12th and 13th centuries, most of the works of Classical learning and the creative Muslim additions were translated from Arabic into Hebrew and Latin. These translations were instrumental in bringing about the early phases of the European intellectual awakening, which coincided with the decline of Muslim scholarship.

Influence of Islamic learning on the West

As Europe was absorbing the fruits of Islam’s centuries of creative productivity, signs of Latin Christian awakening were evident throughout the European continent. The 12th century was one of intensified traffic of Muslim learning into the Western world through many hundreds of translations of Muslim works, which helped Europe seize the initiative from Islam when political conditions in Islam brought about a decline in Muslim scholarship. By 1300, European scholars stood once again on the solid ground of Hellenistic thought, enriched or modified through Muslim and Byzantine efforts.

Europe in the Middle Ages

The background of early Christian education

From the beginnings to the 4th century

Initially, Christianity found most of its adherents among the poor and illiterate, making little headway—as St. Paul observed (1 Corinthians 1:26)—among the worldly-wise, the mighty, and those of high rank. But during the 2nd century ce and afterward, it appealed more and more to the educated class and to leading citizens. These individuals naturally wanted their children to have at least as good an education as they themselves had, but the only schools available were the grammar and rhetoric schools with their Greco-Roman, non-Christian culture. There were different opinions among Christian leaders about the right attitude to this dilemma that confronted all Christians who sought a good education for their children. The Greek Fathers—especially the Christian Platonists Clement of Alexandria and Origen—sought to prove that the Christian view of the universe was compatible with Greek thought and even regarded Christianity as the culmination of philosophy, to which the way must be sought through liberal studies. Without a liberal education, the Christian could live a life of faith and obedience but could not expect to attain an intellectual understanding of the mysteries of the faith or expect to appreciate the significance of the Gospel as the meeting ground of Hellenism and Judaism. St. Augustine and St. Basil also tolerated the use of the secular schools by Christians, maintaining that literary and rhetorical culture is valuable so long as it is kept subservient to the Christian life. The Roman theologian Tertullian, on the other hand, was suspicious of pagan culture, but he admitted the necessity (though deploring it) of making use of the educational facilities available.

In any event, most Christians who wanted their children to have a good education appear to have sent them to the secular schools; this practice continued even after 313, when the emperor Constantine, who had been converted to Christianity, stopped the persecution of Christians and gave them the same rights as other citizens. Christians also set up catechetical schools for the religious instruction of adults who wished to be baptized. Of these schools, the most famous was the one at Alexandria in Egypt, which had a succession of outstanding heads, including Clement and Origen. Under their scholarly guidance, it developed a much wider curriculum than was usual in catechetical schools, including the best in Greek science and philosophy in addition to Christian studies. Other schools modeled on that at Alexandria developed in some parts of the Middle East, notably in Syria, and continued for some time after the collapse of the empire in the west.

From the 5th to the 8th century

The gradual subjugation of the Western Empire by the barbarian invaders during the 5th century eventually entailed the breakup of the educational system that the Romans had developed over the centuries. The barbarians, however, did not destroy the empire; in fact, their entry was really in the form of vast migrations that swamped the existing and rapidly weakening Roman culture. The position of the emperor remained, the barbarians exercising local control through smaller kingdoms. Roman learning continued, and there were notable examples in the writings of Boethius—chiefly his Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius composed most of these studies while acting as director of civil administration under the Ostrogoths. Equally famous was his contemporary Cassiodorus (c. 490–c. 585), who, as a minister under the Ostrogoths, worked energetically at his vision of civilitas, a program of educating the public and developing a sound administrative structure. Thus, despite the political and social upheavals, the methods and program of ancient education survived into the 6th century in the new barbarian Mediterranean kingdoms; indeed, the barbarians were frequently impressed and attracted by things Roman. In Ostrogothic Italy (Milan, Ravenna, Rome) and in Vandal Africa (Carthage), the schools of the grammarians and rhetoricians survived for a time, and, even in those places where such schools soon disappeared—such as Gaul and Spain—private teachers or parents maintained the tradition of Classical culture until the 7th century. As in previous centuries, the culture bestowed was essentially literary and oratorical: grammar and rhetoric constituted the basis of the studies. The pupils read, reread, and commented on the Classical authors and imitated them by composing certain kinds of exercises (dictiones) with the aim of achieving a perfect mastery of their style. In fact, however, the practice was desultory, and the results were mechanical and poor. Greek was ignored more and more, and attempts to revive Hellenic studies were limited to a dwindling number of scholars.

Christianity, meanwhile, was becoming more formally organized, and in the Latin-speaking Western division of the empire the Catholic church (as it was beginning to be called, from the Greek katholikos, the “whole”) developed an administrative pattern, based upon that of the empire itself, for which learning was essential for the proper discharge of its duties. Schools began to be formed in the rudimentary cathedrals, although the main centres of learning from the 5th century to the time of Charlemagne in the 8th century were in the monasteries. The prototype of Western monasticism was the great monastery founded at Monte Cassino in 529 by Benedict of Nursia (c. 480–c. 547), probably on the model of Vivarium, the scholarly monastery established by Cassiodorus. The rule developed by Benedict to guide monastic life stimulated many other foundations, and one result was the rapid spread of Benedictine monasteries and the establishment of an order. The Benedictine monasteries became the chief centres of learning and the source of the many literate scribes needed for the civil administration.

The monastic schools, however, are no more significant in the history of education than the schools founded by bishops, usually in connection with a cathedral. These episcopal schools are sometimes looked upon as successors of the grammar schools of the Roman Empire. First specializing in the development of the clergy, they later admitted young laypeople when the small Roman schools had disappeared. At the same time, there were bishops who organized a kind of boarding school where the aspiring clergyman, living in a community, participated in duties of a monastic character and learned his clerical trade.

The influence of monasticism affected the content of instruction and the method of presenting it. Children were to be dutiful; as the Celtic and English monks Columban and Bede were to remark, “A child does not remain angry, he is not spiteful, does not contradict the professors, but receives with confidence what is taught him.” In the case of the adolescent destined for a religious profession, the monastic lawgiver was severe. The teacher must know and teach the doctrine, reprimand the undisciplined, and adapt his method to the different temperaments of the young monks. The education of young girls destined for monastic life was similar: the mistress of the novices recommended prayer, manual work, and study.

Between the 5th and 8th centuries the principles of education of the laity likewise evolved. The treatises on education, later called the “mirrors,” pointed to the importance of the moral virtues of prudence, courage, justice, and temperance. The Institutionum disciplinae of an anonymous Visigoth pedagogue expressed the desire that all young men “quench their thirst at the quadruple fountain of the virtues.” In the 7th and 8th centuries the moral concepts of antiquity completely surrendered to religious principles. The Christian Bible was more and more considered as the only source of moral life—as the mirror in which humans must learn to see themselves. A bishop addressing himself to a son of the Frankish king Dagobert (died 639) drew his examples from the books of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). The mother of Didier of Cahors addressed to her son letters of edification on the fear of God, on the horror of vice, and on penitence.

The Christian education of children who were not aristocrats or future clergymen or monks was irregular. Whereas in antiquity catechetical instruction was organized especially for the adult laity, after the 5th century more and more children and then infants received baptism, and, once baptized, a child was not required to receive any particular religious education. His parents and godparents assisted him in learning the minimum, if anything at all. Only by attending church services and listening to sermons did the child acquire his religious culture.

The Irish and English revivals

During the 5th and 6th centuries there was a renaissance of learning in the remote land of Ireland, introduced there initially by the patron saints of Ireland—Patrick, Bridget, and Columba—who established schools at Armagh, Kildare, and Iona. They were followed by a number of other native scholars, who also founded colleges—the most famous and greatest university being the one at Clonmacnois, on the River Shannon near Athlone. To these and lesser schools flocked Anglo-Saxons, Gauls, Scots, and Teutons from Britain and the Continent. From about 600 to 850 Ireland itself sent scholars to the Continent to teach, found monasteries, and establish schools.

Although the very earliest Irish scholars may have aimed primarily at propagating the Christian faith, their successors soon began studying and teaching the Greek and Roman classics (but only in Latin versions), along with Christian theology. Eventually there were additions of mathematics, nature study, rhetoric, poetry, grammar, and astronomy—all studied, it seems, very largely through the medium of the Irish language.

England was next to experience the reawakening, and, though there were notable schools at such places as Canterbury and Winchester, it was in Northumbria that the schools flourished most. At the monasteries of Jarrow and Wearmouth and at the Cathedral School of York, some of the greatest of early medieval writers and schoolmasters appeared, including the Venerable Bede and Alcuin. The latter went to France in 780 to become master of Charlemagne’s palace school.

The Carolingian renaissance and its aftermath

The cultural revival under Charlemagne and his successors

Charlemagne (742/743–814) has been represented as the sponsor or even creator of medieval education, and the Carolingian renaissance has been represented as the renewal of Western culture. This renaissance, however, built on earlier episcopal and monastic developments, and, although Charlemagne did help to ensure the survival of scholarly traditions in a relatively bleak and rude age, there was nothing like the general advance in education that occurred later with the cultural awakening of the 11th and 12th centuries.

Learning, nonetheless, had no more ardent friend than Charlemagne, who came to the Frankish throne in 768 distressed to find extremely poor standards of Latin prevailing. He thus ordered that the clergy be educated severely, whether by persuasion or under compulsion. He recalled that, in order to interpret the Holy Scriptures, one must have a command of correct language and a fluent knowledge of Latin; he later commanded, “In each bishopric and in each monastery let the psalms, the notes, the chant, calculation and grammar be taught and carefully corrected books be available” (capitulary of 789 ce). His promotion of ecclesiastical and educational reform bore fruit in a generation of churchmen whose morals and whose education were of a higher standard than before.

The possibility then arose of providing, for the brighter young clerics and perhaps also for a few laymen, a more advanced religious and academic training. It was perhaps to meet this modest need that a school grew up within the precincts of the emperor’s palace at Aachen. In order to develop and staff other centres of culture and learning, Charlemagne imported considerable foreign talent. During the 8th century England had been the scene of some intellectual activity. Thus, Alcuin, who had been the master of the school at York, and other English scholars were brought over to transplant to the Continent the studies and disciplines of the Anglo-Saxon schools. From Moorish Spain came Christian refugees who also contributed to this intellectual revival; disputations with the Muslims had forced them to develop a dialectic skill in which they now instructed Charlemagne’s subjects. From Italy came grammarians and chroniclers, men such as Paul the Deacon; the more formalistic Classical traditions in which they had been bred supplied the framework to discipline the effervescent brilliance of the Anglo-Saxons. Irish scholars also arrived. Thanks to these foreigners, who represented the areas where Classical and Christian culture had been maintained in the 6th and 8th centuries, the court became a kind of “academy,” to use Alcuin’s term. There the emperor, his heirs, and his friends discussed various subjects—the existence or nonexistence of the underworld and of nothingness; the eclipse of the sun; the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and so on. Recognizing the importance of manuscripts in the cultural revival, Charlemagne formed a library (the catalog of which is still extant), had texts and books copied and recopied, and bade every school to maintain a scriptorium. Alcuin developed a school of calligraphy at Tours, and its new script spread rapidly throughout the empire; this Carolingian minuscule was more legible and less wasteful of space than the uncial scripts hitherto employed.

Outside the court at Aachen were to be found here and there a few seats of culture—but not many. The archbishop of Lyon reorganized the schools of readers and choir leaders; Alcuin in Saint-Martin-de-Tours and Angilbert in Saint-Riquier organized monastic schools with relatively well-stocked libraries. It was necessary to wait for the second generation, or even the third, to witness the greatest brilliance of the Carolingian renewal. Under Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious and especially under his grandsons, the monastic schools reached their apogee in France north of the Loire, in Germany, and in Italy. The most famous were at Saint-Gall, Reichenau, Fulda, Bobbio, Saint-Denis, Saint-Martin-de-Tours, and Ferrières. Unfortunately, the breakup of the Carolingian empire, following local rebellions and the Viking invasions, ended the progress of the Carolingian renaissance.

Influences of the Carolingian renaissance abroad

In England—at least in the kingdom of Wessex—King Alfred the Great stands out as another royal patron of learning, one who wanted to imitate the creativity of Charlemagne. When he came to the throne in 871, cultural standards had fallen to a low level, partly because of the turmoil of the Danish invasions. He was grieved to find so few who could understand Latin church services or translate a letter from Latin into English. To accomplish an improvement, he called upon monks from the Continent, particularly those of Saint-Bertin. Moreover, he attracted to his court certain English clergy and young sons of nobles. Since the latter did not know Latin, he had translated into Wessex English some works of Pope Gregory the Great, Boethius, the theologian and historian Paulus Orosius, Venerable Bede, St. Augustine, and others. He himself translated Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care, and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. This promotion of learning was continued by Alfred’s successors and spread elsewhere in England; and in the reformed monasteries at Canterbury, York, and Winchester, the young monks renewed the study of religious and secular sciences. Among the master scholars of the late 10th century was the Benedictine monk Aelfric, perhaps the greatest prose writer of Anglo-Saxon times. In order to facilitate the learning of Latin for young monks, Aelfric composed a grammar, glossary, and colloquy, containing a Latin grammar described in Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, a glossary in which master and pupil could find a methodically classified Latin vocabulary (names of birds, fish, plants, and so forth), and a manual of conversation, inspired by the bilingual manuals of antiquity.

Among the other Saxons—those of the Continent who presided over the destinies of Germany—there were also significant gatherings of masters and students at selected monasteries, such as Corvey and Gandersheim. In any case, wherever teaching became important in the 10th century, it concentrated largely on grammar and the works of the Classical authors. Thus, when Gerbert of Aurillac, after a course of instruction in Catalonia, came to teach dialectic and the arts of the quadrivium (geometry, arithmetic, harmonics, and astronomy) at Reims, he aroused astonishment and admiration. His renown helped in his later election as Pope Sylvester II. The first half of the 11th century contained the first glimmerings of a rediscovered dialectic. A new stage in the history of teaching was beginning.

Education of the laity in the 9th and 10th centuries

The clergy who dominated society thought it necessary to give laymen some directives about life comparable to those offered in monastic rules and thus issued what were called miroirs (“mirrors”), setting forth the duties of a good sovereign and exalting the Christian struggle. Already the image of the courtly and Christian knight was beginning to take shape. It was not a question of governing a state well but, rather, of governing oneself. The layman must struggle against vice and practice virtue; he must emphasize his religious heritage. Alcuin became indignant when he heard it said that the reading of the Gospel was the duty of the clergy and not that of the layman. Huoda, wife of Bernard, duke of Septimania, addressed a manual to her 16-year-old son, stressing the reading and praying that a young man should do. In the libraries of the laity, the volumes of the Old Testament and New Testament took first place, along with prayer books, a kind of breviary designed for day-to-day use.

If a minority of aristocrats could receive a suitable moral and religious education, the masses remained illiterate and preferred a military apprenticeship to study. “He who has remained in school up to twelve years without mounting a horse is no longer good for anything but the priesthood,” wrote a German poet. Writers of hagiographic texts were fond of contrasting the mother of the future saint, anxious to give education to her son, and the father, who wanted to harden his son at an early age to the chase or to war. The Carolingian tradition, however, was not totally forgotten by princes and others in high places. In Germany, Otto I and his successors, who wished to re-create the Carolingian empire, encouraged studies at the court: Wipo, the preceptor of Henry III, set out a program of education for the laity in his Proverbia. Rediscovering the ancient moralists, chiefly Cicero and Seneca, he praised moderation as opposed to warlike brutality or even the ascetic strength of the monks. The same tendency is found in other writings.

The medieval renaissance

The era that has been called the “renaissance of the 12th century” corresponds to a rediscovery of studies originating in the 11th century in a West in the process of transformation. The church cast off the tutelage of lay power, and there was general acceptance of the authority of the church in matters of belief, conduct, and education; the papacy took over the direction of Christianity and organized the Crusades to the East; the monarchies regrouped the political and economic forces of feudal society; the cities were reanimated and were organized into communes; the merchants traced out the great European trade routes and, before long, the Mediterranean ones. Soon, contact with the East—by trade and in the Crusades—and with the highly cultivated Moors in Spain further stimulated intellectual life. Arabic renderings of some of the works of Aristotle, together with commentaries, were translated into Latin, exercising a profound influence on the trend of culture. It was inevitable that the world of education would take on a new appearance.

Changes in the schools and philosophies

Monastic schools

In the first place, the monastic reformers made the decision to close their schools to those who did not intend to enter upon a cloistered life. According to their idea of solitude and sanctity, recalling the words of St. Jerome, “The monk was not made to teach but to mortify himself.” Divine works were to be the only object of study and meditation, and Pierre de Celle asserted that “divine science ought to mould rather than question, to nourish conscience rather than knowledge.”

The scholarly monks completed their studies before being admitted to the monastery—the age of entrance in Benedictine houses, for instance, being fixed at 15 years at Cîteaux and 20 years at Cluny. If there were admitted a few oblates (laymen living in monasteries under modified rules), they were given an ascetic and moral education and were taught to read the Holy Writ and, what was still more desirable, to “relish” it. In the Carthusian monastery, the four steps of required spiritual exercise were reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Thus there existed a monastic culture, but there were no truly monastic studies such as those that had existed in the 9th and 10th centuries. The rich libraries of the monasteries served only a few scholarly abbots, while the monks searched for God through prayer and asceticism.

Urban schools

In the cities, on the contrary, the schools offered to all the clergy who so desired the means of satisfying their intellectual appetite. More and more of them attended these schools, for the studies were a good means of social advancement or material profit. The development of royal and municipal administrations offered the clergy new occupations. Hence the success of the schools for notaries and the schools of law. These schools were organized under the protection of the collegiate churches and the cathedrals. The schools for secular subjects were directed by an archdeacon, chancellor, cantor, or cleric who had received the title of scholasticus, caput scholae, or magister scholarum and who was assisted by one or more auxiliary masters. The success of the urban schools was such that it was necessary, in the middle of the 12th century, to define the teaching function. Only those who were provided with the licencia docendi conferred by the bishop—or, more often, by the scholasticus—could teach. Those who were licensed taught within the limits of the city or the diocese, whose clerical leaders supervised this monopoly and intervened if a cleric set himself up as master without having the right. The popes were sufficiently concerned about licensing that the Lateran Council of 1179 gave this institution universal application.

New curricula and philosophies

The pupils who attended these urban schools learned in them their future occupation as clerics; they learned Latin, learned to sing the various offices, and studied Holy Writ. The more gifted ones extended their studies further and applied for admission to the liberal arts (the trivium, made up of grammar, rhetoric, and logic; and the quadrivium, including geometry, arithmetic, harmonics, and astronomy) and subsequently to philosophy. Philosophy had four branches: theoretical, practical, logical, and mechanical. The theoretical was divided into theology, physics, and mathematics; the practical consisted of morals or ethics (personal, economic, political). The logical, which concerned discourse, consisted of the three arts of the trivium. Finally, the mechanical included the work of processing wool, of navigation, of agriculture, of medicine, and so on. This was an ambitious humanistic program. In fact, the students became specialized in the study of one art or another according to their tastes or the presence of a renowned master, such as Guillaume de Champeaux at Paris and St. Victor for rhetoric and theology; Peter Abelard at Paris for dialectic and theology; Bernard de Chartres for grammar; William of Conches at Chartres for grammar, ethics, and medicine; and Thierry de Chartres for rhetoric. In particular, teachers of the “literary” arts, grammar and rhetoric, always had great success in a period of enthusiasm for the ancient authors. It may be noted that Bernard de Chartres organized his literary teaching in this fashion: grammatical explanations (declinatio), studies of authors, and each morning the correction of the exercises given the day before.

The third art of the trivium, logic (or dialectics), was nevertheless a strong competitor of the other two, grammar and rhetoric. Since the 11th century, Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, which had been translated centuries earlier by Boethius, had developed the taste for reasoning, and, by the time Abelard arrived in Paris around 1100, interest in dialectics was flourishing. The written words of the Scriptures and of the Fathers of the Church were to be subjected to the scrutiny of human reason; a healthy skepticism was to be the stepping-stone to knowledge, aided by an understanding of critical logic.

While dialectic reigned in Paris, the masters at Chartres offered a study of the whole of the quadrivium. This interest in the sciences, which had been manifest at Chartres since the early 11th century, had been favoured by the stimulus of Greco-Arabic translations. The works of Euclid, Ptolemy, Hippocrates, Galen, and other Hellenic and Hellenistic scholars, as preserved in the Arabic manuscripts, were translated in southern Italy, Sicily, and Spain and were gradually transmitted northward. The scientific revival allowed the Chartrians to Christianize Greek cosmology, to explain Genesis according to physics, and to rediscover nature.

Another revival was that of law. The conflicts in the second half of the 12th century between the church and the lay powers encouraged on both sides a new activity in the juridical field. The princes found in the Corpus Juris Civilis, the 6th-century Roman code of the emperor Justinian, the means of legitimizing their politics, and the papacy likewise used Roman sources to promote its claims.

Thomist philosophy

In the long view, the greatest educational and philosophical influence of the age was St. Thomas Aquinas, who in the 13th century made a monumental attempt to reconcile the two great streams of the Western tradition. In his teaching at the University of Paris and in his writings—particularly the Summa theologiae and the Summa contra gentiles—Aquinas tried to synthesize reason and faith, philosophy and theology, university and monastery, and activity and contemplation. In his writings, however, faith and theology ultimately took precedence over reason and philosophy because the former were presumed to give access to truths that were not available through rational inquiry. Hence, Aquinas started with assumptions based on divine revelation and went on to a philosophical explication of man and nature. The model of the educated man that emerged from this process was the Scholastic, whose rational intelligence had been vigorously disciplined for the pursuit of moral excellence and whose highest happiness was found in contemplation of the Christian God.

The Scholastic model greatly affected the development of Western education, especially in fostering the notion of intellectual discipline. Aquinas’s theological-philosophical doctrine was a powerful intellectual force throughout the West, being officially adopted by the Dominican order (of which Aquinas was a member) in the 13th century and by the Jesuits in the 17th century. Known as Thomism, this doctrine came to constitute the basis of official Roman Catholic theology from 1879. Although Aquinas made an important place in his hierarchy of values for the practical uses of reason, later Thomists were often more exclusively intellectual in their educational emphasis.

The development of the universities

The Middle Ages were thus beset by a multiplicity of ideas, both homegrown and imported from abroad. The multiplicity of students and masters, their rivalries, and the conflicts in which they opposed the religious and civil authorities obliged the world of education to reorganize. To understand the reorganization, one must review the various stages of development in the coming together of students and masters. The first stage, already alluded to, occurred when the bishop or some other authority began to accord to other masters permission to open schools other than the episcopal school in the neighbourhood of his church. A further stage was reached when a license to teach, the jus ubique docendi—granted only after a formal examination—empowered a master to carry on his vocation at any similar centre. A further development came when it began to be recognized that, without a license from pope, emperor, or king, no school could be formed possessing the right of conferring degrees, which originally meant nothing more than licenses to teach.

Students and teachers, as clerici (“clerks,” or members of the clergy), enjoyed certain privileges and immunities, but, as the numbers traveling to renowned schools increased, they needed additional protection. In 1158 Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire granted them privileges such as protection against unjust arrest, trial before their peers, and permission to “dwell in security.” These privileges were subsequently extended and included protection against extortion in financial dealings and the cessatio—the right to strike, discontinue lectures, and even to secede to protest against grievances or interference with established rights.

In the north of Europe, licenses to teach were granted by the chancellor, scholasticus, or some other officer of a cathedral church; in the south, it is probable that the guilds of masters (when these came to be formed) were at first free to grant their own licenses, without any ecclesiastical or other supervision. Gradually, however, toward the end of the 12th century a few great schools, from the excellence of their teaching, came to assume more than local importance. In practice, a doctor of Paris or Bologna would be allowed to teach anywhere and those great schools began to be known as studia generalia—that is, places resorted to by scholars from all parts. Eventually the term came to have a more definite and technical significance. The emperor Frederick II in 1225 set the example of attempting to confer upon his new school at Naples, by an authoritative bull, the prestige that the earlier studia had acquired by reputation and general consent. Pope Gregory IX did the same for Toulouse in 1229, and he added to its original privileges in 1233 a bull by which anyone who had been admitted to the doctorate or mastership in that university should have the right to teach anywhere without further examination. Other studia generalia were subsequently founded by papal or imperial bulls, and in 1292 even the oldest universities—Paris and Bologna—found it desirable to obtain similar bulls from Pope Nicholas IV. From this time, the notion began to prevail that the essence of the studium generale was the privilege of conferring a universally valid teaching license and that no new studium could acquire that position without a papal or imperial bull. There were, however, a few studia generalia (such as Oxford), the position of which was too well established to be questioned, even though they had never obtained such a bull; these were held to be studia generalia by repute. A few Spanish universities founded by royal charter were held to be studia generalia for the kingdom.

The word universitas originally applied only to the scholastic guild (or guilds)—that is, the corporation of students and masters—within the studium, and it was always modified, as universitas magistrorum, or universitas scholarium, or universitas magistrorum et scholarium. In the course of time, however, probably toward the latter part of the 14th century, the term began to be used by itself, with the exclusive meaning of a self-regulating community of teachers and scholars whose corporate existence had been recognized and sanctioned by civil or ecclesiastical authority.

The Italian universities

The earliest studia arose out of efforts to provide instruction beyond the range of the cathedral and monastic schools for the education of priests and monks. Salerno, the first great studium, became known as a school of medicine as early as the 9th century and, under the teaching of Constantine the African (died 1087), its fame spread throughout Europe. In 1231 it was licensed by Frederick II as the only school of medicine in the kingdom of Naples. It remained a medical school only.

The great revival of legal studies that took place at Bologna about the year 1000 had been preceded by a corresponding activity at Pavia and Ravenna. In Bologna a certain Pepo was lecturing on parts of the Corpus Juris Civilis about the year 1076. The secular character of this new study and its close connection with the claims and prerogatives of the Western emperor aroused papal suspicion, and for a time Bologna and its students were regarded by the church with distrust. The students found their first real protector in the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. The immunities and privileges he conferred eventually extended to all the other universities of Italy.

The first university of Bologna was not constituted until the close of the 11th century—the “universities” there being student guilds, formed to obtain by combination that protection and those rights that they could not claim as citizens. As the number of students increased, the number of universitates, or societies of scholars, increased, each representing the national origin of its members (France, England, Provence, Spain, Italy). These confederations were presided over by a common head, the rector scholarium, and the different nations were represented by their consiliarii, a deliberative assembly with which the rector habitually took counsel. The practice at Bologna was adopted as other studia generalia arose.

The students at Bologna were mostly of mature years. Because civil law and canon law were, at first, the only branches of study offered, the class they attracted was often composed of lawyers already filling office in some department of the church or state—archdeacons, heads of schools, canons of cathedrals, and like functionaries. About 1200, the two faculties of medicine and philosophy were formed. The former was developed by a succession of able teachers, among whom Thaddeus Alderottus was especially eminent. The faculty of arts, down to the 14th century, scarcely attained equal eminence.

At Bologna the term “college” long had a meaning different from the ordinary modern one. The masters formed themselves into collegia (that is, organizations), chiefly for the conferment of degrees. Places of residence for students existed at Bologna at a very early date, but it was not until the 14th century that they possessed any organization; the humble domus, as it was termed, was at first designed solely for needy students who were not natives of Bologna; a separate house, with a fund for the maintenance of a specified number of scholars, was all that was originally contemplated.

From the 13th to the 15th century, a number of universities in Italy originated from migrations of students; others were established by papal or other charters. Almost all the schools taught civil or canon law or both. Of these institutions the most important were Padua, Piacenza, Pavia, Rome, Perugia, Pisa, Florence, Siena, and Turin.

The French universities

The history of the University of Paris well illustrates the fact that the universities arose in response to new needs. The schools out of which the university arose were those attached to the Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Île de la Cité in Paris and presided over by its chancellor. Although, in the second decade of the 13th century, some masters placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the abbot of the monastery of Sainte-Geneviève on the Left Bank of the Seine, it was around the bestowal of the license by the chancellor of Notre-Dame that the university grew. It is in this license that the whole significance of the master of arts degree was contained; for admission to that degree was the receiving of the chancellor’s permission to “incept,” and by “inception” was implied the master’s formal entrance upon the functions of a duly licensed teacher and his recognition as such by his brethren in the profession. The stage of bachelordom had been one of apprenticeship for the mastership; and his emancipation from this state was symbolized by the placing of the magisterial cap (biretta) upon his head. The new master gave a formal inaugural lecture, and he was then welcomed into the society of his professional brethren with set speeches and took his seat in his master’s chair.

Sometime between 1150 and 1170, the University of Paris came formally into being. Its first written statutes were not, however, compiled until about 1208, and it was not until long after that date that it possessed a “rector.” Its earliest recognition as a legal corporation belongs to about the year 1211, when a brief of Innocent III empowered it to elect a proctor to be its representative at the papal court. With papal support, Paris became the great transalpine centre of orthodox theological teaching. Successive pontiffs, down to the Great Schism of 1378, cultivated friendly relations with the university and systematically discouraged the formation of theological faculties at other centres. In 1231 Gregory IX, in the bull Parens scientiarum (“Mother of Learning”), gave full recognition to the right of the several faculties to regulate and modify the constitution of the university. The fully developed university was divided into four faculties: three superior, those of theology, canon law, and medicine; and one inferior, that of arts, which was divided into four student confederations, or nations (French, Picard, Norman, and English), including both professors and scholars from the respective countries. The head of each faculty was the dean; of each nation, the proctor. The rector in the first instance head of the faculty of arts eventually became the head of the collective university.

After the close of the Middle Ages, Paris came to be virtually reduced to a federation of colleges, though at Paris the colleges were less independent of university authority than was often the case elsewhere. Other major French universities of the Middle Ages were Montpellier, Toulouse, Orléans, Angers, Avignon, Cahors, Grenoble, Orange, and Perpignan.

The English universities

The University of Paris became the model for French universities north of the Loire and for those of central Europe and England; Oxford would appear to have been the earliest. Certain schools, opened early in the 12th century within the precincts of the dissolved nunnery of St. Frideswide and of Oseney Abbey, are supposed to have been the nucleus around which it grew. But the beginning may have been a migration of English students from Paris about 1167 or 1168. Immediately after 1168, allusions to Oxford as a studium and a studium generale begin to multiply. In the 13th century, mention first occurs of university “chests,” which were benefactions designed for the assistance of poor students. Halls, or places of licensed residence for students, also began to be established. Against periodic vicissitudes, such as student dispersions and plagues, the foundation of colleges proved the most effective remedy. The earliest colleges were University College, founded in 1249; Balliol College, founded about 1263; and Merton College, founded in 1264.

The University of Cambridge, although it came into existence somewhat later than Oxford, may reasonably be held to have had its origin in the same century. In 1112 the canons of St. Giles crossed the River Cam and took up their residence in the new priory in Barnwell, and their work of instruction acquired additional importance. In 1209 a body of students migrated there from Oxford. Then, about 1224, the Franciscans established themselves in the town and, somewhat less than half a century later, were followed by the Dominicans. At both the English universities, as at Paris, the mendicants and other religious orders were admitted to degrees—a privilege that, until the year 1337, was extended to them at no other university. Their interest in and influence at these three centres were consequently proportionately great.

In 1231 and 1233 royal and papal letters afford satisfactory proof that the University of Cambridge was already an organized body, with a chancellor at its head. Although both Oxford and Cambridge were modeled on Paris, their higher faculties never developed the same distinct organization; and, while the two proctors at Cambridge originally represented north and south, the nations are scarcely to be discerned. An important step was made, however, in 1276, when an ordinance was passed requiring everyone who claimed to be recognized as a scholar to have a fixed master within 15 days of his entry into the university. The traditional constitution of the English universities was in its origin an imitation of the Parisian, modified by the absence of the cathedral chancellor. But the feature that most served to give permanence and cohesion to the entire community at Cambridge was, as at Oxford, the institution of colleges. The earliest of these was Peterhouse, in 1284. All the early colleges were expressly designed for the benefit of the secular clergy.

Universities elsewhere in Europe

From the 13th to the 15th century, studia generalia or universities proliferated in central and northern Europe and were usually modeled on the University of Paris. Although the earliest was Prague, which existed as a studium in the 13th century and was chartered by Pope Clement VI in 1348, perhaps no medieval university achieved a more rapid and permanent success than Heidelberg. The University of Heidelberg, the oldest in the German realm, received its charter in 1386 from Pope Urban VI as a studium generale and contained all the recognized faculties—theology, canon law, medicine, and the arts, as well as civil law. In the subsequent 100 years, universities were founded at Cologne, Erfurt, Leipzig, Rostock, Freiburg, Tübingen, Ofen (Budapest), Basel, Uppsala, and Copenhagen.

Spain was also an important scene of developments in higher education. Valladolid received its charter in 1346 and attained great celebrity after it obtained the rank of studium generale and a universitas theologiae by a decree of Pope Martin V in 1418. Salamanca was founded in 1243 by Ferdinand III of Castile with faculties of arts, medicine, and jurisprudence, to which theology was added through the efforts of Martin V. The College of St. Bartholomew, the earliest founded at Salamanca, was noted for its ancient library and valuable collection of manuscripts. Other important early Spanish and Portuguese schools were Sevilla, Alcalá, and Lisbon.

General characteristics of medieval universities

Generally speaking, the medieval universities were conservative. Alexander Hegius and Rodolphus Agricola carried on their work as reformers at places such as Deventer in the Netherlands, remote from university influences. A considerable amount of mental activity went on in the universities; but it was mostly of the kind that, while giving rise to endless controversy, turned upon questions in connection with which the implied postulates and the terminology employed rendered all scientific investigation hopeless. At almost every university, the realists and nominalists represented two great parties occupied with an internecine struggle.

In Italian universities such controversies were considered endless and their effects pernicious. It was resolved, accordingly, to expel logic and allow its place to be filled by rhetoric, thereby effecting that important revolution in academic studies that constituted a new era in university learning and largely helped to pave the way for the Renaissance. The professorial body in the great Italian universities attained an almost unrivaled reputation throughout Europe. For each subject of importance there were always two—and sometimes three—rival chairs. While other universities became sectarian and local, those of Italy continued to be universal, and foreigners of all nations could be found among the professors.

The material life of the students was difficult. In order to aid the poorest, some colleges founded by clerical or lay benefactors offered board and lodging to a number of foundationers. Courses, too, could occasionally be difficult. The courses in theology were particularly long—eight years at the minimum (one could not be a teacher of theology in Paris before the age of 35). Many students preferred the more rapid and more lucrative paths of law and medicine. Others led the life of perpetual students, vagabond clerics, or disputatious goliards—the objects of repeated but ineffectual condemnation.

The methods of teaching are particularly well known in the case of Paris. The university year was divided into two terms: from St. Remi (October 1) to Lent and from Easter to St. Pierre (June 29). The courses consisted of lectures (collatio) but more often of explications of texts (lectio). There were also discussions and question periods. Examinations were given at the end of each term. The student could receive three degrees: the determinatio, or baccalaureate, gave him the right to teach under the supervision of a master; the licencia docendi was literally the “license to teach” and could be obtained at 21 years of age; and the doctorate, which marked his entrance into mastership and which involved a public examination.

Lay education and the lower schools

The founding of universities was naturally accompanied by a corresponding increase in schools of various kinds. In most parts of western Europe, there were soon grammar schools of some type available for boys. Not only were there grammar schools at cathedrals and collegiate churches, but many others were founded in connection with chantries and craft and merchant guilds and a few in connection with hospitals. It has been estimated, for example, that toward the close of the Middle Ages there were in England and Wales approximately 400 grammar schools for a population of about 2.5 million—although the number of their enrollments was generally quite small.

In fulfillment of its responsibility for education, the church from the 11th century onward made the establishment of an effective education system a central feature of ecclesiastical policy. During the papacy of Gregory VII (1073–85), all bishops had been asked to see that the art of grammar was taught in their churches, and a Lateran Council in 1215 decreed that grammar-school masters should be appointed not only in the cathedral church but also in others that could afford it. Solicitude at the centre for the advancement of education did not, however, result in centralized administration. It was the duty of bishops to carry out approved policy, but it was left to them to administer it, and they in turn allowed schools a large measure of autonomy. Such freedom as medieval schools enjoyed was, however, always subject to the absolute authority of the church, and the right to teach, as earlier noted, was restricted to those who held a bishop’s license. This device was used to ensure that all teachers were loyal to the doctrines of the church.

Knowledge of the teaching provided in the grammar schools at this period is too slight to justify an attempt at a description. No doubt the curriculum varied, but religion was all-important, with Latin as a written and spoken language the other major element in the timetable. There might have been instruction in reading and writing in the vernacular but, in addition to the grammar schools, there were writing and song schools and other schools of an elementary type. Elementary teaching was given in many churches and priests’ houses, and children who did not receive formal scholastic instruction were given oral teaching by parish priests in the doctrines and duties of the faith. The evidence of accounts, bills, inventories, and the like suggests that there was some careful teaching of writing and of an arithmetic that covered the practical calculations required in ordinary life. Literacy, however, was limited by the lack of printed materials; until the 15th century (when typesetting developed), books were laboriously cut page by page on blocks (hence they were known as block books) and consequently were rare and expensive. From the mid-15th century on, literacy increased as typeset books became more widely available.

Educational provision for girls in medieval society was much more restricted. Wealthy families made some provision in the home, but the emphasis was primarily on piety and secondarily on skills of household management, along with artistic “accomplishments.” Neither girls nor boys of the lowest social ranks—peasants or unskilled urban dwellers—were likely to be literate. Nor were girls of the artisan classes until the 16th century, when female teaching congregations such as the Ursulines, founded by Angela Merici, began to appear. There were, however, provisions for boys of the artisan class to receive sufficient vernacular schooling to enable them to be apprenticed to various trades under the auspices of the guilds.

There was an entirely different training for boys of high rank, and this created a cultural cleavage. Instead of attending the grammar school and proceeding to a university, these boys served as pages and then as squires in the halls and castles of the nobility, there receiving prolonged instruction in chivalry. The training was designed to fit the noble youth to become a worthy knight, a just and prudent master, and a sensible manager of an estate. Much of this knowledge was gained from daily experience in the household, but, in addition, the page received direct instruction in reading and writing, courtly pastimes such as chess and playing the lute, singing and making verses, the rules and usages of courtesy, and the knightly conception of duty. As a squire, he practiced more assiduously the knightly exercises of war and peace and acquired useful experience in leadership by managing large and small bodies of men. But this was a type of education that could flourish only in a feudal society; though some of its ideals survived, it was outmoded when feudalism was undermined by the growth of national feeling.

Education in Asian civilizations: c. 700 to the eve of Western influence


During its medieval period, India was ruled by dynasties of Muslim culture and religion. Muslims from Arabia first appeared in the country in the 8th century, but the foundation of their rule was laid much later by Muḥammad Ghūri, who established his power at Delhi in 1192. The original Muslim rule was replaced successively by that of the Muslim Pashtuns and Mughals.

The foundations of Muslim education

Muslim educational institutions were of two types—a maktab, or elementary school, and a madrasa, or institution of higher learning. The content of education imparted in these schools was not the same throughout the country. It was, however, necessary for every Muslim boy at least to attend a maktab and to learn the necessary portions of the Qurʾān required for daily prayers. The curriculum in the madrasa comprised Ḥadīth (the study of Muslim traditions), jurisprudence, literature, logic and philosophy, and prosody. Later on, the scope of the curriculum was widened, and such subjects as history, economics, mathematics, astronomy, and even medicine and agriculture were added. Generally, not all the subjects were taught in every institution. Selected madrasas imparted postgraduate instruction, and a number of towns—Agra, Badaun, Bidar, Gulbarga, Delhi, Jaunpur, and a few others—developed into university centres to which students flocked for study under renowned scholars. The sultans and amirs of Delhi and the Muslim rulers and nobles in the provinces also extended patronage to Persian scholars who came from other parts of Asia under the pressure of Mongol inroads. Delhi vied with Baghdad and Córdoba as an important centre of Islamic culture. Indian languages also received some attention. The Muslim rulers of Bengal, for example, engaged scholars to translate the Hindu classics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata into Bengali.

Under the Pathan Lodis, a dynasty of Afghan foreigners (1451–1526), the education of the Hindus was not only neglected but was often adversely affected in newly conquered territories. The rulers generally tolerated Sanskrit and vernacular schools already in existence but neither helped the existing ones financially nor built new ones. At early stages, the maktabs and madrasas were attended by Muslims only. Later, when Hindus were allowed into high administrative positions, Hindu children began to receive Persian education in Muslim schools.

The Mughal period

The credit for organizing education on a systematic basis goes to Akbar (1542–1605), a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I of England and undoubtedly the greatest of Mughal emperors. He treated all his subjects alike and opened a large number of schools and colleges for Muslims as well as for Hindus throughout his empire. He also introduced a few curricular changes, based on students’ individual needs and the practical necessities of life. The scope of the curriculum was so widened as to enable every student to receive education according to his religion and views of life. The adoption of Persian as the court language gave further encouragement to the Hindus and the Muslims to study Persian.

Akbar’s policy was continued by his successors Jahāngīr and Shah Jahān. But his great-grandson Aurangzeb (1618–1707) changed his policy with regard to the education of the Hindus. In April 1669, for instance, he ordered the provincial governors to destroy Hindu schools and temples within their jurisdiction; and, at the same time, he supported Muslim education with a certain religious fanaticism. After his death, the glory of the Mughal empire began gradually to vanish, and the whole country was overrun by warlords.

During the Mughal period, girls received their education at home or in the house of some teacher living in close proximity. There were special arrangements for the education of the ladies of the royal household, and some of the princesses were distinguished scholars. Vocational education was imparted through a system of apprenticeship either in the house of ustāds (teachers) or in kārkhānahs (manufacturing centres).

Muslim rulers of India were also great patrons of literature and gave considerable impetus to its development. Akbar ordered various Hindu classics and histories translated into Persian. In addition, a number of Greek and Arabic works were translated into Persian. Literary activities did not entirely cease even in the troubled days of later rulers. Men of letters were patronized by such emperors as Bahādur Shah and Muḥammad Shah and by various regional officials and landlords.

Such is the history of Muslim education in India. It resembles ancient Indian education to a great extent: instruction was free; the relation between the teachers and the taught was cordial; there were great centres of learning; the monitorial system was used; and people were preoccupied with theology and the conduct of life. There were, however, several distinctive features of Muslim education. First, education was democratized. As in mosques, so in a maktab or madrasa all were equal, and the principle was established that the poor should also be educated. Second, Muslim rule influenced the system of elementary education of the Hindus, which had to accommodate itself to changed circumstances by adopting a new method of teaching and by using textbooks full of Persian terms and references to Muslim usages. Third, the Muslim period brought in many cultural influences from abroad. The courses of studies were both widened and brought under a humanistic influence. Finally, Muslim rule produced a cross-cultural influence in the country through the establishment of an educational system in which Hindus and Muslims could study side by side and in which there would be compulsory education in Persian, cultivation of Sanskrit and Hindi, and translation of great classics of literature into different languages. Ultimately, it led to the development of a common medium of expression, Urdu.

Education in the Muslim era was not a concerted and planned activity but a voluntary and spontaneous growth. There was no separate administration of education, and state aid was sporadic and unsteady. Education was supported by charitable endowments and by lavish provision for the students in a madrasa or in a monastery.

The Muslim system, however, proved ultimately harmful. In the early stages genuine love of learning attracted students to the cultural centres, but later on “the bees that flocked there were preeminently drones.” The whole system became stagnant and stereotyped as soon as cultural communication was cut off from the outside world because of political disturbances and internecine wars. The Indian teachers were reduced to dependence on their own resources, and a hardening tradition that became increasingly unreceptive to new ideas reduced the whole process to mere routine.


The Tang dynasty (618–907 ce)

The Tang was one of China’s greatest dynasties, marked by military power, political stability, economic prosperity, and advance in art, literature, and education. It was an age in which Buddhist scholarship won recognition and respect for its originality and high intellectual quality and in which China superseded India as the land from which Buddhism was to spread to other countries in East Asia.

The Tang was known for its literature and art and has been called the golden age of Chinese poetry. There were thousands of poets of note who left a cultural legacy unsurpassed in subsequent periods and even in other lands. Prose writers also flourished, as did artists whose paintings reflected the influences of Buddhism and Daoism.

One of China’s greatest gifts to the world was the invention of printing. Block printing was invented in the 8th century and movable type in the 11th century. The first book printed from blocks was a Buddhist sutra, or set of precepts, in 868. Printing met the demand created by the increase in the output of literature and by the regularized civil service examination system. It also met the popular demand for Buddhist and Daoist prayers and charms. One historian (Kenneth Scott Latourette) noted that “as late as the close of the eighteenth century the [Chinese] Empire possibly contained more printed books than all the rest of the world put together.”

Education in the Tang dynasty was under the dominant influence of Confucianism, notwithstanding the fact that Buddhism and Daoism both received imperial favours. A national academic examination system was firmly established, and officials were selected on the basis of civil service examinations. But Confucianism did not dominate to the extent of excluding other schools of thought and scholarship. Renowned scholars were known to spurn public office because they were not satisfied with a narrow interpretation of Confucianism. Artists and poets were, in general, rebellious against traditional Confucianism.

An emperor in the 5th century ordered the establishment of a “School of Occult Studies” along with the more commonly accepted schools of Confucian learning. It was devoted to the study of Buddhism and Daoism and occult subjects that transcended the practical affairs of government and society. Such schools were often carried on by the private effort of scholars who served as tutors for interested followers.

The schools of Tang were well organized and systematized. There were schools under the central government, others under local management, and private schools of different kinds. Public schools were maintained in each prefecture, district, town, and village. In the capital were “colleges” of mathematics, law, and calligraphy, as well as those for classical study. There was also a medical school.

Semiprivate schools formed by famous scholars gave lectures and tutelage to students numbering in the hundreds. Students from Korea and Japan came to study in China and took back the lunar calendar and the Buddhist sects, as well as the examination system and the Confucian theories of government and social life. Chinese culture also penetrated Indochina.

The examination system was at this time given the form that remained essentially unchanged until the 20th century. Examinations were held on different levels, and for each a corresponding academic degree was specified. Interestingly, there was provision for three degrees, not unlike the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees of modern times. The first degree was the xiucai (“cultivated talent”), the second the mingjing (“understanding the classics”), and the third the jinshi (“advanced scholar”). The name of the second degree was in later periods changed to juren (“recommended man”). An academy of scholars later known as the Hanlin Academy was established for select scholars whom the emperor could call upon for advice and expert opinion on various subjects. Membership in this institution became the highest honour that could be conferred upon those who passed the jinshi degree with distinction. To be appointed a Hanlin scholar was to be recognized as one of the top scholars of the land. Among the services that they rendered were the administration and supervision of examinations and the explanation of difficult texts in literature, classics, and philosophy.

Examinations were given for students of medicine and for military degrees. The study of medicine included acupuncture and massage, as well as the treatment of general diseases of the body and those of eye, ear, throat, and teeth.

The Song (960–1279)

The Song was another dynasty of cultural brilliance. Landscape painting approached perfection, and cultural achievement was stimulated by the invention of movable type (first made of earthenware, then of wood and metal). This advance from the older method of block printing led to the multiplication of books; the printing of a complete set of the classics was a boon to literary studies in schools.

The rulers of Song were receptive to new ideas and innovative policies. The outstanding innovator of the dynasty was Wang Anshi, prime minister from 1068 to 1076. He introduced a comprehensive program of reform that included important changes in education; more emphasis was subsequently placed on the study of current problems and political economy.

Wang’s reforms met with opposition from conservatives. The controversy was only a phase of a deeper and more far-reaching intellectual debate that made the philosophical contributions of the Song scholars as significant as those of the Hundred Schools in the Zhou dynasty over a millennium earlier. Confucianism and the dominant mode of Chinese thinking had been subject to the challenge of ideas from legalism, Daoism, and Buddhism, and, despite the resistance of conservatives, the traditional views had to be modified. Outstanding Confucian scholars of conservative bent argued vigorously with aggressive proponents of new concepts of man, of knowledge, and of the universe. The result was Neo-Confucianism, or what some prefer to call rational philosophy. The most eminent Neo-Confucianist was Zhu Xi, a Confucian scholar who had studied Daoism and Buddhism. His genius lay in his ability to synthesize ideas from a fresh point of view. Song scholars distinguished themselves in other fields, too. Sima Guang’s Zizhi tongjian (“Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government”) was a history of China from the 5th century bce to the 10th century ce. The result of 20 years of painstaking research, it consisted of 1,000 chapters prepared under imperial direction. A volume on architecture was produced that is still used today as a basic reference work, and a treatise on botany contained the most ancient record of varieties of citrus fruits then known in China. No less worthy of mention is an encyclopaedia titled Taiping yulan.

The general pattern of the school system remained essentially the same, with provision for lower schools, higher schools, and technical schools, but there was a broadening of the curriculum. A noteworthy development was the rise of a semiprivate institution known as the shuyuan, or academy. With financial support coming from both state grants and private contributions, these academies were managed by noted scholars of the day and attracted many students and lecturers. Often located in mountain retreats or in the woods, they symbolized the influence of Daoism and Buddhism and a desire to pursue quiet study far away from possible government interference.

The Mongol period (1206–1368)

The Mongols were ferocious fighters but inept administrators. Distrustful of the Chinese, they enlisted the services of many nationalities and employed non-Chinese aliens. To facilitate the employment of these aliens, the civil service examinations were suspended for a number of years. Later, when a modified form of examinations was in effect, there were special examinations for Mongol candidates to make sure of their admission into high offices.

The Mongols despised the Chinese and placed many limitations on them. Consequently, an aftermath of Mongol rule was a strong antiforeign reaction on the part of the Chinese, accompanied by an overanxious desire to preserve the Chinese heritage.

Despite the setback in Chinese culture under Mongol rule, the period was not devoid of positive cultural development. The increase in foreign contacts as a result of travel to and from China brought new ideas and new knowledge of other lands and other peoples. Mathematics and medicine were further influenced by new ideas from abroad. The classics were translated into the Mongol language, and the Mongol language was taught in schools.

Private schools and the academies of the Song dynasty became more popular. As a result of a decrease in opportunities for government appointment, scholars withdrew into the provinces for study and tutoring. Relieved of the pressure of preparing for the examinations, they applied their talents to the less formal but more popular arts and literary forms, including the drama and the novel. Instead of the classical form, they used the vernacular, or the spoken, language. The significance of this development was not evident until the 20th century, when a “literary revolution” popularized the vernacular tongue.

The Ming period (1368–1644)

The Ming dynasty restored Chinese rule. Ming was famous for its ceramics and architecture. There were excellent painters too, but they were at best the disciples of the Tang and Song masters. The outstanding intellectual contribution of the period was the novel, whose development was spurred by increases in literacy and in the demand for reading materials. Ming novels are today recognized as masterpieces of popular vernacular literature. Also of note was the compilation of Pencao kangmu (“Great Pharmacopoeia”), a valuable volume on herbs and medicine that was the fruit of 26 years of labour.

Of considerable scholarly and educational importance was the Yongle dadian (“The Great Canon of the Yongle Era”), which marked a high point in the Chinese encyclopaedic movement. It was a gigantic work resulting from the painstaking efforts of 2,000 scholars over a period of five years. It ran into more than 11,000 volumes, too costly to print, and only two extra copies were made.

The examination system remained basically the same. In the early period of the dynasty, the schools were systematized and regularized. In the latter part of the dynasty, however, the increasing importance of the examination system relegated the schools to a secondary position. The decline of the state-supported schools stimulated the further growth of private education.

The Manchu period (1644–1911/12)

Except for two capable emperors, who ruled for a span of 135 years at the beginning, the Manchu dynasty was weak and undistinguished. Under Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong, learning flourished, but there was little originality. The alien Manchu rulers concentrated on the preservation of what seemed best for stability and the maintenance of the status quo. They wanted new editions of classical and literary works, not creative contributions to scholarship.

Distrust of the Chinese by the Manchus and a feeling of insecurity caused the conquerors to erect barriers between themselves and the Chinese. The discriminatory policy was expressed in the administration of the examinations. To assure the appointment of Manchus to government posts, equal quotas were set aside for the Manchus and the Chinese, although the former constituted only about 3 percent of the population. The Chinese thus faced the keenest competition in the examinations, and those who passed tended to be brilliant intellects, whereas the Manchus could be assured of success without great effort.

Schools were encouraged and regulated during the early period of the dynasty. The public school system consisted of schools for nobles, national schools, and provincial schools. Separate schools were maintained for the Manchus, and for their benefit Chinese books were translated into the Manchu language. Village and charitable schools were supported by public funds, but they were neglected in later years so that, by the end of the dynasty, private schools and tutoring had overshadowed them.

At the threshold of the modern era, China had sunk into political weakness and intellectual stagnation. The creativity and originality that had brightened previous periods of history were now absent. Examinations dominated the educational scene, and the content of the examinations was largely literary and classical. Daoism and Buddhism had lost their intellectual vigour, and Confucianism became the unchallenged model of scholarship.

Much could be said for the Chinese examination system at its best. It was instrumental in establishing an intellectual aristocracy whereby the nation could be sure of a cultural unity by entrusting government to scholars reared in a common tradition, nurtured in a common cultural heritage, and dedicated to common ideals of political and social life. It established a tradition of government by civilians and by scholars. It made the scholars the most highly esteemed people of the land. The examinations provided an open road to fame and position. Chinese society was not without classes, but there was a high degree of social mobility, and education provided the opportunity for raising one’s position and status. There were no rigid prerequisites and no age limits for taking the examinations. Selection was rigorous, but the examinations were on the whole administered with fairness. The names of the candidates did not appear on the examination papers, and the candidates were not permitted to have any outside contacts while writing them.

Nevertheless, the system had serious drawbacks. The content of the examinations became more and more limited in scope. The Confucianist classics constituted the core, and a narrow and rigid interpretation prevailed. In early times, Chinese education was broad and liberal, but by the 19th century art, music, and science had been dropped on the wayside; even arithmetic was not accorded the same importance as reading and writing. Modern science and technology were completely neglected.

After alien rule by the Mongols, the Chinese were obsessed with restoring their heritage; they avoided deviating from established forms and views. This conservatism was accentuated under Manchu rule and resulted in sterility and stagnation. The creativity and original spirit of classical education was lost. The narrow curriculum was far removed from the pressing problems and changing needs of the 19th century.


The ancient period to the 12th century

The Japanese nation seems to have formed a unified ancient state in the 4th century ce. Society at that time was composed of shizoku, or clans, each of which served the chōtei (“the imperial court”) with its specialized skill or vocation. People sustained themselves by engaging in agriculture, hunting, and fishing, and the chief problem of education was how to convey the knowledge of these activities and provide instruction in the skills useful for these occupations.

The influence of the civilizations of China and India had a profound effect on both the spiritual life and the education of the Japanese. Toward the 6th century the assimilation of Chinese civilization became more and more rapid, particularly as a result of the spread of Confucianism. Buddhism was also an important intellectual and spiritual influence. Originating in India and then spreading to China, Buddhism was transmitted to Japan through the Korean peninsula in the mid-6th century.

A monarchic state system with an emperor as its head was established following a coup d’état in 645. The subsequent Taika (Great Reform) era saw the beginning of many new institutions, most of which were primarily imitations of institutions of the Tang dynasty of China. In the field of education, a daigakuryō, or college house, was established in the capital, and kokugaku, or provincial schools, were built in the provinces. Their chief aim was to train government officials. The early curriculum was almost identical to that of the Tang dynasty of China but by the 8th and 9th centuries had been modified considerably to meet internal conditions, particularly as regarded the educational needs of the nobility.

Through the Nara and the Heian eras (8th–12th century), the nobility (kuge) constituted the ruling class, and learning and culture were the concern primarily of the kuge and the Buddhist monks. The kuge lived an artistic life, so that the emphasis of education came to be placed on poetry, music, and calligraphy. Teaching in the daigakuryō gradually shifted in emphasis from Confucianism to literature, since the kuge set a higher value on artistic refinement than on more spiritual endeavours. Apart from the daigakuryō, other institutions were established in which families of influential clans lodged and developed their intellectual lives.

The feudal period (1192–1867)

Education of the warriors

Toward the mid-12th century, political power passed from the nobility to the buke, or warrior, class. The ensuing feudal period in Japan dates from the year 1192 (the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate) to 1867 (the decline of the Tokugawa shogunate).

The warrior’s way of life was quite unlike that of the nobility, and the aims and content of education in the warrior’s society inevitably differed. The warrior constantly had to practice military arts, hardening his body and training his will. Education was based on military training, and a culture characteristic of warriors began to flourish. Some emphasis, though, was placed on spiritual instruction. The warrior society, founded on firm master–servant relations and centring on the philosophy of Japanese family structure, set the highest value on family reputation and on genealogies. Furthermore, because the military arts proved insufficient to enable warriors to grasp political power and thereby maintain their ruling position, there arose a philosophy of bumbu-kembi, which asserted the desirability of being proficient in both literary and military arts. Thus, the children of warriors attended temples and rigorously trained their minds and wills. Reading and writing were the main subjects.

Temples were the centres of culture and learning and can be said to have been equivalent to universities, in that they provided a meeting place for scholars and students. Education in the temple, originally aimed at instructing novitiates, gradually changed its character, eventually providing education for children not destined to be monks. Thus, the temples functioned as institutions of primary education.

Education in the Tokugawa era

In 1603 a shogunate was established by a warrior, Tokugawa Ieyasu, in the city of Edo (present Tokyo). The period thence to the year 1867—the Tokugawa, or Edo, era—constitutes the later feudal period in Japan. This era, though also dominated by warriors, differed from former ones in that internal disturbances finally ended and long-enduring peace ensued. There emerged a merchant class that developed a flourishing commoner’s culture. Schools for commoners thus were established.

Representative of such schools were the terakoya (temple schools), deriving from the earlier education in the temple. As time passed, some terakoya used parts of private homes as classrooms. Designed to be one of the private schools, or shijuku, the terakoya developed rapidly in the latter half of the Tokugawa era, flourishing in most towns and villages. Toward the end of the era they assumed the characteristics of the modern primary school, with emphasis on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Other shijuku—emphasizing Chinese, Dutch, and national studies, as well as practical arts—contributed to the diversification of learning and permitted students with different class and geographic backgrounds to pursue learning under the guidance of the same teacher. Their curricula were free from official control.

The shogunate established schools to promote Confucianism, which provided the moral training for upper-class samurai that was essential for maintaining the ideology of the feudal regime. Han, or feudal domains, following the same policy, built hankō, or domain schools, in their castle towns for the education of their own retainers.

The officially run schools for the samurai were at the apex of the educational system in the Tokugawa era. The Confucian Academy, which was known as the Shōheikō and was administered directly by the shogunate, became a model for hankō throughout Japan. The hankō gradually spread after about 1750, so that by the end of the era they numbered over 200.

The curriculum in the hankō consisted chiefly of kangaku (the study of books written in Chinese) and, above all, of Confucianism. Classics of Confucianism, historical works, and anthologies of Chinese poems were used as textbooks. Brush writing, kokugaku (study of thought originating in Japan), and medicine were also included. Later, in the last days of the shogunate, yōgaku, or Western learning, including Western medicine, was added in several institutions.

Both hankō for samurai and terakoya for commoners were the typical schools after the middle of the Tokugawa era. Also to be found, however, were gōgaku, or provincial schools, for samurai as well as commoners. They were founded at places of strategic importance by the feudal domain.

The various shijuku became centres of interaction among students from different domains when such close contact among residents of different areas was prohibited. They served as centres of learning and dialogue for many of those who later constituted the political leadership responsible for the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

Effect of early Western contacts

The Europeans who first arrived in Japan were the Portuguese, in 1543. In 1549 the Jesuit Francis Xavier visited Japan and, for the first time, the propagation of Christianity began. Many missionaries began to arrive, Christian schools were built, and European civilization was actively introduced.

In 1633 the shogunate, in apprehension of further Christian infiltration of Japan, banned foreign travel and prohibited the return of overseas Japanese. Further, in 1639, the shogunate banned visits by Europeans. This was the so-called sakoku, or period of national isolation. From that time on, Christianity was strictly forbidden, and international trade was conducted with only the Chinese and the Dutch. Because contact with Europeans was restricted to the Dutch, Western studies developed as rangaku, or learning through the Dutch language.

It is noteworthy that the Tokugawa period laid the foundation of modern Japanese learning. As a result of the development of hankō and terakoya, Japanese culture and education had developed to such an extent that Japan was able to absorb Western influences and attain modernization at a remarkably rapid pace after the Meiji Restoration.

European Renaissance and Reformation

The channels of development in Renaissance education

The Muslim influence

Western civilization was profoundly influenced by the rapid rise and expansion of Islam from the 7th until the 15th century. By 732 ce, 100 years after the death of Muhammad, Islam had expanded from western Asia throughout all of northern Africa, across the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain, and into France, reaching Tours, halfway from the Pyrenees to Paris. Muslim Spain rapidly became one of the most advanced civilizations of the period, where much of the learning of the past—Oriental, Greek, and Roman—was preserved and further developed. In particular, Greek and Latin scholarship was collected in great libraries in the splendid cities of Córdoba, Sevilla (Seville), Granada, and Toledo, which became major centres of advanced scholarship, especially in the practical arts of medicine and architecture.

Inevitably, scholarship in the adjacent Frankish—and subsequent French—kingdom was influenced, leading to a revitalization of western Christian scholarship, which had long been dormant as a result of the barbarian migrations. The doctrines of Aristotle, which had been assiduously cultivated by the Muslims, were especially influential for their emphasis on the role of reason in human affairs and on the importance of the study of humankind in the present, as distinct from the earlier Christian preoccupation with the cultivation of faith as essential for the future life. Thus, Muslim learning helped to usher in the new phase in education known as humanism, which first took definite form in the 12th century.

The secular influence

The word humanism comes from studia humanitatis (“studies of humanity”). Toward the end of the Middle Ages, there was a renewed interest in those studies that stressed the importance of man, his faculties, affairs, worldly aspirations, and well-being. The primacy of theology and otherworldliness was over. The reductio artium ad theologiam (freely, “reducing everything to theological argument”) was rejected since it no longer expressed the reality of the new situation that was developing in Europe, particularly in Italy. Society had been profoundly transformed, commerce had expanded, and life in the cities had evolved. Economic and political power, previously in the hands of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the feudal lords, was beginning to be taken over by the city burghers. Use of the vernacular languages was becoming widespread. The new society needed another kind of education and different educational structures; the burghers required new instruments with which to express themselves and found the old medieval universities inadequate.

The educational institutions of humanism had their origin in the schools set up in the free cities in the late 13th and the 14th centuries—schools designed to answer to the needs of the new urban population that was beginning to have greater economic importance in society. The pedagogical thought of the humanists took these transformations of society into account and worked out new theories that often went back to the Classical Greek and Latin traditions; it was not, however, a servile imitation of the pedagogical thought and institutions of the Classical world.

The Renaissance of the Classical world and the educational movements it gave rise to were variously expressed in different parts of Europe and at various times from the 14th to the 17th century; there was a connecting thread, but there were also many differences. What the citizens of the Florentine republic needed was different from what was required by princes in the Renaissance courts of Italy or in other parts of Europe. Common to both, however, was the rejection of the medieval tradition that did not belong in the new society they were creating. Yet the search for a new methodology and a new relation with the ancient world was bitterly opposed by the traditionalists, who did not want renewal that would bring about a profound transformation of society; and, in fact, the educational revolution did not completely abolish existing traditions. The humanists, for example, were not concerned with extending education to the masses but turned their attention to the sons of princes and rich burghers.

The humanists had the important and original conception that education was neither completed at school nor limited to the years of one’s youth but that it was a continuous process making use of varied instruments: companionship, games, and pleasure were part of education. Rather than suggesting new themes, they wanted to discover the method by which the ancient texts should be studied. For them, knowledge of the Classical languages meant the possibility of penetrating the thought of the past; grammar and rhetoric were being transformed into philological studies not for the sake of pedantic research but in order to acquire a new historical and critical consciousness. They reconstructed the past in order better to understand themselves and their own time.

The humanistic tradition in Italy

Early influences

One of the most influential of early humanists was Manuel Chrysoloras, who came to Florence from Constantinople in 1396. He introduced the study of Greek and, among other things, translated Plato’s Republic into Latin, which were important steps in the development of the humanistic movement.

Inspired by the ancient Athenian schools, the Platonic Academy established in Florence in the second half of the 15th century became a centre of learning and diffusion of Christian Platonism, a philosophy that conceived of all forms as the creative thoughts of God and that inspired considerable artistic innovation and creativity. Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola were two of the most original of the scholars who taught there. Florence was the first city to have such a centre, but Rome and Naples soon had similar academies, and Padua and Venice also became centres of culture.

A famous early humanist and professor of rhetoric at Padua was Pietro Paolo Vergerio (1370–1444). He wrote the first significant exclusively pedagogical treatise, De ingenuis moribus et liberalibus studiis (“On the Manners of a Gentleman and on Liberal Studies”), which—though not presenting any new techniques—did set out the fundamental principles by which education should be guided. He gave pedagogical expression to the ideal of harmony, or equilibrium, found in all aspects of humanism, and underlined the importance of the education of the body as well as of the spirit. The liberal arts were emphasized (“liberal” because of the liberation they reputedly brought). The program outlined by Vergerio focused upon eloquence, history, and philosophy but also included the sciences (mathematics, astronomy, and natural science) as well as medicine, law, metaphysics, and theology. The later subjects were not studied in depth; humanism was by its nature against encyclopaedism, but it brought out the relations between the disciplines and enabled students to know many subjects before they decided in which to specialize. Learning was not to be exclusively from books, and emphasis was placed on the advantages of preparing for social life by study and discussion in common. Vergerio felt that education should not be used as a means of entering the lucrative professions; medicine and law, especially, were looked on with suspicion if one’s aim in studying them was merely that of gaining material advantages.

Emergence of the new gymnasium

As a result of the renewed emphasis on Greek studies, early in the 15th century a definite sequence of institutions emerged. The gymnasium was the principal school for young boys and was preparatory to further liberal studies in the major nonuniversity institution of higher learning, the academy. Both terms, gymnasium and academy, were Classical revivals, but their programs were markedly different from those of ancient Greece. The gymnasiums appeared in ducal courts; they were created for the liberal education of privileged boys and as the first stage of the studia humanitatis. Outstanding among these early gymnasiums was the school conducted by Gasparino da Barzizza in Padua from 1408 to 1421, which was considered a model for later institutions, and more particularly the gymnasium of Guarino Veronese (1374–1460) and that of his contemporary Vittorino da Feltre (1378–1446).

Guarino had first established a school in 1415 in Venice, where he was joined by Vittorino. He subsequently moved to Ferrara where, from 1429 to 1436, he assumed responsibility for the humanist education of the young son of Nicolò d’Este, the lord of Ferrara. Guarino wrote no treatises, but something may be learned about his work and methods from his large correspondence and from De ordine docendi et studendi (1485; “On the Order for Teaching and Studying”), written by his son Battista. Guarino organized his students’ courses into three stages: the elementary level, at which reading and pronunciation were primarily taught, followed by the grammatical level, and finally the highest level, concentrating on rhetoric. The education given in his schools was perhaps the best example of the humanistic ideals, since it underlined the importance of literary studies together with a harmonious development of body and spirit, to the exclusion of any utilitarian purpose.

Vittorino was a disciple of both Barzizza and Guarino. He conducted boarding schools at Padua and Venice and, most importantly, from 1423 to 1446 one at Mantua, where he had been invited by the reigning lord, Gianfrancesco Gonzaga. This last school, known as La Giocosa (literally, “The Jocose, or Joyful”), soon became famous. At La Giocosa only those who had both talent and a modest disposition were accepted; wealth was neither necessary nor sufficient to gain admission. In fact, the school was one of the few efforts made during this period to extend education to a wider public. The program of study at La Giocosa was perhaps closer to the medieval tradition than that of the other boarding schools but, in any case, the spirit was different. Studies were stimulating; mathematics was taught pleasantly—Vittorino going back to very ancient traditions of practicing mathematics with games. After having studied the seven arts of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and the quadrivium (geometry, arithmetic, harmonics, and astronomy), students completed the cycle by a study of philosophy and then, having mastered this discipline, could go on to higher studies leading to such professions as medicine, law, philosophy, and theology. Italian was completely ignored at Vittorino’s school; all instruction was given in Latin, the study of which, along with Greek, reached a high level of excellence. Great importance was given to recreation and physical education; his concern for the health of his students did not come to an end with the scholastic year, for during the summers, when the cities became unhealthy, he would arrange for his students to go to Lake Garda or to the hills outside Verona.

Vittorino’s educational philosophy was inspired by a profound religious faith and moral integrity, which contrasted with the general relaxation of standards within the church itself; but, if he was severe with himself, he was very open and tolerant with his pupils. The school continued only for a while after his death because, more than in the case of the other schools, La Giocosa was identified with the personality of the founder.

Nonscholastic traditions

Leon Battista Alberti, one of the most intelligent and original architects of the 15th century, also dedicated a treatise, Della famiglia (1435–44; “On the Family”), to methods of education. Alberti felt that the natural place for education was the home and not scholastic institutions. The language in which he wrote was Italian, education being in his view so important in social life that he felt that discussion of it should not be limited to scholars. He stressed the importance of the father in the educational process.

Baldassare Castiglione expressed the transition of humanism from the city to the Renaissance court. He himself was in the service of some of the most splendid princes, the Gonzagas at Mantua and the Montefeltros at Urbino. Just as in the 15th century the humanists had been concerned with the education of the city burgher, so in the 16th century they turned their attention to the education of the prince and of those who surrounded him. Il cortegiano (“The Courtier”) was published in 1528, and within a few years it had been translated into Latin and all the major European languages. The courtier was to be the faithful collaborator of the prince. He had to be beautiful, strong, and agile; he had to know how to fight, play, dance, and make love. But this was not all, since great importance was also attached to the study of the classics and the practice of poetry and oratory; the courtier had to be able to write in rhyme and in prose and have perfect command of the vernacular, which was becoming important in political affairs; but above all he had to have skill at arms.

The courtier described by Castiglione, though in the service of necessarily devious princes, had to know how to keep his dignity and his virtue. Castiglione’s moral standards, reflecting the spiritual climate at Urbino, completely disappeared, however, in Giovanni della Casa’s work, Galateo (1551–54), in which considerations of etiquette were placed above all others; the values of humanism no longer existed, and all that was left was ceremonial.

The humanistic tradition of northern and western Europe

The economic and social conditions behind the intellectual and cultural revolution of humanism in Italy were also present, though in different forms, in other parts of Europe. In some states—chiefly England, France, and Spain—humanism and educational reforms developed around the courts, where political power was being concentrated. In others, such as the Netherlands, they were brought about by the city burghers, whose power, both economic and political, was increasing. The educational reforms that the humanists brought about in northern and western Europe developed slowly, but on the whole they were lasting, since they affected a greater number of people than was the case in Italy, where they tended to be restricted to a narrow circle of families. There were close relations between Italian and other European educational humanists, as there were among English, Dutch, French, and German humanists, and, thus, national differences were not so significant.

Dutch humanism

In the Netherlands the ground for educational reform had already been prepared in the 14th century by the Brethren of the Common Life, a group founded by Gerhard Groote to bring together laymen and religious men. Although their work was not originally in the field of education, education started when they set up hostels for students and exercised some moral direction over these students. This work was extended, and the Brethren eventually set up schools, first at Deventer and then in other cities. Some of the most important humanists of the Netherlands and Germany attended their schools—including, among others, Erasmus.

The school at Deventer came to have great prestige under Alexander Hegius, rector from 1465 to 1498 and author of a polemic treatise, De utilitate Graeci (“On the Usefulness of Greek”)—underlining the importance of studying Greek—and of De scientia (“On Knowledge”) and De moribus (“On Manners”). Hegius had great talent as an organizer and succeeded not only in attracting some of the best scholars of the time but also in giving the school an efficient structure that became a model for many schools in the north.

Desiderius Erasmus was a great scholar and educator, and his influence was felt all over Europe. His strong personality earned him the respect and sympathy of humanists who saw in him, as in few others, the symbol of their ideals and values. Unfortunately, his proposals for reform and greater tolerance were not always accepted in the tortured Europe of the 16th century.

Erasmus was a prolific writer, and part of his work was concerned with education: De ratione studii (1511; “On the Right Method of Study”), De civilitate morum puerilium (1526; “On the Politeness of Children’s Manners”), Ciceronianus (1528), De pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis (1529; “On the Liberal Education of Boys from the Beginning”). His educational program was original in many ways but in no sense democratic. The masses could not partake in higher education, since their aim was that of gaining skill in an occupation. He felt that religious instruction should be made available to all but that Classical literary studies—the most important of all studies—were for a minority.

Study of ancient languages and intelligent comprehension of texts formed the basis of Erasmus’ system of education; he took a stand against the formalism and dogmatism that were already creeping into the humanist movement. Erasmus was in favour of acquiring a good general liberal arts education until the age of 18, being convinced that this would be a preparation for any form of further study. His great love for the Classical languages, however, made him neglect the vernacular; he was not interested in local traditions; and he attributed very little importance to science, which he did not think necessary for a cultured man. He was against instruction being imposed without the participation of the student. His optimism about the nature of man and the possibilities of molding him made Erasmus feel that, if adequately educated, any man could learn any discipline. He further sought renewal of the schools and better training for teachers, which he felt should be a public obligation, certainly no less important than military defense. Many of Erasmus’ themes were elaborated a century later by John Amos Comenius and form the basis of modern education, in particular the effort to understand the child psychologically and to consider education as a process that starts before the school experience and continues beyond it.

Juan Luis Vives

Strongly influenced by Erasmus was Juan Luis Vives, who, though of Spanish origin, spent his life in various parts of Europe—Paris, Louvain, Oxford, London, Bruges. His most significant writings were De institutione foeminae Christianae (1523; “On the Education of a Christian Woman”), De ratione studii puerilis (“On the Right Method of Instruction for Children”), De subventione pauperum (1526; “On Aid for the Poor”), and De tradendis disciplinis (1531; “On the Subjects of Study”).

Not only was his vision of the organic unity of pedagogy new, but he was the first of the humanists to emphasize the importance of popular education. He felt that it was the responsibility of the city to provide instruction for the poor and that the craft and merchant guilds had an important contribution to make to education. Unlike other humanists, moreover, he did not despise the utilitarian aspects of education but, on the contrary, suggested that his pupils should visit shops and workshops and go out into the country to learn something of real life. Just as he felt that education should not be limited to a single social class, so he felt that there should be no exclusion of women, though perhaps they required a different kind of education because of their different functions in life.

Vives worked out a plan to take account of both educational structures and teacher training. In emphasizing the social function of education, he was against schools being run for profit and believed teachers should be prepared not only in their specific fields but also in psychology, so as to understand the child. He also suggested that teachers should meet four times a year to examine together the intellectual capacities of each one of their pupils so that suitable programs of study could be arranged for them. Vives considered that, in teaching, games had psychological value. He favoured use of the vernacular for the first stage of education; but, as a humanist, he had a passion for Latin and felt that there was no substitute for Latin as a universal language. Classical studies were to be completed by investigation of the modern world, in particular its geography, the horizons having been greatly enlarged by recent discoveries. Vives’s method was an inductive one, based not on metaphysical theories but on experiment and exercise.

The early English humanists

At the end of the 15th century, there was a flowering in England of both humanistic studies and educational institutions, enabling a rapid transition from the medieval tradition to the Renaissance. The English humanists prepared excellent texts for studying the Classical languages, and they started a new type of grammar school, long to be a model. Most important were John Colet and Thomas More. Thomas Linacre, author of De emendata structura Latini sermonis libri sex (1524; “Six Books on the Flawless Structure of the Latin Language”), should also be remembered, as well as William Lily, author of a Latin syntax, Absolutissimus de octo orationis partium constructione libellus (1515; “Comprehensive Study of the Construction of the Eight Parts of Speech”), and director of St. Paul’s School in London from 1512 to 1522.

Colet has an important place in English education. As dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, he founded St. Paul’s School, thus favouring the introduction of humanism in England and the transformation of the old ecclesiastical medieval schools. He had traveled a great deal in France and Italy and wanted to bring to his country the humanistic culture that had so fascinated him. In 1510 he started a “grammar school,” open to about 150 scholars who had an aptitude for study and had completed elementary school. Colet’s personality and energy made his school a lively centre of English humanism.

More was both a distinguished humanist and a statesman. He was interested in pedagogy, to which he dedicated part of his work Utopia (1516). In his Utopia, More saw the connection between educational, social, and political problems and the influence that society therefore has on education. English humanists such as More were engaged in a bitter battle because medieval tradition was deeply rooted; they were fierce opponents of a group called the Trojans, who opposed the Greek language and all that the new instruction of that language represented.

Education in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation

New political and social systems developed in those European countries that, for various reasons and at different times, broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. The religious reforms brought about by Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, and the ruling family of England were both cause and effect of these transformations. Characteristic of all these countries was the importance of the state in the organization of the educational system.

The Reformation and European humanism influenced one another. There were analogies between the flowering of the Classical world in the European courts and the reawakening of religious interests; there were similarities in the critical position adopted toward Aristotelianism and in the interest shown toward the study of Classical languages, such as Greek and Hebrew. The presuppositions behind the two movements—humanism and Reformation—were different, however, and sooner or later a clash was inevitable. The most spectacular of these clashes was between Erasmus and Luther, despite the fact that for a long time they had respected each other. It was important for Erasmus and for the humanists to encourage the development of a world of writers and artists who, free from material preoccupations, could devote their time to literary and artistic pursuits. For the reformers, the situation was different: they did not aim to educate a small minority; unlike Erasmus, Luther had to keep the masses in mind, for they had contributed to the success of the religious reforms.

Luther and the German Reformation

Luther specifically wished his humble social origins to be considered a title of nobility. He wanted to create educational institutions that would be open to the sons of peasants and miners, though this did not mean giving them political representation. (The German princes were glad to promote the Reformation on condition that it would not diminish but would, on the contrary, increase their political power.) Luther realized that an educational system open to the masses would have to be public and financed by citizens’ councils. His educational programs were set out in An die Radsherrn aller Stedte deütsches Lands: Das sie christliche Schulen affrichten und hallten sollen (1524; “Letter to the Mayors and Aldermen of All the Cities in Behalf of Christian Schools”), in Dass man Kinder zur Schulen halten solle (1530; “Discourse on the Duty of Sending Children to School”), and in various letters to German princes.

Although Luther advocated the study of Classical languages, he believed that the primary purpose of such an education—in marked distinction to the aims of the humanists—was to promote piety through the reading of the Scriptures in their pure form. “Neglect of education,” Luther wrote in a letter to Jacob Strauss in 1524, “will bring the greatest ruin to the Gospel.” Accordingly, Luther argued that education must be extended to all children—girls as well as boys—and not simply to a leisured minority as in Renaissance Italy. Even those children who had to work for their parents in trade or in the fields should be enabled, if only for a few hours a day, to attend local, city-maintained schools in order to promote their reading skills and, hence, piety. Out of the Lutheran argument emerged a new educational concept, the pietas litterata: literacy to promote piety.

On the premise that a new class of cultivated men must be developed to substitute for the dispossessed monks and priests, new schools, whose upkeep was the responsibility of the princes and the cities, were soon organized along the lines suggested by Luther. In 1543 Maurice of Saxony founded three schools open to the public, supported by estates from the dissolved monasteries. It was more difficult to set up the city schools, for which there was no tradition. In towns and villages of northern Germany, Johannes Bugenhagen (1485–1558) set up the earliest schools to teach religion and reading and writing in German, but it was not until 1559 that the public ordinances of Württemberg made explicit reference to German schools in the villages. This example was shortly followed in Saxony.

Whereas Luther combined his interest in education with his work as a religious reformer and politician, another reformer, Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560), concentrated almost entirely on education, creating a new educational system and in particular setting up a secondary-school system. He taught for many years at the University of Wittenberg, which became one of the centres of theological studies in Reformation Germany; and his experience there enabled him to reorganize the old universities and set up new ones, such as Marburg, Königsberg, and Jena. His ideas about secondary education were put into practice in the schools he founded at Eisleben. Scholastic work was divided into three stages, access to each successive stage depending on the ability of the student to master the previous course work; this was a new concept (foretelling the later “grading system”), unknown in the traditional scholastic system. He was convinced that too many subjects should not be imposed on the student. He felt that Latin was important but not German, Greek, or Hebrew, as had been taught in the humanistic schools; such variety, he felt, was exhausting and possibly harmful. This opened the door to a new type of formalism, however, a danger that in other spheres the educational reformers had tried to fight.

The work of Johannes Sturm (1507–89) illustrates this danger. He founded a grammar school in Strassburg (now Strasbourg, France) that became a model for German schools. Sturm believed that methods of instruction in elementary schools and, to some degree, in secondary schools should be different from those in the institutes of higher education. Not much autonomy was to be allowed the child, who started learning Latin at the age of six by memorizing. Sturm’s love of Latin was even greater than that of his friend Erasmus, who never wanted it to become a mechanical exercise. As a consequence, German was neglected—as was physical instruction—and too much importance was given to form and expression for its own sake.

The English Reformation

The separation of the Church of England from the church of Rome in the 16th century under Henry VIII did not have quite the repercussions in the scholastic field that were experienced by the Continental reformations. The secondary-school system in England had been strongly influenced by the Renaissance in the period preceding the reform, and about 300 grammar schools were already in existence. Nevertheless, the situation became precarious, for political reasons, under a succession of sovereigns.

Henry VIII included the schools in his policy of concentration and consolidation of power in the hands of the state. In 1548, under Henry’s son Edward VI, the Chantries Act was passed, confiscating the estates of the church expressly for use in education; but the turmoil of the times, under the boy Edward and then his Roman Catholic sister Mary I, allowed the funds allocated to education to be diverted elsewhere. Many primary schools and grammar schools disappeared or retrenched their operations for lack of funds. Elizabeth I, however, succeeding to the throne in 1558, revived Henry VIII’s educational policy; considerable sums were appropriated for education, even though it was not always possible to enforce the new provisions because of local opposition and some lack of concern on the part of the Anglican clergy.

The growth of a rich and prosperous mercantile class and the spread of Calvinist reforms through the Puritans in England and the Presbyterians in Scotland were also factors in the transformation of English education in the 16th and 17th centuries. Scholastic programs reflected changes in society: importance was given to English, to science, to modern languages (in particular French and Italian), and to sports, as is still the case in England today. The Puritan contribution was thus considerable, though often hindered by the traditional forces of the Anglican church and the old nobility.

Sir Thomas Elyot, in The Boke Named the Governour (1531), wrote the first treatise in English that dealt specifically with education. He was interested in those who would have the future economic and political power in their hands. Though their education was to include the classics, it was to be supplemented by the needs of the new mercantile class—the national English language, manual arts, drawing, music, and all forms of sport. Elyot was obviously influenced by Erasmus.

Roger Ascham was close in thought to many of the English humanists. In The Scholemaster (1570) he underlined the importance of the English language (in spite of his being a professor of Greek) and proposed that it should be used in teaching the Classical languages. He also believed that physical exercise and sport were important, not only for the nobility and the leisured classes but also for students and teachers. He was aware of the social changes in the country; and, observing with sadness the corruption of the new wealth, he was particularly chagrined to see students going to university not to gain culture but to prepare themselves for high offices of state.

Richard Mulcaster had 30 years of experience as an educator at St. Paul’s School and at the Merchant Taylors School, a Latin secondary school maintained by the tailors’ guild in London—and most famous of all the “guild schools.” Mulcaster was in favour of efficient teacher training and of teachers being adequately paid. In agreement with some of the Lutheran educational reforms, he felt that schools should be open to all, including women—who should, moreover, have access to higher education. He is particularly remembered for his opposition to Italianate trends: “I love Rome, but London better. I favour Italy, but England more. I know the Latin, but worship the English.”

Sir Francis Bacon was interested in education though it was not his main concern—his main concern being the championship of the scientific method and “sense” realism, or empiricism, in opposition to traditional Aristotelianism and Scholasticism. He was opposed to private tutors and felt that boys and youths were better off in schools and that their education should be geared to their social status and future activity. Schooling should aim at preparing statesmen and men of action as well as scholars and thus should include history, modern languages, and politics. Bacon himself had a passion for study not only for its utilitarian purposes but also because it was for him a true source of delight.

The French Reformation

Schools in 16th-century France were still largely under the control of the Roman Catholic Church, as they had been in the Middle Ages. This traditional education faced opposition, however, both from Protestants and from reformers who had been influenced by the humanist principle of the primacy of the individual.

François Rabelais was a great and original interpreter of humanistic ideals, and his views on education reflected this. He himself studied in various fields, from medicine to letters, and was passionately interested in all of them. His controversy with the Sorbonne, a remaining stronghold of medievalism and Scholasticism, was bitter; he satirized the school and the useless notions taught there in his novels Pantagruel (1532) and Gargantua (1534).

Rabelais’s educational philosophy was entirely different from that of the medievalists—his being based on liberty of the pupil, in whom he had maximum faith. In Gargantua this cult of liberty was celebrated in the utopian Abbey of Thélème, where all could live according to their own pleasure but where the love of learning was so great that everyone was dedicated to it—getting much better results than those obtained at the medieval universities. And yet in the education of Gargantua and Pantagruel there were limits placed on liberty: Gargantua’s day started at 4 in the morning; he studied all subjects, both literary and scientific; and this was alternated with play and pleasing diversions. The heavy program, however, was not a constriction because of Gargantua’s delight in learning. The culture that Rabelais wanted for his two heroes was directly connected with the world in which they lived.

Gargantua and Pantagruel were perhaps among the first texts by a humanist in which not only the quadrivium but also scientific studies were enthusiastically proposed. There was nothing arid or abstract in Rabelais’s approach to nature, and in this context the classics also had a new flavour: ancient literature—no longer limited to Latin, Greek, and Hebrew but expanded to include Arabic and Chaldaic—could bring to light valuable knowledge that had been accumulated by the Classical world.

Petrus Ramus, one of the most bitter critics of French medieval Aristotelianism, was an intelligent reformer of educational methods. His best-known treatises are Aristotelicae animadversiones (1543; “Animadversions on Aristotle”) and Dialecticae partitiones (1543; “Divisions of Dialectic”), both condemned by royal decree; he also wrote two discourses on philosophy, Oratio de studiis philosophiae et eloquentiae conjungendis (1546; “Speech on Joining the Study of Philosophy with the Art of Speaking”) and Pro philosophica Parisiensis accademiae disciplina oratio (1551; “Speech in Defense of the Philosophical Discipline of the Parisian Academy”), as well as Ciceronianus, published posthumously. In these works, his criticism of traditional ways and of the degeneration of humanistic thought made him hated by all Roman Catholics, though not much better understood by Protestants; he died a Protestant victim of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. His program of study was fairly close to the traditional one, but his method was original, for he was concerned that the teacher should not suffocate the child with too many lessons and considered the child’s autonomous activity important. He especially resented any pedagogy that relied on a blind appeal to authority; learning had to be utilitarian and issue from practice.

Michel de Montaigne (1533–92) was much influenced by his personal experience as a student. Though often critical of humanism, especially when it was misinterpreted and transformed into pedantic studies, he had great admiration for the classics and lacked the scientific interests of Rabelais or Ramus. Montaigne wrote specifically about education in two essays on the upbringing of children and on pedantry. Culture, he felt, had become imitation, often with no trace of originality left, whereas it should be a delight—not something a student is forced to assimilate but something to draw the student’s participation. He was in favour of instruction by tutors capable of giving the student individual attention—the ideal tutor being one with a good mind rather than one filled with pedantic notions. He also believed in the importance of physical education and in a boy’s being hardened to nature and to danger.

For Montaigne, it was important not only to travel to foreign countries but also to stay there for a while, to learn languages and, even more, to learn about foreign customs and thus break out of the narrow limits of one’s own province. There were many differences between Montaigne and Erasmus, but both were convinced that for the wise man there could be no geographic boundaries, for, through cultural diffusion, barriers would be broken down.

The Calvinist Reformation

The Protestant reformer John Calvin was of French origin, but he settled in Geneva and made this Swiss city one of the most prominent centres of the Reformation. Unlike Luther, whose reforms were backed by princes hoping to gain greater political independence, Calvin was supported by the new mercantile class, which needed political and administrative changes for the purposes of its own expansion.

Calvin considered popular education important, but he was not an innovator. The theological academy he founded in Geneva in 1559 was modeled on Sturm’s school in Strassburg, where Calvin had taught; it became distinguished under the directorship of Theodore Beza, an intelligent reformer but unfortunately a very intolerant one, at least in theological matters. Calvin’s influence on education was nevertheless felt in many of the European universities, even as far as England, where, in spite of Anglican opposition, the Puritans had gained a foothold.

Calvin was in favour of universal education under church control (the cost to be in large part borne by the community), but “universal” did not mean “democratic.” Even if some form of instruction was to be given to everyone (so that everyone might in some measure read the Scriptures for himself, in good Calvinist tradition), very few individuals reached secondary or higher education, and of these only a minute percentage came from the working classes. Documents of the period show the steps taken to achieve the aim of universal education. In the Netherlands, the Calvinist Synod of The Hague in 1586 made provision for setting up schools in the cities, and the Synod of Dort in 1618 decreed that free public schools should be set up in all villages. In Scotland in 1560, John Knox, a disciple of Calvin and the leader of the Scottish Presbyterians, aimed at setting up schools in every community, but the nobility prevented this from actually being carried out. The major educational contributions of Calvinism were its diffusion to a larger number of people and the development of Protestant education at the university level. Not only was Geneva significant but also the Universities of Leiden (1575), Amsterdam (1632), and Utrecht (1636) in the Netherlands and the University of Edinburgh (1582) in Scotland. The Puritan, or English Calvinist, movement was responsible for the founding of Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge (1584).

The Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation

The religious upheaval, so important in northern Europe, also affected—though less violently—the Latin countries of southern Europe. If the new ferment in the Roman Catholic Church was mainly directed at answering the Protestants, at times it also had something original to suggest. At the Council of Trent (1545–63), the Roman Catholic Church tried to come to terms with the new political and economic realities in Europe.

Education was foremost in the minds of the leaders of the Counter-Reformation. The faithful were to be educated. For this, capable priests were needed, and, thus, seminaries multiplied to prepare the clergy for a more austere life in the service of the church. There was a flowering of utopian ideas, which should be remembered when trying to understand unofficial Catholic thought of the period. Writings such as La città del sole (“The City of the Sun”) by Tommaso Campanella and Repubblica immaginaria (“The Imaginary Republic”) by Lodovico Agostini are examples of this new vision of the church and of the duties of Christians. But if in the minds of the utopians this education was to be universal, it was in fact almost entirely directed at the ruling classes.

The Society of Jesus, founded in 1534 by Ignatius Loyola, was not specifically a teaching order but was nevertheless very important in this field. The first Jesuit college was opened in Messina, Sicily, in 1548; by 1615 the Jesuits had 372 colleges, and by 1755—just 18 years before the suppression of the order—the number had risen to 728. (The society was not reestablished until 1814.) In Ratio studiorum, an elaborate plan of studies issued by the Jesuits in 1599, there is laid out an organization of these institutions down to the smallest details. An authoritarian uniformity was thus the rule in their colleges, and individual initiative was discouraged. The complete course of study took at least 13 years, divided into three periods: six or more years that included grammar and rhetoric, three years of philosophy, and four of theology. The teacher was thought of not only as an instructor but also as an educator and often a controller, for he was at the centre of a vast network of controls, in which those students considered promising also took part. Emulation was encouraged in the class, which was often divided into two groups to stimulate competition. These new techniques, as well as the Jesuits’ efficient training of teachers, had good results—proof of this being the rapid increase in their colleges, which found greater favour than others started in the same period.

The legacy of the Reformation

The effects on education of a movement as complex and widespread as the Reformation were far-reaching. Perhaps its most original contribution was the extension of the idea of education at the elementary level. As a result, the vernacular language took on a new importance, and also the new pedagogy had to take account of the realities of the situation—namely, that the children brought into the new school network could not spend as much time on “useless” books, so that schoolwork had to be combined with learning a practical trade, which had not previously been considered a part of education. This, however, was to take several centuries to be implemented in practice.

European education in the 17th and 18th centuries

The social and historical setting

The Renaissance had been the beginning of a new era in history, which culminated in the 17th and 18th centuries in the development of the absolutist state everywhere but in England and Holland (and even in these states the issue was for some time in doubt). France, the Habsburg empire, England, and Russia became the leading powers in Europe. The absolutist state extended its control beyond the political and into the religious (with the creation of the established church) and into almost all other aspects of human life. Although the High and later Middle Ages had witnessed the growth of middle-class forces, the pattern of society still clearly bore the stamp of court life. The concentration of power determined this life, and the citizen and his possessions were more and more at the disposal of the aristocracy. The citizen was subject.

Even in an absolutist state, however, education cannot be the sole privilege of the rich or the ruling classes, because an efficient absolutist state requires capable subjects, albeit bound to their social position. Elementary education for the middle classes thus developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, and more and more the state saw as its task the responsibility for establishing and maintaining schools. This tendency toward general education did not stem only from considerations of political expediency; it stemmed also from the desire to improve the world through education—making all areas of life orderly and subordinate to rational leadership. There was not only an inclination toward encyclopaedism and systemization of the sciences but also, in similar fashion, a tendency to set education aright by extensive school regulations.

In general, this distinction can be made between the 17th and the 18th centuries: in the 17th century the aim of education was conceived as a religious and rationalistic one, whereas in the 18th century the ideas of secularism and progress began to prevail. The 18th century is especially remembered for three leading reforms: teaching in the mother language grew in importance, rivaling Latin; the exact sciences were brought into the curriculum; and the correct methods of teaching became a pedagogic question.

The new scientism and rationalism

These social and pedagogic changes were bound up with new tendencies in philosophy. Sir Francis Bacon of England was one who criticized the teachers of his day, saying that they offered nothing but words and that their schools were narrow in thought. He believed that the use of inductive and empirical methods would bring the knowledge that would give man strength and make possible a reorganization of society. Therefore, he demanded that schools should be scientific workplaces in the service of life and that they should put the exact sciences before logic and rhetoric.

Another 17th-century critic of medievalism was René Descartes, but he did not proceed from empirical experience, as did Bacon; for him, the only permanence and certainty lay in human reason or thinking (cogito, ergo sum; “I think, therefore, I am”). The ability to think makes doubt and critical evaluation of the environment possible. A science based only on empiricism fails to achieve any vital, natural explanations but only mathematical, mechanistic ones of doubtful living use. Only what reason (ratio) recognizes can be called truth. Thus, education must be concerned with the development of critical rationality.

Like Descartes, Benedict de Spinoza and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz also outlined rationalistic philosophical systems. Decisive for educational theory was their statement that knowledge and experience originate in thinking (not in sense impressions, which can provide only examples and individual facts) and that formal thinking categories should form the substance of education. They believed that the aim of education should be the mastery of thinking and judgment rather than the mere assimilation of facts.

The Protestant demand for universal elementary education

The schools that were actually developed fell short of these philosophically based demands. This is especially true of elementary education. In the Middle Ages, the grammar schools (especially for the education of the clergy) had developed, and the humanism of the Renaissance had strengthened this tendency; only those who knew Latin and Greek could be considered educated. For basic, popular education there were meagre arrangements. Although schools for basic writing and arithmetic had been established as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, they were almost exclusively in the towns; the rural population had to be content with religious instruction within the framework of the church. This changed as a result of Protestantism. John Wycliffe had demanded that everyone become a theologian, and Martin Luther, by translating the Holy Scriptures, made the reading of original works possible. Everyone, he asserted, should have access to the source of belief, and all children should go to school. So it happened that church regulations of the 16th and 17th centuries began to contain items governing schools and the instruction of young people (mainly in reading and religion). At first, the Protestant schools were directed and supported almost entirely by the church. Not until the 18th century, following the general tendency toward secularization, did the state begin to assume responsibility for supporting the schools.

Education in 17th-century Europe

Central European theories and practices

It was while Europe was being shaken by religious wars and was disintegrating into countless small states that such writers as Campanella and Bacon dreamed their Utopias (La Città del sole and the New Atlantis, respectively), where peace and unity would be had through logical and realistic means. To even attempt realizing this dream, however, man needed suitable education. Both leading representatives of so-called pedagogic realism, Wolfgang Ratke and John Amos Comenius, were motivated by this ideal of world improvement through a comprehensive reform of the school system. Despite this common starting point, however, both were highly distinct personalities and, moreover, had divergent influences on the development of education and schools.

The pedagogy of Ratke

Wolfgang Ratke (1571–1635), a native of Holstein in Germany, journeyed to England, Holland, and through the whole of Germany and to Sweden expounding his ideas to the political authorities and finding considerable support. His plans for progressive reform failed for several reasons. First, political conditions during the Thirty Years’ War were understandably not favourable for any kind of planning or reform of schools. Moreover, Ratke demonstrated little practical ability in executing his plans. Finally, Ratke’s ideas were not free of exaggerations. He promised, for example, to be able to teach 10 languages in five years—each language in six months.

His ideas about the art of teaching are, nevertheless, of importance for the theory and practice of education. First, he believed that knowledge of things must precede words about things. This “sense realism” means that individual experience in contact with reality is the origin of knowledge; principles of knowledge follow, rather than precede, the study of specifics.

Second, everything must follow the order and course of what may be called human nature. In modern terms, one would say that a lesson should be designed with psychological conditions taken into consideration.

Third, he asserted that everything should be taught first in the mother language, the mother language being the natural and practical language for children and the one that allows them to concentrate wholly on the business at hand. Only when the mother language is fully commanded should a child attempt a foreign language; then special attention should be paid to speaking it rather than merely reading it.

Fourth, Ratke emphasized what might now be called a kind of programmed learning. One piece of work should be fully completed before progress is made to the next piece, and there should be constant repetition and practice. The teacher’s methods and the textbook program should agree and coincide.

Fifth, there should be no compulsion. A teacher should not be a taskmaster. To strike a pupil would be contrary to nature and would not help him learn. A pupil should be brought to love his teacher, not hate him. On the other hand, all work was the teacher’s responsibility. The pupil should listen and sit still. More generally, all children—without exception—should go to school, and no lessons should be canceled for any reason. There is, of course, a certain paradox in Ratke’s views: there was to be no compulsion, and yet pupils were to remain disciplined and were not permitted to work independently.

As for curricula, Ratke suggested reading and writing in the native tongue, singing, basic mathematics, grammar, and, in the higher classes, Latin and Greek. The sciences had not yet appeared in his timetable. His demand that, above all, young people should be given instruction in the affairs of God is typical of the combination of rationalistic and religious education in the 17th century.

The pedagogy of Comenius

John Amos Comenius (1592–1670) was, even more than Ratke, a leading intellect of European educational theory in the 17th century. Born in Moravia, he was forced by the circumstances of the Thirty Years’ War to wander constantly from place to place—Germany, Poland, England, Sweden, Hungary, Transylvania, and Holland—and was deprived of his wife, children, and property. He himself said, “My life was one long journey. I never had a homeland.”

As a onetime bishop of the Bohemian Brethren, he sought to live according to their motto, “Away from the world towards Heaven.” To prepare for the hereafter, Comenius taught that one should “live rightly”—that is, seek learned piety by living one’s life according to correct principles of science and morality. Comenius’s philosophy was both humanitarian and universalistic. In his Pampaedia (“Universal Education,” discovered in 1935), he argued that “the whole of the human race may become educated, men of all ages, all conditions, both sexes and all nations.” His aim was pansophia (universal wisdom), which meant that “all men should be educated to full humanity”—to rationality, morality, and happiness.

Comenius realized that, to achieve pansophia by universal education, radical reforms in pedagogy and in the organization of schools were required, and he devised an all-embracing school system to meet this need. During infancy (up to six years of age), the child in the “mother school,” or family grouping, would develop basic physical faculties. During the following period (seven to 12), the child would go to the “vernacular school,” which was divided into six classes according to age and could be found in every town. The prime aim of these schools would be to develop the child’s imagination and memory through such subjects as religion, ethics, diction, reading, writing, basic mathematics, music, domestic economy, civics, history, geography, and handicraft. This vernacular school formed the final stage of education for technical vocations. After this school would come the grammar school (or Latin school), which the pupils would attend during their youth (13–18) and which would exist in every town of every district. Through progressive courses in language and the exact sciences, the young people would be brought to a deeper understanding of things. Finally, the university (19–24) would be a continuation of this school. Every province ought to have one such university, whose central task would be the formation of willpower and powers of judgment and categorization. Over and above this four-tier school system Comenius also envisaged a “college of light,” a kind of academy of the sciences for the centralized pooling of all learning. It is important to note, in this regard, that it was Comenius’s stay in England (1641–42) that initiated discussions leading to the founding of the Royal Society (incorporated 1662). Furthermore, the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, influenced by Comenius, founded the Berlin Academy, and similar societies sprouted elsewhere.

The Great Didactic (1657) sets forth Comenius’s methodology—one for the arts, another for the sciences. Comenius believed that everything should be presented to the child’s senses—and to as many senses as possible, using pictures, models, workshops, music, and other “objective” means. With proper presentation, the mind of the child could become a “psychological” counterpart of the world of nature. The mind can take in what is in nature if the method of teaching most akin to nature is used. For the upper age levels, he recommended that language study and other studies be integrated. Indeed, he employed this scheme in his Gate of Tongues Unlocked (1631), a book of Latin and sciences arranged by subjects, which revolutionized Latin teaching and was translated into 16 languages. The Visible World in Pictures (1658), which remained popular in Europe for two centuries, attempted to dramatize Latin through pictures illustrating Latin sentences, accompanied by one or two vernacular translations.

The schools of Gotha

The zeal for reform on the part of such educators as Ratke and Comenius, on the one hand, and the interests of the ruling classes, on the other, led in the years after about 1650 to the publication of school regulations that were free of church regulations. The circumstances in the central German principality of Gotha were typical. The duke, Ernst the Pious, commissioned the rector Andreas Reyher to compile a system of school regulations, which appeared in 1642 and is known historically as the Gothaer Schulmethodus. This was the first independent civil system of school regulations in Germany and was strongly influenced by Ratke. The five most important points of these regulations were (1) compulsory schooling from the age of five, (2) division of the school into lower, middle, and higher classes, (3) extension of the usual subjects (reading, writing, basic arithmetic, singing, and religion) to various other fields (natural history, local history, civics, and domestic economy), (4) the introduction of textbooks (for reading and basic arithmetic), including notably the first textbook of exact sciences for elementary schools, Reyher’s own Kurzer Unterricht von natürlichen Dingen (1657; “Short Course on Natural Things”), and (5) methodical instruction that, above all, emphasized the clarity of the lesson and the activity of the pupils.

French theories and practices

In the second half of the 17th century, Germany suffered from the aftereffects of the Thirty Years’ War, whereas France, under Louis XIV, reached the zenith of political and military power. France’s leadership was also demonstrated in the cultural field, including education. Some of the most important developments in France included the promotion of courtly education and the involvement of religious orders and congregations in the education of the poor.

Courtly education

The rationalistic ideal of French courtly education was foreshadowed in Michel de Montaigne’s Essays (1580) in which the ideal man was described as having a natural, sensible way of life not deeply affected by the perplexities of the time but admitting of pleasure. He had a “correct” attitude toward the world and people, a certain spiritual freedom, and an independent judgment—all of which, in Montaigne’s view, were more important than being steeped in knowledge. “As lamps are extinguished from too much oil, so is the mind from too much studying.” Montaigne came from a merchant family that aspired to nobility, and thus there is a certain fashionable elitism in his views; he held, among other things, that courtly education succeeds best when the pupil studies under a private tutor.

This ideal, rather unlike the ideal of the learned and humanistic Renaissance man, became important in 17th-century France, especially after mid-century and the rise of the court of Louis XIV. The education of the would-be versatile and worldly-wise gentleman was furthered not only by the continuation of the institution of private tutoring but also by the establishment of schools and academies for chevaliers and nobles, in which the emphasis was on such subjects as deportment, modern languages, fencing, and riding. It was most emphatically an example of class education, designed for the nobility and higher military and not for any commoners.

The teaching congregations

In the countries that remained Catholic, such as France, the Roman church retained control of education. Indeed, as monarchy became more absolute, so largely did the authority of the church in matters of education. In France, practically all schools and universities were controlled by so-called teaching congregations or societies, the most famous and powerful of which during the first half of the 17th century was the Society of Jesus. By mid-century the Jesuits had 14,000 pupils under instruction in Paris alone; their colleges (not including universities) all over the land numbered 612.

It was their successful teaching and comparatively mild discipline that caused the Jesuit schools to attract thousands of pupils. “They are so good,” said Bacon of the Jesuit teachers in his Advancement of Learning, “that I wish they were on our side.” The curriculum was purely Classical, but importance was attached to spacious, well-adapted buildings and amenities designed to make school life interesting. In general, however, the religious and international conflicts did great harm to education, which suffered much because those kings and religious factions that gained power in France (as elsewhere) used the schools to propagate their cause, discarding teachers not of the approved persuasion. Moreover, the schools continued largely to ignore the new directions of men’s minds; in the universities staffed by Jesuit fathers, medieval Scholasticism, though purged of the formalistic excesses that had degraded it, was fully restored. Schools and universities declined, for the most part, to contemplate any enlargement of the frontiers of knowledge and were too often deeply involved in the religious conflicts of the time. The University of Paris in particular remained distracted throughout the 17th century by theological dissensions—in at least one instance as a result of the rivalry that ensued after the Jesuits had effected a footing at Clermont College.

Aside from the Jesuits, the most important teaching congregations in France were the Bérullian Oratory, or Oratorians, and the Jansenists of Port-Royal. The former, founded in 1611 and soon to open a number of schools and seminaries for young nobles, was composed of priests—but priests more liberal and rationalist than was common for the times. They offered instruction not only in the humanities but also in history, mathematics, the natural sciences, and such genteel accomplishments as dancing and music. Though continuing to use Latin in instruction, they promoted also the use of the vernacular French in the initial years of their curriculum. They tended indeed to be drawn to the ideas of Descartes, to a faith based on reason. When in 1764 the Jesuits were banned from France, their teaching positions were largely assumed by Oratorians.

More famous than the schools of the Oratorians, though enjoying a briefer career, were the Little Schools of Port-Royal. Their founder was Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, better known as the abbot of Saint-Cyran, who was one of France’s chief advocates of Jansenism, a movement opposed to Jesuitry and Scholasticism and favouring bold reforms of the church and a turn to a certain Pietism. About 1635, Saint-Cyran, with the help of some wealthy, influential Parisians, succeeded in gaining control of the convent of Port-Royal, near Versailles. There the Jansenist group began about 1637 to educate a few boys, and by 1646 it had established the Little Schools of Port-Royal in Paris itself. Their curriculum was similar to that of the Oratorians, though excluding dancing, and was celebrated for its excellence in French language and logic and in foreign languages. Influenced by Descartes’s rationalistic philosophy, the Jansenists theorized that learning has a “natural” order and should begin with what is familiar to the child: thus, a phonetic system of teaching reading was used; all instruction was in French, not Latin; and student compositions were directed toward topics drawing on one’s own experiences or toward subjects in one’s current reading. Involved in political struggles with the Jesuits, who were still influential at court, the Jansenists were fated to have all their schools closed by 1660, but their theories and practices were widely adopted and became extremely influential.

Female education

During the century, the education of girls was not entirely neglected, and France was notable for its efforts. Mme de Maintenon, for instance, had been a pupil of the Ursuline nuns in Paris and then a governess at the court of Louis XIV before she was wedded to the king in 1684. From her royal vantage point, she took upon herself the founding of a school in 1686 at Saint-Cyr near Versailles—a higher school principally for orphan girls descended from noble families. Besides such basic subjects as reading and writing, the girls were prepared for their future lives as wives and mothers or as members of genteel professions. In 1692 this school was taken over by the Augustinian nuns. Another important worker in the field of female education was St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who, together with her father confessor St. Francis de Sales, founded in 1610 the order of the Visitandines, a group dedicated to charitable work and the religious education of women.

François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon, archbishop of Cambrai and noted theologian and writer, is especially known for his views on the education of girls. In his Traité de l’éducation des filles (1687; “Treatise on the Education of Girls”), he remarked on the importance of women in improving the morals of society and went on to express his thoughts about girls’ education. Because girls, he believed, are meant to fulfill roles as housewives and mothers, they should pursue religious and moral education rather than scholarly learning. They should learn reading and writing, basic mathematics, history, music, needlework, and Latin (because it is the church language)—but no modern languages, since they tend to moral corruption. Education, he maintained, should make the lady of the house both Christian and accomplished, neither ignorant nor précieuse.

English theories and practices

The 17th century in England (up to the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89) was one of argument over religious and political settlements bequeathed by Queen Elizabeth I; the period was one characterized by the confrontation of two different worldviews—on one side the royalist Cavaliers and on the other side the Puritans. The division was reflected in education.

The Puritan reformers

In the Anglo-American world the Reformation came about in the form of Calvinism—“Puritan” being the derisory name for strict Calvinists. Their ideals were sober, practical behaviour, careful management, thrift, asceticism, and the rejection of hedonistic pleasures of life. Many of the educationists who sought this Puritan ideal were followers of the reform plans of Comenius. Samuel Hartlib, a Polish merchant residing in England who was friend, publisher, and patron of Comenius, tried to interest Parliament in the idea of popular education; his treatise London’s Charity Enlarged (1650) proposed that a grant be made for the education of poor children, all in the interest of general social betterment. The Committee for Advancement of Learning, which he founded in 1653, was the impulse and model for later educational associations. In general, his ideas for reform included the introduction of agricultural schools and the state organization of the educational system, as well as the establishment of general elementary education.

The name of John Dury stands close to those of Comenius and Hartlib. In his book The Reformed School (1651), he proposed teaching societies in England much like the teaching congregations in France. Indeed, he was particularly insistent that control of education be in the hands not of a regimentizing state but of free educational organizations. He was also concerned about teaching youth the useful arts and sciences so that they might “become profitable instruments of the Commonwealth.” From him, too, stemmed the draft of a nursery school; thus, he can be regarded as the first representative of infant teaching in England.

The most renowned of the Puritan intellectuals, John Milton, was more concerned with the education of “our nobler and our gentler youth” than with the education of common boys. Of Education (1644), written at the request of Hartlib, was one of the last in the long line of European expositions of Renaissance humanism. Milton’s aim was the traditional one: the molding of boys into enlightened, cultivated, responsible citizens and leaders. His proposed academy, which would take the place of both secondary school and college, was to concentrate on instruction in the ancient classics, with due subordination to the Bible and Christian teaching. Milton also emphasized the sciences, and physical and martial exercise had a place in his curriculum as well.

Royalist education

Frequently opposed to Puritanism on educational as well as political grounds were the royalists and supporters of the nobility. In education, their views went back to Sir Thomas Elyot and Roger Ascham in the 16th century, who had written so persuasively about the education of gentlemen in the tradition of the so-called courtesy books. Influenced by these few English forerunners and also by Montaigne were James Cleland (The Institution of a Young Nobleman, 1607) and Henry Peacham (The Compleat Gentleman, 1622). In the view of the latter, an extreme royalist, “Fashioning him [the pupil] absolute in the most necessary and commendable Qualities concerning Minde and Body to country’s glory” was the overriding aim of education; the table of contents of The Compleat Gentleman exhibits the variety of interests of an ideal gentleman or noble—cosmography, geometry, poetry, music, sculpture, drawing, painting, heraldry, and so on. John Gailhard (The Compleat Gentleman, 1678), another writer in the same tradition, can be said to have anticipated John Locke’s empiricism (see below John Locke’s empiricism and education as conduct) when he wrote that “the nature of Youth is like Wax by fire, or a smooth table upon which anything can be written.”

The academies

The beginning of academies for the promotion of philosophy, arts, or sciences can be traced to the early Renaissance, particularly in Italy and France. The Platonic Academy in Florence was one of the most noted of speculative societies. The first scientific academies belong to the 16th century: in 1560, for instance, the Academia Secretorum Naturae (“Secret Academy of Nature”) was founded in Naples; in 1575 Philip II of Spain founded in Madrid the Academy of Mathematical Sciences. Then, in 1617, the first German academy, Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft (“Productive Society”), was founded at Weimar with the expressed purposes of the purification of the language and the cultivation of literature. A number of other academies were founded throughout Europe.

It was in the 17th century that the two preeminent scientific academies were founded. Both the English Royal Society and the French Academy of Sciences began as informal gatherings of famous men. The “invisible college” of London and Oxford had its first meetings in 1645; it was incorporated as the Royal Society in 1662. In Paris, a group of men including the philosophers Descartes and Blaise Pascal started private meetings almost at the same time. In 1666 they were invited by the economic minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert to meet in the royal library. In 1699 the society was transferred to the Louvre under the name of the Academy of Sciences. The French Academy also started as a private society of men of letters some five years before its incorporation in 1635 under the patronage of Cardinal de Richelieu. In the 18th century the fame and achievements of these English and French academies became internationally recognized, and many other European countries started to found their own national academies.

Education in 18th-century Europe

In the 18th century the theories and systems of education were influenced by various philosophical and social trends. Among these were realism, which had its origins in Ratke and Comenius, among others, and also Pietism, which derived principally from Philipp Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Another trend was the far-reaching rationalistic and humanitarian movement of the Enlightenment—best seen in the pedagogical views of Locke, in the upsurge of philanthropy, and in Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie, a comprehensive system of human knowledge in 28 volumes (1751–72). Also important was naturalism, of which Jean-Jacques Rousseau can be regarded as the main representative.

Education during the Enlightenment

John Locke’s empiricism and education as conduct

The writings of the late 17th-century empiricist John Locke on philosophy, government, and education were especially influential during the Enlightenment. In the field of education, Locke is significant both for his general theory of knowledge and for his ideas on the education of youth. Locke’s empiricism, expressed in his notion that ideas originate in experience, was used to attack the doctrine that principles of reason are innate in the human mind. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke argued that ideas come from two “fountains” of experience: sensation, through which the senses convey perceptions into the mind, and reflection, whereby the mind works with the perceptions, forming ideas. Locke thought of the mind as a “blank tablet” (tabula rasa) prior to experience, but he did not claim that all minds are equal. In Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) he insisted that some minds have a greater intellectual potential than others.

For education, Locke’s empiricism meant that learning comes about only through experience. Education, which Locke felt should address both character and intellect, is therefore best achieved by providing the pupil with examples of proper thought and behaviour, by training the child to witness and share in the habits of virtue that are part of the conventional wisdom of the rational and practical man. Virtue should be cultivated through proper upbringing, preparatory to “studies” in the strict sense. The child first learns to do through activity and, later, comes to understand what has been done. The intimacy between conduct and thinking is best illustrated in the title of Locke’s Of the Conduct of the Understanding, written as an appendix to his Essay. There it is clear that understanding comes only with careful cultivation and practice; this means that understanding not only involves conduct but also is itself a kind of conduct. If the child and the tutor share a kind of conduct, then the child will have learned the habits of character and mind that are necessary for education to continue.

Giambattista Vico, critic of Cartesianism

Like Locke, the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico believed that human beings are not innately rational; he argued, however, that understanding results not through sense perception but through imaginative reconstruction. Although Vico’s ideas were not widely known in the 18th century, the importance of his work for the history of philosophy and education has been increasingly recognized since the late 1960s. Vico was professor of rhetoric at the University of Naples from 1699 to 1741. His best-known work is New Science (1725), in which he advanced the idea that human beings in their origins are not rational, like philosophers, but imaginative, like poets. The relation between imagination and reason in New Science is suggestive for educational theory: civilized human beings are rational, yet they came to be that way without knowing what they were doing; the first humans created institutions literally without reason, as poets do who follow their imagination rather than their reason. Only later, after they have become rational, can human beings understand what they are and what they have made. Vico’s idea that early humans were nonrational and childlike prefigured Rousseau’s primitivism and his conception of human development (see below The background and influence of naturalism); and the importance Vico accorded to imagination foreshadowed the place that feeling was to have in 19th-century Romantic thought.

De Nostri Temporis Studiorum Ratione (1709; “On the Study Methods of Our Time”) defended the humanistic program of studies against what Vico took to be an encroachment by the rationalistic system of Descartes on the educational methods proper for youth. Vico asserted that the influential Cartesian treatise The Port-Royal Logic, by the Jansenists Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, inverted the natural course by which children learn by insisting on a training in logic at the beginning of the educational process. He argued instead that young people need to have their mental powers developed and nourished by promoting their memories through the study of languages and enhancing their imaginations through reading poets, historians, and orators. Young minds first need the kind of reasoning that common sense provides. Common sense, acquired through the experience of poets, orators, and people of prudence, teaches the young the importance of working with probabilities prior to an education in logic. To train youth first in logic in the absence of common sense is to teach them to make judgments before they have the knowledge necessary to do so. Vico’s aim was to emphasize the importance of practical judgment in education, an echo of the ideals of Locke and a prefiguring of Rousseau and the 19th-century reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. Outside Italy, among those who were most influenced by New Science were Joseph de Maistre in the late 18th century and Victor Cousin and Jules Michelet in the 19th century.

The condition of the schools and universities

The school system became more and more in the 18th century an ordered concern of the state. Exponents of enlightened absolutism, as well as parliamentarians, recognized that the subject was of more use to the state if he had a school education. Ideally, there was to be compulsory schooling everywhere, but of course in practice the ideal was scarcely reached anywhere. The state also recognized that worthwhile school instruction depended on the standard of education of teachers: thus, the first teachers’ colleges were established. But admittedly the standard of education of teachers was fairly poor. The teaching profession still did not provide a living wage, for which reason can be read from a regulation of 1736:

If the teacher is a workman he can already support himself; if he is not, then he is hereby allowed to go to work for daily wages for 6 weeks at harvest-time (Principia regulativa, clause 10).

Ever since the 16th century the universities had suffered a decline, mainly as a result of religious wars. Progress in the exact sciences was accomplished under government support in the academies of science, not in the universities, which became more and more training institutions for higher civil servants. There was, however, a notable change for the better, at least in Germany.

The year 1694 saw the foundation of the University of Halle, which has been described as the first real modern university. It originated in a Ritterschule, or “knight’s school,” imitative of the schools for chevaliers in France, and in 1694 the Holy Roman emperor Leopold I granted it a charter. The primary object in founding a university in Halle was to create a centre for the Lutheran party; but its character, under the influence of its two most notable teachers, the philosophers Christian Thomasius and Francke, soon expanded beyond the limits of this conception. Thomasius was the first to set the example—soon followed by all the universities of Germany—of lecturing in the vernacular instead of the customary Latin; this was a declaration of war against Scholasticism. Francke, as the founder of the Pietistic school, exercised great influence. Throughout the whole of the 18th century, Halle was the leader of academic thought and advanced theology in Protestant Germany, although sharing that leadership after the middle of the century with the University of Göttingen (founded 1737). With Göttingen, another important contribution was made by the revival of Classical studies and the creation of a faculty of philosophy distinct from that of theology. This was designed not only to advance scholarship but also to train teachers. Halle itself established the first chair of educational theory.

The background and influence of Pietism

The dispute over the correct religious dogma—fought for almost 200 years with the utmost strength, controversy, and academic subtlety and reaching its terrible culmination in the Thirty Years’ War—led to a certain ill feeling against dogmatically sanctioned religious revelation. There was a widespread trend toward secularization. Everywhere, there was a clear tendency to free belief from dogmatic quarrels. The search for a new belief took generally two different paths. One wanted to base belief in man’s reason; the other wanted a godliness of the heart. For one line of thought, belief was a postulate of omnipotent human reason; for the other, man, corrupted by original sin, was to be saved only by simple belief in God’s grace. The one path turned to the religious understanding of the Enlightenment; the other followed the subjective, mystical, zealous devoutness of Pietism. Such a movement away from the institutionalized church, away from the established church, and toward an intensified faith was evident in France within Roman Catholicism in the form of Jansenism and Quietism. In England it was clearly evident in certain forms of Puritanism and in Independent movements and Quakerism. In Germany it was evident in Pietism.

Pietism was a Protestant movement of renewed faith that became popular from about 1675 to 1740, though it remained residually influential even into the 19th century. Its spiritual centres were in Württemberg, among the Moravian Brethren, and above all in Halle. Pietism was principally opposed to dogmatic Protestant orthodoxy, which usually included impatience and polemics against other beliefs. Pietism, on the contrary, stood for the renewal of importance of the individual prayer and for humility. The experiences of belief were to be based less in the acceptance of fixed conditions of belief and more in a mystical, personal submersion in feelings. According to standard Protestant theory, salvation could be hoped for only by the suppression of the corrupted individuality and by waiting for the grace of God to show one the way. From this came the Pietists’ inclination to turn away from the world with its temptations (e.g., the theatre, dancing, games, and other enjoyments). The uneasiness that they felt toward church institutionalization led to their splitting into numerous separatist groups; their subjective certainty about their belief led to a certain arrogance; and finally their seclusion led often to a joyless and moralizing way of life.

Although the founder of German Pietism is considered to be Spener, who established several private devotional gatherings (collegia pietatis) for Bible study in Frankfurt am Main and elsewhere, he was important for education only in the sense that he fashioned a spirit or concept in which education could be conducted—a concept that would subordinate all education to a simple Christian faith. This concept was realized mainly by his follower Francke.

August Hermann Francke

Francke, after service as a grammar-school teacher and priest in Leipzig, Lübeck, Hamburg, and Erfurt, was, through Spener’s recommendation, given a post at the University of Halle in 1691, at the same time assuming the post of parish priest nearby. Motivated by the sad conditions of neglect in his parish, he quickly devoted himself to practical pastoral duties. In 1695 he instituted a vernacular school for the poor, popularly called the “ragged school,” whose purpose was that the children should be led to a living knowledge of God and Christ and to a rightly accomplished Christianity. Through his activity and eloquence, Francke won several charitable patrons for his school, and the institution quickly expanded. After the school for the poor came the establishment of an elementary school for children of fee-paying burghers, then an orphanage, and lastly a Pädagogium, or boarding school, for the sons of nobility. Because Francke perceived a lack of suitable teachers for his schools, he subsequently established two teachers’ seminaries, seminarium praeceptorum and seminarium selectum (for teachers in higher schools). In 1697 there followed a Latin grammar school and in 1698, even if short-lived, a gynaeceum, a school for the daughters of nobility. To the whole complex of Halle’s institutions (known collectively as the Halle Foundation) there also belonged a bookshop with a publishing house and press, a very profitable chemistry laboratory, as well as four agricultural properties, a Bible institution, and an office for sending evangelical missions abroad. These institutions flourished, and about 1750 they were more and more brought under the control of the state.

Francke’s main concern was ministerial work in the spirit of Pietism and not systematic educational theorizing. His educational aims were religious and at the same time practical. He himself paraphrased it as “true godliness and Christian wisdom”—true godliness meaning a pious, moral, devout life, and Christian wisdom referring to an ability to work hard according to the Protestant ethic. Francke’s style of education went along with this aim: the corrupted willfulness of man must be broken, not through severe punishment but through “loving reproaches,” a close supervision of the pupils, and a schooled and regimented care of the spirit. Games and childlike exuberance have no place in the system; thus, education had a joyless and moralizing effect.

The harsh demands and regimentation are shown, for instance, in the daily timetable and the syllabus. The children arose at 5:00 am, and there was almost continuous instruction with frequent Bible reading and religious lessons until 7:00 in the evening. The grammar school had lessons in reading, writing, basic mathematics, catechism, the Holy Scriptures, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, optionally another Oriental language, geography, history, mathematics (including astronomy and geometry), botany, zoology, mineralogy, anatomy, and theology, as well as lathework, glass polishing, field trips to observe trades, factory work, horticulture, and so forth. These latter subjects were counted as “recreation.” The pansophic idea of Comenius was being followed here, in the sense that there was to be an all-encompassing education. It is worth noting that Francke was actually trying to inject realism into education—promoting, as he did, scientific subjects, lessons in manual skills, planned field trips, and even the reading of newspapers in the classroom.

Johann Julius Hecker

Johann Julius Hecker came to Halle shortly before Francke’s death in 1727 and became a teacher in the Pädagogium. In 1739 he was summoned by Frederick I of Prussia to Berlin, where he established a six-year Realschule, or “realist school,” designed to prepare youth for the Pietistic and Calvinistic ideal of hard work and, especially, for the new technical and industrial age that was already dawning in countries such as England and France. Godliness was to be combined with a realistic and practical way of life. As early as 1699 Francke had conceived the idea of a school for children who were not meant for scholarship but who could serve usefully in commercial pursuits or administration, and in 1739 one of his teachers, Christoph Semler, published a pamphlet proposing such a “mathematical and mechanical Realschule.” It was Hecker’s fortune to put these plans into realization. His school included, among other things, classes for architecture, building, manufacturing, commerce, and trade. Both the exact sciences and manual skills were in the curriculum. A room for natural history specimens, geographic maps, and realia was set aside for the illustration of lessons. Schools like Hecker’s were gradually opened in other cities. In the 19th century, courses were extended to nine years, and such an institution was renamed Oberrealschule, or “higher realist school.” Thenceforth it was one of the main types of German secondary education. Hecker also compiled the general school regulations (1763) that formed the main outlines of the Prussian school system.

The background and influence of naturalism

Pietists emphasized Christian devotion and diligence as paths to the good life; Enlightenment thinkers focused on reason and clear thinking as the sensible way to happiness. Rousseau and his followers were intrigued by a third and more elusive ideal: naturalism. Rousseau, in his A Discourse on Inequality, an account of the historical development of the human race, distinguished between “natural man” (man as formed by nature) and “social man” (man as shaped by society). He argued that good education should develop the nature of man. Yet Rousseau found that mankind has not one nature but several: man originally lived in a “pure state of nature” but was altered by changes beyond control and took on a different nature; this nature, in turn, was changed as man became social. The creation of the arts and sciences caused man to become “less pure,” more artificial, and egoistic, and man’s egoistic nature prevents him from regaining the simplicity of original human nature. Rousseau is pessimistic, almost fatalistic, about changing the nature of modern man.

Émile, his major work on education, describes an attempt to educate a simple and pure natural child for life in a world from which social man is estranged. Émile is removed from man’s society to a little society inhabited only by the child and his tutor. Social elements enter the little society through the tutor’s knowledge when the tutor thinks Émile can learn something from them. Rousseau’s aim throughout is to show how a natural education, unlike the artificial and formal education of society, enables Émile to become social, moral, and rational while remaining true to his original nature. Because Émile is educated to be a man, not a priest, a soldier, or an attorney, he will be able to do what is needed in any situation.

The first book of Émile describes the period from birth to learning to speak. The most important thing for the healthy and natural development of the child at this age is that he learn to use his physical powers, especially the sense organs. The teacher must pay special attention to distinguishing between the real needs of the child and his whims and fancies. The second book covers the time from the child’s learning to speak to the age of 12. Games and other forms of amusement should be allowed at this age, and the child should by no means be overtaxed by scholarly instruction at too early an age. The child Émile is to learn through experience, not through words; he is to bow not to the commands of man but to necessities. The third book is devoted to the ages from 12 to 15. This is the time of learning, not from books of course but from the “book of the world.” Émile must gain knowledge in concrete situations provided by his tutor. He learns a trade, among other things. He studies science, not by receiving instruction in its facts but by making the instruments necessary to solve scientific problems of a practical sort. Not until the age of 15, described in the fourth book, does Émile study the history of man and social experience and thus encounter the world of morals and conscience. During this stage Émile is on the threshold of social maturity and the “age of reason.” Finally, he marries and, his education over, tells his tutor that the only chains he knows are those of necessity and that he will thus be free anywhere on earth.

The final book describes the education of Sophie, the girl who marries Émile. In Rousseau’s view, the education of girls was to be similar with regard to naturalness, but it differed because of sexual differences. A girl cannot be educated to be a man. According to Rousseau, a woman should be the centre of the family, a housewife, and a mother. She should strive to please her husband, concern herself more than he with having a good reputation, and be satisfied with a simple religion of the emotions. Because her intellectual education is not of the essence, “her studies must all be on the practical side.”

At the close of Émile, Rousseau cannot assure the reader that Émile and Sophie will be happy when they live apart from the tutor; the outcome of his experiment is in doubt, even in his own mind. Even so, probably no other writer in modern times has inspired as many generations as did Rousseau. His dramatic portrayal of the estrangement of natural man from society jolted and influenced such contemporary thinkers as Immanuel Kant and continues to intrigue philosophers and social scientists. His idea that teachers must see things as children do inspired Pestalozzi and has endured as a much-imitated ideal. Finally, his emphasis on understanding the child’s nature had a profound influence by creating interest in the study of child development, inspiring the work of such psychologists as G. Stanley Hall and Jean Piaget.

The Sensationists

A group of French writers contemporary with Rousseau and paralleling in some ways the thought of both Rousseau and Locke are known as the Sensationists, or, sometimes, the Sensationist psychologists. One of them was Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, who, along with Voltaire, may be said to have introduced Locke’s philosophy to France and established it there.

In the Treatise on Sensations (1754) Condillac imagined a statue organized inwardly like a man but animated by a soul that had never received an idea or a sense impression. He then unlocked its senses one by one. The statue’s power of attention came into existence through its consciousness of sensory experience; next, it developed memory, the lingering of sensory experience; with memory, it was able to compare experiences, and so judgment arose. Each development made the statue more human and dramatized Condillac’s idea that man is nothing but what he acquires, beginning with sensory experience. Condillac rejected the notion of innate ideas, arguing instead that all faculties are acquired. The educational significance of this idea is found in Condillac’s An Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge (1746), where he writes of a “method of analysis,” by which the mind observes “in a successive order the qualities of an object, so as to give them in the mind the simultaneous order in which they exist.” The idea that there is a natural order which the mind can learn to follow demonstrates Condillac’s naturalism along with his sensationism. Condillac does not begin his work Logic (1780) with axioms or principles; rather, he writes, “we shall begin by observing the lessons which nature gives us.” He explains that the method of analysis is akin to the way that children learn when they acquire knowledge without the help of adults. Nature will tell man how to know, if he will but listen as children “naturally” do. Thus the way in which ideas and faculties originate is the way of logic, and to communicate a truth is to follow the order in which ideas come from the senses.

Claude-Adrien Helvétius, a countryman of Condillac’s who professed much the same philosophy, was perhaps even more insistent that all human beings lack any intellectual endowment at birth and that despite differing physical constitutions each person has the potential for identical passions and ideas. What makes people different in later life are differing experiences. Hypothetically, two persons brought up with the same chance experiences and education would be exactly the same. From this it followed that the teacher must attempt to control the environment of the child and guide his instruction step by step. Helvétius was, perhaps, unique in joining such a strong belief in intellectual equalitarianism with the possibility of a controlling environmentalism.

The Rousseauists

Rousseau left behind no disciples in the sense of a definite academic community, but hardly a single theorist of the late 18th century or afterward could avoid the influence of his ideas. One of those influenced was the German Johann Bernhard Basedow, who agreed with Rousseau’s enthusiasm for nature, with his emphasis on manual and practical skills, and with his demand for practical experience rather than empty verbalism. The teacher, in Basedow’s view, should take pains over the clearness of the lesson and make use of the enjoyment of games: “It is possible to arrange nearly all playing of children in an instructive way.” In another respect, however, the contrast between Rousseau and Basedow could not be sharper; Basedow tended to force premature learning and overload a child’s capabilities. A foreign language, for instance, was to be learned in six months. He promoted, in general, a pedagogic hothouse atmosphere. Basedow was perhaps influenced by his seven-year-old daughter, who was put forward as a wonder child with extraordinary knowledge. He established an experimental school called a Philanthropinum, in Dessau, which lasted from 1774 to 1793.

Kant referred to Rousseau’s influence on him. He dealt specifically with pedagogy only within a lecture he gave as holder of the chair of philosophy in Königsberg; the main features of the lecture were collected in a short work, Über Pädagogik (1803; “On Pedagogy”). In it he asserted, “A man can only become a man through education. He is nothing more than what education makes him.” Education should discipline man and make him cultured and moral; its aim is ultimately the creation of a happier mankind. In general, Kant agreed with Rousseau’s education according to nature; but, from his ethical posture, he insisted that restraints be put on the child’s passionate impulses and that the child even be taught specific maxims of conduct. The child must learn to rule himself and come to terms with the twin necessities of liberty and constraint, the product of which is true freedom.

Children should be educated, not with reference to the present conditions of things, but rather with regard to a possibly improved state of the human race—that is, according to the ideal of humanity and its entire destiny.

The influence of nationalism

The Enlightenment was cosmopolitan in its effort to spread the light of reason, but from the very beginning of the age there were nationalistic tendencies to be seen in varying shades. Although Rousseau himself was generally concerned with universal man in such works as The Social Contract and Émile, his The Government of Poland (1782) did lay out a proposal for an education with a national basis, and generally his ideas influenced the nationalistic generation of the French Revolution of 1789.


The real starting point, generally speaking, of national pedagogic movements was in France. It perhaps began with the philosophes, the rationalists and liberals such as Voltaire and Diderot who emphasized the development of the individual through state education—not as a means, of course, of adjusting to the state and its current government but as a means of creating critical, detached, responsible citizens. The marquis de Condorcet was closely connected with this line of thought. For him man was by nature good and capable of never-ending perfection, and the goal of education should be the “general, gradually increasing perfection of man.” He drafted a democratic, liberal, and at the same time somewhat socialist concept of school policy: there should be a uniform structure of public education and equal chances for all; ability and attainment should be the only standards for selection and careers; and private interests should be prevented from having influence in the educational system. An educational concept so rationalistic in its aims and with such a democratic and liberal structure cannot be narrowly nationalistic; it is cosmopolitan. But Condorcet was nationalistic insofar as he wanted “to show the world at last a nation in which freedom and equality for all was an actuality.” He was, in fact, a strong supporter of the Revolution.

Many of the Rousseauists were nationalistic in a somewhat different way. They believed in a kind of “moral patriotism.” They distrusted state-controlled nationalism and favoured instead a virtuous, patriotic citizen who experienced spontaneous feelings for his nation. Proper development in the family setting and in school would lead to the mastery of everyday situations and would naturally lay the foundations for this true nationalism.

Some of the French revolutionists—particularly Jacobins such as Maximilien de Robespierre and Louis de Saint-Just, who were associated with the Reign of Terror (1793–94)—were concerned with an education for the revolutionary state, an education marked by an enmity toward the idea of scholarship for its own sake and by state control, collectivism, the stressing of absolute equality, and the complete integration of all. What is good is decided by the collective “people.” Thus, it could be said that the Jacobins favoured a complete politicalization of educational practice and theory.

National education under enlightened rulers

The absolutism of the 18th century has often been called “benevolent despotism,” referring to the rule of such monarchs as Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia, Peter I (the Great) and Catherine II (the Great) of Russia, Maria Theresa and Joseph II of Austria, and lesser figures who were presumably sufficiently touched by the ideas of the Enlightenment to pursue social reforms. Their reforms were limited, however, and usually did not include anything likely to upset their sovereignty. Thus, they were often willing to improve education for middle-class persons useful in civil service and other areas of state administration, but they were often chary of educating the poor. That risked upsetting the social order.

Frederick the Great, however, issued general school regulations (1763) establishing compulsory schooling for boys and girls from 5 to 13 or 14 years of age. His minister Freiherr von Zedlitz founded a chair of pedagogy at Halle (1779) and generally planned for the improved education of teachers; he supported the founding of new schools and the centralization of school administration under an Oberschulkollegium, or national board of education (1787); and one of his colleagues, Friedrich Gedike, was instrumental in introducing the school-leaving examination for university entrance, the Abitur—which still exists.

The guarded though increasingly liberal attempt by benevolent despots to nationalize and expand education is well illustrated by the events in Russia. Until the 18th century, schools in Russia were founded by ecclesiastical organizations (monasteries), the clergy (priests, deacons, readers), and private persons (boyars, or lower-level aristocrats). Boys were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, singing, and religion. A system of state-owned schools was started by Peter the Great as a state organization for purposes of administration and for the development of mining and industry. Peter did not intend to promote the Orthodox faith or formal Classical learning—whether Greek, Latin, or Slavonic—or universal education. He created schools of mathematics, navigation, artillery, and engineering for utilitarian purposes. In 1725 an Academy of Sciences with a university and a gimnaziya (secondary school) was founded at St. Petersburg. The utilitarian, secular, and scientific characteristics of Peter’s schools became the dominant features of Russian education, but, as a result of the many changes of policy after Peter’s death in 1725, a national system of education did not develop.

A second attempt at nationalizing education in Russia was made by Catherine II. After many abortive schemes, Catherine issued in 1786 a statute for schools, which can be considered the first Russian education act for the whole country. According to this act, a two-year course in minor schools was to be started in every district town and a five-year course in major schools in every provincial town. Catherinian schools were also to be utilitarian, scientific, and secular. At the end of the 18th century, 254 towns had the new schools, but 250 smaller towns and the rural districts had no schools whatever.

A third nationalizing attempt was made by Alexander I and was influenced by the disintegration of the serf system, by the development of industry and commerce, and by the ideas of the French Revolution. The new statutes (1803 and 1804) maintained the principles of utility and secular scientific instruction. The parochial schools (prikhodskiye uchilishcha) in the rural areas were to instruct the peasantry in reading, writing, arithmetic, and elements of agriculture; the district schools of urban areas (uyezdnye uchilishcha) and the provincial schools (gimnazii) were to give instruction in subjects necessary for civil servants—law, political economy, technology, and commerce. The system was state-controlled and free and formed a continuous ladder to the universities. Later conservative reactions, however, tended to blunt or reverse these reforms.


In England the development of a “national” education took a completely different course. It was influenced not by a political but by an industrial revolution. It is true that theorists such as Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Robert Malthus proposed state organization of elementary-schooling, but even they wanted to see limited state influence; the state could pay the musicians but not call the tune. Not until 1802 did Parliament intervene in the development of education, when the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act required employers to educate apprentices in basic mathematics, writing, and reading. For the most part this remained only a demand, since the employers were not interested in such education.

The reluctance on the part of the state induced several philanthropists to form educational societies, principally for the education of the poor. In 1796, for example, the Society for Bettering the Conditions of the Poor was founded. A further impulse for elementary education stemmed from the Sunday schools, the first of which was founded in 1780 in Gloucester; by 1785 their numbers had so increased that the Sunday School Society was founded. The lessons in such schools, however, were mainly those of Bible reading.

The educators Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster played a major role in progress toward an elementary-school system. They realized that the root of the problem lay in the lack of teachers and in the lack of money to hire assistants. Therefore, first Bell developed, then Lancaster modified, the so-called monitorial system (also called the Lancasterian system), whereby a teacher used his pupils to teach one another. The use of children to teach other children was not new, but Bell and especially Lancaster took the approach and developed it into a systematic plan of education. From 200 to 1,000 children were gathered in one room and seated in rows, usually of 10 pupils each. An adult teacher taught the monitors, and then each monitor taught his row of pupils the lesson in reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, or higher subjects. Besides monitors who taught, there were, in Lancaster’s system, monitors to take attendance, give examinations, issue supplies, and so on; school activity was to be directed with military precision; the emphasis was on drill and memorization. The system and the publicity connected with it expanded the efforts toward mass education, even though, pedagogically, the whole process was so routinized and formalized that opportunities for creative thinking or initiative scarcely existed.

European offshoots in the New World

Spanish and Portuguese America

With the Spanish conquerors of the New World, the conquistadores, came friars and priests who immediately settled down to educate the Indians and convert them. Because there was little separation of church and state, the Roman Catholic Church assumed complete control of elementary education, and the early Franciscan and Dominican friars were followed by Augustinians, Jesuits, and Mercedarians.

The first elementary school in the New World was organized in Mexico by the Franciscan Pedro de Gante in 1523 in Texcoco, followed in 1525 by a similar school in San Francisco. Because such schools in Mexico were designed for Indian children, the monks learned the native languages and taught reading, writing, simple arithmetic, singing, and the catechism. The schools of the hospicio of the bishop Vasco de Quiroga in Michoacán added agriculture, trades, and crafts to their curriculum.

Mestizo children, the issue of Spanish and Indian parents, were often abandoned. Thus, special institutions appeared to collect and educate them—for example, the Girls’ School and the School of San Juan de Letrán, founded by Viceroy Mendoza in New Spain, and the Bethlehemite schools of Guatemala and Mexico.

In the beginning, Spaniards’ children born in the colonies, called Creoles, had tutors. Eventually schools promoted by cabildos (municipal authorities) emerged.

During the 18th century the Enlightenment came to Latin America, and with it a more secular and widespread education. Among famous projects were those of Viceroy Vertiz y Salcedo in Argentina and two model schools, free for children of the poor, by Archbishop Francos y Monroy in Guatemala. In New Spain the College of the Vizcainas (1767) became the first all-girl lay institution.

Because of the social structure, riches and administrative privilege were held by the elite—the Creoles—and secondary education was specially organized to serve them. Originally, secondary schools existed only in the monasteries, but when the Jesuits arrived in the late 1560s they founded important colegios (secondary institutions) to prepare students who wanted to enter the universities. There existed a few special colegios for the Indian nobility, such as the outstanding Santa Cruz de Tlaltelolco (1536) in Mexico and San Andres in Quito, both founded by the Franciscans for liberal arts studies. The Jesuits also established schools for the Indians, including El Príncipe (1619) in Lima and San Borja in Cuzco. All these schools were eventually closed because of the jealousy of the Spanish bureaucracy.

Though the Dominicans and Franciscans had been pioneers in education, the Jesuits became the most important teachers. They offered an efficient education, molded to contemporary requirements, in boarding schools, where the elite of the Spaniards born in the Americas studied. When their order was expelled in 1767, education was dealt a severe blow. In Portuguese Brazil, where the expulsion edict had been issued eight years earlier and where they had been the only educators, the royal chancellor was forced to make feeble attempts toward organizing a secular education. The Spanish king Charles III also took advantage of the occasion and founded some new institutions—the Academy of San Carlos, the School of Mining in Mexico, the Royal College of San Carlos in Buenos Aires—and modernized others.

Traditionally, Spanish universities had been organized on the model of either Paris or Bologna. The former was a universitas magistrorum, governed by professors organized in faculties, whereas the latter, as a universitas scholarium, received its corporate authority from the student body organized into “nations” that elected leaders to whom even the professors were subject. In 1551 the Council of the Indies authorized the founding of the first American universities, one in Mexico and one in Lima; academic government was placed in the hands of a claustro, or faculty, composed of the rector, the teachers, and the professors. Dedicated to general studies, the universities required a papal as well as a royal authorization.

The Royal Pontifical University of Mexico was the first to open its doors, in 1553. In the Spanish colonies, eventually 10 major and 15 minor universities came into existence. The latter were actually colleges—nine Jesuit, four Dominican, one Franciscan, and one Augustinian—which, because they were located far from the closest university (minimally 200 miles), were given special authorization to grant higher degrees. In Brazil no university existed, and Portuguese born in the colony had to go to Portugal for study.

Though in Spain itself law reigned supreme, in the Americas theology became the principal chair. Teaching was in Scholastic mode: it began with the reading of a Classical text; then the professor explained the thesis or proposition and offered arguments pro and contra so that a conclusion in accord with Roman Catholic dogma would result.

French Québec

Soon after the founding of the Québec colony in 1608, the first organized educational activity began with missionary work among the Indians, carried on mainly by members of the Récollet and Jesuit orders and, from 1639, by Ursuline nuns. The first mission “school” recorded was that of Pacifique du Plessis, established in 1616 in Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers).

Christian efforts among the Indians were only a dimension of the religious purposes that framed educational activity in Old World France. Roman Catholic social philosophy allowed no compromise in the spiritual direction of education, and the doctrine and aim of religion coincided with that of education in both formal provisions and informal socialization patterns. At the general level, education was intended to produce religious conformation in thought and behaviour; at the higher level, education was to produce a progeny of clerical leadership. The paternalistic authority of church and monarch was carried from the Old to the New World, where it perhaps became even more pervasive because of the initial absence of alternative institutional developments. In education the exclusive role of the state (though not insignificant) was confined to financial subsidization. Authority for the institution of education was vested in the bishop of Québec.

Most of the nonreligious functions now associated with formal education were, in the 17th and 18th centuries, carried in other institutional sectors: the family, the community, the vocation. Just as there was no sharp break between church and school in formal learning, there was an easy transition between the information and behaviour necessary for work and life as transmitted in the course of various socialization experiences. Thus, the self-sustaining and isolated life of the farmers, the wild and solitary ways of the coureurs de bois (fur traders), the miniature of European manners and customs established in the cities by the gentry—all contained within their own cycle the educative procedures for life in that society. Education as a separate institution was understandably associated with learning not related to the business of life.

Institutional forms found in French colonial Québec included parish schools, girls’ schools, secondary schools, and vocational schools; and literacy records indicate that the provision for education was, in sum, comparable to that in the Old World. Parish or common schools were irregularly provided to afford the rudiments of literacy and religion. Because of the relative sparseness of educational resources, social classes were frequently mixed in these schools. Girls’ schools were established in Québec City by the Ursulines from 1642 and by the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre Dame from 1659, with a rudimentary curriculum but including a characteristic “finishing” of social graces appropriate to the French Canadian girl. Vocational training was probably of least concern in this early period, but specific attempts to institutionalize this educational area were begun as early as 1668 with the establishment of the School for Arts and Trades in Saint Joachim for instruction in agriculture and certain trades.

Secondary education was offered by the Jesuits from 1636. The Jesuit college, offering early training for eventual entrance into the priesthood, was conducted along characteristically Jesuit lines: militaristic discipline in conduct, unequivocal authority in method, Classical curriculum in content. The Classical curriculum pattern, comprising basically Latin, Greek, mathematics, philosophy, and theology, was to be essentially preserved in the French Canadian development of collèges classiques for secondary education.

In 1663 Bishop Laval established in the city of Québec the grand séminaire as the apex of the educational “system,” as the first French Canadian “university.” Shortly thereafter he also established the preparatory petit séminaire.

Following the cession of Québec to Britain in 1763, education fell prey to political and cultural disruption. Although the British military and colonial government attempted to preserve the structure of French civil and religious institutions, the cultural integrity of the system was inevitably broken. Financial grants from France for education were discontinued and were not replaced by the British government; recruitment to religious orders was restricted; and educational development was obstructed by the continual association of educational plans with cultural-religious controversies. The end of the 18th century saw French Canadian education fall backward into neglect.

British America

New England

The year 1630, chronicled in New England annals as the beginning of the Great Migration, witnessed the founding there of Puritanism as the established religion. Rejecting democracy and toleration as unscriptural, the Puritans put their trust in a theocracy of the elect that brooked no divergence from Puritan orthodoxy. So close was the relation between state and church that an offense against the one was an offense against the other and, in either case, “treason to the Lord Jesus.” The early Puritans also put their confidence in centralized church governance; however, geographic reality forced them to settle for a localized, congregational administration, for impossible roads made land travel over any distance onerous and even dangerous, and thus the focal point of social and political life had to be the village. Small and constricted, a place where the vital necessities, sacred and profane, were within walking range of all and where one’s conduct was exposed to constant public watch, the New England village was the prime mover of communal life.

In Puritan moral theology, the young, like the old, were sinners doomed by almost insurmountable odds to perdition. To God, indeed, even infants were depraved, unregenerate, and damned. Hence, the sooner the young learned the ground rules of the good society, as revealed in the Bible, the better. The task of teaching them first befell the parents. Later, when they were old enough, the burden was conferred upon the school. The first secondary school was probably the Boston Latin School. Founded in 1635, it was modeled on the grammar schools of England, which is to say that it put an overwhelming emphasis on the ancient languages and “humane learning and good literature.” By the 1640s the idea of town-supported schooling had lost its novelty.

If towns braved the first steps in education, then the Commonwealth of Massachusetts did not trail far behind. In 1642 it ordered parents and masters of apprentices to see to it that their charges were instructed in reading, religion, and the colony’s principal laws. Five years later, the General Court reinforced this enactment with yet another. Aimed at the “old deluder Satan,” it undertook to thwart him from keeping “men from a knowledge of the Scriptures,” by requiring every township of 50 households to commission someone to teach reading and writing. The law also directed towns of 100 families to furnish instruction in Latin grammar so that youth might be “fitted for the university.” Finally, the measure required teachers to be paid by “parents or masters… or by the inhabitants in general.” The measure was given only a pallid obedience, but its assumption that the state may compel the schooling of its young and that, in order to support education, it may impose taxes is pertinent to subsequent times.

The first colonists had scarcely settled when, in 1636, the General Court appropriated £400 “towards a school or college.” When two years later John Harvard died and left the institution his library and some £800, the grateful founders honoured their school with his name. Designed to train youth for important Puritan places, particularly in the ministry, the college accepted only those who could read, write, and speak Latin in prose and verse, besides knowing Greek nouns and verbs familiarly. Once admitted, the student was lodged at the college, pledged to a blameless behaviour, and put upon a prescribed four-year course of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, ethics, ancient history, Greek, and Hebrew. If he weathered these hazards, he was made a bachelor of arts (B.A.), and, if ambition still roweled him, he could enroll for another three years to become a master of arts (M.A.).

So things sat until the century’s passing. Then, swayed by the intellectual breezes of Europe’s Enlightenment, Harvard College ventured some earnest renovation. Its texts, cobwebbed with Aristotelianism, were replaced with newer ones by John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton. In 1718 it added mathematics and sciences to its offerings, and 20 years later it enriched itself with a professorship of mathematics and natural philosophy. There were the usual grumblings from conservatives, and in 1701 a number of Congregational parsons, all Harvard sons, distressed by their alma mater’s dalliance in newfangled ideas, inaugurated the collegiate school of Connecticut, now Yale University.

The new academies

Disdainful of the challenging intellectual values, the secondary schools continued in their Classical tracks. By the 18th century, however, their tradition was playing out, especially among the rising nabobs of the marketplace. When the old schools failed to respond to their demands for an education calculated to prepare their sons for everyday living, they resorted to private schooling. From such endeavour emerged the academy. The first school of strictly native provenance, it made its advent in 1751 in Philadelphia (the Philadelphia Academy), the work in the main of Benjamin Franklin. What differentiated it from its Classical antecedent was its promotion of “useful learning,” to wit, the vernacular, modern languages, history, geography, chronology, navigation, mathematics, natural and applied science, and the like.

The first academies addressed themselves solely to boys, but time saw them vouchsafe instruction to girls in a “female department,” which in turn gave way to the “female academy,” whose curriculum reflected debates of the time about female education. Fine arts, domestic subjects, and training for occupations open to women were included, though some female educators stressed intellectual attainment rather than practical learning.

Private ventures always, academies generally were not loath to solicit outside assistance—some, indeed, as in New York, enjoyed a public subsidy. Whatever their special character, to their very end they maintained their original purpose of bringing education into closer consonance with “the great and the real business of living,” as Phillips Academy of Andover, Massachusetts, phrased it when, in 1778, it held its first sessions.

The middle colonies

The religious uniformity that marked the Puritan theocracy was missing in the middle colonies. From New York through Delaware there flourished a host of sects whose scriptural interpretations were diverse—often, in fact, in collision. Nor was there even the tie of a common language, for the settlers came from many lands. Divergent in religion and language—the bedrock in those times of elementary schooling—the middle colonists could not accommodate themselves, as did the Puritans, to a single school teaching reading and religion to all the children of the neighbourhood. Instead, they depended on parish or parochial schools, each of them free to teach by its own denominational lights. True, for a time New Netherland, with its established Dutch Reformed Church, maintained some town schools, but, after the English seized the colony (renaming it New York), such endeavours ceased. Pennsylvania, linguistically and denominationally the most heterogeneous of the colonies, began its educational history by ordering the erection of public schools and the instruction of children. But the ordinance fell prey to powerful sectarian antagonisms, and in 1701 the colony essayed to make peace by sanctioning the establishment of parochial schools.

Like the New Englanders, the middle colonists aspired to establish colleges, but, with no friendly lawmakers to sustain them, they found their task heavily hobbled, and the mid-1700s were upon them before their hopes materialized with the advent, in 1746, of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). There followed King’s College (Columbia) in 1754, the College and Academy of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) in 1755, and Queen’s College (Rutgers) in 1766. Common to these schools was their stress on the ancient languages, metaphysics, and divine science. At the same time, however, one discerns signs of a new liberalism. Both Rutgers and Columbia announced their interdenominationalism. Pennsylvania offered courses in physics, and in 1765 it became the first colonial college to sponsor systematic instruction in medicine.

The Southern colonies

Unlike New Englanders, Southerners resided not in villages but on widely scattered plantations. For years, town life was impossible and so, per consequence, were town schools. But even had their establishment been feasible, the odds against them were staggering, since the ruling classes, like their analogues overseas in England, were averse to schooling the young under governmental direction. Instead, they regarded education as a personal concern, the affair of parent and church rather than of the state. Left thus to their own devices, Southerners schooled their young to suit their taste, the rich resorting to tutors and private schools and the rest scratching out an education as best they could. Time saw the appearance of a number of free schools serving those who were neither rich nor poor. For the offspring of the low-down and unregarded folk, Virginia enacted its law of 1642. An echo of England’s Poor Law, it provided for the “relief of such parents whose poverty extends not to give them [the children] breeding.” For this purpose it ordered the creation of a “workhouse school” at James City to which each county was to commit two children of the age of six or over. There, besides being reared as Anglicans, they were to be “instructed in honest and profitable trades and manufactures as also to avoid sloth and idleness.” Amended several times, the statute became the model for similar legislation throughout the South.

The first Southern college was founded in Virginia in 1693. William and Mary College was chartered to propagate the “Liberal Arts and the Christian Faith,” with particular stress on preparing young men for the Anglican pulpit. As the 18th century swept on, the secular interest that had invaded Harvard appeared in Virginia, and there ensued a waning of the earlier religious motivation. In 1779, led by Thomas Jefferson, the college trustees refurbished the school with chairs in medicine, mathematics, physics, moral philosophy, economics, law, and politics. The chair in divinity was discontinued as “incompatible with freedom in a republic.”

Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces

Newfoundland was, during most of this period, under British control, and, though there were settlers even before the 17th century, the island was not considered a settlement colony. Other than for naval training and fishing advantages, the British government had no concern for Newfoundland. Thus, policies were constructed with regard to the rights and advantages of British seamen, while implicitly, as well as in overt regulations, settlement was obstructed and restricted. Destruction from the running French-British military conflicts further discouraged development. These conditions of economic and political diminution of the settlement from outside were aggravated by the usurious conduct of merchants and the corruption of officials and by the national and religious divisions among the inhabitants themselves.

With such substantial problems of mere survival in Newfoundland, it is not surprising that the luxury of formal education was almost absent during this period. Some accounts verify that informal, unorganized efforts were made on an occasional basis to convey minimum schooling to settlers’ children, but the only organized effort was that of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPGFP). The SPGFP founded or aided a school in Bonavista in 1722 and in St. John’s in 1744 and sponsored schools in more than 20 settlements between 1766 and 1824. Religion was undoubtedly more important than education as such to the society, but its provision of reading materials as well as the mere act of establishing some kind of school filled a notable void in the Newfoundland settlement. Other charitable societies—such as the Society for Improving the Condition of the Poor in St. John’s, the Benevolent Irish Society, the Newfoundland School Society (later the Colonial and Continental Church Society), the Wesleyan Society, the Sisters of the Presentation, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Irish Christian Brothers—carried the charity-school work into the 19th century and maintained a thread of education through the colonial “dark ages.”

For a time after 1763, the Maritimes were all one colony—Nova Scotia—but Prince Edward Island was separated in 1769 and New Brunswick in 1784. This area comprised a heterogeneous population of French Acadians, English Protestants and others from Europe, Highland Scots, and loyalists from the United States. Each of these groups carried attitudes more or less favourable to education, and the regionalization of these attitudes, together with other conditions, influenced the differential development of education in the area. At the end of the 18th century, for example, New Brunswick, with a high loyalist population promoting political and educational development, probably ranked highest among the Maritime colonies in educational interest.

The first relatively organized attempt at common schooling in the Maritimes was made by the SPGFP, closely connected to the Church of England. The society opened both weekday and Sunday schools, and it might be said that it fostered teacher training in stipulating qualifications for its teachers. Other than SPGFP schools, education in the Maritime colonies was carried on by itinerant teachers and in scattered private-venture schools. Schools for separate ethnic or religious groups were discouraged by the Anglicans, but consistent pressure for such schools did succeed at least temporarily—for example, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and in Sydney, on Cape Breton Island. A school for blacks was established in Halifax in 1788.

Upper schools were established only toward the end of the 18th century in the Maritimes. As they were established singularly and recruited from a social class rather than from a lower school, there is no clear line of demarcation among the various types as there would be later in an integrated system. Basically, they were Anglican and Classical, although the private schools, advertising to as wide a clientele as possible, often included some breadth, extending into practical studies. Probably the most influential of the early attempts were the two Latin grammar schools founded in 1788 and 1789 at Windsor and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The former became associated with King’s College, established in Windsor at the same time. Thomas McCulloch’s Academy at Pictou, Nova Scotia, and the College of New Brunswick at Fredericton, both founded around the turn of the century, were also early exemplars of higher education.

Western education in the 19th century

The social and historical setting

From the mid-17th century to the closing years of the 18th century, new social, economic, and intellectual forces steadily quickened—forces that in the late 18th and the 19th centuries would weaken and, in many cases, end the old aristocratic absolutism. The European expansion to new worlds overseas had stimulated commercial rivalry. The new trade had increased national wealth and encouraged a sharp rise in the numbers and influence of the middle classes. These social and economic transformations—joined with technological changes involving the steam engine and the factory system—together produced industrialism, urbanization, and the beginnings of mass labour. At the same time, intellectuals and philosophers were assaulting economic abuses, old unjust privileges, misgovernment, and intolerance. Their ideas, which carried a new emphasis on the worth of the individual—the citizen rather than the subject—helped to inspire political revolutions, sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful. But, more importantly, they worked to make it impossible for any government—even the most reactionary—to disregard for long the welfare of common people. Finally, there was a widespread psychological change: people’s confidence in their power to use resources, master nature, and structure their own future was heightened beyond anything known before, and this confidence on a national scale—in the form of nationalism—moved all groups to struggle for the freedom to direct their own affairs.

All these trends influenced the progress of education. One of the most significant results was the gradual acceptance of the view that education ought to be the responsibility of the state. Some countries, such as France and Germany, were inspired by a mixture of national aspiration and ideology to begin the establishment of public educational systems early in the 19th century. Others, such as Great Britain and the United States, under the spell of laissez-faire, hesitated longer before allowing the government to intervene in educational affairs. The school reformers in these countries had to combat the prevailing notion that “free schools” were to be provided only for pauper children, if at all; and they had to convince society that general taxation upon the whole community was the only adequate way to provide education for all the children of all the people.

The new social and economic changes also called upon the schools, public and private, to broaden their aims and curricula. Schools were expected not only to promote literacy, mental discipline, and good moral character but also to help prepare children for citizenship, for jobs, and for individual development and success. Although teaching methods remained oriented toward textbook memorizing and strict discipline, a more sympathetic attitude toward children began to appear. As the numbers of pupils grew rapidly, individual methods of “hearing recitations” by children began to give way to group methods. The monitorial system, also called the Lancastrian system, became popular because, in the effort to overcome the shortage of teachers during the quick expansion of education, it enabled one teacher to use older children to act as monitors in teaching specific lessons to younger children in groups. Similarly, the practice of dividing children into grades or classes according to their ages—a practice that began in 18th-century Germany—was to spread everywhere as schools grew larger.

The early reform movement: the new educational philosophers

The late 18th and 19th centuries represent a period of great activity in reformulating educational principles, and there was a ferment of new ideas, some of which in time wrought a transformation in school and classroom. The influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau was profound and inestimable. One of his most famous followers was Pestalozzi, who believed that children’s nature, rather than the structure of the arts and sciences, should be the starting point of education. Rousseauist ideas are seen also in the work of Friedrich Froebel, who emphasized self-activity as the central feature of childhood education, and in that of Johann Friedrich Herbart, perhaps the most influential 19th-century thinker in the development of pedagogy as a science.


The theories of the Swiss reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi laid much of the foundation of modern elementary education. Beginning as a champion of the underprivileged, he established near Zürich in 1774 an orphanage in which he attempted to teach neglected children the rudiments of agriculture and simple trades in order that they might lead productive, self-reliant lives. A few years later the enterprise failed, and Pestalozzi turned to writing, producing his chief work on method, How Gertrude Teaches Her Children, in 1801, and then began teaching again. Finally in 1805 he founded at Yverdon his famous boarding school, which flourished for 20 years, was attended by students from every country in Europe, and was visited by many important figures of the time, including the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the educators Froebel and Herbart, and the geographer Carl Ritter.

The pedagogy of Pestalozzi

In spite of the quantity of his writings, it cannot be said that Pestalozzi ever wrote a complete and systematic account of his principles and methods; an outline of his theories must be deduced from his various writings and his work. The foundation of his doctrine was that education should be organic, meaning that intellectual, moral, and physical education (or, in his words, development of “head, heart, and body”) should be integrated and that education should draw upon the faculties or “self-power” inherent in the human being. Education should be literally a drawing-out of this self-power, a development of abilities through activity—in the physical field by encouraging manual work and exercises, in the moral field by stimulating the habit of moral actions, and in the intellectual field by eliciting the correct use of the senses in observing concrete things accurately and making judgments upon them. Words, ideas, practices, and morals have meaning only when related to concrete things.

From these overarching principles there followed certain practical rules of educational method. First, experience must precede symbolism. There must be an emphasis on object lessons that acquaint the child with the realities of life; from these lessons abstract thought is developed. What one does is a means to what one knows. This means that the program should be child-centred, not subject-centred. The teacher is to offer help by participating with the child in his activities and should strive to know the nature of the child in order to determine the details of his education. This means that the stages of education must be related to the stages of child development. Finally, intellectual, moral, and physical activities should be as one.

Much of Pestalozzi’s pedagogy was influenced by his work with children of the poor. Thus, there was a strong emphasis on education in the home. The development of skills was emphasized not for their own sake but in connection with moral growth. Manual training was important for the head and heart, as well as for the hand. Whereas the reformers of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution stressed the “emancipation” of the lower classes, Pestalozzi aimed at helping poor people to help themselves. This was social reform, not social revolution.

The influence of Pestalozzi

“The art of education,” Pestalozzi claimed, “must be significantly raised in all its facets to become a science that is to be built on and proceeds from the deepest knowledge of human nature.” Through his own efforts in this direction, Pestalozzi stimulated pedagogical theory and practice to an enormous degree in many parts of the Western world. Through his philanthropic efforts on behalf of the poor, he advanced pedagogical theory and practice in three pivotal ways: (1) he inspired new movements toward the reform of philanthropic educational institutions and the pedagogy applied to such institutions, (2) he created a new methodology for elementary education that was introduced not only into schools but also into programs of teacher education in Europe and America, and (3) by his own example he gave teachers a high professional ethos. Pestalozzi, like few others at any time, recognized and sincerely tried to alter the misery existing in the world. If the Enlightenment saw its pedagogical mission as the spreading of the light of reason, then Pestalozzi showed that it was not reason alone but love above all that would show a way out of the “mire of the world.”

It is hardly possible to name all of Pestalozzi’s disciples—the Pestalozzians—for almost all the pedagogical figures of his time literally or figuratively went to his school. His influence was most profound in Germany, especially in Prussia and Saxony. Generally speaking, in the first half of the 19th century the English school system was completely under the influence of the disciplinarian monitorial systems of Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster. Pestalozzi, for most Englishmen, was “a distressing type of the German” and “an idealistic dreamer,” as some critics put it. Nevertheless, he exercised some influence in England through James Pierrepont Greaves and the London Infant School Society and through Charles and Elizabeth Mayo and the Home and Colonial School Society. In the United States Pestalozzianism was introduced by Philadelphia scientist and philanthropist William Maclure, one of the sponsors of the utopian colony at New Harmony, Ind., and by Joseph Neef, who opened a school near

In Switzerland itself, in Hofwil near Bern, Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg founded an institution for the education of the poor. He tried to build up a kind of pedagogical province or miniature state, in which work was the means of self-help and in which the pedagogical program was the joint responsibility of teachers and pupils.

Froebel and the kindergarten movement

Next to Pestalozzi, perhaps the most gifted of early 19th-century educators was Froebel, the founder of the kindergarten movement and a theorist on the importance of constructive play and self-activity in early childhood. He was an intensely religious man who tended toward pantheism and has been called a nature mystic. Throughout his life he achieved very little literary fame, partly because of the style of his prose and philosophy, which is so academic and obscure that it is difficult to read and sometimes scarcely comprehensible.

In early life, Froebel tried various kinds of employment until 1805, when he met Anton Gruner, a disciple of Pestalozzi and director of the normal school at Frankfurt am Main, who persuaded him to become a teacher. After two years with Gruner, he visited Pestalozzi at Yverdon, studied at Göttingen and Berlin, and eventually determined upon establishing his own school, founded on what he considered to be psychological bases. The result in 1816 was the Universal German Educational Institute at Griesheim, transferred the following year to Keilhau, which constituted a kind of educational community for Froebel, his friends, and their wives and children. To this period belongs The Education of Man (1826), his most important treatise, though typical of his obscurantism. In 1831 he was again in Switzerland, where he opened a school, an orphanage, and a teacher-training course. Finally, in 1837, upon returning to Keilhau, he opened his first Kindergarten, or “garden of children,” in nearby Bad Blankenburg. The experiment attracted wide interest, and other kindergartens were started and flourished, despite some political opposition.

The pedagogy of Froebel

Froebel’s pedagogical ideas have a mystical and metaphysical context. He viewed man as a child of God, of nature, and of humanity who must learn to understand his own unity, diversity, and individuality, corresponding to this threefold aspect of his being. On the other hand, man must understand the unity of all things (the pantheistic element).

Education consists of leading man, as a thinking, intelligent being, growing into self-consciousness, to a pure and unsullied, conscious and free representation of the inner law of Divine Unity, and in teaching him ways and means thereto.

Education had two aspects: the teacher was to remove hindrances to the self-development or “self-activity” of the child, but he was also to correct deviations from what man’s experience has taught is right and best. Education is thus both “dictating and giving way.” This means that ordinarily a teacher should not intervene and impose mandatory education, but when a child—particularly a child of kindergarten age—is restless, tearful, or willful, the teacher must seek the underlying reason and try to eradicate the uncovered hindrance to the child’s creative development. Most important, the teacher’s dictating and giving way should not flow from the mood and caprices of the teacher. Behaviour should be measured according to a “third force” between teacher and child, a Christian idea of goodness and truth.

School for Froebel was not an “establishment for the acquisition of a greater or lesser variety of external knowledge”; actually, he thought children were instructed in things they do not need. School instead should be the place to which the pupil comes to know the “inner relationship of things”—“things” meaning God, man, nature, and their unity. The subjects followed from this: religion, language and art, natural history, and the knowledge of form. In all these subjects the lessons should appeal to the pupil’s interests. It is clear that, in Froebel’s view, the school is to concern itself not primarily with the transmission of knowledge but with the development of character and the provision of the right motivation to learn.

Froebel put great emphasis on play in child education. Just like work and lessons, games or play should serve to realize the child’s inner destiny. Games are not idle time wasting; they are “the most important step in the development of a child,” and they are to be watched by the teachers as clues to how the child is developing. Froebel was especially interested in the development of toys for children—what he called “gifts,” devised to stimulate learning through well-directed play. These gifts, or playthings, included balls, globes, dice, cylinders, collapsible dice, shapes of wood to be put together, paper to be folded, strips of paper, rods, beads, and buttons. The aim was to develop elemental judgment distinguishing form, colour, separation and association, grouping, matching, and so on. When, through the teacher’s guidance, the gifts are properly experienced, they connect the natural inner unity of the child to the unity of all things (e.g., the sphere gives the child a sense of unlimited continuity, the cylinder a sense both of continuity and of limitation). Even the practice of sitting in a circle symbolizes the way in which each individual, while a unity in himself, is a living part of a larger unity. The child is to feel that his nature is actually joined with the larger nature of things.

The kindergarten movement

The kindergarten was unique for its time. Whereas the first institutions for small children that earlier appeared in Holland, Germany, and England had been welfare nursery schools or day-care centres intended merely for looking after children while parents worked, Froebel stood for the socializing or educational idea of providing, as he put it in founding his kindergarten, “a school for the psychological training of little children by means of play and occupations.” The school, that is, was to have a purpose for the children, not the adults. The curriculum consisted chiefly of three types of activities: (1) playing with the “gifts,” or toys, and engaging in other occupations designed to familiarize children with inanimate things, (2) playing games and singing songs for the purpose not only of exercising the limbs and voice but also of instilling a spirit of humanity and nature, and (3) gardening and caring for animals in order to induce sympathy for plants and animals. All this was to be systematic activity.

The kindergarten plan to meet the educational needs of children between the ages of four and six or seven through the agency of play thereafter gained widespread acceptance. During the 25 years following Froebel’s death in 1852, kindergartens were established in leading cities of Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Hungary, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States. In Great Britain the term infant school was retained for the kindergarten plan, and in some other countries the term crèche has been used.


Johann Friedrich Herbart was a contemporary of Froebel and other German Romanticists, but he can hardly be put into the ranks of such pedagogues. During his lifetime his sober, systematic “philosophical realism” found little approval; only posthumously, during the latter half of the 19th century, did his work achieve great importance. He is regarded as one of the founders of theoretical pedagogy, injecting both metaphysics and psychology into the study of how people learn.

The psychology and pedagogy of Herbart

As a young man of 18, Herbart had studied at the University of Jena under the idealist philosopher Fichte. It was a long while before he broke from the spell of Fichte’s teachings and turned to philosophical realism, which asserts that underlying the world of appearances there is a plurality of things or “reals.” Change consists simply in the alteration in the relations between these reals, which resist the changed relationships as a matter of self-preservation.

Ideas, like things, always exist and always resist change and seek self-preservation. It is true that some ideas may be driven below the threshold of consciousness; but the excluded ideas continue to exist in an unconscious form and tend, on the removal of obstacles (as through education), to return spontaneously to consciousness. In consciousness there are ideas attracting other ideas so as to form complex systems. These idea masses correspond to the many interests of the individual (such as his home and his hobbies) and to broader philosophical and religious concepts and values. In the course of mental development certain constellations of ideas acquire a permanent dominance that exercises a powerful selective facilitating influence upon the ideas struggling to enter or reenter the consciousness.

In his systematic account of the nature of education, Herbart conceived the process as beginning with the idea masses that the child has previously acquired from experience and from social intercourse. The teacher creates knowledge from the former and sympathy from the latter. The ultimate objective is the formation of character by the development of an enlightened will, capable of making judgments of right and wrong. Moral judgments (like reals) are absolute, springing from contemplation, incapable of proof and not requiring proof. Ethics, in other words, is the ultimate focus of pedagogy.

In the classroom, it is the aim of the lessons to introduce new conceptions, to bind them together, and to order them. Herbart speaks of “articulation”—a systematic method of constructing correct, or moral, idea masses in the student’s mind. First the student becomes involved in a particular problem, and then he considers its context. Each of these two stages has a phase of rest and of progress, and thus there are four stages of articulation: (1) clarification, or the static contemplation of particular conceptions, (2) association, or the dynamic linking of new conceptions with old ones, (3) systematization, or the static ordering and modification of what in the conceptions are deemed of value, and (4) methodization, or the dynamic application and recognition of what has been learned. Herbart phrased this system of instruction only in very general terms, but his successors tended to turn this framework into a rigid schedule that had to be applied to every lesson. Herbart himself warned:

We must be familiar with them [the methods], try them out according to circumstances, alter, find new ones, and extemporize; only we must not be swallowed up in them nor seek the salvation of education there.

The Herbartians

Herbart’s basing of educational methods on an understanding of mental processes or psychological considerations, his view that psychology and moral philosophy are linked, and his idea that instruction is the means to moral judgment had a large place in late 19th-century pedagogical thought. Among Herbart’s followers were Tuiskon Ziller in Leipzig (founder of the Association for Scientific Pedagogy) and Wilhelm Rein in Jena. From 1895 to 1901 a National Herbart Society for the Scientific Study of Education flourished in the United States; John Dewey was a major critic of Herbartianism in its proceedings.

Ziller’s ideas are representative of the Herbartians. He insisted that all parts of the curriculum be closely integrated and unified—history and religion forming the core subjects on which everything else hinged. The sequence of instruction was to be adjusted to the psychological development of the individual, which was seen as corresponding to the cultural evolution of mankind in stages from primitive savagery to civilization. His main goal in education, like that of most Herbartians, was to promote character building, not simply knowledge accumulation.

Other German theorists

In the history of pedagogy there is no period of such fruitfulness as the 19th century in Germany. In addition to Herbart, Froebel, Pestalozzi (in German Switzerland), and their followers, there were scores of the most important writers, philosophers, and theologians contributing their ideas on education—including Friedrich von Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, G.W.F. Hegel, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, Ernst Moritz Arndt, and Friedrich Nietzsche. To list the many ideas and contributions of these figures and others is impossible here, but it is worthwhile to suggest briefly the work of three men—Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Wilhelm von Humboldt—representing three divergent views.

When the great heterodox University of Berlin was founded in 1809, Fichte became one of its foremost professors and a year later its second rector, having already achieved fame throughout Germany as an idealist philosopher and fervent nationalist. At a time when Napoleon had humbled Prussia, Fichte in Berlin delivered the powerful Addresses to the German Nation (1807–08), full of practical views on national recovery and glory, including suggestions on the complete reorganization of the German schools along Pestalozzian lines. All children would be educated—and would be educated by the state. Boys and girls would be taught together, receiving virtually the same education. There would be manual training in agriculture and the industrial arts, physical training, and mental training, the aim of which would be not simply the transmission of measures of knowledge but rather the instillation of intellectual curiosity and love and charity toward all men. Unlike Pestalozzi, however, Fichte was wary of the influence of parents and preferred educating children in a “separate and independent community,” at least until a new generation of parents had arisen, educated in the new ideas and ideals. Here was an apparent revival of Plato’s idea of a strictly ordered, authoritarian state.

Another of the founders of the University of Berlin (teaching there from 1810 to 1834) was the Protestant theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, who sounded a very modern note by offering a social interpretation of education. Education, in his view, was an effort on the part of the older generation to “deliver” the younger generation into the four spheres of life—church, state, social life, and science. Education, however, not only assumes its organization in terms of these four areas of life but also serves to develop and influence these areas.

Perhaps more than any other individual, the philologist and diplomat Wilhelm von Humboldt was responsible for the founding of the University of Berlin. Supported by the king of Prussia, Frederick William III, he adopted for it principles that raised it to a foremost place among the universities of the world—the most important principle being that no teacher or student need adhere to any particular creed or school of thought. This academic freedom survived in Germany despite its temporary suspension and Humboldt’s dismissal by a reactionary Prussian government in 1819. Philosophically and pedagogically, Humboldt was himself a humanist—a part of a wave of what were called new humanists—who reasserted the importance of studying the classical achievements of humanity in language, literature, philosophy, and history. The aim of education in these terms was not the service of society or the state but rather the cultivation of the individual.

French theorists

At this time there were two men in France who were making their names through the introduction of new methods—Jean-Joseph Jacotot and Édouard Séguin. Jacotot was a high school teacher, politician, and pedagogue, whose main educational interests focused on the teaching of foreign languages. “You learn a foreign language,” he said, “as you learn your mother-language.” The pupil is confronted with a foreign language; he learns a text in the language almost by heart, compares it with a text in his own native language, and then tries gradually to free himself from the comparison of texts and to construct new combinations of words. The teacher controls this learning by asking questions. “My method is to learn one book and relate all the others to it.” The learning of grammar came later.

Jacotot’s method emphasized first the practical side and then the rule, constant repetition, and self-activity on the part of the pupils. Controversy arose, however, over his two basic theses: (1) that everyone has the same intelligence, differences in learning success being only a case of differences in industry and stamina, and (2) that everything is in everything: “Tout est dans tout,” which suggests that any subject or book is analogous to any other.

The doctor and psychologist Édouard Séguin developed a pedagogy for pupils of below-average intelligence. Historically, scientific attempts to educate mentally retarded children had begun with the efforts of a French doctor, Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, during the latter part of the 18th century. In his classic book, The Wild Boy of Aveyron (1801), Itard related his five-year effort to train and educate a boy found, at about the age of 11, running naked and wild in the woods of Aveyron. Later, Séguin, a student of Itard, devised an educational method using physical and sensory activities to develop mental processes. Limbs and the senses were, in his view, a part of the whole personality, and their development was a part of the whole human education. His method was a specific adaptation of the idea that the development of intellectual and moral distinctions grows out of sensory experience.

Spencer’s scientism

The English sociologist Herbert Spencer was perhaps the most important popularizer of science and philosophy in the 19th century. Presenting a theory of evolution prior to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Spencer argued that all of life, including education, should take its essential lessons from the findings of the sciences. In Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1860), he insisted that the answer to the question “What knowledge is of most worth?” is the knowledge that the study of science provides. While the educational methodology Spencer advocated was a version of the sense realism espoused by reformers from Ratke and Comenius down to Pestalozzi, Spencer himself was a social conservative. For him, the value of science lies not in its possibilities for making a better world but in the ways science teaches man to adjust to an environment that is not susceptible to human engineering. Spencer’s advocacy of the study of science was an inspiration to the American Edward Livingston Youmans and others who argued that a scientific education could provide a culture for modern times superior to that of classical education.

Development of national systems of education

The great changes in Europe in the 19th century included, among other things, the further consolidation of national states, the spread of modern technology and industrialization, and increasing secularization. These changes had consequences for the design of school systems. National school systems had to be conceived and organized. Alongside the older schools—including elementary schools, Latin, or grammar, schools, secondary schools, and universities—there developed so-called modern schools that stressed the exact sciences and modern languages, reflecting the new technological and commercial age. Vocational schools also appeared in greater numbers. The influence of the church was increasingly repressed, and the influence of the state on the school system correspondingly grew stronger. The ideal of universal education—education for all—became more and more a reality.


Martin Luther’s pronouncements on the educational responsibilities of the individual had no doubt helped create that healthy public opinion that rendered the principle of compulsory school attendance acceptable in Prussia at a much earlier date than elsewhere. State intervention in education was almost coincident with the rise of the Prussian state. In 1717 Frederick William I ordered all children to attend school, if schools were available to them. This was followed in 1736 by edicts for the establishment of schools in certain provinces, in 1763 by Frederick II the Great’s regulation asserting the principle of compulsory school attendance, and in 1794 by a codification of Prussian law recognizing the principle of state supremacy in education.

Humboldt’s reforms

The schools, however, had established a traditional classical curriculum that ignored the changing needs of life and fields of knowledge. No effective reorganization of the educational system was carried out until after the disaster of the Battle of Jena (1806), during the Napoleonic Wars, which brought about the virtual collapse of Prussia. Fichte delivered his Addresses to the German Nation at this time, appealing to the spirit of patriotism over a selfish individualism. He advocated a nationalism to be cultivated and enhanced by controlling the education of the young. In the period of governmental reform which came about, one of the first acts of the prime minister Freiherr Karl vom Stein in 1807 was to abolish certain semi-ecclesiastical schools and to place education under the Ministry of the Interior, with Wilhelm von Humboldt at the head of a special section. Humboldt’s policy in secondary education was a compromise between the narrow philological pedantry of the old Latin schools and the large demands of the new humanism that he espoused. The measure introduced by Humboldt in 1810 for the state examination and certification of teachers checked the then-common practice of permitting unqualified theological students to teach in the schools and raised the teaching profession to a high level of dignity and efficiency, placing Prussia in the forefront of educational progress. It was also a result of the initiative of Humboldt that the methods of Pestalozzi were introduced into the teachers’ seminaries. To this period also belongs the revival, in 1812, of the Abitur (the school-leaving examination), which had fallen into abeyance.

Developments after 1815

The period that succeeded the peace of 1815 was one of political reaction, and not until the 1830s were there further significant reforms. In 1834, for example, an important step was taken in regard to secondary education by making it necessary for candidates for the learned professions, as well as for the civil service and for university studies, to pass the leaving examination of the Gymnasium, the Classical secondary schools. Thus, through the leaving examination, the state held the key to the liberal careers and was thereby able to impose its own standards upon all secondary schools.

In connection with the so-called Kulturkampf, the struggle between the state and the Roman Catholic Church, the school law of 1872 reasserted the absolute right of the state alone to the supervision of the schools. Nevertheless, the Prussian system remained both for Catholics and for Protestants essentially denominational. On the elementary level, in particular, the mixed school was established only when the creeds were so intermingled that a confessional school was impracticable. In all cases, the teachers were appointed with reference to religious faith; religious instruction was given in school hours and was inspected by the clergy.

The official classification, or grading according to the type of curriculum, of secondary schools in Prussia (and throughout Germany) was very precise. The following were the three officially recognized types: (1) the Classical nine-year Gymnasium, with a curriculum that included Latin, Greek, and a modern language, (2) the semi-Classical nine-year Realgymnasium, with a more modern curriculum that included, in addition to Latin and modern languages, the natural sciences and mathematics, and (3) the modern six-year Realschule or nine-year Oberrealschule, with a curriculum of sciences and mathematics.

The differentiation between the types was the result of a natural educational development corresponding to the economic changes that transformed Prussia from an agricultural to an industrial state. The Classical schools long retained their social prestige and a definite educational advantage in that only their pupils were admissible to the universities. From the foundation of the German Empire in 1871, the history of secondary education was largely concerned with a struggle for a wider recognition of the work of the newer schools. The movement received a considerable impetus by the action of Emperor William II, who summoned a school conference in 1890 at which he set the keynote: “It is our duty to educate young men to become young Germans and not young Greeks or Romans.” New schedules were framed in which the hours devoted to Latin were considerably reduced, and no pupil could obtain a leaving certificate without a satisfactory mark in the mother tongue. The reform lasted only a single school generation. In 1900 equality of privileges was granted to three types of schools, subject to the following reservations: the theological faculties continued to admit only students from Classical schools, and the pupils of the Oberrealschule were excluded by their lack of Latin from the medical faculties. But insofar as Latin was required for other studies, such as law or history, it could be acquired at the university itself.

Girls’ schools

In Prussia, as elsewhere, the higher education of girls lagged far behind that of boys and received little attention from the state or municipality, except insofar as the services of women teachers were needed in the elementary schools. Thus it came about that in Prussia secondary schools for girls were dealt with administratively as part of the elementary school system. After the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, a conference of directors and teachers of these schools was held at Weimar and put forth a reasoned plea for better organization and improved status. The advocates of reform, however, were not at unity in their aims. Some wished to lay stress on ethical, literary, and aesthetic training; others stressed intellectual development and claimed an equal share in all the culture of the age. Even the women teachers fought an unequal battle, for all the school heads and a large part of the staff were men, usually academically trained. The women continually demanded a larger share of the work, and this was secured by the establishment of a new higher examination for women teachers. University study, though not prescribed, was in fact essential, and yet women had not the right of access to the university in Germany. They were allowed to take the leaving examination, for which private institutions prepared them, but their admission to the university rested with the professor. Not until the 20th century were desired changes achieved.

The new German universities

Unquestionably one of the greatest worldwide influences exercised by German education in the 19th century was through its universities, to which students came from all over the world and from which every land drew ideas for the reformation of higher education. To understand this, one must be aware of the state of higher education in most countries in the 19th century. Although the century witnessed a steady expansion of scientific knowledge, the curriculum of the established universities went virtually untouched. Higher education followed a single dimension. This was the century of the scientists Michael Faraday, Hermann von Helmholtz, James Prescott Joule, Charles Darwin, Joseph Lister, Wilhelm Wundt, Louis Pasteur, and Robert Koch. Yet, until the end of the century, most of the significant research was done outside the walls of higher educational institutions. In Great Britain, for instance, it was the Royal Society and other such societies that fostered advanced studies and encouraged research. The basic curriculum of colleges and universities remained nontechnical and nonprofessional. The English cardinal John Henry Newman, lecturing in Dublin on The Idea of a University in 1852, stated that the task of the university was broadly to prepare young men “to fill any post with credit, and to master any subject with facility.” The university ought not to attempt professional and technical education.

While Newman’s words epitomized the views held in most of Europe and America, some of the new universities in Germany were moving toward the expansion of the educational enterprise. In 1807 Fichte had drawn up a plan for the new University of Berlin, which Humboldt two years later was able to realize in its founding. The school was dedicated to the scientific approach to knowledge, to the combination of research and teaching, and to the proliferation of academic pursuits; and its ideal was adopted in the founding or reconstitution of other universities—Breslau (1811), Bonn (1818), Munich (1826). By the third quarter of the 19th century, the influence of German Lernfreiheit (freedom of the student to choose his own program) and Lehrfreiheit (freedom of the professor to develop the subject and to engage in research) was felt throughout the academic world. The unity of the universities, for better or worse, was more and more dissolved by the fragmentation of subjects into different branches. Some critics would eventually condemn what they considered to be the excesses of the free elective system and the extreme departmentalization of research and curricula. Much of the debate, however, would centre on the general education of undergraduates. In the meantime, the conviction, fathered in Germany, that research is a responsibility of universities was to inspire the founders of universities in the United States in the late 19th century.


In France the Jesuit schools and the schools of other teaching orders created at the time of the Renaissance had reconciled the teaching of the new humanism with the established doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and flourished with special brilliance. But, despite the changes brought about by the Renaissance and the attention given to the sciences in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was not until the advent of the French Revolution that the universal right to education was proclaimed (1791).

That principle was compromised when Napoleon came to power, however. Although he maintained that the matter of education was an important issue and thought that a common culture with common ideals was essential to nation-building, he felt that, from a political standpoint, the bourgeoisie and upper classes were most important. His national education system therefore served children of those classes. This led to reorganization of the structure of secondary and higher education in a unified state system, with secondary schools maintained by the communes, and with state lycées, universities, and special institutions of higher education. Within this structure the rector of a university headed a teaching body, recruited by the state and supervised by an inspectorate, ranging through various grades up to the university council. Grades of proficiency in studies—from simple certificates to the degrees of baccalauréat, licence, and doctorate—were awarded on the result of examinations, and these tests were made a necessary condition of entry into such professions as medicine, law, and teaching. This structure, despite many modifications, has survived until modern times.

Development of state education

French educational history in the 19th century is essentially the story of the struggle for the freedom of education, of the introduction at the secondary level of the modern and scientific branches of learning, and, under the Third Republic, of the establishment of primary education—at once secular and compulsory—between the ages of 6 and 12. There were also a middle education between the ages of 13 and 16 and, finally, a professional and technical education.

Under the restoration of the monarchy in 1814, education fell inevitably under the control of the church. However, during the bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe, a law was passed in 1833 that laid the foundations of modern primary instruction, obliging the communes to maintain schools and pay the teachers. The higher primary schools that were founded were suppressed by Roman Catholic conservatives in 1850 (their restoration later constituted one of the great positive services rendered by the Third Republic to the cause of popular education). The 1850 law restored the “liberty of teaching” that, in effect, meant free scope for priestly schools, but it also made provision for separate communal schools for girls, for adult classes, and for the technical instruction of apprentices. In 1854 France was divided for purposes of educational administration into 16 districts called académies, each administered by a rector and each with a university at the apex of the educational structure. The rector not only was made the chief administrator of the university but also was responsible for secondary and higher education within his académie. He nominated candidates for administrative positions in his area, appointed examination committees, supervised examination content and procedures, and presided over an academic council. Unlike the political division in some other countries, the académies were given little power or authority of their own; rather, they were administrative arms of the national ministry of education.

After the Franco-Prussian War, the Third Republic addressed itself to the organization of primary instruction as “compulsory, free, and secular.” The law of 1878 imposed on communes the duty of providing school buildings and provided grants-in-aid. The national government also henceforth paid salaries throughout the public sector of education. In 1879 a law was passed compelling every department to maintain training colleges for male and female teachers. The law of 1881 abolished fees in all primary schools and training colleges, the law of 1882 established compulsory attendance, and, finally, the law of 1886 enacted that none but laypersons should teach in the public schools and abolished in those schools all distinctively religious teaching.

Secondary education

In European systems of education, secondary education was preeminently a preparation for the university, with aims and ideals of general culture that differentiated it radically and at the very outset from education of the elementary type. Down to the beginning of the 20th century, the French system could be regarded as a typical and extreme example of the European theory.

The characteristic European organization has been called the dual plan. Elementary and secondary education were distinct types, and only a minority of the elementary school pupils passed on to the secondary schools, generally only if they were bright and could win scholarships through a competitive examination. The secondary schools were of two kinds: lycées and communal colleges. The lycées, maintained by tuition fees and state scholarships, taught the ancient languages, rhetoric, logic, ethics, mathematics, and physical science. The communal colleges, established by municipalities or individuals and maintained by tuition fees, offered a partial lycée curriculum, featuring Latin, French, mathematics, history, and geography. Pupils who did not complete a secondary education program generally entered civil service or other white-collar occupations. With the development of commerce and industry in the 19th century, France instituted the écoles primaires supérieures, or “higher primary schools,” for those who did not go on to universities but who needed a better education than the primary schools could give. The curricula of these schools were somewhat more advanced than those of the primary schools; pupils remained longer (up to age 16) and were prepared for employment in business as white-collar workers but generally at a lower level than pupils who came from the lycées. In effect, the different types of schools tended to maintain class cleavages since students of the secondary schools enjoyed higher social and occupational prestige than those of the upper primary schools.

The foundation of secondary schools for girls was in its way one of the most notable achievements of the Third Republic. It was inaugurated by the law of December 22, 1880, named for its author, the Loi Camille Sée. Until World War II the curricula were different from those of the boys’ schools, and the course of study was only five years. There were no ancient languages, and mathematics was not carried to so high a level as in the boys’ lycées.


Influenced by doctrines of laissez-faire, England hesitated a long time before allowing the state to intervene in educational affairs. At the beginning of the 19th century, education was regarded as entirely the concern of voluntary or private enterprise, and there was much unsystematic philanthropy. Attempts were made to channel and concentrate it, and many hoped that the Church of England and the dissenting churches would join in a concerted effort to provide a national system of elementary education on a voluntary basis. But discordant views prevented such cooperation, and two voluntary societies were founded, one representative of the Church of England and the other of dissent. In 1829 the Roman Catholics were emancipated by law from disabilities they had long suffered, and so they also were able to provide voluntary schools. Other religious bodies joined in the effort to meet the growing need for elementary schools, but it was soon evident that voluntary finance would not be equal to this formidable task. In 1833 the government made a small building grant to these societies, and in this modest way state intervention began. Six years later a committee of the Privy Council was established to administer the state grants, now made annually, and to arrange for the inspection of voluntary schools aided from public funds. The work involved led to the establishment of a small central education department, which was the beginning of the ministry of education.

Matthew Arnold was influential in pressing upon the English conscience the importance of public education for the state. While serving as inspector of elementary schools from 1851 to 1886, he studied European school systems and contrasted the meagre educational contributions of the English state with the more generous ones of Continental states.

Elementary Education Act

England prolonged its reliance on voluntary initiative for year after year as population increased and, with the growing industrialization, people crowded into the new towns. At last in 1870 Parliament, after long, acrimonious debates, passed an Elementary Education Act, the foundation upon which the English educational system has been built. Religious teaching and worship were the crucial issues in the debates, and the essentials of the settlement agreed upon were (1) a dual system of voluntary and local-authority schools and (2) careful safeguards to ensure as far as possible that no child would receive religious teaching that was at variance with the wishes of his parents. It was left to the school boards—as these first local education authorities were called—to decide on an individual basis whether to make elementary education compulsory in their districts. In 1880, however, it was made compulsory throughout England and Wales, and in 1891 fees were abolished in all but a few elementary schools.

Secondary and higher education

Secondary education was still left to voluntary and private enterprise. Attention was focused on the “public” schools (independent secondary schools such as Eton and Harrow, usually for boarders from upper- and well-to-do middle-class homes), which under the leadership of outstanding headmasters such as Thomas Arnold were thoroughly reformed. As headmaster of Rugby School (1828–42), Arnold is credited with changing the face of public education in England by instilling a spirit of moral responsibility and intellectual integrity grounded in Christian ethics. Arnold’s aims of school life—religious and moral principles, gentlemanly conduct, and intellectual ability—were to have an enduring influence on the English public school system.

Several new universities were founded during the 19th century, and the latter half of it saw the founding of a number of girls’ high schools and boarding schools offering an education that was comparable to that available in boys’ public schools and grammar schools. Several training colleges for teachers were established by voluntary agencies, and universities and university colleges toward the end of the century undertook the training of postgraduates as teachers in departments of education created for this purpose.


At the beginning of the 19th century, Tsar Alexander I—influenced by the disintegration of the serf system, the trend toward industrialization and modernization, and the democratic ideas of the French Revolution—tried to institute new educational reforms. The statutes of 1803 and 1804 followed the pattern set by Peter I (the Great) and Catherine II (the Great) in the 18th century for utilitarian, scientific, and secular education. The old Catherinian schools were remodeled and new schools founded. Schools were to be free and under state control. Rural peasants were to be taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and elements of agriculture at the parochial schools (prikhodskiye uchilishcha); pupils in the district schools of urban areas (uyezdnye uchilishcha) and the provincial schools (gimnazii) were to be prepared for careers as civil servants or for other white-collar occupations (law, political economy, technology, and commerce). The elementary and secondary schools were integrated with the universities.

Nicholas I, coming to the throne in 1825, considered this democratic trend harmful and decreed that:

It is necessary that in every school the subjects of instruction and the very methods of teaching should be in accordance with the future destination of pupils, that nobody should aim to rise above that position in which it is his lot to remain.

A new statute of 1828 decreed that parochial schools were intended for the peasants, the district schools for merchants and other townspeople, and gimnazii for children of the gentry and civil servants. Instruction in the gimnazii in Latin and Greek was increased. Although the legislation of Nicholas I established a class system, the utilitarian character of the whole system remained.

The Russian radical intelligentsia was fiercely opposed to the privileged schools for the gentry and demanded the reestablishment of a democratic system with a more modern curriculum in secondary schools. This was coupled with the demand for the emancipation of the serfs and the equality of women in education. The new tsar in 1855, Alexander II, inaugurated a period of liberal reforms. The serfs were emancipated in 1861, and thus all social restrictions were removed. A new system of local government in rural areas (zemstvo) was enacted with a right to found schools for the peasantry, which were now free. Combined efforts of the government, zemstvos, and peasant communities produced a growth of schools in the rural areas. The utilitarian trend was evident in the establishment of technical schools with vocational differentiation. The education of women was promoted, and the first higher courses for women were founded in main cities.

The reign of Alexander II, which was later marked by reactionary measures and political oppression, ended in his assassination in 1881 by the terrorist branch of the Narodniki revolutionary organization. A period of reaction followed under his successor, Alexander III. All reforms were suspended, and the growth of educational institutions was interrupted. The chief procurator of the Holy Synod attempted to build up a rival system of parochial schools under the control of the Orthodox clergy, and the minister of public instruction tried to return to the class system of Nicholas I. These reactionary measures set back the growth of education. Four-fifths of all children were deprived of education. The result was that at the turn of the century nearly 70 percent of Russia’s male population and 90 percent of its female population were illiterate (1897 census). The aboriginal dwellers of Russia’s national outskirts (more than one-half of the country’s population) were almost totally illiterate.

The United States

Administered locally everywhere, schooling of the United States’ masses in the republic’s younger days was immensely diverse. In New England, primary schooling enjoyed public support. In the South, apart from supplying a meagre learning to pauper children, the states abstained from educational responsibility. In the middle states, elementary schools were sometimes public; more often they were parochial or philanthropic. Only beyond the Alleghenies was there any federal provision for education. There, under the Articles of Confederation, the Ordinance of 1787 reserved a plot of land in every prospective township for the support of education. The measure not only laid the groundwork for education in the states of the Ohio valley and the Great Lakes, it also became a precedent for national educational aid. Thus, in 1862 the Morrill Act granted every state establishing a public agricultural college 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) of public land for each of its lawmakers in Congress.

Several of the Founding Fathers expressed belief in the necessity of public education, but only Thomas Jefferson undertook to translate his conviction into actuality. Convinced that democracy could be effective only in the hands of an enlightened people, he offered Virginia’s lawgivers a plan in 1779 to educate schoolchildren at public cost for three years and a few gifted boys beyond that. The proposal encountered resistance from both the ruling classes and the clergy, who regarded instruction as a private or an ecclesiastical prerogative. Jefferson’s initial plan was rejected, as was another plan he submitted some 40 years later. Although his ideas enlightened educational thought throughout the country, only one of Jefferson’s dreams reached actuality in his lifetime: the University of Virginia, which opened in 1825 and was the most up-to-date institution of its sort, the first frankly secular university in America, and the closest to a modern-day conception of a state university.

The educational awakening

When Jefferson died in 1826, the nation stood on the threshold of a stupendous transformation. During the ensuing quarter century it expanded enormously in space and population. Old cities grew larger and new ones more numerous. The era saw the coming of the steamboat and the railroad. Commerce flourished and so did agriculture. The age witnessed the rise of the common man with the right to vote and hold office. It was a time of overflowing optimism, of dreams of perpetual progress, moral uplift, and social betterment.

Such was the climate that engendered the common school. Open freely to every child and upheld by public funds, it was to be a lay institution under the sovereignty of the state, the archetype of the present-day American public school. Bringing the common school into being was not easy. Against it bulked the doctrine that any education that excluded religious instruction—as all state-maintained schools were legally compelled to do—was godless. Nor had there been any great recession of the contention that education was not a proper governmental function and for a state to engage therein was an intrusion into parental privilege. Still more distasteful was the fact that public schooling would occasion a rise in taxes.

Yet the common school also mustered some formidable support, and finally, in 1837, liberal Massachusetts lawmakers successfully carried through a campaign for a state board of education. Massachusetts credits its educational regeneration especially to Horace Mann, the board’s first secretary. To gather data on educational conditions in the state, Mann roved the entire commonwealth. He lectured and wrote reports, depicting his dire findings with unsparing candour. There were outcries against him, but when Mann resigned, after 12 years, he could take pride in an extraordinary achievement. During his incumbency, school appropriations almost doubled. Teachers were awarded larger wages, and in return they rendered better service. To help them, Massachusetts established three state normal schools, the first in America. Supervision was made professional. The school year was extended. Public high schools were augmented. Finally, the common school, under the authority of the state though still beset by difficulties, slowly became the rule.

What Mann accomplished in Massachusetts, Henry Barnard (1811–1900) achieved in Connecticut and Rhode Island. More reserved than Mann, Barnard has come down the ages as the “scholar of the educational awakening.” He became the first president of the Association for the Advancement of Education and editor of its American Journal of Education, in whose 30 volumes he discussed virtually every important pedagogical idea of the 19th century.

Similar campaigns were under way in other areas. In Pennsylvania the assault centred on the pauper school; in New York it was against sectarianism. On the westward-moving frontier, old educational ideas and traditions had to compete in an environment antagonistic to privilege and permanence. There was controversy everywhere, however, over the state’s right to assume educational authority and especially over its power to levy school taxes. Future handling of this issue in the West was foretold in 1837, when Michigan realized a state-supported and state-administered system of education in which the state university—the University of Michigan under the leadership of Henry Tappan—played an integral part.

Secondary education

Once the common school was solidly entrenched, the scant opportunity afforded the lower classes for more than a rudimentary education fell under increasing challenge. If it was right to order children to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic and to offer them free tax-supported schooling, then, some reasoned, it was also right to accommodate those desiring advanced instruction. Before long, a few common schools, yielding to parental insistence, introduced courses beyond the elementary level. Such was the germ of the high school in the United States.

The first high school in the United States opened in Boston in 1821 as the English Classical School, a designation that soon was changed to English High School. Designed for the sons of the “mercantile and mechanic classes,” it provided three years of free instruction in English, mathematics, surveying, navigation, geography, history, logic, ethics, and civics. In 1825 New York City inaugurated the first high school outside New England. The next year Boston braved free secondary education for girls, judiciously diluted and restricted to 130. When the number of applicants vastly exceeded this figure, the city fathers abandoned the project.

The high school movement was spurred less by these diffuse developments than by legislation by Massachusetts in 1827 that ordered towns of 500 families to furnish public instruction in American history, algebra, geometry, and bookkeeping, in addition to the common primary subjects. Furthermore, towns of 4,000 were to offer courses in history, logic, rhetoric, Latin, and Greek. The measure lacked public backing, but it set the guideposts for similar legislation elsewhere. The contention that government had no right to finance high schools remained an issue until the 1870s, when Michigan’s supreme court, finding for the city of Kalamazoo in litigation brought by a taxpayer, declared the high school to be a necessary part of the state’s system of public instruction.

Education for females

Though the common school vouchsafed instruction to girls, their chances of attending high school—not to say college—were slight. The “female academies,” attended mainly by daughters of the middle class, were not numerous, and they varied in their emphases, often stressing social or domestic subjects. In fact, as late as the 1840s, when even the lowliest man could vote and hold office, women were haltered by taboos of every sort. But as America advanced industrially and more and more women flocked to the mill and the office, their desire for greater educational opportunity grew. As in the struggle for the common school, the cause of women’s education bred leaders, many of whom founded schools and communicated internationally. In 1833 Oberlin College in Ohio hazarded coeducation, and 20 years later Antioch College (also in Ohio) followed suit. Beyond the Mississippi River, every state university except that of Missouri was coeducational from its beginning. Eastern universities, however, moved more cautiously.

Higher education

While women were crusading for greater educational opportunity, the college itself was undergoing alteration. It had begun as a cradle of divinity, but, as the 18th century waned, it was displaying a mounting secularity. In the course of the 19th century, not only did colleges surge in number, but some of the more enterprising of them also moved toward reshaping their purpose. Soon after its opening in 1885, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania announced courses for the master’s and doctor’s degrees. Inspired by the scholarly accomplishments of German universities, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (founded in 1867) put its weight on research. Twenty years later Clark University in Massachusetts opened as a purely graduate institution. Soon the graduate trend invaded older schools as well.

The early normal schools, or teacher-training schools, were primitive. Often they were merely higher elementary schools, rehearsing their students for a year in basic reading and arithmetic, rectitude and piety, some history, mathematics, and physiology, and, if they survived, a rudimentary pedagogy. After the 1860s the ideas and experiments of Pestalozzi and Froebel combined with widespread social-democratic influences on education and advances in psychological thought to change schooling. This confluence, which was most noticeable in elementary education, resulted in the appearance of the kindergarten and in methods proceeding from the nature of the child and including content representing more of the present society. While much of the rationale was religious or mystical, the outcome was socially and psychologically more realistic. Since the early phases of schooling were initially the only concern of teacher training, it was natural that the idea of preparing teachers to use techniques derived from the new concepts, including the greater systematization introduced by Herbart, and the necessity for teachers to learn specifically about the child would substantially augment teacher-training programs and lay the groundwork for immense institutional expansion in the first half of the 20th century.

The British dominions


In the early period of the 19th century, until about 1840, schooling in Canada was much the same as it was in England; it was provided through the efforts of religious and philanthropic organizations and dominated by the Church of England. Although there was overlap among types of schools (identified historically), there are records of parish schools, charity schools, Sunday schools, and monitorial schools for the common people. The instructional fare was a rudimentary combination of religious instruction and literacy skills, perhaps supplemented by some practical work.

More advanced education was limited to the upper social classes and was given in Latin grammar schools or in private schools with various curricular extensions on the Classical base. Academies, largely supported by the middle class of nonconformist groups, presented a broad curriculum of liberal arts that spanned the secondary and higher levels of education. In general, instruction relied on a simple chain concept of “transmission-absorption-mental storage,” which was kept going by direct application of reward or punishment.

In the middle period, which lasted until about 1870, public systems of education emerged, accommodating religious interests in a state framework. Public support was won for the common school, leading toward universal elementary education. Secondary and higher education began to assume a public character. The principle of local responsibility under central provincial authority was elaborated in the respective provinces.

Of central importance in the development of Canadian education was the kind of agreement reached on church-state relations in education during this period. At one extreme was the arrangement made in Newfoundland from 1836 to accommodate all numerically represented denominations separately within a loose system (not until 1920 was a unified system of education developed, which still worked through five denominational subsystems). At the other extreme were the arrangements made in British Columbia, which became decisive when it entered the Canadian Confederation, to establish and maintain a free, unified, centralized nonsectarian system. Other provinces eventually developed patterns that represented compromises. The Nova Scotia–New Brunswick pattern, for instance, provided a unified system that in principle was nonsectarian but that allowed the grouping of Roman Catholic children for education, thus legalizing sectarian schools within the system. Ontario placed separate Catholic schools within a unified school system. Québec supported a dual confessional system from the 1840s to the 1960s, with parallel structures for Roman Catholic and Protestant schooling at both the local and provincial levels. Manitoba adopted Québec’s dual confessional system in 1871, then changed to a unified, centralized nonsectarian system amid much controversy in 1896.

The British North America Act of 1867, Canada’s constitution, lodged authority for education in the provinces, at the same time guaranteeing denominational rights (in the “minority-school protective clause”) if such rights existed by law at the time of entry into confederation. These two provisions established the pluralistic nature of Canadian education, and the union of the provinces and the entrance of western provinces gave Canada, by 1880, a national base on which to build the Canadian institution of education.

The final years of the 19th century were years of structural formalization of the educational foundations developed in the productive middle period. In this, Ontario’s leadership was evident, especially as it affected the model of education evolving in the western territories. After Alberta and Saskatchewan were admitted as provinces in 1905, some divergence from Ontario took place: notably, both provinces required that Roman Catholic taxes go to separate Catholic schools (the decision in Ontario was based on free choice), and Alberta allowed separate school privileges through the secondary level. (Saskatchewan extended full funding of Roman Catholic separate schools to the end of high school in the early 1960s, Ontario in the late 1980s).

Toward the end of the 19th century, elementary schooling, by then established, was becoming compulsory. The cost of secondary education was diminishing, and the distinction in level and curriculum between the secondary and the elementary school was sharpened in the system of public schools. Communities were responsible for maintaining schools through a combination of local taxes and provincial grants, while provincial departments standardized the conduct of schooling through inspections, examinations, and prescription of course content and materials.

Changes in instructional theory, taking place during the latter part of the 19th century throughout the Western world, revolutionized the classroom. One major shift was from the imposition of knowledge on the mind of the learner to an emphasis on the learner’s activity of perception and comprehension of knowledge. The impact of science on the higher school curriculum was matched by its impact on educational theory and, consequently, on teacher training. Both scientific disciplines (such as educational psychology) and scientific methods of teaching became necessary to the training of teachers who were to operate in a new setting of teacher-pupil and subject-matter relations.


The development of Australian education through the 19th century was affected by a pervasive British influence, by a continuous economic struggle against harsh environmental conditions, and by the tendency for population to be concentrated in centres that accrued and extended political authority over the region. The particular historical thread around which educational developments took place was the question of denominational schools.

From the first immigrant landing in 1788 through the early decades of the 19th century, education was provided on an occasional and rather haphazard basis, by the most expedient means available. In general, the assumption and the practice was that schooling would be provided by the church or by church organizations, such as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPGFP), and colonial governments made small grants to aid such provision. It was also assumed that the Church of England would dominate the religious-educational scene, and a Church and School Corporation was set up in 1826 to administer endowments for Church of England efforts. Even at this early stage, however, the resistance of Nonconformists, especially Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, shortly defeated the attempt to “establish” Church of England institutions. The only early organized attempt at mass education was through monitorial systems.

In 1833 the governor of New South Wales asserted government responsibility for education by proposing the introduction of a nondenominational system that would reduce religion in schools to reading commonly approved scriptures and to providing release time for sectarian instruction by clergymen. The importance of the proposal lay in its spirit of religious compromise and its initiation of state responsibility for education, both of which were predictive of future development.

Because of sectarian resistance, mainly from Anglican and Catholic groups, so-called national schools were introduced alongside denominational schools in 1848 as a dual system, administered by two corresponding boards. Throughout the middle period of the century, similar sectarian compromises were found in other Australian colonies. The establishment of state systems were, however, seriously impeded by the extremity of the struggle for survival in hostile geographic conditions. In New South Wales a Public Schools Bill was passed in 1866, creating a single Council of Education. State aid to denominational schools was continued but under conditions stipulated by the state.

Victoria became a separate colony in 1850 and was initially fraught with particular problems occasioned by the arrival of a migrant gold-rush population. Little was accomplished in education, other than increased assistance to religious denominations, until 1856. After that the move for a state system gained impetus, and a Common Schools Bill was passed in 1862, establishing a system similar to that accepted in New South Wales. Soon after separation, Queensland’s Primary Education Bill was passed in 1860, subordinating denominational schools and reinforcing the principle of common school development in Australia. South Australia held to a continuous development of a general system based on common Christianity, but Western Australia’s Elementary Education Bill of 1871 returned to dual support for both government and voluntary schools.

The support for state educational systems increased during the 1860s and 1870s as an alternative to interdenominational conflict was sought. In this development the Protestants, gradually and sometimes reluctantly, acquiesced. Catholic resistance was never overcome, and the consequent evolution of a separate Roman Catholic school system did not diminish Catholic dissatisfaction with the movement to state schools. The dilemma of Catholic citizens with regard to nonsectarian public education was universal: as citizens, they were financially obligated for the public schools; as Roman Catholics, they were committed to education in schools of their own faith.

The intention to educate all children and to raise the quality of instruction in common schools required governmental actions that could transform voluntary, exclusive, uneven provisions into uniform public standards. In Australia, particular motivating factors were the dramatic increases in population and economic growth and the recognized inadequacy of existing schools. The establishment of secular public school systems under government control was made unequivocal through the passage of legislation between 1872 and 1895. These bills did not abolish general Christian instruction, nor did they generally refuse release time for sectarian instruction. They did, however, disallow sectarian claims for financial support and for a place in public education. The decision was for the operation of schools for all children, undertaken by the one agency that could act on behalf of the whole society, the government.

New Zealand

In New Zealand’s early colonial period, between 1840 and 1852, certain provisions were made for endowments for religious and educational purposes, but education was considered, in accordance with prevailing views in England, a private or voluntary matter. Corresponding to general social distinctions, academic education was relegated to denominational, fee-charging schools, and common education was provided as a charitable service. Religious preference was avoided as much as possible, with the aim of minimizing sectarian conflict.

Secular opposition to religious bias, even on a pluralistic basis, was, however, already evident. In 1852 New Zealand was granted self-government under the Constitution Act, and responsibility for education was placed in the councils of the six provinces. Although each province acted independently and somewhat according to the traditions of the dominant cultural group, the general sentiment moved in the next 20 years toward the establishment of public school systems. By 1876, when the provincial governments were abolished, the people of New Zealand, through varying regional decisions, had accepted governmental responsibility for education, had opted for nonsectarian schools, and had started on the path to free, compulsory common schooling.

The basic national legislation was passed in 1877. The Education Act provided for public elementary education that would be secular, free to age 15, and compulsory to age 13. Because of enforcement difficulties and legal exceptions, the compulsory clause was rather loose, but it instituted the rule. It was strengthened between 1885 and 1898, and high school enrollments increased steadily after 1911. The act of 1877 also revised the administrative structure under a national ministerial Department of Education. Initially, the central department was little more than a funding source, while critical control was vested in regional boards elected by local school committees. In the competitive struggle between the department and the regional boards that waxed and waned well into the 20th century, neither gained the exclusive dominance sometimes sought. The primary position of the central authority in educational administration was confirmed in the reform period between 1899 and 1914, however, when control of inspectors, effective control of primary teacher appointment and promotion, and stipulative control in fund granting went to the Department of Education. These developments, together with curriculum and examination reforms, marked a new beginning in New Zealand education.

The spread of Western educational practices to Asian countries


Education under the East India Company

Originally the British went to India as tradesmen, but gradually they became the rulers of the country. On Dec. 31, 1600, the East India Company was established, and, like all commercial bodies, its main objective was trade. Gradually during the 18th century the pendulum swung from commerce to administration. The deterioration of Mughal power in India, the final expulsion of French rivals in the Seven Years’ War, and the virtual appropriation of Bengal and Bihar in a treaty of 1765 had all made the company a ruling power. In spite of this, the company did not recognize the promotion of education among the people of India as a part of its duty or obligation. For a long time the British at home were greatly opposed to any system of public instruction for the Indians, just as they were for their own people.

The feelings of the public authorities in England were first tested in the year 1793, when the philanthropist William Wilberforce proposed to add two clauses to the company’s charter act of that year for sending out schoolmasters to India. This encountered the greatest opposition in the council of directors, and it was found necessary to withdraw the clauses. For 20 years thereafter, the ruling authorities in England refused to accept responsibility for the education of Indian people. It was only in 1813, when the company’s charter was renewed, that a clause was inserted requiring the governor-general to devote not less than 100,000 rupees annually to the education of Indians.

Some organization was required in order to disburse the educational grant. A General Committee of Public Instruction, constituted in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1823, started its work with an Orientalist policy rather than a Western-oriented one, since the majority of the members were Orientalists. The money available was spent mainly on the teaching of Sanskrit and Arabic and on the translation of English works into these languages. Some encouragement was also given to the production of books in English.

Meanwhile, a new impetus was given to education from two sources of different character. One was from the Christian missionaries and the other from a “semirationalist” movement. The Christian missionaries had started their educational activities as early as 1542, upon the arrival of St. Francis Xavier. Afterward the movement spread throughout the land and exercised a lasting influence on Indian education. It gave a new direction to elementary education through the introduction of instruction at regular and fixed hours, a broad curriculum, and a clear-cut class system. By printing books in different vernaculars, the missionaries stimulated the development of Indian languages. But hand in hand with the study of the vernaculars went “English education,” or the teaching of Western subjects through the medium of English.

Besides the missionaries, there were men in Bengal who, though admitting the value of Oriental learning for the advancement of civilization, thought that better things could be achieved through the so-called English education. In 1817 these semirationalists, led by the celebrated reformer Ram Mohun Roy, founded the Hindu College in Calcutta, the alumni of which established a large number of English schools all over Bengal. The demand for English education in Bengal thus preceded by 20 years any government action in that direction.

In the meantime the influence of the Orientalists was waning in the General Committee, as younger members with more radical views joined it. They challenged the policy of patronizing Oriental learning and advocated the need for spreading Western knowledge through the medium of English. Thus arose the controversy as to whether educational grants should be used to promote Oriental learning or Western knowledge. The controversy between the Orientalists and the Anglicists was decided in favour of the latter by the famous Minute on Education of 1835 submitted by Thomas Babington Macaulay, the legal member of the governor-general’s executive council. His recommendations were accepted by Lord William Bentinck, the governor-general. The decision was announced on March 7, 1835, in a brief resolution that determined the character of higher education in India for the ensuing century. Although the schools for Oriental learning were maintained for some years, the translation of English books into Sanskrit and Arabic was immediately discontinued. Thus, the system of “English education” was adopted by the government. It should be noted, however, that primary education did not attract any attention at all.

Bentinck’s resolution was followed by other enactments accelerating the growth of English education in India. The first was the Freedom of Press Act (1835), which encouraged the printing and publication of books and made English books available at low cost. Two years later, Persian was abolished as the language of record and the courts (to the dismay of the Muslims) and was replaced by English and Indian languages in higher and lower courts, respectively. Finally, Lord Hardinge, as governor-general, issued a resolution on October 10, 1844, declaring that for all government appointments preference would be given to the knowledge of English. These measures strengthened the position of English in India, and the lingering prejudices against learning English vanished forever.

Although English education held its ground in Bengal, the Bengal government did not neglect vernacular education altogether. Moreover, in Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai), and the North-Western Provinces there was as yet little effective demand for English, and the tendency was to lay the main stress on Indian languages. Bombay adopted the policy of encouraging primary education and spreading Western science and knowledge through the mother tongue. This was done under the able guidance of Mountstuart Elphinstone, then the governor, even though the government also conducted an English school in almost every district in the province. Between 1845 and 1848 a bitter controversy arose regarding the language of instruction, but the issue was between the mother tongue and English, and not between a Classical language and English as it was in Bengal. The controversy gathered strength every day, and, in those days of centralization, the matter had to be referred to the Bengal government, which advised the Bombay government to concentrate its attention on English education alone, thus throttling the growth of education through the mother tongue in Bombay. Meanwhile, the Madras government was biding its time, leaving the field of positive effort open to Christian missionaries; as a result of this missionary initiative, English education in the Madras presidency was more extensively imparted than in Bombay.

A laudable experiment in the field of vernacular education was carried out by Lieutenant Governor James Thomason in the North-Western Provinces. Thomason’s ḥalqabandī system attempted to bring primary education within easy reach of the common people. In each ḥalqah (circuit) of villages, a school was established in the most central village so that all the villagers within a radius of two miles might avail themselves of it. For the maintenance of these schools the village landholders agreed to contribute at the rate of 1 percent of their land income. The experiment proved successful, and in 10 years Thomason opened 897 schools and provided elementary education for 23,688 children.

Indian universities

The next step in the history of Indian education is marked by Sir Charles Wood’s epoch-making Dispatch of 1854, which led to (1) the creation of a separate department for the administration of education in each province, (2) the founding of the universities of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras in 1857, and (3) the introduction of a system of grants-in-aid. Even when the administration of India passed from the East India Company into the hands of the British crown in 1858, Britain’s secretary of state for India confirmed the educational policy of Wood’s Dispatch.

The newly established universities did not initially undertake any teaching responsibilities but were merely examining bodies. Their expenses were confined to administration and could be met from the fees paid by the candidates for their degrees and certificates. Although the establishment of the universities did result in a rapid expansion of college education and although the products of the new learning displayed keen scholarship, the value of learning nevertheless soon decayed. In such circumstances it was ironic for the Indian Education Commission of 1882 to declare, “The university degree has become an accepted object of ambition, a passport to distinction in public services and in the learned professions.” Another undesirable practice was the domination of the universities over secondary education through their entrance examinations. University policies regarding curricula, examination systems, language of instruction, and other vital problems began to be chalked out by university teachers who had little experience in schoolteaching and who kept the administrative needs and requirements of colleges in the forefront. Thus, secondary schools increasingly prepared their students for a college education and not for life in general.

The new system also became top-heavy. It must be stated that the commission of 1882 made a very valuable recommendation that the “elementary education of the masses, its provision, extension and improvement requires strenuous efforts of the state in a still larger measure than heretofore.” It also desired to check the wild race for academic distinction and “to divert some part of the rapidly swelling stream of students into channels of a more practical character.” Despite this warning, however, alternative courses in commerce, agriculture, and technical subjects that were offered in a limited number of selected schools did not prove popular. The educated classes could not be diverted from their conventional path.

In a general view of education during the last two decades of the 19th century, drift was more apparent than government resolve. Elementary education was starved and undernourished, and secondary education was suffering from want of proper supervision. There was an unplanned growth of high schools and colleges since the Education Commission had given a free charter to private enterprise. Many of these private institutions were “coaching institutions rather than places of learning.” The universities had no control over them, and state control was negligible because the government had adopted a laissez-faire policy.

The second half of the 19th century is, nonetheless, of great significance to the country because modern India may indeed be said to be a creation of this period. It brought about a renaissance by breaking down geographic barriers and bringing different regions and long-separated Indian communities into close contact with one another. The blind admiration for Western culture was gradually passing away, and a new vision and reorientation in thought were coming about. A feeling of dissatisfaction also developed toward the existing governmental and missionary institutions. It was felt by some of the Indian patriots that the character of Indian youths could be built by Indians themselves. This led to the establishment of a few notable institutions aiming at imparting sound education to Indian youth on national lines—institutions such as the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College in Aligarh (1875), the D.A.V. College in Lahore (1886), and the Central Hindu College in Varanasi (1898). The politically minded classes of the country had also come to regard education as a national need. They were critical of the government’s educational policy and resented any innovation that might restrain the pace of educational advance or diminish liberty.


The Meiji Restoration and the assimilation of Western civilization

In 1867 the Tokugawa (Edo) shogunate, a dynasty of military rulers established in 1603, was overthrown and the imperial authority of the Meiji dynasty was restored, leading to drastic reforms of the social system. This process has been called the Meiji Restoration, and it ushered in the establishment of a politically unified and modernized state.

In the following generation Japan quickly adopted useful aspects of Western industry and culture to enhance rapid modernization. But Japan’s audacious modernization would have been impossible without the enduring peace and cultural achievements of the Tokugawa era. It had boasted a high level of Oriental civilization, especially centring on Confucianism, Shintōism, and Buddhism. The ruling samurai had studied literature and Confucianism at their hankō (domain schools), and the commoners had learned reading, writing, and arithmetic at numerous terakoya (temple schools). Both samurai and commoners also pursued medicine, military science, and practical arts at shijuku (private schools). Some of these schools had developed a fairly high level of instruction in Western science and technology by the time of the Meiji Restoration. This cultural heritage helped equip Japan with a formidable potential for rapid Westernization. Indeed, some elements of Western civilization had been gradually introduced into Japan even during the Tokugawa era. The shogunate, notwithstanding its isolationist policy, permitted trade with the Dutch, who conveyed modern Western sciences and arts to Japan. After 1853, moreover, Japan opened its door equally to other Western countries, a result of pressures exerted by the United States Navy under Admiral Matthew C. Perry. Thenceforth, even before the Meiji Restoration, Japanese interest in foreign languages became intense and diverse.

Western studies, especially English-language studies, became increasingly popular after the Restoration, and Western culture flooded into Japan. The Meiji government dispatched study commissions and students to Europe and to the United States, and the so-called Westernizers defeated the conservatives who tried in vain to maintain allegiance to traditional learning.

Establishment of a national system of education

In 1871 Japan’s first Ministry of Education was established to develop a national system of education. Ōki Takatō, the secretary of education, foresaw the necessity of establishing schools throughout the country to develop national wealth, strength, and order, and he outlined a strategy for acquiring the best features of Western education. He assigned commissioners, many of whom were students of Western learning, to design the school system, and in 1872 the Gakusei, or Education System Order, was promulgated. It was the first comprehensive national plan to offer schooling nationwide, according to which the country was divided into eight university districts, which were further divided into 32 middle school districts, each accommodating 210 primary school districts. Unlike the class-based schooling offered during the Tokugawa period, the Gakusei envisioned a unified, egalitarian system of modern national education, designed on a ladder plan. Although the district system was said to have been borrowed from France, the new Japanese education was based on the study of Western education in general and incorporated elements of educational practice in all advanced countries. Curricula and methods of education, for instance, were drawn primarily from the United States.

This ambitious modern plan for a national education system fell short of full realization, however, because of the lack of sufficient financial support, facilities and equipment, proper teaching materials, and able teachers. Nevertheless, the plan represented an unprecedented historic stage in Japanese educational development. Under the Gakusei system, the Ministry of Education, together with local officials, managed with difficulty to set up elementary schools for children aged 6 to 14. In 1875 the 24,000 elementary schools had 45,000 teachers and 1,928,000 pupils. This was achieved by gradually reorganizing terakoya in many areas into modern schools. The enrollment rate reached only 35 percent of all eligible children, however, and no university was erected at all.

In 1873 David Murray, a professor from the United States, was invited to Japan as an adviser to the Ministry of Education; another professor, Marion M. Scott, assumed direction of teacher training and introduced American methods and curricula at the first normal school in Tokyo, established under the direct control of the ministry. Graduates of the normal school played an important role in disseminating teacher training to other parts of the country. By 1874 the government had set up six normal schools, including one for women. The normal school designed curricula for the primary schools, modeled after those of the United States, and introduced textbooks and methods that spread gradually into the elementary schools of many regions.

The conservative reaction

Following the repression of the Satsuma Rebellion, a samurai uprising in 1877, Japan again forged ahead toward political unity, but there was an increasing trend of antigovernment protest from below, which was epitomized by the Movement for People’s Rights. Because of the Satsuma Rebellion, the government faced serious financial difficulties. Also, with the people’s inclination toward Western ideas fading away, a conservative reaction began to emerge, calling for a revival of the Confucian and Shintō legacies and a return to local control of education as practiced in the pre-Restoration era.

Discontent had been mounting among the rural people against the Education System Order of 1872, mainly because it had imposed upon them the financial burdens of establishing schools and yet had not lived up to expectations. Another cause of dissatisfaction was a sense of irrelevance that Japanese attributed to schooling largely based on Western models. The curriculum developed according to the 1872 order was perceived to have little relation to the social and cultural needs of that day, and ordinary Japanese continued to favour the traditional schooling of the terakoya. The deputy secretary of education, Tanaka Fujimaro, just returning from an inspection tour in the United States, insisted that the government transfer its authority over education to the local governments, as in the United States, to reflect local needs in schooling. Thus, in 1879 the government nullified the Gakusei and put into force the Kyōikurei, or Education Order, which made for rather less centralization. Not only did the new law abolish the district system that had divided the country into districts, it also reduced central control over school administration, including the power to establish schools and regulate attendance. The Kyōikurei was intended to encourage local initiatives. Such a drastic reform to decentralize education, however, led to an immediate deterioration of schooling and a decline in attendance in some localities; criticism arose among those prefectural governors who had been striving to enforce the Gakusei in their regions.

As a countermeasure, the government introduced a new education order in 1880 calling for a centralization of authority by increasing the powers of the secretary of education and the prefectural governor. Thereafter, the prefecture would provide regulations within the limits of criteria set by the Ministry of Education; some measure of educational unity was thus reached on the prefectural level, and the school system received some needed adjustment. Yet, because of economic stagnation, school attendance remained low.

Conservatism in education gained crucial support when the Kyōgaku Seishi, or the Imperial Will on the Great Principles of Education, was drafted by Motoda Nagazane, a lecturer attached to the Imperial House in 1870. It stressed the strengthening of traditional morality and virtue to provide a firm base for the emperor. Thereafter, the government began to base its educational policy on the Kyōgaku Seishi with emphasis on Confucian and Shintōist values. In the elementary schools, shūshin (national moral education) was made the all-important core of the curricula, and the ministry compiled a textbook with overtones of Confucian morality.

Establishment of nationalistic education systems

With the installation of the cabinet system in 1885, the government made further efforts to pave the way for a modern state. The promulgation of the Meiji constitution, the constitution of the empire of Japan, in 1889 established a balance of imperial power and parliamentary forms. The new minister of education, Mori Arinori, acted as a central figure in enforcing a nationalistic educational policy and worked out a vast revision of the school system. This set a foundation for the nationalistic educational system that developed during the following period in Japan. Japanese education thereafter, in the Prussian manner, tended to be autocratic.

Based on policies advocated by Mori, a series of new acts and orders were promulgated one after another. The first was the Imperial University Order of 1886, which rendered the university a servant of the state for the training of high officials and elites in various fields. Later that year orders concerning the elementary school, the middle school, and the normal school were issued, forming the structural core of the pre-World War II education system. The ministry carried out sweeping revisions of the normal school system, establishing it as a completely independent track, quite distinct from other educational training. It was marked by a rigid, regimented curriculum designed to foster “a good and obedient, faithful, and respectful character.” As a result of these reforms, the rate of attendance at the four-year compulsory education level reached 81 percent by 1900.

Together with these reforms, the Imperial Rescript on Education (Kyōiku Chokugo) of 1890 played a major role in providing a structure for national morality. By reemphasizing the traditional Confucian and Shintō values and redefining the courses in shūshin, it was to place morality and education on a foundation of imperial authority. It would provide the guiding principle for Japan’s education until the end of World War II.

Promotion of industrial education

Ever since the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the national target had been fukoku-kyōhei (“wealth accumulation and military strength”) and industrialization. From the outset the Meiji government had been busy introducing science and technology from Europe and America, but it nevertheless had difficulties in realizing such goals.

Inoue Kowashi, who became minister of education in 1893, was convinced that modern industries would be the most vital element in the future development of Japan and thus gave priority to industrial and vocational education. In 1894 the Subsidy Act for Technical Education was published, followed by the Technical Teachers’ Training Regulations and the Apprentice School Regulations. The system of industrial education was in general consolidated and integrated. These measures contributed to the training of many of the human resources required for the subsequent development of modern industry in Japan.

Education in the 20th century

Social and historical background

International wars, together with an intensification of internal stresses and conflicts among social, racial, and ideological groups, characterized the 20th century and had profound effects on education. Some of the changes that had far-reaching effects were the rapidly spreading prosperity but widening gaps between rich and poor, an immense increase in world population but a declining birth rate in Western countries, the growth of large-scale industry and its dependence on science and technological advancement, the increasing power of both organized labour and international business, and the enormous influence of both technical and sociopsychological advances in communication, especially as utilized in mass media. Other pivotal changes included challenges to accepted values, such as those supported by religion; changes in social relations, especially toward versions of group and individual equality; and an explosion of knowledge affecting paradigms as well as particular information. These and other changes marked a century of social and political swings toward a more dynamic and less categorical resolution. The institutional means of handling this uncertain world were to accept more diversity while maintaining basic forms and to rely on management efficiency to ensure practical outcomes.

The two World Wars weakened the military and political might of the larger European powers. Their replacement by “superpowers” whose influence did not depend directly on territorial acquisition and whose ideologies were essentially equalitarian helped to liquidate colonialism. As new independent countries emerged in Africa and Asia and the needs and powers of a “third world” caused a shift in international thinking, education was seen to be both an instrument of national development and a means of crossing national and cultural barriers. One consequence of this was a great increase in the quantity of education provided. Attempts were made to eradicate illiteracy, and colleges and schools were built everywhere.

The growing affluence of masses of the population in high-income areas in North America and Europe brought about, particularly after World War II, a tremendous demand for secondary and higher education. Most children stayed at school until 16, 17, or even 18 years of age, and a substantial fraction spent at least two years at college. The number of universities in many countries doubled or trebled between 1950 and 1970, and the elaboration of the tertiary level continued thereafter.

This growth was sustained partly by the industrial requirements of modern scientific technology. New methods, processes, and machines were continually introduced. Old skills became irrelevant; new industries sprang up. In addition, the amount of scientific—as distinct from merely technical—knowledge grew continually. Researchers, skilled workers, and high-level professionals were increasingly in demand. The processing of information underwent revolutionary change. The educational response was mainly to develop technical colleges, to promote adult education at all levels, to turn attention to part-time and evening courses, and to provide more training and education within the industrial enterprises themselves.

The adoption of modern methods of food production diminished the need for agricultural workers, who headed for the cities. Urbanization, however, brought problems: city centres decayed, and there was a trend toward violence. The poorest remained in those centres, and it became difficult to provide adequate education. The radical change to large numbers of disrupted families, where the norm was a single working parent, affected the urban poor extensively but in all cases raised an expectation of additional school services. Differences in family background, together with the cultural mix partly occasioned by change of immigration patterns, required teaching behaviour and content appropriate to a more heterogeneous school population.

Major intellectual movements

Influence of psychology and other fields on education

The attempt to apply scientific method to the study of education dates back to the German philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart, who called for the application of psychology to the art of teaching. But not until the end of the 19th century, when the German psychologist Wilhelm Max Wundt established the first psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig in 1879, were serious efforts made to separate psychology from philosophy. Wundt’s monumental Principles of Physiological Psychology (1874) had significant effects on education in the 20th century.

William James, often considered the father of American psychology of education, began about 1874 to lay the groundwork for his psychophysiological laboratory, which was officially founded at Harvard University in 1891. In 1878 he established the first course in psychology in the United States, and in 1890 he published his famous The Principles of Psychology, in which he argued that the purpose of education is to organize the child’s powers of conduct so as to fit him to his social and physical environment. Interests must be awakened and broadened as the natural starting points of instruction. James’s Principles and Talks to Teachers on Psychology cast aside the older notions of psychology in favour of an essentially behaviourist outlook. They asked the teacher to help educate heroic individuals who would project daring visions of the future and work courageously to realize them.

James’s student Edward L. Thorndike is credited with the introduction of modern educational psychology, with the publication of Educational Psychology in 1903. Thorndike attempted to apply the methods of exact science to the practice of psychology. James and Thorndike, together with the American philosopher John Dewey, helped to clear away many of the fantastic notions once held about the successive steps involved in the development of mental functions from birth to maturity.

Interest in the work of Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalytic image of the child in the 1920s, as well as attempts to apply psychology to national training and education tasks in the 1940s and ’50s, stimulated the development of educational psychology, and the field became recognized as a major source for educational theory. Eminent researchers in the field advanced knowledge of behaviour modification, child development, and motivation. They studied learning theories ranging from classical and instrumental conditioning and technical models to social theories and open humanistic varieties. Besides the specific applications of measurement, counseling, and clinical psychology, psychology contributed to education through studies of cognition, information processing, the technology of instruction, and learning styles. After much controversy about nature versus nurture and about qualitative versus quantitative methods, Jungian, phenomenological, and ethnographic methods took their place alongside psychobiological explanations to help educationists understand the place of heredity, general environment, and school in development and learning.

The relationship between educational theory and other fields of study became increasingly close. Social science was used to study interactions and speech to discover what was actually happening in a classroom. Philosophy of science led educational theorists to attempt to understand paradigmatic shifts in knowledge. The critical literature of the 1960s and ’70s attacked all institutions as conveyors of the motives and economic interests of the dominant class. Both social philosophy and critical sociology continued to elaborate the themes of social control and oppression as embedded in educational institutions. In a world of social as well as intellectual change, there were necessarily new ethical questions—such as those dealing with abortion, biological experimentation, and child rights—which placed new demands on education and required new methods of teaching.

Traditional movements

Against the various “progressive” lines of 20th-century education, there were strong voices advocating older traditions. Those voices were particularly strong in the 1930s, in the 1950s, and again in the 1980s and ’90s. Essentialists stressed those human experiences that they believed were indispensable to people of all time periods. They favoured the “mental disciplines” and, in the matter of method and content, put effort above interest, subjects above activities, collective experience above that of the individual, logical organization above the psychological, and the teacher’s initiative above that of the learner.

Closely related to essentialism was what was called humanistic, or liberal, education in its traditional form. Although many intellectuals argued the case, Robert M. Hutchins, president and then chancellor of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1951, and Mortimer J. Adler, professor of the philosophy of law at the same institution, were its most recognized proponents. Adler argued for the restoration of an Aristotelian viewpoint in education. Maintaining that there are unchanging verities, he sought a return to education fixed in content and aim. Hutchins denounced American higher education for its vocationalism and “anti-intellectualism,” as well as for its delight in minute and isolated specialization. He and his colleagues urged a return to the cultivation of the intellect.

Opposed to the fundamental tenets of pragmatism was the philosophy that underlay all Roman Catholic education. Theocentric in its viewpoint, Catholic Scholasticism had God as its unchanging basis of action. It insisted that without such a basis there can be no real aim to any type of living, and hence there can be no real purpose in any system of education. The church’s

whole educational aim is to restore the sons of Adam to their high position as children of God. [It insists that] education must prepare man for what he should do here below in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created. (From Pius XI, encyclical on the “Christian Education of Youth,” Dec. 31, 1929.)

Everything in education—content, method, discipline—must lead in the direction of humanity’s supernatural destiny.

New foundations

The three concerns that guided the development of 20th-century education were the child, science, and society. The foundations for this trilogy were laid by so-called progressive education movements supporting child-centred education, scientific-realist education, and social reconstruction.

Progressive education

The progressive education movement was part and parcel of a broader social and political reform called the Progressive movement, which dated to the last decades of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th. Elementary education had spread throughout the Western world, largely doing away with illiteracy and raising the level of social understanding. Yet, despite this progress, the schools had failed to keep pace with the tremendous social changes that had been going on.

Dissatisfaction with existing schools led several educational reformers who wished to put their ideas into practice to establish experimental schools during the last decade of the 19th century and in the early 20th century. The principal experimental schools in America until 1914 were the University of Chicago Laboratory School, founded in 1896 and directed by John Dewey; the Francis W. Parker School, founded in 1901 in Chicago; the School of Organic Education at Fairhope, Ala., founded by Marietta Johnson in 1907; and the experimental elementary school at the University of Missouri (Columbia), founded in 1904 by Junius L. Meriam. The common goal of all was to eliminate the school’s traditional stiffness and to break down hard and fast subject-matter lines. Three main traits characterized these schools: each school adopted an activity program; each school operated on the assumption that education was something that should not be imposed upon the child from the outside but should instead draw forth the latent possibilities from within the child; and each school believed in the democratic concept of individual worth.

Dewey, whose writings and lectures influenced educators throughout the world, laid the foundations of a new philosophy that affected the whole structure of education, particularly at the elementary level. His theories were expounded in School and Society (1899), The Child and the Curriculum (1902), and Democracy and Education (1916). For Dewey, philosophy and education render service to each other. Education becomes the laboratory of philosophy. Society should be interpreted to the child through daily living in the classroom, which acts as a miniature society. Education leads to no final end; it is something continuous, “a reconstruction of accumulated experience,” which must be directed toward social efficiency. Education is life, not merely a preparation for life.

The influence of progressive education advanced slowly during the first decades of the 20th century. Nevertheless, a number of progressive schools were established, including the Play School and the Walden School in New York City; the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Mass.; the Elementary School of the University of Iowa; and the Oak Lane Day School in Philadelphia. Helen Parkhurst’s Dalton Plan, introduced in 1920 at Dalton, Mass., pioneered individually paced learning of broad topics. Carleton Washburne’s Winnetka Plan, instituted in 1919 at Winnetka, Ill., viewed learning as a continuous process guided by the child’s own goals and capabilities. The Gary Plan, developed in 1908 at Gary, Ind., by William Wirt, established a “complete school,” embracing work, study, and play for all grades on a full-year basis.

The spread of progressive education became more rapid from the 1920s on and was not confined to any particular country. In the United States the Progressive Education Association (PEA) was formed in 1919. The PEA did much to further the cause of progressive education until it ended, as an organization, in 1955. In 1921 Europe’s leading progressives formed the New Education Fellowship, later renamed the World Education Fellowship.

The notions expressed by progressive education influenced public school systems everywhere. Some of the movement’s lasting effects were seen in activity programs, imaginative writing and reading classes, projects linked to the community, flexible classroom space, dramatics and informal activities, discovery methods of learning, self-assessment systems, and programs for the development of citizenship and responsibility.

Child-centred education

Proponents of the child-centred approach to education typically argued that the school should be fitted to the needs of the child and not the child to the school. These ideas, first explored in Europe, notably in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Émile (1762) and in Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi’s How Gertrude Teaches Her Children (1801), were implemented in American systems by pioneering educators such as Francis W. Parker. Parker became superintendent of schools in Quincy, Mass., in 1875. He assailed the mechanical, assembly-line methods of traditional schools and stressed “quality teaching,” by which he meant strategies such as activity, creative self-expression, excursions, understanding the individual, and the development of personality.

A different approach to child-centred education arose as a result of the study and care of the physically and mentally handicapped. Teachers had to invent their own methods to meet the needs of such children, because the ordinary schools did not supply them. When these methods proved successful with handicapped children, there arose the question of whether they might not yield even better results with nonhandicapped children. During the first decade of the 20th century, the educationists Maria Montessori of Rome and Ovide Decroly of Brussels both successfully applied their educational inventions in schools for ordinary boys and girls.

The Montessori method’s underlying assumption was the child’s need to escape from the domination of parent and teacher. According to Montessori, children, who are the unhappy victims of adult suppression, have been compelled to adopt defensive measures foreign to their real nature in the struggle to hold their own. The first move toward the reform of education, therefore, should be directed toward educators: to enlighten their consciences, to remove their perceptions of superiority, and to make them humble and passive in their attitudes toward the young. The next move should be to provide a new environment in which the child has a chance to live a life of his own. In the Montessori method, the senses are separately trained by means of apparatuses calculated to enlist spontaneous interest at the successive stages of mental growth. By similar self-educative devices, the child is led to individual mastery of the basic skills of everyday life and then to schoolwork in arithmetic and grammar.

The Decroly method was essentially a program of work based on centres of interest and educative games. Its basic feature was the workshop-classroom, in which children freely went about their own occupations. Behind the complex of individual activities was a carefully organized scheme of work based on an analysis of the fundamental needs of the child. The principle of giving priority to wholes rather than to parts was emphasized in teaching children to read, write, and count, and care was taken to reach a comprehensive view of the experiences of life. The Montessori and the Decroly methods spread throughout the world and widely influenced attitudes and practices of educating young children.

Pestalozzian principles also encouraged the introduction of music education into early childhood programs. Research showed that music has an undeniable effect on the development of the young child, especially in such areas as movement, temper, and speech and listening patterns. The four most common methods of early childhood music education were those developed by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Carl Orff, and Zoltán Kodály, as well as the Comprehensive Musicianship approach. The Dalcroze method emphasized movement; Orff, dramatization; Kodály, singing games; and Comprehensive Musicianship, exploration and discovery. Another popular method, developed by the Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki, was based on the theory that young children learn music in the same way that they learn their first language.

Scientific-realist education

The scientific-realist education movement began in 1900 when Édouard Claparède, then a doctor at the Psychological Laboratory of the University of Geneva, responded to an appeal from the women in charge of special schools for “backward” and “abnormal” children in Geneva. The experience allowed him to realize some of the defects of ordinary schools. Not as much thought was given, he argued, to the minds of children as was given to their feet. Their shoes were of different sizes and shapes, made to fit their feet. When would there be schools to measure? The psychological principles needed to adapt education to individual children were expounded in his Psychologie de l’enfant et pédagogie experimentale (1905; Experimental Pedagogy and the Psychology of the Child). Later Claparède took a leading part in the creation of the J.-J. Rousseau Institute in Geneva, a school of educational sciences to which came students from all over the world.

Theorists such as Claparède hoped to provide a scientific basis for education, an aim that was furthered by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who studied in a philosophical and psychological manner the intellectual development of children. Piaget argued, on the basis of his observations, that development of intelligence exhibits four chief stages and that the sequence is everywhere the same, although the ages in the stages of development may vary from culture to culture.

The first stage takes place during infancy, when children, even before they learn to speak, put objects together (addition) and then separate them (subtraction), perceiving them as collections, rings, networks, and groups. By the age of two or three, a basis has been laid. The children have developed kinetic muscular intelligence to some degree—they can think with their fingers, their hands, and their bodies. Aided by language, the capacity for symbolic thinking slowly develops, constituting the second stage. Up to the age of seven or eight, some of the fundamental categories of adult thinking are still absent; there is seldom any notion, for instance, of cause-and-effect relationships.

The third stage is that of concrete operation. The child has begun to know how to deal with mental symbols and acquires abstract notions, such as “responsibility.” But the child operates only when in the presence of concrete objects that can be manipulated. Pure abstract thinking is still too difficult. Teaching at this stage must be exceedingly concrete and active; purely verbal teaching is out of place. Only after about 12 years of age, with the onset of adolescence, do children develop the power to deal with formal mental operations not immediately attached to objects. Only then do theories begin to acquire real significance, and only then can purely verbal teaching be used.

The child’s total development, particularly emotional and social growth, also concerned educational reformers. They pointed out the error in assuming that incentives to mental effort are the same for adults and children. The English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, in his doctrine of the “Cycle of Interests,” put forward a theory in line with the ideas of the reformers. Romance, precision, and generalization, said Whitehead, are the stages through which, rhythmically, mental growth proceeds.

Education should consist in a continual repetition of such cycles. Each lesson in a minor way should form an eddy cycle issuing in its own subordinate process.

Whitehead believed that any scheme of education must be judged by the extent to which it stimulates a child to think. From the beginning of education, children should experience the joy of discovery.

Social-reconstructionist education

Social-reconstructionist education was based on the theory that society can be reconstructed through the complete control of education. The objective was to change society to conform to the basic ideals of the political party or government in power or to create a utopian society through education.

In the first half of the 20th century, communist education was possibly the most pervasive version of operational social-reconstructionism in the world. Originally based on the philosophy of Karl Marx and institutionalized in the Soviet Union, it reached a large proportion of the world’s youth. In the 1950s much attention was paid to the ideal of “polytechnization.” The human being, so the argument ran, is not simply Homo sapiens but rather Homo faber, the constructor and builder. He attains full mental, moral, and spiritual development through entering into social relations with others, particularly in cooperative efforts to produce material, artistic, and spiritual goods and achievements. The school should prepare pupils for such productive activities—for instance, by studying and, if possible, sharing in the work done in field, farm, or factory.

A different social-reconstructionist movement was that of the kibbutzim (collective farms) of Israel. The most striking feature of kibbutz education was that the parents forgo rearing and educating their offspring themselves and instead hand the children over to professional educators, sometimes immediately after birth. The kibbutzim type of education developed for both practical and economic reasons, but gradually four educational considerations gained prominence: (1) that the kibbutz way of life makes for complete equality of the sexes, (2) that the education of children in special children’s houses is the best way of perpetuating the kibbutz way of life, (3) that collective education is more “scientific” than education within the family, inasmuch as children are reared and trained by experts—i.e., qualified nurses, kindergarten teachers, and other educators—in an atmosphere free of the tensions engendered by family relationships, and (4) that collective education is more democratic than traditional education and more in keeping with the spirit of cooperative living.

Major trends and problems

The idea of social-reconstructionist education was based on a 19th-century belief in the power of education to change society. In the last quarter of the 20th century there was considerable pessimism, but the idea that schooling could influence either society or the individual was widely held, affecting the growth of tertiary-level alternatives, management strategies, and education of disadvantaged people, in both industrialized and developing countries.

The international concern with assistance to people in the non-Western world was paralleled by the inclusiveness that characterized education in the 20th century. Education was seen as a primary instrument in recognizing and providing equality for those suffering disadvantage because of sex, race, ethnic origin, age, or physical disability. This required revisions of textbooks, new consciousness about language, and change in criteria for admission to higher levels. It led to more demanding definitions of equality involving, for example, equality of outcome rather than of opportunity.

The inclusion of all children and youth was part of a general integrative trend that accelerated following World War II. It related to some newer developments as well. Concern for the Earth’s endangered environment became central, emphasizing in both intellectual and social life the need for cooperation rather than competition, the importance of understanding interrelationships of the ecosystem, and the idea that ecology could be used as an organizing concept. In a different vein, the rapid development of microelectronics, particularly the use of computers for multiple functions in education, progressed far beyond the possibilities of earlier technological advances. Although technology was thought of by some as antagonistic to humanistic concerns, others argued that it made communication and comprehension available to a wider population and encouraged “system thinking,” both ultimately integrative effects.

The polarization of opinion on technology’s effects and most other important issues was a problem in educational policy determination. In addition to the difficulties of governing increasingly large and diverse education systems, as well as those of meeting the never-ending demands of expanding education, the chronic lack of consensus rendered the system unable to respond satisfactorily to public criticism and unable to plan for substantive long-range development. The political and administrative responses were to attend to short-run efficiency by improving management techniques and to adopt polar responses to accommodate polar criticisms. Thus, community and community schools were emphasized along with central control and standardization, and institutional alternatives were opened while the structure of main institutions became more articulated. For example, the focus of attention was placed on the transition stages—from home to school, from primary to secondary to upper secondary, from school to work—which earlier were virtually ignored. Tertiary institutions were reconceived as part of a unified level, testing became more sophisticated, and credentials became more differentiated either by certificate or by transcript. Alternative teaching strategies were encouraged in theory, but basic curriculum uniformity effectively restricted the practice of new methods. General education was still mainly abstract, and subject matter—though internally more dynamic—still rested on language, mathematics, and science. There was an increasing reliance on the construction of subject matter to guide the method of teaching. Teachers were entrusted with a greater variety of tasks but were less trusted with knowledge, leading political authorities to call for upgrading of teacher training, teacher in-service training, and regular assessment of teacher performance.

Reform efforts focused on integrating general and vocational education and on encouraging lifelong or recurrent education to meet changing individual and social needs. Thus, not only did the number of students and institutions increase as a result of inclusion policies, but the scope of education also expanded. This tremendous growth, however, raised new questions about the proper functions of the school and the effectiveness for life, work, or intellectual advancement of current programs and means of instruction.

Western patterns of education

The United Kingdom

Early 19th to early 20th century

English education was less consciously nationalist than that of continental European countries but was deeply influenced by social class structure. Traditionally, the English held that the activity of the government should be restricted to essential matters such as the defense of property and should not interfere in education, which was the concern of family and church. The growth of a national education system throughout the 19th century continued without a clear plan or a national decision. The cornerstone of the modern system was laid by the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which accepted the principle that the establishment of a system of elementary schools should be the responsibility of the state. It did not, however, eliminate the traditional prominence of voluntary agencies in the sphere of English education or provide for secondary education, which was conducted largely by voluntary fee-charging grammar schools and “public” schools. These public schools were usually boarding schools charging rather high fees. Their tradition was aristocratic, exclusive, formal, and classical. Their main goal was to develop “leaders” for service in public life. In 1900 one child in 70 could expect to enter a secondary school of some kind. The grammar schools copied the curriculum of the public schools, so that only the intellectual and social elite were able to attend.

In 1899 an advance was made toward the development of a national system encompassing both elementary and secondary education by creating a Board of Education as the central authority for education. The Balfour Act of 1902 established a comprehensive system of local government for both secondary and elementary education. It created new local education authorities and empowered them to provide secondary schools and develop technical education. The Education Act of 1918 (The Fisher Act) aimed at the establishment of a “national system of public education available for all persons capable of profiting thereby.” Local authorities were called upon to prepare plans for the orderly and progressive development of education. The age of departure from formal education was raised to 14, and power was given to local authorities to extend it to 15.

Education Act of 1944

The Education Act of 1944 involved a thorough recasting of the educational system. The Board of Education was replaced by a minister who was to direct and control the local education authorities, thereby assuring a more even standard of educational opportunity throughout England and Wales. Every local education authority was required to submit for the minister’s approval a development plan for primary and secondary education and a plan for further education in its area. Two central advisory councils were constituted, one for England, another for Wales. These had the power, in addition to dealing with problems set by the minister, to tender advice on their own initiative. The total number of education authorities in England and Wales was reduced from 315 to 146.

The educational systems of Scotland and Northern Ireland were separate and distinct from that of England and Wales, although there were close links between them. The essential features of the Education Act of 1944 of England and Wales were reproduced in the Education Act of 1945 in Scotland and in the Education Act of 1947 in Northern Ireland. There were such adaptations in each country as were required by local traditions and environment.

The complexity of the education system in the United Kingdom arose in part from the pioneer work done in the past by voluntary bodies and a desire to retain the voluntary element in the state system. The act of 1944 continued the religious compromise expressed in the acts of 1870 and 1902 but elaborated and modified it after much consultation with the parties concerned. The act required that, in every state-aided primary and secondary school, the day should begin with collective worship on the part of all pupils and that religious instruction should be given in every such school. As in earlier legislation, however, there was a conscience clause, and another to ensure that no teacher should suffer because of religious convictions. Religious instruction continued to be given in both fully maintained and state-aided voluntary schools, and opportunities existed for religious training beyond the daily worship and minimum required instruction. In many schools the religious offering became nondenominational, and in areas of high non-Christian immigrant population consideration might be given to alternative religious provisions.

Two fundamental reforms in the act of 1944 were the requirement of secondary education for all, a requirement that meant that no school fees could be charged in any school maintained by public authority; and the replacement of the former distinction between elementary and higher education by a new classification of “three progressive stages to be known as primary education, secondary education, and further education.” To provide an adequate secondary education in accordance with “age, ability, and aptitude,” as interpreted by the Ministry of Education, three separate schools were necessary: the grammar school, modeled on elite public schools; the less intellectually rigorous secondary modern school; and the technical school. If, in exceptional circumstances, such provisions were made in a single school, then the school would have to be large enough to comprise the three separate curricula under one roof. Children were directed to the appropriate school at the age of 11 by means of selection tests.

The tripartite system of grammar, secondary modern, and technical schools did not, in fact, flourish. The ministry had never been specific about the proportion of “technically minded” children in the population but, in terms of school places provided in practice, it was about 5 percent. Since, on the average, grammar school places were available to 20 percent, this left 75 percent of the child population to be directed to the secondary modern schools for which the ministry advocated courses not designed to lead to any form of qualification.

The comprehensive movement

Selection procedures at the age of 11, through what is called the “eleven-plus” examination, proved to be the Achilles’ heel of the grammar school–secondary modern system. Various developments contributed to the downfall of selection at 11: first, the examination successes of the students in modern secondary schools; second, the failure of a significant proportion of the children so carefully selected for grammar schools; and third, the report of a committee appointed by the British Psychological Society, which supported arguments that education itself promotes intellectual development and that “intelligence” tests do not, in fact, measure genetic endowment but rather educational achievement.

The main issue in the 1950s and ’60s was whether or not the grammar schools should be retained with selection at 11-plus. One of the main arguments used was that the right of “parental choice” must be upheld. Another was that it was in the “English tradition” to retain a selective system. But gradually the number of comprehensive (nonselective) schools increased.

During the election of 1964, the Labour Party promised to promote the establishment of the comprehensive school and to abolish selection at 11-plus. Upon taking office, however, the Labour government, instead of legislating, issued a circular in the belief that this would enlist local support and encourage local initiative. The result was conflict between national policy and local policy in some areas. The Conservative government elected in 1970 declared its intention of leaving decisions about reorganization to the local authorities. The comprehensive principle became dominant, and the number of comprehensive schools grew under both Labour and Conservative governments, so that most state-maintained secondary schools were comprehensive. The administrative compromise of leaving organizational options open to local authorities permitted variations to continue, however, and 5 to 6 percent of the school population attended completely independent private schools. Enrollment at the exclusively academic, often prestigious, and costly independent secondary schools might be preceded by attendance at private preparatory schools.

Primary school attendance began at age 5 and was usually divided into an infant stage (ages 5 to 7) and a junior stage (ages 8 to 11). In those few localities using a middle school organization, children attended the middle school from age 8 or 9 to age 13 or 14. Preschool provision was uneven, but a great deal of innovation took place in the ideas and practices of early childhood learning. In the infant school, children worked together with their teacher. Children might be placed together vertically in the same class, like a family group. Play was considered an activity of central significance in the infant school. It was a vehicle for the child’s motivation and learning, carefully structured to promote cognitive development. The teacher’s job was to set the environment through organization of space, time, and materials; to encourage, guide, and stimulate; and to see that all children learn and develop independence and responsibility. Studies were interrelated, and the curriculum was flexible.

The compromise regarding school organization was representative of the British educational administration’s attempt to balance local and national interests delicately. Local education authorities were responsible for basic school operations, and much of the professional responsibility was passed on to the school. This representation of community and professional interest was underscored in policy documents, such as the 1980 Education Act’s stipulation that governing boards include at least two parent and two teacher representatives. Local education authorities maintained a professional administrative staff and administered school finances, which were funded primarily by government grants and local property taxes.

Ultimate authority for education was at the national level, with the Department of Education and Science (formerly the Ministry of Education) headed by the secretary of state for education and science. The department was the agent of governmental policy. It reached schools through circulars and directives as well as through Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools. The inspectors increasingly advised and reported on the general condition of schooling.

Under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, emphasis was placed on management efficiency. While decentralization applied to operational decisions, the government increasingly pushed for standardization of curriculum and streamlining of assessment procedures. Traditionally, curriculum had been decentralized to the extreme in the United Kingdom, being a matter of teacher’s professional judgment, unified only informally (though effectively) through the influence of teacher training, publicized curriculum projects, textbook choices, and public examination syllabi. This resulted in a great deal of curriculum agreement in the common schooling period, narrowing to a secondary core to age 16, including a wide range of options in the comprehensive school, and different basic curricula in selective systems. Independent schools showed some variations, particularly in the requirement of Latin, and the upper secondary stage was characterized by specialization. Through the 1970s and ’80s, however, there was central pressure on curriculum improvement in science, practical elements, technical and vocational education, and the relationship of education to economic life. Influential publications proposed standardization of the curriculum nationally.

Probably the issue that received the most attention was the relationship of education to the economy, to industry, and to work. Much of the impact of this attention was on the post-compulsory sector. Schemes developed outside the educational establishment provided training for young school-leavers. The Technical and Vocational Education Initiative called for local education authority cooperation with the Manpower Services Commission in the introduction of technical courses that spanned school and post-school training. Reforms to the examination and certification system exemplified the government’s thrust toward improvement of the education–economy link, toward rationalization of the system, and toward coordinated, standardized assessment procedures.

Further education

Further education was officially described as the “post-secondary stage of education, comprising all vocational and nonvocational provision made for young people who have left school, or for adults.” Further education thus embraced the vast range of university, technical, commercial, and art education and the wide field of adult education. It was this sector of education, which was concerned with education beyond the normal school-leaving ages of 16 or 18, that experienced the most astonishing growth in the number of students.

In the 19th century, the dominance of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge was challenged by the rise of the civic universities, such as London, Manchester, and Birmingham. Following the lead of the 18th-century German universities and responding to a public demand for increased opportunity for higher education, Britain’s new civic universities quickly acquired recognition—not only in technological fields but also in the fine and liberal arts.

Many new post-school technical colleges were founded in the early 20th century. The Fisher Act of 1918 empowered the local authorities to levy a rate (tax) to finance such colleges. The universities, on the other hand, received funds from the central government through the University Grants Committee, established in 1911 and reorganized in 1920, after World War I.

A new type of technical college established in the 1960s, the polytechnic, provided mainly university-level technological as well as general courses in the arts and sciences. Polytechnics were chartered to award degrees validated by a Council for National Academic Awards.

Thus, the tertiary level in the United Kingdom was made up of colleges of further education, technical colleges, polytechnics, and universities. The colleges offered full-time and part-time courses beyond compulsory-school level. Polytechnics and universities were mainly responsible for degrees and research. The innovative Open University, with its flexible admission policy and study arrangements, was established in 1971. It used various media to provide highly accessible and flexible higher education for working adults and other part-time students. It served as an organizational model and provided course materials for similar institutions in other countries.

Changes in British education in the second half of the 20th century extended education by population, level, and content without changing the basic values of the system. New areas for expansion included immigrant cultural groups and multicultural content, the accommodation of special needs, and the development of tools and content in the expanding fields of microelectronics.


Imperial Germany

The formation of the German Empire in 1871 saw the beginning of centralized political control in the country and a corresponding emphasis on state purposes for education. Although liberal and socialist ideas were discussed—and even practiced in experimental schools—the main features of the era were the continued systematization of education, which had progressed in Prussia from 1763, and the class-based division of schools. Education for the great bulk of the population stressed not only literacy but also piety and morality, vocational and economic efficiency, and above all obedience and discipline. The minority of citizens in the upper social and economic strata were educated in separate schools according to a classical humanist rationale of intelligence and fitness that equipped them to fill the higher positions in the Reich. Reform proposals in the last decade of the 19th century led to an overhaul of the education system, but the changes did not remove class privileges.

The Volksschule was universal, free, and compulsory. The fundamental subjects were taught along with gymnastics and religion, which held important places in the curriculum. Girls and boys were taught in separate schools except when it was uneconomical to do so. Boys usually received training in manual work, and girls in domestic science. Graduates of the Volksschule found it almost impossible to enter the secondary school, which was attended almost exclusively by graduates of private preparatory schools charging fees. The Volksschule led its students directly to work and was thus separate and parallel to the secondary school program rather than sequential.

Boys who, at the age of nine, were about to enter secondary school had to decide on one of the three types of schools, each offering a different curriculum. The traditional classical Gymnasium stressed Latin and Greek. The Realgymnasium offered a curriculum that was a compromise between the humanities and modern subjects. The Oberrealschule stressed modern languages and sciences. Although Kaiser William II threw his influence on the side of the modernists in 1890, the Gymnasium continued to overshadow the other two schools until after World War II.

Secondary schools for girls were recognized by Prussia in 1872 and were extended and improved in 1894 and again in 1908. These schools were fee-paying and were thus available chiefly to the upper social and economic strata. The course of instruction lasted 10 years, from age 6 to 16. This 10-year school was called the Lyzeum, the first three years being preparatory. Beyond it was the Oberlyzeum, which was divided into two courses: the Frauenschule, which offered a two-year general course, and the Lehrerinnenseminar, which offered a four-year course for prospective elementary school teachers. Girls who wanted a secondary school education similar to that of the boys transferred at the age of 13 to the Studienanstalt.

Continuation schools for the working class augmented apprenticeship training with part-time education. They were the forerunners of the part-time vocational Berufsschulen, which continued through the close of the century. Greatly influenced by the ideas of Georg Kerschensteiner, these schools increased in importance in the early 20th century. Between 1919 and 1938 they filled out the secondary sector to ensure attendance at some kind of school for all youth to the age of 18.

Weimar Republic

In no sphere of public activity did the establishment of the Weimar Republic after 1919 cause more creative discussion and more far-reaching changes than in that of education. A four-year Grundschule was established, free and compulsory for all children. It was the basic building block for all subsequent social liberalization in education. Besides the elementary subjects and religion, the child was instructed in drawing, singing, physical training, and manual work. The Oberstufe, the four upper classes of the elementary school, combined with the Grundschule to form a complete whole. Most elementary schools thus provided an eight-year course of study. Intermediate schools (Mittelschulen) were established for children who wished a longer and more advanced elementary school course and were able to pay modest fees.

The Weimar constitution preserved the religious tradition, which had been an essential part of the school curriculum in Germany since the Reformation. No pupil, however, could be compelled to study religion, and no teacher could be forced to teach it. Communities were accorded the right to establish schools in accordance with the particular religious beliefs of the pupils.

As regards secondary education, the Weimar Republic kept the prewar division of Gymnasium, Realgymnasium, and Oberrealschule. (There were three comparable schools for girls.) In addition, there was established the Aufbauschule, which was a six-year school following completion of the seventh year of the elementary school, and the Deutsche Oberschule, a nine-year school that required two modern foreign languages and stressed German culture.

Nazi Germany

After Adolf Hitler’s accession to power in 1933, the Nazis set out to reconstruct German society. To do that, the totalitarian government attempted to exert complete control over the populace. Every institution was infused with National Socialist ideology and infiltrated by Nazi personnel in chief positions. Schools were no exception. Even before coming to power, Hitler in Mein Kampf (1925–27; “My Struggle”) had hinted at his plans for broad educational exploitation. The Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda exercised control over virtually every form of expression—radio, theatre, cinema, the fine arts, the press, churches, and schools. The control of the schools began in March 1933 with the issuing of the first educational decree, which held that “German culture must be treated thoroughly.”

The Nazi government attempted to control the minds of the young and thus, among other means, intruded Nazi beliefs into the school curriculum. A major part of biology became “race science,” and health education and physical training did not escape the racial stress. Geography became geopolitics, the study of the fatherland being fundamental. Physical training was made compulsory for all, as was youth labour service. Much of the fundamental curriculum was not disturbed, however.

Changes after World War II

Immediately after World War II, the occupying powers (Britain, France, and the United States in the western zones and the Soviet Union in the east) instituted education programs designed to clean out Nazi influence and to reflect their respective educational values. These efforts were soon absorbed into independent German educational reconstruction. The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) of May 1949 granted autonomy in educational matters to the Länd (state) governments. Although efforts to strengthen the federal government’s presence waxed and waned, Länd governments remained independent and divided along political lines on educational reforms.

The two main political issues dividing the states had always been confessional schooling and the tripartite division of secondary schooling, with conservative states like Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg on one side and socially progressive states like Hessen and West Berlin on the other. After a 20-year period of reform discussion on these issues, marked by influential state or national proposals, the balance shifted in the mid-1970s to the conservatives—albeit with a great deal of internal liberalization. That is, confessional schools and confessional instruction in schools remained, but the latter was increasingly in ecumenical or ethical versions. This change, like others, was supported by the presence of a large number of non-German children representing various cultural beliefs and behaviours. On the issue of dividing secondary schools, in spite of continued strong intellectual and political support from some quarters, the movement toward comprehensive schools had, at least for the time being, died out. Even where comprehensive schools (Gesamtschulen) existed, they usually incorporated separate secondary paths. Nevertheless, the effective extension of common schooling through an “orientation stage” between elementary and secondary schooling, the attempt to develop each level so that it better served more youth—even if differentially—and the functional integration of school branches through curriculum reform and transfer possibilities all pointed to a comprehensiveness within the system.

Education was compulsory from age 6 to 18. In general, pupils spent four years in the elementary school (Grundschule), six years in one of the lower secondary branches, and two years in one of the upper secondary branches. The first two years of the lower secondary school constituted the “orientation stage.” Long governed by entrance examination, the choice of secondary school was now made by the parents. However, performance at the orientation stage—especially in the subjects of German, mathematics, and foreign language (English)—influenced decisions.

In the late 20th century about 25 percent of secondary-school-age children entered the Gymnasium, which, with different academic emphases, remained the successor to its Classical ancestor. Roughly 40 percent attended the nonselective Hauptschule (“main school”), which offered basic subjects to grade 9 or 10 and was followed by apprenticeship with part-time vocational school or by full-time vocational school. Approximately 25 percent attended the Realschule (formerly Mittelschule), which offered academic and prevocational options. It led to vocational school or technical school, which in turn led to commercial, technical, or administrative occupations. The vocational-technical sector was always given careful government and industry attention, and the network included a wide range of methods and content alternatives, with levels up to a university equivalent. All these institutions encompassed general education, theory of the trade or industrial field, and work practice. The schools could be reentered from work and could provide an alternative path to the university.

One of the means of coordinating differences among Länd systems was through the Conference of the Cultural Ministers of the states, and one of the important resolutions of this body, in 1973, was for reform of the upper secondary stage. Attention was given to equalizing opportunities at this stage. This affected the Gymnasium by shifting much of the traditional load to the upper level. Although the first stage was still academically demanding, the foreign-language requirement was much more flexible, and many students left for work at the end of the 10th school year. The upper level was required to reach the Abitur, qualifying the student for university entrance. Although the range of subjects was extended, courses were diversified, and final achievement was indicated by a cumulative point system. The upper level of the Gymnasium was characterized by breadth of knowledge at a high intellectual standard, including cultural essentials as well as an academic concentration, and thus still captured the German educational ideal.

Whether due to periodic change, German tradition, or inadequate understanding of the reform process, the educational system had irresistibly returned to basic principles. The incorporation of new alternatives and individual opportunities yielded an open rather than a fundamentally changed system. This may have been the best way for education to meet the major political themes of 20th-century Germany: individual rights as the criterion of policy determination and the European community as the broader context of national development.


The Third Republic

The establishment of the Third Republic (1870) brought about the complete renovation of the French schools, in the process of which education became a national enterprise. In 1882 primary education was made compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 13. In 1886 members of the clergy were forbidden to teach in the public schools, and in 1904 the teaching congregations were suppressed. France had thus established a national free, compulsory, and secularized system of elementary schooling. (Although secularization was a necessary government strategy, it was also necessary to permit private Catholic schools, and these continued to enroll a significant number of French children.)

In spite of the attempt to unify education through national purpose and centralized means, two parallel systems existed: that of the public elementary schools and higher primary schools and that of the selective, overwhelmingly intellectual secondary lycées and their preparatory schools. The lycées emphasized Classical studies through the study of Greek and Latin. It was not until 1902 that this exclusive emphasis was challenged by a reform promoting the study of modern languages and science and not until the period between World Wars I and II that education was seen to have a vocational function, other than grossly in a social-class sense, and thus to require democratization.

The administration of education in France remained highly centralized and continued to be concerned with every aspect of national education, including curricula, syllabi, textbooks, and teacher performance. At the head of the system was the minister of national education, who was advised and assisted by a hierarchy of officials. The country was divided into 27 educational administrative areas, each known as an “academy.” The chief education officer was the rector, the minister’s most important representative, who administered the laws and regulations. The inspectorate, represented by regional inspectors under an inspecteur d’académie and by national inspectors, had extensive bureaucratic and supervisory powers.

Changes after World War II

From 1946 education was included in the plans developed by the central planning commission in France. In general, government was friendly to educational development and reform. Student protests in the late 1960s caused an antagonistic reaction, however, and teacher resistance appeared to work against many government reform initiatives. Government reform trends moved toward increasing administrative efficiency and accountability, meeting national economic needs through improved technological education, improving the articulation of system parts, opening the school to the community, and correcting inequalities, through both curricular and organizational provisions. Attention was given not only to “socializing” the system but also to correcting inequalities suffered by French ethnic minorities and immigrant children, to amending social-geographic inequalities, and to increasing options for the handicapped in both special schools and, after the mid-1970s, regular schools.

In 1947 a commission established to examine the educational system recommended a thorough overhauling of the entire school system. Education was to be compulsory from age 6 to 18. Schooling was to be divided into three successive stages: (1) 6 to 11, aimed at mastery of the basic skills and knowledge, (2) 11 to 15, a period of guidance to discover aptitudes, and (3) 15 to 18, a stage during which education was to be diversified and specialized. The system consistently developed from one featuring a common elementary school to one incorporating a progression into separate paths. Reforms aimed to provide equality of educational experience at each stage and to create curricular conditions that furthered career advancement without abridging general education or forcing students to choose a profession prematurely.

Preschool education was given in the école maternelle, in which attendance was voluntary from age 2 to 6. Education was both compulsory and free between 6 and 16 years of age. The five-year elementary school was followed by a four-year lower secondary school, the collège unique, which was the object of much attention. The first two years at the collège unique constituted the observation cycle, during which teachers observed student performance. During the remaining two years, the orientation cycle, teachers offered guidance and assisted pupils in identifying their abilities and determining a career direction.

At the upper secondary level, from age 15 to 18, students entered either the general and technological high school (lycée d’enseignement général et technologique), successor to the traditional academic high school, or the vocational senior high school (lycée d’enseignement professionel), encompassing a range of vocational-technical studies and qualifications. Students entering the former chose one of three basic streams the first year, then concentrated the next two years on one of five sections of study: literary-philosophical studies, economics and social science, mathematics and physical science, Earth science and biological science, or scientific and industrial technology. The number of sections and, particularly, the number of technological options were scheduled for expansion. There was a common core of subjects plus electives in grades 10 and 11, but all subjects were oriented to the pupil’s major area of study. In grade 12 the subjects were optional. The baccalauréat examination taken at the end of these studies qualified students for university entrance. It consisted of written and oral examinations. More than half of the 70 percent who passed were females. The proportion of the age group reaching this peak of school success increased continuously, with corresponding effects on entrance to higher education.

Vocational-technical secondary education included a wide variety of options. Each of the courses leading to one of the 30 or so technical baccalauréats required three years of study and prepared students for corresponding studies in higher education. Students might also choose to obtain, in descending order of qualification requirements and course demands, the technician diploma (brevet de technicien), the diploma of vocational studies (brevet d’études professionelles), or the certificate of vocational aptitude (certificat d’aptitude professionelle). A one-year course conferring no specialized qualification was also available. As an alternative, youths might opt for apprenticeship training in the workplace.

Higher education was offered in universities, in institutes attached to a university, and in the grandes écoles. Students attended for two to five years and sat either for a diploma or, in certain establishments, for university degrees or for a competitive examination, such as the agrégation. Undergraduate courses lasted for three or four years, depending on the type of degree sought.

The universities went through a period of violent student dissatisfaction in the late 1960s. Reforms ensued encouraging decentralization, diversification of courses, and moderation of the importance of examinations. Nevertheless, the failure or dropout rate in the first two years remained high, and there were marked differences in status among institutions and faculties.

Teachers were graded according to the results of a competitive academic examination, and their training and qualifications varied by grade. The five grades ranged from the elementary teacher to the highly qualified graduate agrégé, who enjoyed the lightest teaching load and the highest prestige and who taught at the secondary level or higher. The differences had long been a matter of concern, as had the entrenchment of the higher levels of the teaching establishment. The system had resisted reforms calling for more uniformity in teacher status, changes in method and content orientation, teacher cooperation, interdisciplinarity, and technological familiarity. Reforms to extend the level of common education, to increase options at the upper secondary level, to strengthen the technological component, and to introduce steps to improve the link between school and work were nonetheless achieved. Internal reform proposals included the more flexible organization of time and content and the addition of extracurricular activities appropriate to the real life of youth and society. Government forays into decentralization promoted community links at the school level and school program initiatives. The outcomes affected the system at best gradually, however.

Other European countries

Until the early 1990s most eastern European education systems followed the old Soviet model (see below Russia: From tsarism to communism). In Europe many countries were influenced by the British, German, and French systems, but there were numerous variations, some of which are treated here.


Education in Italy up to 1923 was governed by the Casati Law, passed in 1859, when the country was being unified. The Casati Law organized the school system on the French plan of centralized control. In 1923 the entire national school system was reformed. The principle of state supremacy was reinforced by introducing at the end of each main course of studies a state examination to be taken by pupils from both public and private schools.

Eight years of schooling became compulsory beginning in 1948, although this plan was not realized until 1962. The five-year elementary school, for pupils aged 6 to 11, was followed by the undifferentiated middle or lower secondary school (scuola media) for pupils from 11 to 14. There continued to be a strong private (mainly Roman Catholic) interest in preschools and in teacher training for elementary and preschool levels.

Although reform proposals called for an extension of the unitary principle through the five-year upper secondary level, this level was highly diversified, with classical and scientific licei (schools) and a vast array of programs in vocational and industrial technical institutes. Shorter courses were given in institutes for elementary teachers and in art schools.

Entrance to Italian universities was gained by successful completion of any of the upper secondary alternatives. Universities were basically the only form of postsecondary education. They required the passing of a variable number of examinations, after which the students sat for a degree (laurea), which gave them the title of dottore. To be able to exercise any profession—such as that of lawyer, doctor, or business consultant—the students were required to take a state examination. Students who did not complete their studies in the normal period of time (from four to six years) might remain at the university for several years as fuori corso (“out of sequence”).

The unification of the lower levels and the expansion of academic and particularly vocational-technical alternatives at the upper level were notable advances, but the Italian education system still suffered from fragmentation and lack of articulation. Indications of low achievement and regional inequalities, in spite of relatively heavy public investment, suggested problems with system effectiveness. The force of conservative political, religious, and educational resistance to change likely maintained divisions of policy and outcome.

The Netherlands

The first modern school law in the Netherlands was passed in 1801, when the government laid down the principle that each parish had the right to open and maintain schools. A debate between the proponents of denominational and nondenominational schools went on during the 19th century. The controversy was closed by a law of 1920, which declared that denominational schools were fully equal with state schools, both types being eligible for public funds. The resultant decentralization was unique. Roughly two-thirds of the Dutch school-age children attended private schools. In return for public funds, the private school—which might be Protestant, Roman Catholic, or secular—had to provide a curriculum equivalent to that offered by the public schools.

Religious-philosophical diversity was a characteristic feature of Dutch schools. Secondary education comprised four main types: preuniversity, general, vocational, and miscellaneous, which might be part-time. Selection decisions were strongly influenced by examinations. Preprimary and primary schools were later combined into single eight-year schools for children aged 4 to 12. Other changes included the growth of vocational education at the postsecondary level and the increase in opportunity for females, as indicated by increasing enrollment at higher levels and by the establishment of special programs, such as those giving women whose schooling was interrupted the chance to return and finish their education.


The Swiss constitution of 1874 provided that each canton (state) or half canton must organize and maintain free and compulsory elementary schools. The federal government exercised no educational function below the university level, except to help finance the municipal and cantonal schools. The Swiss school system thus consisted of 26 cantonal systems, each having its own department of education, which set up its own school regulations. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education increased its efforts to achieve some educational unity, but great diversity remained.

In general, schooling was compulsory for eight or nine years, beginning at the age of six or seven. The elementary and lower secondary curriculum continued to stress mathematics and language. Cantonal differences in the training of elementary school teachers remained a matter of concern, but provisions for additional training of in-service teachers were good. Each cantonal system began to diversify at the lower secondary level and was even further differentiated at the post-compulsory upper secondary level. The pupil’s future professional life was a decisive factor in the selection of post-compulsory schooling. Most pupils entered one of the many vocational courses, in which apprenticeship had long played a serious role. Among preuniversity schools, three types were added to the two traditional ones emphasizing Classical languages; the new schools stressed mathematics and science (1925), modern languages (1972), and economics (1972). Later proposals favoured the consolidation of the preuniversity schools.


After World War II the Swedish government began to extend and unify the school system, which had historically been the domain of the Lutheran church. In 1950 the National Board of Education introduced a nine-year compulsory comprehensive school, with differentiation of pupils postponed until late in the program. This grundskola replaced all other forms in the compulsory period by 1972–73. Following the unification of the elementary and lower secondary levels was the systematic integration of the upper secondary level, spanning ages 16 to 19. This gymnasieskola used organizational and extracurricular means of integration, but students were separated into 25 “lines,” many of which were general-academic, though most were vocational. Reforms were implemented to make higher education available to more people, and adult education was encouraged.

The Swedish reform attracted much attention in Europe for several reasons. It achieved the earliest unequivocal unification of the compulsory-school sector. While moving toward increased levels of integration in the system, the reciprocity of differentiation and integration was used as a principle of school development. As a result, the vocational sector was incorporated into the general upper secondary school. Theory and practice were recognized as components of all programs. The reform process, which specified a long period of experimentation and voluntary action (1950 to 1962) and a correspondingly long period of implementation (1962 to 1972), was singularly well conceived to build planning into participation and practice. The resultant organization was stable but open to change on the same principles. Thus, the new equality thrust went beyond establishing equal opportunity to providing compensatory measures, even though they sometimes limited free choice—as, for example, in the use of sex quotas to bring women or men into occupations where they were underrepresented.

Attention also focused on the Swedish approach to recurrent education, which introduced the idea of interchanging school and work as early as the secondary level. The coordination of school and work life, which was a worldwide goal, was not only built into institutional programs in Sweden but also pursued there at a grass-roots level through local councils.

The United States

As the United States entered the 20th century, the principles that underlay its educational enterprise were already set. Educational sovereignty rested in the states. Education was free, compulsory, universal, and articulated from kindergarten to university, though the amount of free schooling varied from state to state, as did the age of required school attendance. Although a state could order parents to educate their children, it could not compel them to send their children to a public school. Parents with sectarian persuasions could send their offspring to religious schools. In principle, there was to be equal educational opportunity.

Expansion of American education

Although such principles remained the basis of America’s educational endeavour, that endeavour—like America itself—underwent a vast evolution. The once-controversial parochial schools not only continued to exist but also increasingly drew public financial support for programs or students. The currency of privatization, carrying the idea of free choice in a private-sector educational market, strengthened the bargaining position of religious as well as other private schools. The issue of equality succeeded the issue of religion as the dominant topic of American educational debate.

Conditions varied markedly among regions of the country. Definitions of equal opportunity became more sophisticated, referring increasingly to wealth, region, physical disability, race, sex, or ethnic origin, rather than simply to access. Means for dealing with inequality became more complex. From the 1950s, measures to open schools, levels, and programs to minority students changed from the passive “opportunity” conception to “affirmative action.” Measured by high school completion and college attendance figures—both generally high and continually rising in the United States—and by standardized assessment scores, gains for African American and other minority students were noteworthy from the 1970s.

Although state departments of education used equalization formulas and interdistrict incentives to reach the poorest areas under their jurisdiction, conditions remained disadvantageous and difficult to address in some areas, particularly the inner cities, where students were mostly minorities. City schools often represented extremes in the array of problems facing youth—generally drug and alcohol abuse, crime, suicide, unwanted pregnancy, and illness—and the complex situation seemed intractable. Meeting the needs of a racially and ethnically mixed population, however, turned from the problem of the cities and from an assimilationist solution toward educational means of knowing and understanding the disadvantaged groups. States mandated multicultural courses in schools and for teachers. Districts introduced bilingual instruction and provided instruction in English as a second language. Books were revised to better represent the real variety in the population. The status of women was given attention, particularly through women’s studies, through improved access to higher education (women were now a majority of U.S. college students) and to fields previously exclusive to men, and through attempts to revise sexist language in books, instruction, and research.

A persistent idea in American democracy is that everyone, regardless of condition, should have a fair chance. Such is the tenet that underlay the establishment of the free, tax-supported common school and high school. As science pointed the way, the effort to bridge the gulf between the haves and have-nots extended to those with physical and mental handicaps. Most states and many cities undertook programs to teach the handicapped, though financially the going was difficult. In 1958 Congress appropriated $1 million to help prepare teachers of mentally retarded children. Thenceforward, federal aid for the handicapped steadily increased. With the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975—and with corresponding legislation in states and communities—facilities, program development, teacher preparation, and employment training for the handicapped advanced more rapidly and comprehensively than in any other period. In 1990 the act underwent revision and was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA); the law was significantly updated again in 2004. Reforms aimed to place handicapped children in the least-restrictive environment and, where possible, to “mainstream” them in regular schools and classes.

At the turn of the 20th century, American youths attended an eight-year elementary school, whereupon those who continued went to a four-year high school. This “eight–four system” wholly prevailed until about 1910, when the “six–three–three system” made a modest beginning. Under the rearrangement, the pupil studied six years in the elementary school and three in the junior and senior high schools, respectively. Both systems were in use, there being almost the same number of four-year high schools and three–three junior–senior high school arrangements. There was a change at the elementary–junior high connection to include a system in which children attended an elementary school for four or five years and then a middle school for three or four years. The rapid growth of preschool provisions—with the establishment of an immense body of early-childhood teachers, day care workers, new “nannies,” producers of learning materials, and entrepreneurs—secured the place of the kindergarten as an educational step for five-year-olds and made available a wide, but mainly nonpublic, network of education for younger children.

In 1900 only a handful of the lower school’s alumni—some 500,000—advanced into the high school. Of those who took their high school diploma during this early period, some three out of every four entered college. The ratio reversed, as high school enrollments swelled 10-fold over the first 50 years of the century, with only one of every four high school graduates going on to higher learning. As even more students finished high school, demands for access to the postsecondary level increased accordingly.

Curriculum reforms

From such experimental programs as the Dalton Plan, the Winnetka Plan, and the Gary Plan, and from the pioneering work of Francis W. Parker and notably John Dewey, which ushered in the “progressive education” of the 1920s and ’30s, American schools, curricula, and teacher training opened up in favour of flexible and cooperative methods pursued within a school seen as a learning community. The attempt to place the nature and experience of the child and the present life of the society at the centre of school activity was to last long after progressive education as a defined movement ended.

Some retrenchment occurred in the 1950s as a result of scientific challenges from the Soviet Union in a period of international political tension. Resulting criticisms of scientific education in the United States were, however, parried by educationists. America’s secondary school attuned itself more and more to preparing the young for everyday living. Consequently, though it still served prospective collegians the time-honoured academic fare, it went to great lengths to accommodate the generality of young America with courses in areas such as automobile driving, cookery, carpentry, and writing. In addition to changes in the form of earlier practical subjects, the curriculum responded to social issues by including such subjects as consumer education (or other applications of the economics of a free-enterprise society), ethnic or multicultural education, environmental education, sex and family-life education, and substance-abuse education. Interest in vocational-technical education was directed toward establishing specialized vocational schools, improving career information resources, integrating school and work experience, utilizing community resources, and meeting the needs of the labour market.

National prosperity and, even more, the cash value that a secondary diploma was supposed to bestow upon its owner enhanced the high school’s growth. So did the fact that more and more states required their young to attend school until their 16th, and sometimes even their 17th, birthday. However, economic strains, the ineffectiveness of many schools, and troubled school situations in which the safety of children and teachers was threatened led to questions about the extension of “compulsory youth” in high schools.

Criticisms were also leveled at the effects and aftereffects on education of 1960s idealism and its conflict with harsh realities. The publicized emphases on alternatives in lifestyle and on deinstitutionalization were ultimately, in their extreme form, destructive to public education. They were superseded by conservative attitudes favouring a return to the planning and management of a clearly defined curriculum. The dramatic fall in scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (a standardized test taken by a large number of high school graduates) between 1963 and 1982 occasioned a wave of public concern. A series of national, state, and private-agency reviews followed. The report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk (1983), set the tone. The emphasis was now on quality of school performance and the relation of schooling to career. The main topics of concern were the curriculum, standardization of achievement, credentialing, and teacher preparation and performance. In order to clarify what was expected of teachers and students, states increasingly detailed curricula, set competency standards, mandated testing, and augmented the high school diploma by adding another credential or by using transcripts to show superior achievement. Curriculum reforms accentuated the academic basics—particularly mathematics, science, and language—as well as the “new basics,” including computers. Computers became increasingly important in education, not only as a field of study but also as reference and teaching aids. Teachers were using computers to organize and prepare course materials; children were taught to use computers at earlier ages; and more and more institutions were using computer-assisted instruction systems, which offered interactive instruction on a one-on-one basis and could be automatically modified to suit the user’s level of ability. In the 1990s the growth of the Internet significantly increased the availability and, in many areas, the quality of education.

The reports on the state of education also expressed concern for gifted children, who tended to be neglected in American education. Until psychologists and sociologists started to apply their science to the superior child, gifted children were not suspected of entertaining any particular problems. Eventually, however, augmented with federal, state, and sometimes foundation money, one city after another embarked on educational programs for the bright child. From the 1970s on, gifted children were directly recruited into special academic high schools and other local programs. American education was still aimed at broadening or raising the level of general provision, however, so neither programs for the gifted nor those for vocational education were treated as specifically as in some other countries.

Federal involvement in local education

Although the U.S. Constitution has delegated educational authority to the states, which in turn passed on the responsibility for the daily administration of schools to local districts, there is no lack of federal counsel and assistance. Actually, national educational aid is older than the Constitution, having been initiated in 1787 in the form of land grants. Seventy-five years later the Morrill Act disbursed many thousands of acres to enable the states to promote a “liberal and practical education.” Soon thereafter the government created the federal Department of Education under the Department of the Interior and in 1953 established the Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. As the independent Department of Education from 1980, this agency took a vigorous role in stating national positions and in researching questions of overall interest. Its findings proved influential in both state and local reforms.

Education funding was shared among local districts, states, and the federal government. Beginning with the Smith–Lever Act of 1914, Congress legislated measure upon measure to develop vocational education in schools below the college plane. A new trail was opened in 1944, when the lawgivers financed the first “GI Bill of Rights” to enable veterans to continue their education in school or college.

During the 1960s, school difficulties experienced by children from disadvantaged families were traced to lack of opportunities for normal cognitive growth in the early years. The federal government attempted to correct the problem and by the mid-1960s was giving unprecedented funding toward compensatory education programs for disadvantaged preschool children. Compensatory intervention techniques included providing intensive instruction and attempting to restructure home and living conditions. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 provided for the establishment of the Head Start program, a total program designed to prepare children for success in public schools. It included medical, dental, social service, nutritional, and psychological care. Head Start grew steadily following its inception, spawning similar programs, including one based in the home and one for elementary-school-age children. In the 1970s, child-development centres began pilot programs for children aged four and younger. Other general trends of the late 1970s included extending public schools downward to include kindergarten, nursery school, child-development centres, and infant programs; organizing to accommodate culturally different or exceptional children; including educational purposes in day care; extending the hours and curriculum of kindergartens; emphasizing the early-childhood teacher’s role in guiding child development; “mainstreaming” handicapped children; and giving parents a voice in policy decisions. Early-childhood philosophy infiltrated the regular grades of the elementary school. Articulation or interface programs allowed preschool children to work together with first graders, sharing instruction. Extended to higher grades, the early-childhood learning methods promoted self-pacing, flexibility, and cooperation.

Changes in higher education

The pedagogical experimentalism that marked America’s elementary learning during the century’s first quarter was less robust in the high school and feebler still in the college. The first venture of any consequence into collegiate progressivism was undertaken in 1921 at Antioch College in Ohio. Antioch required its students to divide their time between the study of the traditional subjects and the extramural world, for which, every five weeks or so, they forsook the classroom to work at a full-time job. In 1932 Bennington College for women, in Vermont, strode boldly toward progressive ends. Putting a high value on student freedom, self-expression, and creative work, it staffed its faculty largely with successful artists, writers, musicians, and other creative persons, rather than Ph.D.’s. It also granted students a large say in making the rules under which they lived.

Such developments in America’s higher learning incited gusty blasts from Robert M. Hutchins, president and then chancellor of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1951. He recommended a mandatory study of grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, and Aristotelian metaphysics. One consummation of the Hutchins prescription was the study of some 100 “great books,” wherein resided the unalterable first principles that Hutchins insisted were the same for all people, always and everywhere.

The vocationalism that Hutchins deplored was taken to task by several others but with quite different results—notably by Harvard University in its report on General Education in a Free Society (1945). Declaring against the high school’s heavy vocational leaning, it urged the adoption of a general curriculum in English, science, mathematics, and social science.

In the great expansion of higher education between about 1955 and 1975, when expansionist ideas about curriculum and governance prevailed, colleges became at times almost ungovernable. New colleges and new programs made the higher-education landscape so blurred that prospective students and admissions officers in other countries needed large, coded volumes to characterize individual institutions. The college curriculum, like that of the high school, was altered in response to vocal demands made by groups and had expanded in areas representing realities of contemporary social life. Internal reviews, undergraduate curriculum reforms, and the high standards set by some universities demonstrated to some observers that quality education was being maintained in the university. Other critics, however, felt that grade inflation, the multiplication of graduate programs, and increasing economic strains had led to a decline in quality. Financial problems and conservative reactions to the more extreme reforms led some universities to place a strong emphasis on management.

Probably the most significant change in higher education was the establishment and expansion of the junior college, which was conceived early in the century by William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago. He proposed to separate the four-year college into an upper and a lower half, the one designated as the “university college” and the other as the “academic college.” The junior college was sometimes private but commonly public. It began as a two-year school, offering early college work or extensions to secondary education. It later expanded to include upper vocational schools (including a wide range of technical and clerical occupations), community colleges (offering vocational, school completion, and leisure or interest courses), and pre- or early-college institutions. Junior colleges recruited from a wide population range and tended to be vigorous innovators. Many maintained close relationships with their communities. Colleges limited to the undergraduate level, especially in articulated state systems, might not differ much from well-developed junior colleges.

Professional organizations

American educators began to organize as early as 1743, when the American Philosophical Society was founded, and continued to do so in increasing numbers. Not a few of their organizations, such as the American Historical Association, the Modern Language Association of America, and the American Home Economics Association, were for the advancement of some specialty. Others were more concerned with the interests of the general educational practitioner. Of these, the National Education Association (NEA) was the oldest. Founded in 1857, it undertook “to elevate the character and advance the interest of the teaching profession.” Despite its high mission, it had little influence until the 1870s, when it began to grow and prosper. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., the NEA conducted its enormous enterprise through a brigade of commissions and councils. A youngster by comparison, the American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was formed in 1916. Through collective bargaining and teachers’ strikes, it successfully obtained for teachers better wages, pensions, sick leaves, academic freedom, and other benefits. The distinction between a union and a professional organization became neither as clear nor as important an issue as it was in earlier days.

Such bodies as the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Association of University Professors, the American Educational Research Association, the National Commission on Teacher Education and Professional Standards, and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education laboured industriously and even with a fair success to bring order and dignity to the teaching profession. Nevertheless, teaching became an increasingly arduous profession in the United States. Even the security formerly associated with the profession was in question as waves of teacher shortages and surpluses generated frantic responses by educational authorities. Educational reviews addressed teaching inadequacies by encouraging prospective teachers to earn degrees in other subjects before beginning studies in the field of education. They recommended establishing proficiency tests, regular staff-development activities, certification stages, and workable teacher-evaluation and dismissal procedures. They insisted on the necessity for the reform and evaluation of training programs, and some questioned the institutional context of teacher training.


Although a Canadian nation had been formed by the end of the 19th century, separate political, economic, and geographic influences continued through the 20th century to restrain unified educational development. The historical principle of maintaining minority rights resulted in a truly pluralistic cultural concept, recognized to some extent in religious and linguistic concessions in schools. Each provincial system developed unilaterally, thus producing separately centralized educational units; and, even within a province, the evolving principle of local responsibility and the sparseness of settlement in many areas of Canada challenged the effectiveness of simple control principles. Different production emphases and differential advantages of territorial acquisition after confederation in 1867 created basic inequalities among the provinces, with a corresponding effect on schools. Finally, European principles of education were slow to be reconciled with those evolving out of the North American environment. Canadian educational development was consequently marked by eclectic, pragmatic actions rather than by philosophically or politically unified decisions.

It was nevertheless possible, because of a common national experience and because of the communication stimulated by national development, to describe education in national terms. Educational movements afoot in the early 20th century and associated with “progressive education” (such as child study, kindergarten development, and curriculum integration) had a relatively mild impact on traditional practices and forms. Instruction in the Canadian school remained essentially teacher-centred, with a strong emphasis on obedience and conformity.

Canadian educational reforms

The major change in school structure occurred at the secondary level. The standard eight-year elementary program was first extended by continuation classes or schools alongside exclusive secondary schools, producing an uneven, overlapping postelementary structure. In the 1930s an expanded school population, reaching into the secondary grades, led to decisive action on compulsory attendance and to standardization of high school provisions. Junior high schools were introduced in some provinces as a transitional level between elementary and secondary schooling, while some provinces simply developed junior and senior stages of a total secondary program. The two extremes in secondary development were probably represented by Quebec and the west. In the French-speaking schools of Quebec, the secondary system consisted of private classical colleges leading to a baccalauréat on the one side and terminal courses in special schools or institutes on the other. Only after 1956 were public high schools with a variety of courses established. The administration of the system was unified under a ministry of education in 1964, although with continuing provision for local school boards of a distinctly Roman Catholic or Protestant nature. In the western provinces, large regional schools and composite high schools were developed extensively, Alberta having proceeded apace in this direction. British Columbia, following the Chant Commission Report in 1960, reorganized its secondary program to include five core streams, only one of which was academic-technical.

In general, the secondary curriculum was modified by expanding the catalog of optional subjects and by reorganizing to include new courses of study. Secondary schools in Canada were now mainly comprehensive and enrolled about 85 percent of the age group. After extensive provincial reviews in the 1980s, emphasis was returned to academic standards and newly placed on the relation of education to work, in response to the economic needs both of society and of the individual. This new emphasis included teaching specific job skills and industrial information, coordinating vocational and academic studies in school programs, and cooperating with industry through work-study programs. Alternatives to the basic choice between university preparation and a general terminal course appeared.

In response to the requirements of an expanded school population in the first half of the century and to the later demand for increased access—particularly for women, native peoples, immigrants, and low-income groups—changes to structure, curriculum, and methods occurred regularly from the 1960s. Many revisions originated with developments in the United States but took a particularly Canadian form. The first wave of reforms emphasized openness (open-area schools and classrooms, curriculum choice), comprehensiveness (composite high schools, consolidated rural schools, group work, and peer cooperation), and continuity up the school ladder (although with an abundance of alternatives). From the late 1970s, reforms shifted toward renewed emphasis on basic learning, selection of students, moral and social values, increased administrative control, and assessment procedures for school, system, and aggregate student performance.

The educational scene showed characteristics of both periods of reform. Some of the notable innovations included the provision of preschool classes in most elementary schools or systems; the use in early elementary grades of new educational methods developed at the preschool level; a concentrated attempt to decrease newly discovered functional illiteracy at all levels, including the adult level; the rapid introduction of electronic learning programs and instructional assistance; and direct concern with values instruction, usually secular and oriented to both personal and social issues. Both the attempt to reconcile individual educational requirements with the demands of mass systems and the emphasis on essential subject matter led to a search for new techniques of selecting and transmitting knowledge in schools.

The most demanding issues of the second half of the century reached beyond the traditional time and scope of public schooling: early-childhood education, adult education, private schooling, postsecondary education, and bilingual multicultural provisions. Whether as a reflection of concern over the direction of public schools, of an increasingly pluralistic society, or of affluence among parents, private school attendance rose steadily. It was still a small proportion of the school-age group in Canada, but the increase in interest as well as in attendance put pressure on provincial governments for funding. Most provinces now offered limited grants to authorized private schools, though at a level far below public school financing.

Consistent with Canada’s claim to multicultural social development and bolstered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multicultural and bilingual emphases made perhaps the strongest single impact on schooling. French-language instruction, both as a mother tongue and as a second language, expanded in traditionally English-speaking areas. Restrictions were placed on English-language schooling in Quebec as the French-language population struggled for cultural survival in North America. Court challenges against required Christian religious exercises and religious instruction in elementary schools were successful. Demands were made to give attention to other languages as languages of instruction and to revise the exclusively Western bias of curriculum content.

The administration of public education

A new dimension in higher education was added with the establishment of provincial universities in the west (1901–08). This completed a set of regional patterns for university development that was continued. Canadian universities, within these patterns, drew their criteria from French, British, or American models. From the 1950s a boom in Canadian higher education led to increasingly independent considerations on the role of universities in Canadian development. While the 1950s and ’60s saw a great expansion of universities, the 1970s and ’80s saw rapid growth in postsecondary, nonuniversity education in provincially funded colleges. These colleges all offered some range of vocational programs. Their relationships with universities varied: some offered university transfer programs (Alberta), some offered university prerequisites (Quebec), and some had no formal relationship (Ontario). With an increasing student population in a wider range of postsecondary alternatives, the rationalization, planning, and funding of this sector was a primary issue for provincial governments.

The administration of public education was the exclusive responsibility of the provinces, which had worked out schemes of local authority under provincial oversight. Although the specific structure of the departments of education varied among the provinces, they conformed to a basic structure. Each was headed by a politically appointed minister of education, who might be advised by a council. The main functions of educational supervision were usually carried out through specific directorates for such areas as curriculum, examinations, vocational education, teacher training and certification, and adult education. Three developments, however, strengthened local autonomy in educational administration. Throughout the second quarter of the 20th century, consolidation of rural schools and administrative units took place in the west, thus resulting in stronger educational units that were more competent to act independently. Moves toward regional decentralization, especially in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, produced rather independent subprovincial units. Finally, urban development led to relatively autonomous city school operations. Provincial authority was reemphasized, however, with the demands for better system articulation and for standardization of requirements, programs, and testing.

Canada’s federal government had no constitutional authority in education and therefore maintained no general office dealing directly with educational matters. Federal activities in education were nevertheless carried out under other areas of responsibility, and certain functions of an office of education were subsumed under the secretary of state. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, brought together the chief educational officers of the provinces and ensured national communication at the governmental level. Under its responsibility for native peoples and its jurisdiction over extra-provincial territories, the federal government—through the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development—financed and supervised the education of aboriginal Canadians. In the Yukon, schools were administered by the territorial government, though largely financed from Ottawa.

Through agricultural and technical assistance acts in 1913 and 1919, the federal government began to promote vocational education, and this principle was extended through emergency programs in the depression years of the 1930s and during World War II. Vocational programs of wide scope were later introduced on a principle of federal support and provincial operation. The Technical and Vocational Assistance Act of 1960 was followed by a great surge in vocational education, including the construction of new schools and school additions, special institutes, and the preparation of vocational teachers. Program definitions in this area later became ever broader.

The federal government maintained and supported the education of armed-forces personnel. Research and development in higher education were promoted directly through grants from national research councils for social sciences and humanities, for the natural sciences and engineering, for medicine, and for the arts. Statistics Canada disseminated organized statistical information on schools and on social factors affecting education. Perhaps less direct but of great importance were national agencies operating in the area of mass communications media, such as the National Film Board. Together, the activities of the federal government not only supported but also strongly influenced certain areas of education and completed a picture of local-provincial-federal involvement in Canadian education.

Australia and New Zealand


The 20th-century development of Australian education continued to be influenced by British models and to be characterized by the exercise of strong central authority in the states. Yet, because Australian national development began in that century, increasing attention was given to the role of education in nation building.

Educational systems were built through the establishment of primary schools by the end of the 19th century, the extension of these through continuation programs, and the development of state secondary schools in the early part of the 20th century. The independent secondary schools that offered the bulk of secondary education before 1900 continued to be influential, either as components of the separate Roman Catholic system or as “elite” private schools of denominational or nondenominational character, but the growth of state systems carried the state high schools into numerical prominence.

The early development of educational systems before and around the turn of the 20th century was a crude beginning, the minimal provisions being accentuated by poor teacher preparation, administrative thrift schemes, and excess in the exercise of administrative authority. Improvement of these conditions and systematic positive development can be dated from the Fink Report of 1898 in Victoria and similar reform appeals in other states between 1902 and 1909. The steady pace of progress from that time was broken by a surge of growth and innovation in Australian institutions after World War II.

Education in small, isolated communities throughout the vast Australian area required special attention. As a means of reaching isolated children and adults, correspondence education was begun in 1914 in Victoria, and other states followed after 1922. The procedures were gradually refined and the levels extended. More formal early efforts included the introduction of provisional schools, itinerant teachers, and central schools in the outback. The small one-teacher bush schools became typical after federation in 1901. Much attention was given to methods of teaching in the one-room school, earning Australia international recognition for expertise in this area. Progress toward rural school consolidation began in Tasmania in 1936. The Tasmanian model combined special features of school independence, pupil freedom, involvement in agricultural projects, and parental cooperation with the “area school” movement. There was later a rapid decline in one-teacher all-age schools in Australia in favour of consolidated schools in central locations.

Education was a state, rather than a federal, responsibility in Australia. Authority was concentrated in a state department of education. The political head was the minister of education, and the permanent official in charge was the director or director general of education. The main divisions of the department were those for primary, secondary, and technical education, each directed by a senior official. Additional divisions, such as for special education or in-service training, were particular to the states. Department policy was executed through a hierarchy of educational experts. In the 1980s, major changes in administrative organization took place in all state systems toward devolution of authority to local regions and schools. A corporate style of management became current, using criteria of rationalization, effectiveness, and economic efficiency to guide organizational decisions.

After World War II, with the financial assets of exclusive income-taxing power, the federal (Commonwealth of Australia) government played an increasing role in educational development, particularly at the tertiary level. Through the States Grants Act in 1951, the Murray Report in 1957, the Martin Report in 1964, the Karmel Report in 1973, and the 1988 Policy Statement on higher education, the federal government moved into the planning as well as the funding of postsecondary education concurrently with the states. After four decades of rapid expansion in higher education, the government set a course toward a unified national system at the tertiary level. The government negotiated directly with higher education institutions, without the traditional buffer of consultative councils, and moved directly to amalgamate institutions and otherwise to rationalize the system. The organizational rationale was based on the contribution of higher education to the national economic interest, and strategies linked higher education to the training needs of the economy. System integrity, efficiency and output measures, and indications of privatization (a private university, tertiary fees, sale of educational services) characterized the political thrust. The Commonwealth Office of Education was established in 1945 to advise on financial assistance to the states and on educational matters generally, to act as a liaison agent among the states and between Australia and other countries, and to provide educational information and statistics. Renamed several times in subsequent decades, it brought together education and training policy with employment strategy at the national level.

About three-quarters of Australian schools were public. The remainder were made up of Roman Catholic schools (which constituted about 80 percent of the nonpublic schools) and other private schools, many of which had considerable influence in the leadership of Australian society. The curriculum and syllabus for each program or course in the state schools was prescribed by the Department of Education, and nonpublic schools generally followed this standard. From 1965, significant government funding was provided to private schools. There was a resurgence of interest in and a consequent increase of influence from this sector again in later years.

Primary schools were normally of six years’ duration, to about age 12, though some schools retained the seventh year of the old pattern. Within primary schools, pupils were organized in grades and advanced by annual promotion. Secondary education was offered for five or six years, generally in comprehensive schools. The minimum school-leaving age was 15 (16 in Tasmania). From the 1950s to the mid-1970s, rapid growth occurred throughout the systems but especially at higher levels. The technical and further education (TAFE) sector had a singular influence, operating at upper secondary and tertiary levels and providing widespread nonformal activities. TAFE colleges enrolled about 700,000 students of school-leaving age annually and served the great majority of Australian tertiary students. Later moves improved cross-crediting between TAFE and other tertiary institutions.

From the 1970s, three educational goals emerged: the first emphasized equality, diversity, devolution, and participation; the second, national and social unity; the third, effective means of managing what had become, because of rapid growth, a huge and nearly ungovernable education sector. As a result, there were internal reforms in teaching practice, curriculum, school organization, teacher education, and methods of assessment.

The attempts to increase the number of students continuing education and to improve or expand programs to serve the whole population raised interest in system unification, including such issues as establishing common curricula and stronger Australian content, improving the transition from school to work, and providing equal opportunity for Aborigines, the disabled, and other groups designated as disadvantaged. The government later highlighted recognition of the contribution of Aboriginal cultures as well as of Australian studies.

New Zealand

The religious and regional issues that fettered educational development in other countries of the British Commonwealth were basically settled in New Zealand when the decisions were made in the last quarter of the 19th century to provide wholly secular primary schools and administrative centralization. The major issue in the 20th century was the achievement of equal educational opportunity. Although New Zealand accepted the responsibility to educate each child—without racial, social, or narrowly intellectual restriction—to the limits of the child’s ability, the unification of the total system to this end proved quite difficult.

The Education Act of 1914 consolidated the changes that had taken place since 1877. In subsequent reform periods during the 1930s and after World War II, barriers to pupil progress through the system were removed or modified. In 1934 the school-leaving certificate examination was established on a broader basis than the university entrance examination, and in 1936 the proficiency examination governing secondary entrance was abolished. In 1944–45 three additional changes were made: the school-leaving age was raised to 15; a common core of early secondary studies—including English, social studies, general science, mathematics, physical education, and a craft or fine-arts subject—was established; and universities agreed to accept accredited school courses without further examination for university entrance. These actions illustrated a gradual but steady facilitation of access through an increasingly coordinated system. The recommendations of the Currie Commission (1962) and the provisions of the Education Act of 1964 continued this direction.

Starting in 1877, education was supervised and funded by a central Department of Education, which was headed politically by a minister and permanently by a director general. Administrative duties were generally handled locally, however. Secondary schools were administered by their own boards of governors and primary schools by elected regional boards of education. Universities received grants negotiated by the University Grants Committee, and grants for other tertiary institutions were administered by the Department of Education. Three regional offices and teams of primary and secondary inspectors linked the central Department of Education and the network of local authorities. Education was free until the age of 19 for qualified pupils. University tuition was also paid for successful students.

New Zealand children generally started school at the age of five and spent eight years in primary school. The secondary system developed through the growth of three separate kinds of schools: the district high school, which represented more or less a secondary “top” on a primary school; the independent, academic, one-sex secondary school proper; and the technical school, which took shape between 1900 and 1908. The isolated position of the fee-charging secondary schools of the 19th century was compromised by free-place legislation in 1903, and by 1914 they were brought into the state system, though retaining a good deal of their independent status. The district high schools remained in the primary system, but their incorporation in the secondary inspection scheme and in secondary teacher classification placed them clearly within that sector of school operation. The technical high school evolved into a general high school with technical bias. Through common departmental inspection, curriculum, and examination standards, and through the effect of the movement for more general postprimary provisions after 1945, the secondary schools increasingly approximated a single pattern.

At the end of the 11th year of schooling, students took the School Certificate examination, a general test that partially determined admittance to the upper secondary level (12th and 13th years). Youths qualifying for university entrance found that admission to professional schools was limited. Although the technical institutes and community colleges were expanded after 1970, demand continued to increase for these programs. Enrollment in teachers’ colleges was limited because of a declining school population.

An extensive Roman Catholic private school system grew up after the secularization of state education. From 1970 these schools were subsidized, and after 1975 most became integrated into the state system and funded by the state.

Rural and native education was given increasing attention in New Zealand. Consolidated schools, served by an extensive transportation system, were a longtime feature of rural education. The expansion of community colleges and the establishment of rural education activity programs extended regional opportunities. Children and adults in isolated districts were served by several correspondence schools. Maori education became a responsibility of the Department of Education in 1879. Starting in 1962, the government attempted to balance the need for remediation of deficiencies in general schooling with Maori cultural rights. As in other countries, equity and the relationship between school and work were the two main issues facing the New Zealand school system. Together they represented growing social and economic demands that were potentially incompatible with the traditional order of schooling.

Revolutionary patterns of education

Russia: from tsarism to communism

Before 1917

At the turn of the 20th century the Russian Empire was in some respects educationally backward. According to the census of 1897, only 24 percent of the population above the age of nine were literate. By 1914 the rate had risen to roughly 40 percent. The large quota of illiteracy reflected the fact that by this time only about half the children between the ages of 8 and 12 attended school. The elementary schools were maintained by the zemstvo (local government agencies), the Orthodox church, or the state and the secondary schools mainly by the Ministry of Education.

After the Revolution of 1905, the Duma (parliament) made considerable efforts to introduce compulsory elementary schooling. At the upper stages of the educational system, progress was significant, too; nevertheless, the secondary schools (gimnazii, realnyye uchilishcha) were only to a small degree attended by students of the lower classes, and the higher institutions even less. Preschool education as well as adult education was left to the private initiative of the educationally minded intelligentsia, who were opposed to the authoritarian character of state education in the schools. In 1915–16 the minister of education, Count P.N. Ignatev, started serious reforms to modernize the secondary schools and to establish a system of vocational and technical education, which he regarded as most important for the industrialization of Russia. During the Provisional Government (February to October 1917, Old Style), the universities were granted autonomy, and the non-Russian nationalities received the right of instruction in their native languages. The education system envisaged by the liberal-democratic and moderate Socialist parties was a state common school for all children based on local control and the direct participation of society.


After the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolshevik Party proclaimed a radical transformation of education. Guided by the principles of Karl Marx and influenced by the contemporary movement of progressive education in the West as well as in Russia itself, the party and its educational leaders—Nadezhda K. Krupskaya and Anatoly V. Lunacharsky—tried to realize the following revolutionary measures as laid down in the party’s program of 1919: (1) the introduction of free and compulsory general and polytechnical education up to the age of 17 within the Unified Labour School, (2) the establishment of a system of preschool education to assist in the emancipation of women, (3) the opening of the universities and other higher institutions to the working people, (4) the expansion of vocational training for persons from the age of 17, and (5) the creation of a system of mass adult education combined with the propaganda of communist ideas. In 1918 the Soviet government had ordered by decree the abolition of religious instruction in favour of atheistic indoctrination, the coeducation of both sexes in all schools, the self-government of students, the abolition of marks and examinations, and the introduction of productive labour. In 1919, special workers’ faculties (rabfaks) were created at higher institutions and universities for the development of a new intelligentsia of proletarian descent.

During the period of the New Economic Policy (1921–27), when there was a partial return to capitalistic methods, the revolutionary spirit somewhat diminished, and the educational policy of party and state concentrated on the practical problems of elementary schooling, the struggle against juvenile delinquency, and the schooling of adult illiterates. When the policy of five-year plans began in 1928 under the slogan of “offensive on the cultural front” and with the help of the Komsomol (the communist youth league), the campaign against illiteracy and for compulsory elementary schooling reached its climax.

The Stalinist years, 1931–53

In connection with the policy of rapid industrialization and collectivization of farmers and with the concentration of political power in the hands of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet educational policy in the 1930s experienced remarkable changes. Starting with the decree of 1931, the structure and the contents of school education underwent the following process of “stabilization” in the next few years: (1) four years was laid down as the compulsory minimum of schooling for the rural districts, and seven years for the cities, (2) the new system of general education embraced the grades one to four (nachalnaya shkola), the grades five to seven, which continued the elementary stage on the lower secondary level (nepolnaya srednyaya shkola), and the grades eight to 10, which provided a full secondary education (polnaya srednyaya shkola), (3) the new curriculum was to provide the students with a firm knowledge of the basic academic subjects and was to be controlled by a system of marks and examinations, (4) the decisive role of the teacher within the educational process was reestablished, while the Pioneers and Komsomol organizations (for youth aged 10 to 15 years and 14 to 26 years, respectively) were above all to instill a sense of discipline and an eagerness for learning, and (5) manual work disappeared from the school curriculum as well as from the teacher-training institutions. In addition, the ideas of progressive education were rejected, and older Russian traditions began to be cultivated. During World War II the idea of Soviet patriotism emerged fully, penetrating the theory and practice of education. The principles of the outstanding educator Anton S. Makarenko, with their emphasis on collectivism, gained ground upon the former influence of Western educational thought.

The institutions of higher learning were reshaped in the 1930s, too. The number of students in institutions providing secondary specialized education, usually called tekhnikumy, rapidly grew from one million in 1927–28 to 3.8 million in 1940–41. The number of students in institutions of higher education (vyssheye uchebnoye zavedeniye) grew from 168,554 to 811,700 in the same period. The main characteristics of higher education that developed in this period remained unchanged for the next decades: the paramount task of higher learning was to provide specialized vocational training within the framework of manpower policy and economic plans; strict control of the student’s program was to be imposed by the central authorities; and the system of evening and correspondence instruction on the level of higher and secondary specialized education (vecherneye i zaochnoye obrazovaniye) was to parallel full-time studies.

During the 1940s, “labour reserve” trade schools and factory schools for skilled and semiskilled labour were filled by drafting youths between the ages of 14 and 17. In the period 1940 to 1958, an average of 570,000 persons were annually subjected to such recruitment. The draft first affected those students who were unsuccessful academically in regular secondary schools and could not achieve even the seventh grade. For youngsters of this kind and for people who could not continue general secondary education, schools for the working youth (shkoly rabochey molodyozhi) and schools for rural youth (shkoly selskoy molodyozhi) were established in 1943–44 as part-time institutions. The main features of education policy, developed in the late 1930s, remained in force after the war: the orientation of all kinds of schooling and training to the paramount necessities of the economic system; the inculcation of communist discipline and Soviet patriotic attitudes; and finally a rigid control of the whole educational system by party and state administration.

The Khrushchev reforms

After the death of Stalin in 1953, changes in official policy affected both education and science. The 20th Party Congress in 1956 paved the way for a period of reforms inaugurated by Nikita S. Khrushchev. The central idea was formulated as “strengthening ties between school and life” at all levels of the educational system. The Soviet reform influenced to a high degree similar reforms in the eastern European countries.

The old idea of polytechnical education was revived, but mainly in the sense of preparing secondary-school students for specialized vocational work in industry or agriculture. Since the early 1950s there had been a growing imbalance between the output of secondary-school graduates desiring higher education and the economic demands of skilled manpower at different levels. The educational reforms of 1958 pursued the aim of combining general and polytechnical education with vocational training in a way that directed the bulk of young people after the age of 15 straight into “production.”

The new structure of the school system after 1958 developed as follows: the basic school with compulsory education became the eight-year general and polytechnical labour school, for ages 7 to 15 (vosmiletnyaya shkola); and secondary education, embracing grades 9 to 11, was provided alternatively by secondary general and polytechnical labour schools with production training (srednyaya obshcheobrazovatelnaya trudovaya politekhnicheskaya shkola s proizvodstvennym obucheniem) or by evening or alternating-shift secondary general education schools (vechernyaya smennaya srednyaya obshcheobrazovatelnaya shkola).

The connection of study and productive work was to be continued during the course of higher education. Great emphasis was laid upon the further expansion of evening and correspondence education, both at the level of secondary specialized education and at the level of the universities and other higher institutes. In the academic year 1967–68, 56.3 percent of all Soviet students in higher education (of the total number of 4,311,000) carried out their studies in this way.

The reform of 1958 also brought a transformation of the former labour-reserve schools into urban vocational-technical schools or rural schools of the same type (gorodskiye i selskye professionalno-tekhnicheskiye uchilishcha). As a rule, these schools required the completion of the eight-year school, but in fact there were many pupils with lower achievements; the length of training ranged from one to three years, depending upon the type of career.

Besides introducing polytechnic education and productive labour, the Khrushchev reforms emphasized the idea of collective education from early childhood. Preschool education for the age group up to seven years was to be rapidly developed within the newly organized unified crèches and nursery schools (yasli i detskiye sady); and, as a new type of education, boarding schools (shkoly-internaty) that embraced grades one to eight or one to 11 had been created in 1956. Some party circles wanted this kind of boarding education for the majority of all young people, but development lagged behind planning, and the idea of full boarding education was later abandoned.

The polytechnization of the Soviet school system as it took shape during the Khrushchev period turned out, in the course of its realization, to be a failure. A revision of the school reform carried out between August 1964 and November 1966 brought about several important results: (1) the grade 11 of the secondary school (except for the evening school) was abolished and general education returned to the 10-year program, (2) vocational training in the upper grades was retained only in a small number of well-equipped secondary schools, and (3) new curriculum and syllabi for all subjects were elaborated. After 1958 hundreds of secondary schools for gifted pupils in mathematics, science, or foreign languages were developed in addition to the well-known special schools for music, the arts, and sports. They recruited students mainly from the urban intelligentsia and were therefore sometimes criticized by adherents of egalitarian principles in education.

From Brezhnev to Gorbachev

Leonid I. Brezhnev assumed leadership after Khrushchev retired in 1964. On Nov. 10, 1966, a decree was issued outlining the new policy in the field of general secondary education. A union republic Ministry of Public Education was established to augment the already existing central agencies for higher and secondary specialized education and for vocational-technical training. The main aim of educational policy in the 1970s was to achieve universal 10-year education. In 1977 it was claimed that about 97 percent of the pupils who graduated from the basic eight-year school continued their education at the secondary level. An important step toward the realization of universal secondary education was the creation of secondary vocational-technical schools (srednye professionalno-tekhnicheskiye uchilishcha) in 1969. These schools offered a full academic program as well as vocational training. Preschool education for children under seven years of age was extended: enrollments in nursery schools, kindergartens, and combined nursery-kindergarten facilities increased from 9.3 million in 1970 to 15.5 million in 1983. The number of institutions for higher education also grew steadily (from 805 in 1970 to 890 in 1983), meeting regional demands. Day, evening, and correspondence courses were provided.

The quantitative gains achieved during this period were not matched by corresponding improvements in the quality of education. Government authorities, as well as teachers and parents, expressed growing dissatisfaction with student achievement and with student attitude and behaviour. The youngsters themselves often felt alienated from the official value system in education. Furthermore, there was a growing imbalance between the careers preferred by general-school graduates and the national economic requirements for skilled manpower—an unforeseen result of the policy of universal secondary education. Therefore, in 1977 the scope of labour training in the upper grades of the general school was enhanced in order to provide youngsters with a basic practical training and to direct them into so-called mass occupations after leaving school.

In 1984, two years after Brezhnev’s death, new reforms of general and vocational education were instituted. Teachers’ salaries, which had been lower than other professional incomes, were raised. The age at which children entered primary school was lowered from 7 to 6 years, thus extending the complete course of general-secondary schooling from 10 to 11 years. Vocational training in the upper grades of the general school was reinforced. To meet the requirements of computer literacy, appropriate courses were introduced into the curricula of the general school, even though most schools lacked sufficient equipment. The main emphasis, however, was placed on the development of a new integrated secondary vocational-technical school that would overcome the traditional barriers between general and vocational education.

Perestroika and education

The 1984 reform of Soviet education was surpassed by the course of economic and structural reforms (perestroika) instituted from 1986 under the leadership of Mikhail S. Gorbachev. In February 1988 some earlier reforms were revoked, including the compulsory vocational training in the general school and the plans to create the integrated secondary school. Universal youth education was limited to a nine-year program of “basic education,” with subsequent secondary education divided into various academic and vocational tracks. The newly established State Committee of Public Education incorporated the three formerly independent administration systems for general schooling, vocational training, and higher education. Even more important was the rise of an educational reform movement led by educationists who favoured an “education of cooperation” (pedagogika sotrudnichestva) over the authoritarian and dogmatic principles of collective education that originated in the Stalin period. These theorists advocated individualizing the learning process, emphasizing creativity, making teaching programs and curricula more flexible, encouraging teacher and student participation, and introducing varying degrees of self-government in schools and universities as a part of the proclaimed “democratization” of Soviet society. Some of the proposals were approved by the State Committee; for example, the universities and other institutions of higher learning were granted some autonomy. Other proposals were tested by teachers in experimental groups.

In the non-Russian republics the language of instruction was a key issue. After the Revolution of 1917, education in native languages was promoted. In the 1970s, however, the number of Russian-language and bilingual schools grew steadily at the expense of schools offering instruction in the native languages, even in territories with a majority of non-Russian ethnic groups. This Russification provoked increasing opposition, and in the late 1980s the central government made some political and educational concessions to the union republics. With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991–92, the future of education in the newly independent states and of what had been all-Soviet educational institutions became uncertain.

China: from Confucianism to communism

The modernization movement

The political and cultural decline of the Manchu dynasty was already evident before the 19th century, when mounting popular discontent crystallized into open revolts, the best known of which was the Taiping Rebellion (1850–64). The dynasty’s weakness was further exposed by its inability to cope with the aggressive Western powers during the 19th century. After the military defeats administered by the Western powers, even Chinese leaders who were not in favour of overthrowing the Manchus became convinced that change and reform were necessary.

Most of the proposals for reform provided for changes in the educational system. New schools began to appear. Missionary schools led the way in the introduction of the “new learning,” teaching foreign languages and knowledge about foreign countries. New schools established by the government fell under two categories: (1) foreign-language schools to produce interpreters and translators and (2) schools for military defense. Notable among the latter were the Foochow (Fuzhou) Navy Yard School to teach shipbuilding and navigation and a number of academies to teach naval and military sciences and tactics.

China’s defeat by Japan in 1894–95 gave impetus to the reform movement. A young progressive-minded emperor, Guangxu, who was accessible to liberal reformers, decided upon a fairly comprehensive program of reform, including reorganizing the army and navy, broadening the civil service examinations, establishing an imperial university in the national capital and modern schools in the provinces, and so on. The imperial edicts in the summer of 1898 spelled out a program that has been called the Hundred Days of Reform. Unfortunately for China and for the Manchu dynasty, conservative opposition was supported by the empress dowager Cixi, who took prompt and peremptory action to stop the reform movement. The edicts of the summer were reversed and the reforms nullified. Frustration and disappointment in the country led in 1900 to the emotional outburst of the Boxer Rebellion.

After the Boxer settlement, even the empress dowager had to accept the necessity of change. Belatedly, she now ordered that modern schools teaching modern subjects—such as Western history, politics, science, and technology, along with Chinese classics—be established on all levels. The civil service examinations were to be broadened to include Western subjects. A plan was ordered to send students abroad for study and recruit them for government service upon return from abroad. But these measures were not enough to meet the pressing demands now being presented with increasing forcefulness. Finally, an edict in 1905 abolished the examination system that had dominated Chinese education for centuries. The way was now cleared for the establishment of a modern school system.

The first modern school system was adopted in 1903. The system followed the pattern of the Japanese schools, which in turn had borrowed from Germany. Later, however, after establishment of the republic, Chinese leaders felt that the Prussian-style Japanese education could no longer satisfy the aspirations of the republican era, and they turned to American schools for a model. A new system adopted in 1911 was similar to what was then in vogue in the United States. It provided for an eight-year elementary school, a four-year secondary school, and a four-year college. Another revision was made in 1922, which again reflected American influence. Elementary education was reduced to six years, and secondary education was divided into two three-year levels.

Education in the republic

The first decade of the republic, up to the 1920s, was marked by high hopes and lofty aspirations that remained unfulfilled in the inclement climate of political weakness, uncertainty, and turmoil. The change from a monarchy to a republic was too radical and too sudden for a nation lacking any experience in political participation. The young republic was torn by political intrigue and by internecine warfare among warlords. There was no stable government.

A school system was in existence, but it received scant attention or support from those responsible for government. School buildings were in disrepair, libraries and laboratory equipment were neglected, and teachers’ salaries were pitifully low and usually in arrears.

It was, nevertheless, a period of intellectual ferment. The intellectual energies were channeled into a few movements of great significance. The first was the New Culture Movement, or what some Western writers have called the Chinese Renaissance. It was, at once, a cordial reception to new ideas from abroad and a bold attempt to reappraise China’s cultural heritage in the light of modern knowledge and scholarship. China’s intellectuals opened their minds and hearts to ideas and systems of thought from all parts of the world. They eagerly read translated works of Western educators, philosophers, and literary writers. There was a mushroom growth of journals, school publications, literary magazines, and periodicals expounding new ideas. It was at this time that Marxism was introduced into China.

Another movement of great significance was the Literary Revolution. Its most important aspect was a rebellion against the classical style of writing and the advocacy of a vernacular written language. The classics, textbooks, and other respectable writings had been in the classical written language, which, though using the same written characters, was so different from the spoken language that a pupil could learn to read without understanding the meaning of the words. Now, progressive scholars rejected the heretofore respected classical writing and declared their determination to write as they spoke. The new vernacular writing, known as baihua (“plain speech”), won immediate popularity. Breaking away from the limitations of stilted language and belaboured forms, the baihua movement was a boon to the freedom and creativity released by the New Thought Movement and produced a new literature attuned to the realities of contemporary life.

A third movement growing out of the intellectual freedom of this period was the Chinese Student Movement, or what is known as the May Fourth Movement. The name of the movement rose from nationwide student demonstrations on May 4, 1919, in protest against the decision of the Paris Peace Conference to accede to the Japanese demand for territorial and economic advantages in China. So forceful were the student protests and such overwhelming support did they get from the public that the weak and inept government was emboldened to take a stand at the conference and refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles. The students, thus, had a direct hand in changing the course of history at a crucial time and, from now on, Chinese students constituted an active force on the political and social scene.

Education under the Nationalist government

Nationalist China rose in the mid-1920s amid a resurgence of nationalism and national consciousness stimulated by post-World War I developments. It was led by the Nationalist Party, the political party organized by Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the republic. Cognizant of the popular appeal of nationalism, the Nationalist Party set up a government pledged to achieve national unity at home and national independence from foreign control as prerequisites to a program of modernization and national reconstruction. In education, it set out to systematize and stabilize a shaky and ill-supported school system and use it as a means of national regeneration. Schools were assured of financial support, however inadequate, and placed under strict supervision and firm control by public authorities.

State control of education by means of centralized administration was instituted. Measures were adopted to correct the abuses and chaos that had resulted from the laissez-faire educational policy of the warlords. Decrees and regulations issued by the Nationalist Ministry of Education were strictly enforced, with the aid of a centrally administered system of inspection and accreditation. Detailed regulations covered the curricula of schools on all levels—minimum standards of achievement; teaching procedures; teachers’ qualifications; and specifications for school buildings, libraries, laboratories, and the like. Private schools were permitted but were as subject to government control as public schools and were required to follow the same regulations with regard to curriculum and all other details.

A uniform system of schools was in effect throughout the country. Elementary education was provided in the four-year primary school, followed by the two-year higher elementary. In areas where there were not enough funds to support longer courses, there were abbreviated schools having only one or two grades. Theoretically, the government was committed to the goal of four-year compulsory education, but financial problems prevented an early realization of this goal. Adult education was given much attention in adult schools, in mass education projects, and in different forms of “social education.” The latter term encompassed a variety of educational agencies outside the schools, such as libraries, museums, public reading rooms, recreational centres, music, sports, radio broadcasting, and films. Reduction of illiteracy was a major objective.

There were three parallel types of secondary education: the academic middle school, the normal school, and the vocational school. To counteract the traditional preference for the academic type of education, the government restricted the growth of the academic middle school. At the same time, vocational schools were encouraged.

A major objective of government policy was to promote “practical studies.” In secondary education, “practical studies” meant the development of vocational and technical schools and more attention to science and laboratory experience in middle schools. In higher education, measures were taken to steer students away from liberal arts, law, education, and commerce to the “practical courses” of science, engineering, technology, agriculture, and medicine. Government grants for private as well as public colleges were usually designated for the science program. As a result of this policy, the years prior to World War II saw a steady increase of enrollment in the “practical courses” of study and a corresponding decline of enrollment in the arts–law–education–commerce courses. The increase of interest in science was also evident in the secondary schools.

It may be said that the thrust of educational policy in Nationalist China was to rectify the imbalance of the past, especially the nonvocational literary tradition of premodern days. In the attempt to counteract past tendencies, however, it was possible that the pendulum might swing to the other extreme. Some educators expressed the fear that the promotion of “practical studies” might lead to a narrow, utilitarian concept of education and a neglect of the humanities and social sciences. Others were uneasy over the danger of regimentation through centralized administration. Nevertheless, education under the Nationalist government did succeed in establishing an effective national system of education, promoting science and technical studies, and correcting the abuses and irregularities of the earlier period. Thanks to dependable financial support, state schools and universities gained in prestige and academic performance until they were recognized as among the outstanding educational institutions of the country.

Other accomplishments of this period include the growth of postgraduate education and research, the general acceptance of coeducation in elementary and higher education, and the use of the Guoyu (National Tongue) as an effective means of unifying the spoken language and thus overcoming the difficulties of local dialects.

Education under communism

The communist revolution aimed at being total revolution, demanding no less than the establishing of a new society radically different from what the orthodox communists called the feudal society of traditional China. This new society called for people with new loyalties, new motivations, and new concepts of individual and group life. Education was recognized as playing a strategic role in achieving this revolution and development. Specifically, education was called upon to produce, on the one hand, zealous revolutionaries ready to rebel against the old society and fight to establish a new order and, at the same time, to bring up a new generation of skilled workers and technical personnel to take up the multitudinous tasks of development and modernization.

The People’s Republic of China generally makes no distinction between education and propaganda or indoctrination. All three share the common task of changing man. The agencies of education, indoctrination, and propaganda are legion—newspapers, posters, and propaganda leaflets, neighbourhood gatherings for the study of current events, as well as political rallies, parades, and many forms of “mass campaigns” under careful direction. It is evident that the schools constitute only a small part of the educational program.

When the communists came to power in 1949, they took up three educational tasks of major importance: (1) teaching many illiterate people to read and write, (2) training the personnel needed to carry on the work of political organization, agricultural and industrial production, and economic reform, and (3) remolding the behaviour, emotions, attitudes, and outlook of the people. Millions of cadres were given intensive training to carry out specific programs. There were cadres for the enforcement of the agrarian law, the marriage law, and the electoral law; some were trained for industry or agriculture, others for the schools, and so on. This method of short-term ad hoc training is characteristic of communist education in general.

Because the new communist leaders had no experience in government administration, they turned to their ideological ally, the Soviet Union, for aid and guidance. Soviet advisers responded quickly, and Chinese education and culture, which had been Westernized under the Nationalists, became Sovietized. An extensive propaganda campaign flooded the country with hyperbolic eulogies of Soviet achievements in culture and education. The emphasis on Soviet cultural supremacy was accompanied by the repudiation of all Western influence.

A major agency designed to popularize the Soviet model was the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association (SSFA), inaugurated in October 1949, immediately after the new regime was proclaimed. Headed by no less a personage than Liu Shaoqi—the second highest Chinese Communist Party leader—the association extended its activities to all parts of the country, with branch organizations in schools, factories, business enterprises, and government offices. In schools, students were urged to enlist as members of the association and to participate in its activities. In many schools more than 90 percent of the students became SSFA members. Throughout the nation, the SSFA sponsored exhibits, motion pictures, mass meetings, parades, and lectures to engender interest in the Soviet Union and in the study of Russian language, education, and culture.

Soviet advisers drew up a plan for the merging and geographic redistribution of colleges and universities and for the reorganization of collegiate departments and areas of specialization in line with Soviet concepts. Colleges and departments of long standing were eliminated without regard to established traditions or to the interests and scholarly contributions of their faculties. Russian replaced English as the most important foreign language.

From curriculum content to teaching methods, from the grading system to academic degrees, communist China followed the Soviet model under the tutelage of Soviet advisers, whose wisdom few dared question. Even the new youth organizations (which displaced the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) were comparable to the Pioneers and Komsomols of the U.S.S.R. According to one report, at the peak of the Sovietization frenzy, the first lesson in a Chinese-language textbook used in primary schools was a translation from a Russian textbook.

Never before in the history of education in China had such an extensive effort been made to imitate the education of a foreign country on such a large scale within such a short period of time. Nevertheless, there were many reasons why the campaign did not produce many lasting changes in Chinese education. Russian education and culture had not been well known in China, and the nation was not psychologically prepared for such a sudden and intensive dose of indoctrination to “learn from the Soviet Union.” Students, teachers, and intellectuals in general, who would have reacted favourably to a reform to make education more Chinese, were skeptical of the wisdom of switching from Western influence to Soviet influence.

Chinese leaders justified the indiscriminate imitation of the Soviet model on ideological grounds. The Soviet Union was the leader of the socialist countries; Lenin and Stalin were the shining lights that led the people of the world in their struggle for freedom and equality; the supremacy of the Soviet Union had proved the superiority of socialism over capitalism.

The paramount importance of ideology in education may also be seen in other ways. Ideological and political indoctrination was indispensable to all levels of schools and to adult education and all forms of “spare-time education.” It consisted of learning basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and studying documents describing the structure and objectives of the new government as well as major speeches and utterances of the party and government leaders. Its aim was to engender enthusiasm for the proletarian-socialist revolution and fervent support for the new regime. Class and class struggle were related concepts that occupied a central place in the ideology, and a specific aim of education was to develop class consciousness so that all citizens, young and old, would become valiant fighters in the class struggle. School regulations stipulated that 10 percent of the curriculum should be set aside for ideological and political study, but, in practice, ideology and politics were taught and studied in many other subjects, such as language, arithmetic, and history. Ideology and politics permeated the entire curriculum and school life, completely dominating extracurricular activities.

Among the most important educational changes of this period was the establishment of “spare-time” schools and other special schools for peasants, workers, and their families. Adults attended the spare-time school after their day’s work or during the lax agricultural season. Workers and peasants were admitted to these schools by virtue of their class origin. Political fervour and ideological orthodoxy replaced academic qualifications as prerequisites for further study. As a result of the Cultural Revolution of 1966–76, higher education was greatly curtailed and production and labour were emphasized. Mao Zedong, the Communist Party chairman, issued a directive sending millions of students and intellectuals into the rural areas for long-term settlement and “reeducation.” He asserted that the intelligentsia could overcome the harmful effects of bourgeois-dominated education only by identifying with the labouring masses through engaging in agricultural and industrial production. Proletarian leadership was also emphasized, as “Mao Zedong thought propaganda teams”—made up of workers, peasants, and soldiers who were well-versed in quotations from Chairman Mao but otherwise often barely literate—took over the management of almost all educational institutions.

Post-Mao education

After Mao’s death on Sept. 9, 1976, the new leaders lost no time in announcing a turnabout of ideological-political emphasis from revolution to development. They decreed that all effort should be directed toward “the four modernizations” (industry, agriculture, national defense, and science and technology). The primary task of education was to train the personnel needed to speed up the modernization program.

The post-Mao schools were very different from those of the revolutionary education. The conventional school system was reinstated. Full-time schools again became the mainstay of a system of coordinated schools, with orderly advance from level to level regulated by examinations. School discipline was restored, and due respect for teachers was expected of students. Serious study was not to be overshadowed by extracurricular activities; the line of demarcation between formal and informal education was clearly drawn. The main task of students, said Deng Xiaoping, was “to study, to learn book knowledge,” and the task of the school was to make “strict demands on students in their study…making such studies their main pursuit.”

Acquisition of knowledge was again a legitimate aim of education. Academic learning and the development of the intellect returned after a decade of banishment. Efforts were made to raise academic standards not only in the universities but also in the lower schools. The “key schools,” outstanding schools that elevated the standards of teaching and learning and served as models for others, were revived. They were provided with funds for well-equipped libraries and laboratories and were staffed with highly qualified teachers. Condemned during the Cultural Revolution as “little treasure pagodas” that catered to bourgeois children to the exclusion of workers, peasants, and soldiers, these centres of academic scholarship were now hailed as the standard-bearers of quality education.

Examinations returned with a vengeance. Every year the government set a date and time for the unified competitive college examination. High school graduates took the examination locally, indicating in order of preference the colleges they would like to attend if they passed.

Although in theory every college had a president, a vice president, deans, and the like, the real educational policy maker was the Communist Party organization in each school. School presidents or other administrators often had to be party members, but even they could not make decisions without the full cooperation of party representatives. Subsequently there were demands for reforms giving more power to school administrators and faculty members.

Communism and the intellectuals

Throughout China’s long history, the intellectuals considered themselves the preservers and transmitters of the precious culture of their country. Their road to success was not always smooth, but the intellectuals were strengthened by the belief that once they won recognition as first-rank scholars they would be rewarded with position, honour, and lasting fame.

The attitude of the Chinese communists toward intellectuals is, in large measure, influenced by their ideology. While workers and peasants were raised to the top position, the intellectuals were downgraded because they were considered products of bourgeois and feudal education and perpetuators of bourgeois ideology. The communist policy was to “absorb and reform” the intellectuals.

The intellectuals were made to undergo thorough thought remodeling to be “cleansed” of bourgeois ideas and attitudes. The remodeling began with relatively mild measures, such as “political study” and “reeducation.” The policy became increasingly oppressive in the 1950s when intellectuals were pressured to take part in the class struggle of the land reform and in orchestrated attacks on university professors, writers, artists, and intellectuals in different walks of life. The intellectuals—especially those who had studied in Western schools or had been employed by Western firms—were forced to write autobiographies giving details of their reactionary family and educational background, pinpointing their ideological shortcomings, and confessing their failings.

Following Khrushchev’s 1956 speech criticizing Stalin, violence broke out in Poland and Hungary. This worried Mao, who agreed to try Premier Zhou Enlai’s proposal to relax the Communist Party’s pressure on intellectuals. This resulted in the slogan “Let a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend.” Mao indicated that intellectuals would be allowed to speak freely. The result, however, was unexpected and shocking. Once they began to speak freely, the intellectuals unleashed a torrent of angry words, fierce criticisms, and open attacks against the repressive measures under which they had suffered. Some recanted the confessions they had made under duress; others went so far as to denounce the Communist Party and its government. To avoid a more serious outburst of explosive ideas and emotions, the government decided to put a stop to the “blooming–contending.” Outspoken critics were labeled rightists, and an anti-rightist campaign not only silenced the intellectuals but also placed them under more restrictive controls than before. The “flowers” wilted and the “schools” were muffled.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s criticism of the intellectuals instigated young radicals all over the country to join the struggle against the intellectuals. Students were urged to slap and to spit at their teachers; insult, humiliation, and torture were common. Some teachers chose suicide. Others were sent to May 7th cadre schools or to the countryside to be reformed by labour.

After Mao’s death and the repudiation of the radical extremists, the intellectuals began to grow stronger. A movement called “Beijing (Peking) Spring” was launched in November 1978. Huge wall posters condemning the communist regime appeared on Beijing’s so-called Democracy Wall. The movement’s leaders expanded the modernization program by adding a fifth modernization, which clearly emphasized democracy, freedom, and human rights. The “Beijing Spring” movement was short-lived, but Chinese intellectuals in the United States and Hong Kong, as well as in China, continued to organize themselves and to advocate democracy and freedom. In China, astrophysicist Fang Lizhi toured university campuses speaking against the repression that he believed had killed the initiative and creativity of Chinese scholars. In the spring of 1989 a grand prodemocracy demonstration took place in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The university students took the lead, demanding a higher allotment of funds for education and protesting corruption, but people from all walks of life joined the demonstration. The movement drew attention and support both at home and abroad. However, it was soon forcibly suppressed by the government, and the country, including educational affairs, continues to be controlled by the Communist Party.

Patterns of education in non-Western or developing countries


Education at the beginning of the century

Between 1894 and 1905 Japan experienced two conflicts—the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars—that increased nationalistic feelings. Japan also experienced accelerated modernization and industrialization. In accord with the government’s new nationalism and efforts to modernize the country, educational reform was sought. The Japanese education system took as its model the western European educational systems, especially that of Germany. But the basic ideology of education remained the traditional one outlined in 1890 in the Imperial Rescript on Education (Kyōiku Chokugo).

In 1900 the period of ordinary elementary schooling was set at four years, and schooling was made compulsory for all children. At the same time, the cost of compulsory education was subsidized from the national treasury. In 1907 the period of compulsory education was extended from four to six years. As the educational system gradually improved and as modernization progressed and the standard of living increased, school enrollments soared. The percentage of elementary-age children in school rose from 49 in 1890 to 98 in 1910.

In those days, boys and girls in primary school studied under the same roof, though in separate classrooms. In secondary education, however, there were entirely separate schools for boys and girls—the chūgakkō, or middle school, for boys and the jogakkō, or girls’ high school, both aiming at providing a general education. Other than these, there was the jitsugyōgakkō, or vocational school, which was designed to afford vocational or industrial education to both boys and girls. All three secondary schools were for students who had completed the six- or four-year course of primary education.

As for the elementary and secondary curriculum, the Imperial Rescript on Education made it clear that traditional Confucian and Shintō values were to serve as the basis of moral education. This emphasis was implemented by courses on “national moral education” (shūshin), which served as the core of the curriculum. In 1903 a system of national textbooks was enacted, giving the Ministry of Education the authority to alter texts in accordance with political currents.

To meet the demand for an expansion of education, a new system for training primary school teachers was established under the Normal School Order of 1886 and subsequently developed under the strong control of the government. All the normal schools were run by the prefectures, and none were private. At first only the graduates of the higher primary schools were qualified for the normal school, but in 1907 a new course was introduced for graduates of the middle schools and the girls’ high schools. After 1886 the kōtō shihangakkō, or higher normal school for women, trained secondary school teachers. Additionally, temporary teachers’ training institutes were established after 1902. These were all state-run. There were also state-run institutes for training vocational school teachers.

For higher education, there were academies for the study of Confucianism, but a university of the European variety did not appear in Japan until 1877. In that same year the University of Tokyo was founded, with four faculties—law, physical sciences, literature, and medicine. In the early years, research and education were dominated by foreigners: most programs were taught in the English language by English and American teachers or, in the medical faculty, in the German language by German instructors. In 1886 the University of Tokyo was renamed the Imperial University by imperial order and, as a state institution, was assigned to engage exclusively in research and instruction of such sciences and technology as were considered useful to the state. Modern Western sciences formed the core of this research and instruction, though some traditional Japanese learning was revived. Engineering and agricultural science were added to the four established faculties. Tokyo Imperial University borrowed much of the style and mode of the German universities and served as the model for the imperial universities established thereafter. Meanwhile, the higher middle schools established in 1886 were remodeled into the kōtōgakkō, or higher schools, in 1894, and in the 20th century these higher schools developed as preparatory schools for the universities.

Higher education was advanced in another area by the College Order of 1903, which enabled certain upper-level private schools to be approved as senmongakkō, or colleges, and to receive the same treatment as state-run universities. Until then the private colleges had not been given a clear legal status and had been treated as rather inferior.

Education to 1940

The events of World War I and its aftermath tremendously influenced Japanese society. In the postwar days, Japan experienced the panic and social confusion that was sweeping many countries of the world. Moreover, the intensified leftist movement and the terrible Kantō earthquake of 1923 caused uncertainty and confusion among the Japanese. Nevertheless, the period was one that earned the name of the “Taishō democracy” era, which featured the dissemination of democratic and liberal ideas. It was also a period that marked Japan’s real advancement on the world scene and the expansion of its capitalistic economy, all conducive to the flourishing of nationalism. It was quite natural that these social and economic changes should greatly influence education.

The Special Council for Education, established in 1917, was charged with making recommendations for school reforms that would adapt the nationalistic education system to the rapid economic growth. Their recommendations involved modifying the existing educational organizations rather than creating new ones. The reform emphasized higher education, though secondary education also grew remarkably. As for elementary education, the target of the reform was to improve the content and methods of education and to establish the financial foundation of compulsory education.

After World War I the new educational movements generally called progressive in the West were introduced into Japan and came to thrive there. Many private schools advocating this “new education” were established, and the curricula of many state and public schools were also refashioned. The method of new education was gradually introduced into the state textbooks. Preschool education was also encouraged. A state-run kindergarten attached to Tokyo Girls’ Normal School had been first established in 1876, and later many public and private kindergartens emerged, particularly after issuance of the Kindergarten Order in 1926.

Government aid for compulsory education was gradually put forward, and by 1940 this developed into a system whereby the government financed half the teachers’ salaries and the prefectural governments the other half. Elementary education thus further expanded. Between 1910 and 1940 the number of elementary teachers and pupils almost doubled. In the latter year there were 287,000 teachers and 12,335,000 pupils.

Secondary education continued to be provided by the middle schools for boys, the girls’ high schools, and the vocational schools. These schools increased remarkably both in numbers of institutions and in enrollments after World War I, reflecting the social demand. As a result, the secondary schools assumed more of a popular and less of an elitist character than they had evidenced in the Meiji era. In 1931 two courses were provided for the middle school system; one was for those who advanced on to higher schools, and the other course was for those who went directly on to a vocation. Enrollments of all kinds leaped: whereas in 1910 the enrollments in middle schools, girls’ high schools, and vocational schools had been 122,000 pupils, 56,200 pupils, and 64,700 pupils, respectively, the respective figures in 1940 were 432,000 pupils, 555,000 pupils, and 625,000 pupils.

A drastic reform of higher education was instituted in 1918, when the University Order and the Higher School Order were issued on the recommendation of the Special Council for Education. Before that, there had been only the imperial universities, which were state-run. The order approved the founding of private universities and colleges. As a consequence, the old influential private colleges, or senmongakkō, rich in tradition, were approved as formal universities or colleges, resulting eventually in such famous universities as Keiō and Waseda. National colleges of commerce, manufacturing, medicine, and so on were also opened. In general, universities and colleges multiplied, numbering in 1930 as many as 46 (17 state, five public, and 24 private). College-preparatory education concurrently enlarged through the establishment of public and private higher schools under the Higher School Order. The higher schools were remodeled after the German Gymnasium and the French lycée and offered a seven-year course.

The schools could not keep pace with the mounting demand for education. The ratio of applicants to the total number of seats being offered at higher schools, for example, rose from 4.3 in 1910 to 6.9 in 1920 and 10.5 in 1926. Because pupils could not proceed from elementary to secondary schools and from there to colleges or universities unless they passed a competitive entrance examination at each stage, the importance and severity of the examinations grew with the number of applicants. Despite efforts by the Ministry of Education to revise and deemphasize the examination system, its importance continues to the present day.

After World War I, social education, or education offered outside the formal school system, gained greater recognition in Japan. During the Meiji era, social education, then called “popular education,” had been promoted by the Ministry of Education to encourage school enrollment, but by 1890 it had taken the form of adult education, attempting to enlighten middle- and working-class adults with public lectures and library resources. By 1929 social education had again become important as a result of the Ministry of Education’s emphasis on youth organizations, supplementary vocational education, youth training, and adult education. The jitsugyō hoshūgakkō, or supplementary vocational schools, which had been built after 1893 as part-time educational institutions for working students, reached enrollments exceeding 1,277,000 by 1930. In 1935 seinengakkō, or youth schools, were newly established, uniting these supplementary vocational schools with the seinen kunrenjo, or youth-training centres, that had earlier been set up to provide military training for youth.

Education changes during World War II

The Manchurian Incident in 1931 escalated into the Sino-Japanese War of 1937, and national life became more and more militaristic. Education acquired an intensely nationalistic character. With the outbreak of war in the Pacific in 1941, the education system underwent emergency “reforms.” Elementary schools were renamed kokumingakkō, or national schools, under the National School Order issued in 1941. The order proclaimed the idea of a national polity or spirit peculiar to Japan; the content and the methods of education were revised to reflect this nationalism. Moreover, the period of compulsory education was officially extended to eight years, though it actually remained six years because of the worsening war situation.

Secondary education was similarly made “national.” In 1943 the Secondary School Order was issued in an attempt to unify all the secondary schools, but, because of the war, it also shortened secondary education to four years. In the same year the normal school was upgraded to the level of the professional schools. As the war worsened, students above the secondary schools were mobilized as temporary workers in military industries and agricultural communities in order to increase production, and a great number of students were sent to the battlefields. As a result, classes were virtually closed at schools higher than the secondary level toward the end of World War II.

Education after World War II

On Aug. 14, 1945, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration and surrendered unconditionally to the Allied powers. The overriding concern at the general headquarters (GHQ) of the Allied powers was the immediate abolition of militaristic education and ultranationalistic ideology. This was the theme of a directive issued by GHQ to the Japanese government in October 1945. In early 1946, GHQ invited the United States Education Mission to Japan, and it played a decisive role in creating a new educational system. The mission’s report recommended thorough and drastic reforms of education in Japan. The report was subsequently adopted in its entirety as the basic framework for a new democratic educational system. The Education Reform Committee, which was directly responsible to the prime minister, was established to make recommendations for the implementation of the new education. Based on these recommendations, the Japanese Diet passed a series of legislative acts that forged the foundation of postwar education.

The Fundamental Law of Education and the School Education Law, both enacted in 1947, and the Boards of Education Law of 1948 set the outlines of the new education. The prewar system was replaced by a democratic single-track system, in which school programs were integrated and simplified and the period of attendance was settled in six, three, three, and four years, respectively, for shōgakkō, or elementary schools; chūgakkō, or lower secondary schools; kōtōgakkō, or upper secondary schools; and daigaku, or universities. The period of compulsory attendance was extended to nine years, coeducation was introduced, and provisions were made for education for the physically handicapped and other special education.

The reform of the content of education proceeded to reduce the strong state control of former days and to encourage teachers’ initiative. State textbooks were abolished in favour of commercial ones, and schools were controlled locally by elective boards of education. Shūshin disappeared from the curricula and was replaced by new subjects, such as shakaika, or social studies, designed to prepare children for life in a democratic society. The educational reform also altered the character of the universities, which offered access to all citizens. The former institutions—universities, colleges, and normal schools—were reorganized into four-year universities and colleges. Teacher education was placed within the university system, and anyone who completed professional training was eligible for teacher certification. This reorganization had an immense impact upon the development of higher education.

The peace treaty of 1952 not only liberated Japan from the restraints of occupation but also allowed education there to be adjusted to intrinsic cultural and political orientations. Centralization of control increased with respect to administration, curriculum, textbooks, and teacher performance through a series of legislative and administrative measures in the 1950s. In addition, the political indoctrination of the leftist Japan Teachers’ Union was hindered, and moral education was reintroduced as a requirement at the elementary and lower secondary levels. On the whole, however, the postwar educational reforms were retained and advanced, and their subsequent elaboration helped match Japan’s rapid economic growth.

The postwar educational administration was organized into a three-tiered structure, with national, prefectural, and municipal components—all under the general supervision of the Ministry of Education, which also wielded a considerable measure of authority over curricular standards, textbooks, and school finance, among other functions. Through its central, advisory role, the Ministry of Education guided the development of egalitarian and efficient schooling in the postwar era.

The progressive curriculum, which emphasized child interest and was introduced from the United States immediately after the war, produced deteriorating student performance. Thus, during 1961–63 the Ministry of Education replaced that curriculum with a discipline-centred curriculum at the elementary and lower secondary levels in order to improve academic achievement, moral education, science and technical education, and vocational education. This curricular revision set the tone for later changes in the national curriculum. Each major curricular revision represented an educational response to a variety of social needs, above all economic.

The 1960s was a period of high growth for both the economy and education. The unprecedented economic growth was stimulated by an ambitious national plan to boost individual income, industry, and trade. Responding to the changing economic and industrial environment, enrollments in high schools and in colleges or universities increased, respectively, from 57.7 and 10.3 percent of the eligible students in 1960 to 91.9 and 37.8 percent in 1975. Ninety percent of this increase in university and college enrollments was absorbed into poorly financed private institutions, which contributed to the deterioration of higher education. Problems also arose at the upper secondary level, where education remained rigidly uniform even though students were increasingly diverse in abilities, aptitudes, and interests. The inability of the postwar educational system to meet either student requirements or the insatiable demands for secondary and postsecondary education became of critical concern, and in 1971 the Central Council for Education recommended reforming Japan’s education to eradicate these problems.

The Central Council initiated a sustained school reform debate that set the stage for the establishment, in 1984, of an advisory council on educational reform, which was directly responsible to the prime minister. The advisory council called for elimination of the uniformity and rigidity of education at all levels and for the enhancement of “individuality” through education. Its recommendations in 1987 included diversifying upper secondary education, improving moral education, encouraging greater local freedom and responsibility in developing curriculum, improving teacher training, and fostering diversity in higher education.

South Asia

Pre-independence period

Amid the rising nationalism of the latter part of the 19th century, Indians became more and more critical of the domination of Western learning as imposed by the British rulers and demanded, instead, more attention to Indian languages and culture. The Indian National Congress, several Muslim associations, and other groups raised their voices against the British system of education. British authorities were not, however, altogether blind to the needs of the country. When Baron Curzon of Kedleston arrived as viceroy in 1898, his determination to improve education was immediately translated into an order for a close survey of the entire field of education. It revealed: “Four out of five villages are without a school. Three boys out of four grow up without any education and only one girl out of forty attends any kind of school.” Education had advanced, but it had not penetrated the country as the British had earlier expected.

Curzon applied himself to the task of putting matters in order. He disapproved of the doctrine of state withdrawal and instead considered it necessary for the government to maintain a few institutions of every type as models for private enterprise to imitate. He also abandoned the existing policy of educational laissez-faire and introduced a stricter control over private schools through a vigilant policy of inspection and control. Such a policy aroused bitter feelings among some educated Indians, since it was believed that Curzon was bent on bringing the entire system of education under government control.

The main battle, however, was fought over the universities. With Eton and Balliol in mind, Baron Curzon set up the Indian Universities Commission of 1902 to bring about a better order in higher education. The commission made a number of important recommendations—namely, to limit the size of the university senates, to entrust teaching in addition to examining powers to universities, to insist on a high educational standard from affiliated colleges, to grant additional state aids to universities, to improve courses of studies, to abolish second-grade colleges, and to fix a minimum rate of fees in the affiliated colleges. The report was severely criticized, and the last two recommendations had to be dropped. Legislation in regard to the other proposals was passed despite bitter opposition in the legislature and the press.

The conflict resulted less from educational differences than from political opinions on centralization. In one part of the country, violent agitation had already started on the question of the partition of Bengal. In another, the patriot Bal Gangadhar Tilak declared: “Swaraj [self-rule] is our birthright.” Thus, Baron Curzon’s educational reforms were considered sinister in their intentions, and his alleged bureaucratic attitude was resented.

The administrative policy of Baron Curzon also gave rise to the first organized movement for national education. This effort was part of the swadeshi movement, which called for national independence and the boycotting of foreign goods. A body known as the National Council of Education established a national college and a technical institution (the present Jadavpur University) in Calcutta (Kolkata) and 51 national schools in Bengal. These schools sought to teach a trade in addition to ordinary subjects of the matriculation syllabus. The movement received a great impetus, because the Calcutta Congress (1906) resolved that the time had arrived for organizing a national system of education. With the slackening of the swadeshi movement, however, most of the national schools were eventually closed. The effect of the movement was nevertheless noticeable elsewhere: Rabindranath Tagore started his famous school in West Bengal near Bolpur in 1901; the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha established gurukulas at Vrindaban and Haridwar; and the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League at their sessions in Allahabad and Nagpur, respectively, passed resolutions in favour of free and compulsory primary education.

In 1905 Baron Curzon left India. In order to pacify the general public, his successors modified his policy to some extent, but the main program was resolutely enforced. Although Indian public opinion continued its opposition, the reforms of Baron Curzon brought order into education. Universities were reconstituted and organized, and they undertook teaching instead of merely conducting examinations for degrees. Colleges were no longer left to their own devices but were regularly visited by inspectors appointed by the universities. The government also became vigilant and introduced a better system for inspecting and granting recognition to private schools; the slipshod system of elementary education was also improved. The number of colleges and secondary schools continued to increase as the demand for higher education developed.

In 1917 the government appointed the Sadler Commission to inquire into the “conditions and prospects of the University of Calcutta,” an inquiry that was in reality nationwide in scope. Covering a wide field, the commission recommended the formation of a board with full powers to control secondary and intermediate education; the institution of intermediate colleges with two-year courses; the provision of a three-year degree course after the intermediate stage; the institution of teaching and unitary universities; the organization of postgraduate studies and honours courses; and a greater emphasis on the study of sciences, on tutorial systems, and on research work. The government of India issued a resolution in January 1920 summarizing the report of the commission. Since then all legislation of any importance on higher education in any part of India has embodied some of the recommendations of the commission.

Meanwhile, World War I had ended, and the new Indian constitution in 1921 made education a “transferred” subject (that is, transferred from British to Indian control), entrusting it almost entirely to the care of the provinces. In each province, educational policy and administration passed into the hands of a minister of education, responsible to the provincial legislature and ultimately to the people. Although European-style education was still maintained as a “reserved” subject and was not placed under the control of the Indian minister of education, this anomaly was corrected by the Government of India Act of 1935, which removed the distinction between transferred and reserved subjects and introduced a complete provincial autonomy over education.

Generally, the new constitution of 1921 was considered inadequate by the Indian National Congress. In protest, Mahatma Gandhi launched the noncooperation movement, the campaign to boycott English institutions and products. National schools were established throughout the country, and vidyapeeths (“national universities”) were set up at selected centres. The courses of study in these institutions did not differ much from those in recognized schools, but Hindi was studied as an all-India language in place of English, and the mother tongue was used as the medium of instruction. These institutions functioned for a short time only and disappeared with the suppression of the noncooperation movement. The Congress’ struggle for self-rule, however, became more vigorous, and with it spread the national movement toward education to suit national needs. The Government of India Act of 1935 further strengthened the position of the provincial ministers of education, since the Congress was in power in major provinces. The developmental program of provincial governments included the spread of primary education, the introduction of adult education, a stress on vocational education, and an emphasis on the education of girls and underprivileged people. The importance of English was reduced, and Indian languages, both as subjects of study and as media of instruction, began to receive greater attention.

On this general background, educational developments from the inauguration of reforms in 1921 until independence in 1947 can be viewed. In the field of elementary education, the most important event was the passing of compulsory-education acts by provincial governments—acts empowering local authorities to make primary education free and compulsory in the areas under their jurisdiction. Another noteworthy feature was the introduction of Gandhi’s “basic education,” which was designed to rescue education from its bookish and almost purely verbal content by emphasizing the teaching of all school subjects in correlation with some manual productive craft. A general demand for secondary education developed with the political awakening among the masses. Schools in rural, semi-urban, and less-advanced communities were established, as were schools for girls. Some provision was made for alternative or vocational courses when the provincial governments started technical, commercial, and agricultural high schools and gave larger grants to private schools providing nonliterary courses. But the expected results were not achieved because of a lack of funds and of trained teachers. Secondary schools still concentrated on preparing students for admission to colleges of arts and sciences.

The period was also marked by a diminishing of the prejudices against the education of girls. The impetus came from the national movement launched by Gandhi, which led thousands of women to come out of the purdah for the cause of national emancipation. It was also realized that the education of the girl was the education of the mother and, through her, of her children. Between 1921–22 and 1946–47, the number of educational institutions for girls was nearly doubled.

In the field of university education, outstanding developments included (1) the establishment of 14 new universities, unitary as well as affiliating, (2) the democratization of the administrative bodies of older universities by a substantial increase in the number of elected members, (3) the expansion of academic activities through the opening of several new faculties, courses of studies, and research, (4) a substantial increase in the number of colleges and student enrollments, (5) the provision of military training and greater attention to physical education and recreational activities of students, and (6) the constitution of the Inter-University Board and the development of intercollegiate and interuniversity activities. With these improvements, however, the educational system of the country had become top-heavy.

The postindependence period in India

India and Pakistan were partitioned and given independence in 1947, after which there was remarkable improvement in scientific and technological education and research; illiteracy, however, remained high. The new constitution adopted by India did not change the overall administrative policy of the country. Education continued to be the prime responsibility of the state governments, and the union (central) government continued to assume responsibility for the coordination of educational facilities and the maintenance of appropriate standards in higher education and research and in scientific and technical education.

In 1950 the government of India appointed the Planning Commission to prepare a blueprint for the development of different aspects of life, including education. Thereafter, successive plans (usually on a five-year basis) were drawn and implemented. The main goals of these plans were (1) to achieve universal elementary education, (2) to eradicate illiteracy, (3) to establish vocational and skill training programs, (4) to upgrade standards and modernize all stages of education, with special emphasis on technical education, science, and environmental education, on morality, and on the relationship between school and work, and (5) to provide facilities for high-quality education in every district of the country.

From 1947 the government of India also appointed three important commissions for suggesting educational reforms. The University Education Commission of 1949 made valuable recommendations regarding the reorganization of courses, techniques of evaluation, media of instruction, student services, and the recruitment of teachers. The Secondary Education Commission of 1952–53 focused mainly on secondary and teacher education. The Education Commission of 1964–66 made a comprehensive review of the entire field of education. It developed a national pattern for all stages of education. The commission’s report led to a resolution on a national policy for education, formally issued by the government of India in July 1968. This policy was revised in 1986. The new policy emphasized educational technology, ethics, and national integration. A core curriculum was introduced to provide a common scheme of studies throughout the country.

The national department of education was a part of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, headed by a cabinet minister. A Central Advisory Board of Education counseled the national and state governments. There were several autonomous organizations attached to the Department of Education. The most important bodies were the All-India Council of Technical Education (1945), the University Grants Commission (1953), and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (1961). The first body advised the government on technical education and maintained standards for the development of technical education. The second body promoted and coordinated university education and determined and maintained standards of teaching, examination, and research in the universities. It had the authority to enquire into the financial methods of the universities and to allocate grants. The third body worked to upgrade the quality of school education and assisted and advised the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the implementation of its policies and major programs in the field of education.

The central government ran and maintained about 1,000 central schools for children of central government employees. It also developed schools offering quality education to qualified high achievers, irrespective of ability to pay or socioeconomic background. The seventh five-year plan (1985–90) specified that one such vidyalaya would be set up in each district. The state governments were responsible for all other elementary and secondary education. Conditions, in general, were not satisfactory, although they varied from state to state. Higher education was provided in universities and colleges.

From the 1950s to the ’80s, the number of educational institutions in India tripled. The primary schools, especially, experienced rapid growth because the states gave highest priority to the universalization of elementary education in order to fulfill the constitutional directive of providing universal, free, and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14. Most, but not all, children had a primary school within 1 km (0.6 mile) of their homes. A large percentage of these schools, however, were understaffed and did not have adequate facilities. The government, when it revised the national policy for education in 1986, resolved that all children who attained the age of 19 years by 1990 would have five years of formal schooling or its equivalent. Plans were also made to improve or expand adult and nonformal systems of education. Dissension among political parties, industrialists, businessmen, teacher politicians, student politicians, and other groups and the consequent politicization of education hampered progress at every stage, however.

The postindependence period in Pakistan

On Aug. 14, 1947, Pakistan emerged as a national sovereign state. For the new state, the initial years proved to be a period essentially of consolidation and exploration. The constitution adopted in 1956 recognized the obligation of the state to provide education as one of the basic necessities of life. The new constitution implemented by the National Assembly in 1973 made practically no changes to the original educational policy. The federal Ministry of Education, headed by the federal education secretary, oversaw education in the federal capital territory and in national institutions and determined policies and standards. Provincial governments handled all other administrative duties.

Beginning in 1955, Pakistan adopted a series of five-year plans to improve economic and educational development. The most important educational objectives of the sixth plan (1983–88) were (1) to strengthen training programs for all categories of manpower, (2) to establish technical trade schools and vocational institutes, (3) to provide adequate machinery, materials, and books for workshops, laboratories, and other facilities, and (4) to strengthen and develop centres for advanced engineering studies. Because less than 30 percent of the adult population were able to read and write, literacy was also a major area of concern. The National Education Policy of 1979 emphasized the need for improving vocational and technical education and for disseminating a common culture based on Islamic ideology. It also announced plans for gradually replacing the four-tier school structure (primary, secondary, college, and university) with a three-tier system consisting of primary (grades one through eight), secondary (grades nine through 12), and higher education.

The government accepted responsibility for providing free primary education for a length of time fixed provisionally at five years. Only a little more than 50 percent of primary-age children were enrolled in schools, however, with attendance concentrated in urban areas. Religious classes providing Islamic moral and sociocultural education were taught in the schools from about 1980. An alternative course for non-Muslim students was also introduced.

The postindependence period in Bangladesh

Comprising what was formerly the eastern wing of Pakistan, Bangladesh emerged as an independent sovereign state in December 1971. Thus, it shared its educational history with India until 1947 and with Pakistan from 1947 to 1971. After independence Bangladesh continued to follow the primary education scheme originally established by Pakistan. One of the country’s most valued educational assets is its rich national language, Bengali.

Article 17 of the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh declares that it is the duty of the state to provide education to all its children to such stage as may be determined by law. In 1973 and 1974 the government nationalized most of the primary schools, but it was found that about 33 percent of primary-school-age children in Bangladesh never went to school and that about 70 percent of those who did left school before attaining the minimum educational standard. The majority of children thus entered adulthood illiterate. It was soon recognized that universalization of primary education for an overpopulated developing country like Bangladesh is a difficult task. Subsequent major reforms attempted to orient the educational system to a new social order inspired by the ideals of “nationalism, democracy, socialism, and secularism” on which the nation was founded.

The postindependence period in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) gained independence in 1947. Successive governments subsequently continued the policy of democratizing education that began under British rule. The political and social changes ushered in during the pre-independence period paved the way for a gradual process of constitutional reforms. Schools and schooling were seen as great instruments of socioeconomic development.

Education was free from the kindergarten to the university level in all state and state-aided institutions. Although there were a few fee-levying private institutions, management of education was primarily a state responsibility. General education within the formal system was divisible into primary, junior secondary, and senior secondary education. There were few dropouts or grade repeaters at the primary level. At the junior secondary stage, instruction was provided according to a common curriculum that consisted of religion and other subjects. Students at the senior secondary stage were streamed into science, commerce, or liberal arts courses.

The University Act of 1978 established the University Grants Commission and the University Services Appeals Board to provide for the establishment, maintenance, and administration of universities and other higher educational institutions together with their campuses and faculties. The National Institute of Education was established in 1987 to coordinate curriculum development, textbook development, teacher education, and eventually certification and entrance examinations.


Before the arrival of the European colonial powers, education in Africa was designed to prepare children for responsibility in the home, the village, and the tribe. It provided religious and vocational education as well as full initiation into the society. In sub-Saharan Africa it varied from the simple instruction given by fathers to children among the San of the Kalahari to the complex educational system of the sophisticated and highly organized Poro society of western Africa (extending over Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea). The majority of ethnic groups in Africa fell somewhere between the San and the Poro with respect to the educational arrangements they provided for their youth. Most societies offered rituals to mark the end of puberty and relied heavily upon custom and example as the principal educational agents. The rites of passage marked the culmination of an epoch in a boy’s life. As a child, he had been introduced by his elders to the legends surrounding previous exploits of his tribe, to the mysteries of his religion, to the practical aspects of hunting, fishing, farming, or cattle-raising, and to his community responsibility. Now he occupied a new position in the society. In some cases he had been prepared for the rites; in others secrecy surrounded the event, for reaction to the ceremony was itself an important part of the ritual. A variety of formal observances, in addition to the experiences of daily living, impressed upon the youth his place in the society—a society in which religion, politics, economics, and social relationships were inextricably interwoven. Girls underwent a similar, though usually shorter, initiation period.

An exception to this pattern could be found in those areas where Islam had spread. Islam reached eastern Africa in the 9th and 10th centuries and western Africa in the 11th. It introduced the Arabic script, and, because knowledge of the Qurʾān became an important religious requirement, Qurʾānic schools developed. These schools concentrated on the teaching and memorization of the Qurʾān; some were little more than gathering places beneath a tree where teachers held classes. Qurʾānic schools placed young Africans in contact with Arab civilizations, and boys selected as potential leaders could attend higher educational institutions in the Arab world. Nevertheless, Islam touched but a small fraction of the total African population of sub-Saharan Africa.

Western-style schooling was introduced in most of Africa after the establishment of the European colonial powers. As African nations gained independence in the late 20th century, they abolished the racial segregation that had existed and instituted other reforms but, in general, kept the structure of the existing school systems, at least initially. Thus, 20th-century education in these countries can be discussed according to former colonial status. Education in Ethiopia, Liberia, and South Africa, however, must be treated separately—Ethiopia and Liberia because they have long histories as independent nations and South Africa because it was under the control of a white minority government for most of the century.


Christianity was recognized in Ethiopia in the 4th century. For nearly 1,500 years all education was church-related and hence church-controlled, except in the eastern part of the country where the Islamic population maintained Qurʾānic schools. In 1908 Emperor Menilek II created the embryonic government school system, modeling it on European systems. The real development of education, however, came after World War II under the direction of Emperor Haile Selassie. Despite his efforts, by 1969 less than 10 percent of the children between the ages of seven and 12 were in school. Education at the secondary level benefited from the infusion of more than 400 Peace Corps teachers in the 1960s and early 1970s. The first Ethiopian colleges were founded in the 1950s. By 1970, 2,800 Ethiopian students were enrolled in higher education either in their own country or overseas.

In 1974 a military revolution overthrew the emperor. Ethiopia declared itself a socialist state and proclaimed that socialism would permeate all aspects of the society. The government’s stated aims of education were (1) education for production, (2) education for scientific consciousness, and (3) education for social consciousness. Political alliance with the Soviet Union influenced educational reform. Polytechnical education, which emphasizes familiarizing children with the important branches of production and acquainting them with first-hand practical experience, was widely introduced by Soviet educational advisers. A number of Ethiopian students were sent to the Soviet Union or Eastern-bloc countries for higher education or to Cuba for schooling at the secondary level.

The structure of the Ethiopian school system remained unchanged from that established in the late 1950s. Children began the 12-year program at age seven. Grades one through six make up the primary cycle, seven through eight the junior secondary cycle, and nine through 12 the senior secondary cycle. Students who passed the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination at the end of grade 12 were eligible for higher education, but space in the country’s colleges and universities was limited.


Education in Liberia, the oldest republic in Africa (1847), was distinctly different from that in any other African country. Liberia was founded by freed slaves from the United States, and its educational system was modeled on the American system. Public primary and secondary schools were established in the 19th century for the children of the settlers, but there was little money to extend schooling into the interior of the country for the indigenous people. Church schools were also established. The Western-style schools trained Liberians in the new settlements for work in offices. A few students were prepared for the legal or theological profession.

In 1912 a centralized educational system was established under a cabinet-level official, but, except for the establishment of a few secondary schools and colleges, nothing of importance happened until the end of World War II. In the prewar period, three-fourths of the schools were either private or mission-run. Economic growth and the interest of Pres. William V.S. Tubman in the 1950s resulted in a greater extension of education for indigenous Liberians. The educational system was organized to provide preprimary education for children ages four and five, six years of elementary education for children ages six through 12, and three years each of junior and senior high school. Postsecondary education could be pursued at three leading institutions: the University of Liberia, sponsored by the government; Cuttington University College, administered and financially supported by the Episcopal church with some financial aid from the government; and the William V.S. Tubman College of Technology. The educational expansion started by Pres. Tubman in the 1950s, however, reached only a small fraction of the people.

South Africa

From the time of the first white settlements in South Africa, the Protestant emphasis on home Bible reading ensured that basic literacy would be achieved in the family. Throughout the development from itinerant teachers to schools and school systems, the family foundation of Christian education remained, though it was gradually extended to embrace an ethnic-linguistic “family.”

Despite some major 19th-century legislation on the administration of education (1874 in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, 1865 in Cape of Good Hope, 1873–77 in Natal) and some early efforts to establish free schools, political and linguistic problems impeded the development of public education before 1900. Natal had gone furthest in affirming government responsibility for education and setting up the necessary administrative machinery, but, by and large, provision for schooling remained voluntary and piecemeal until the beginning of the 20th century.

The South African War (1899–1902; also called the Boer War) suspended educational development entirely and confirmed the resolve of each white South African group to protect its own cultural prerogatives. When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910, it was a bilingual state, and thus both English-speaking and Afrikaans-speaking schools were established for white Europeans. Furthermore, a political tightness and separateness increased among the Afrikaners after the war and strengthened their tendency to exclude nonwhites from the cultural and political life of the dominant society. The trend toward separate schools for linguistic and racial groups became a rigid practice in most of South Africa after union.

Church mission schools attempted to replace the preliterate tribal education of native Africans in the South African colonies. Established from 1789, they were dedicated to converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity and generally inculcating an attitude of service and subservience to whites. These schools spread from 1823 to 1842, and colonial governments made occasional grants to them from 1854. Some mission schools included a mixture of races but, by and large, segregation was established by custom. Although some exemplary schools followed rather liberal social and curricular policies, most schools held to narrowly religious content in their curricula. The mission schools were virtually brought into the state system through government subsidies and through provincial supervision, inspection, and control of teaching, curriculum, and examination standards.

By the time the union was formed, the new provinces had each established school systems, structured mainly for European children but including provisions for other groups. Specific arrangements varied, but basically the systems were headed by a department of education under a director and controlled through an inspectorate. Three of the provinces had school boards that localized the department administration. Compulsory-attendance regulations were being effected for European children, while separate school developments were under way for other groups. The language of instruction had been established provincially, with both Afrikaans and English in use.

The South Africa Act of 1909 left the control of primary and secondary education with the provinces, while reserving higher education to the union government. The Union Department of Education, Arts, and Science became the central educational authority and expanded its responsibilities by accepting control of special sectors such as vocational, technical, and artistic education.

In 1922, when the Phelps-Stokes Commission on education in Africa offered its report, South Africa’s example in the development of liberal and adaptable educational provisions for Africans, particularly in Natal and Cape Province, was held up for emulation. The passing of the tribal system was noted and efforts toward interracial cooperation complimented. It was obvious, however, that little of value to Africans was being done in the European-model schools and that noteworthy educational efforts were associated with special institutions, such as Lovedale School and University College of Fort Hare in the Cape.

Concern over African education in the 1940s led to the creation of the Eiselen Commission, whose report in 1951 accorded with the separatist racial views of the government that came to power in 1948 and laid the groundwork for subsequent apartheid (“apartness”) legislation in education. That legislation included the Bantu Education Act of 1953. The National Education Policy Act of 1967 and a subsequent Amendment Act in 1982, along with the Constitution Act of 1983, also reflected apartheid policy. The provinces incorporated national policy into their own legislation and administration.

Fundamentally, the system of apartheid rested on three assumptions: (1) that each cultural group should be encouraged to retain its identity and develop according to its “unique” characteristics, (2) that, with a population of diverse racial-social groups, the way to ensure peaceful coexistence and general progress was through legal and institutional separation, and (3) that the only agency capable of exercising overall responsibility for this development was the central government. Implementation of apartheid policy led to a near-total separation of educational facilities for white, black, Coloured (mixed-race), and Indian (Asian) populations, with resulting divergence of opportunity between the extremes of black and white education.

Administration of education was divided between national departments and provincial authorities. Because education was differentiated by race, four separate systems were established. Education for whites was controlled by the Minister of National Education, and provincial–federal coordination was accomplished through a National Education Council and a Committee of Heads of Education. Education for Coloured and Indian population groups was administered through the legislative bodies representing these groups, the House of Representatives and the House of Delegates, respectively. Education for blacks was largely the responsibility of the black “homeland” governments. All four systems were supposed to follow the same basic organizational and curricular patterns. For blacks outside the homelands, the Department of Education and Training administered education.

Formal characteristics distinguishing the system of education for blacks included a slightly different school organization, designation of state-aided community schools with school committees, provision for limited African-language instruction, and separate administration. More important, however, were the effects of inequality on the system’s operation. Although the government introduced a limited experiment in compulsory education, the dropout rate among blacks was high. Many pupils were educated in factory, mine, or farm schools that were less adequate than general schools. Teacher qualifications were lower for blacks than for the other groups. Illiteracy was high. Rural schools were crowded and short of materials. Few black pupils attended secondary schools.

There were some attempts to close the gap between black and white education at both lower and higher levels. The government proclaimed the principle of equal educational opportunity and, from the 1970s, sharply increased budget allotments for black education. Private and community efforts augmented schooling and introduced experimental integrated schools, and some private schools and white universities were opened to black students. Black schools remained severely inadequate, however, and the government’s position that the immensity of the problem defied immediate solution conflicted with the demands of black activist student organizations, which multiplied after 1976 (partly through division) and intensified their resistance through strikes and boycotts. Violence and fear intruded on township schools and on black universities during the apartheid period.

By the Extension of University Education Act in 1959, nonwhites were barred from entrance to white universities, and separate university colleges were set up on an ethnic-linguistic basis. This well-organized system of differentiating groups began to break down, however, as first English and then Afrikaans universities stated their policies of admission by merit, as university decisions and legislation opened nonwhite universities to other groups, and as protests against government quotas on university admissions became increasingly effective. The universities became centres of agitation against apartheid.

A major government commission, conducted through the Human Sciences Research Council, in 1981 recommended that a single system of education under a single ministry be established. Although principles of the report were accepted, the government held to the cultural policy from which institutional separation was derived. The change from an ideological basis to a pragmatic basis for this separation, combined with the elimination of formal barriers to racial crossovers and black mobility in education, produced a policy that competed with revolutionary strategies for social change.

Before the apartheid era came to an end during the early 1990s, South Africa began to address the crisis in African education. An Education Renewal Strategy was released in 1993. Discussions involving government officials, educators, parents, and students were initiated in the mid-1980s and were formalized in the 1990s. A single Ministry of Education was established in 1993.

Educational reform faced severe challenges, however. The primary obstacle was the limited amount of resources available for expenditure on education. School facilities in predominantly white schools were far superior to schools in black areas. Many African schools, especially in rural areas, lacked primary necessities such as heat, plumbing, and electricity as well as advanced facilities such as science laboratories. Shortages of basic classroom supplies were common.

Teachers were often poorly trained, particularly in the rural schools. Many teachers in suburban school systems, who generally were the best qualified, were reluctant to move to rural schools. Efforts were accelerated to improve the teacher-training system: the previously discriminatory qualifications required for primary and secondary teachers as well as for teachers from the different racial groups were standardized. All teachers must complete a full secondary course plus a three-year training course.

Thus in the early postapartheid period, class differences and geographic considerations began to become more characteristic of social division than race in South African schools. Improvement in the system depended largely on increased availability of resources for education, which in turn depended on a strong South African economy.

A shift to a more Afrocentric curriculum was an important element of South African educational reform during the 1990s. The government and private publishers created new curricula in which racial stereotypes were eliminated and the African perspective of South African history was emphasized. New approaches, including the use of oral histories, were introduced during the 1990s.

Some of the basic features of South African education continued into the postapartheid period. The system was organized into four three-year cycles: junior primary, senior primary, junior secondary, and senior secondary. Because the first year of the junior secondary cycle was taken in the primary school, the primary and secondary units were seven and five years, respectively (replacing an earlier eight-four organization). Schooling was compulsory for students of all races from age seven to 16.

The general high schools were predominantly academic but offered a range of streams. Specialized high schools, at the senior secondary level, offered technical, agricultural, commercial, art, and domestic science courses. Apprenticeship could begin after the first year of the senior secondary phase (grade 10). Attempts were made to form regional comprehensive schools. Private schools were found mainly in the northeast and in the Cape region.

The tertiary sector of South African education included universities, technikons (successors to the colleges of advanced technical education, offering programs ranging from one to six years in engineering and other technologies, management, and art), technical colleges and institutes, and colleges of education. Technical centres, industrial training centres, and adult education centres extended training to early school-leavers. During the 1990s many black university students demanded reduced admission standards and increases in scholarships and faculty appointments for blacks.

Language is intimately related to politics and to African aspirations. It was the imposition of Afrikaans as the compulsory language of instruction that triggered the Soweto riots in 1976 and the subsequent wave of unrest. Black parents and students demanded recognition of their own language and culture (Africanization) as well as the access to the metropolitan culture of their own and other countries that English could provide. During the early postapartheid period, Afrikaans was dropped as a language of instruction for black students in favour of English and African languages.

General influences and policies of the colonial powers

During the colonial period, the first direct “educational” influences from outside came from religious missionaries—first Portuguese (from the 15th century) and then French, Dutch, English, and German (from the 15th to the 19th century). Starting from coastal bases, they undertook to penetrate the interior and begin campaigns to convert the black populations. The missions were the first to open schools and to develop the disciplined study of African languages, in order to translate sacred texts or to conduct religious instruction in the native tongues.

The partition of Africa by the colonial powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries led first to the establishment of mission schools and then to the establishment of “lay” or “public” or “official” schools. The importance of either the lay or the religious system depended on the political doctrines of the mother country, its institutions (a firmly secular state or one with a state religion), and the status of the colony and its history. But, whatever the system, the fundamental purpose of colonial instruction was the training of indigenous subaltern cadres—clerks, interpreters, teachers, nurses, medical assistants, workers, and so forth—all indispensable to colonial administration, businesses, and other undertakings. Though inspired by the system in the mother country, no colonial system was equivalent to its prototype. The intention was not to “educate” the subject peoples but to extend the language and policies of the colonizer.

Such a generalization, though, is subject to a slight qualification with reference to the religious missions. Both the missions and the political administrations wished to model the African man in accordance with their own needs and objectives. The religious missions, however, became involved in the cultures of the Africans through continual contact with them in the daily ministrations; they used African languages in instruction wherever the colonial administration permitted it. Moreover, for a long while, religious establishments were alone in offering vocational education, some secondary education, and even some higher education to Africans—frequently in the face of the fears or opposition of the colonial authorities.

Education in Portuguese colonies and former colonies

Angola and Mozambique shared a common historical legacy of hundreds of years of Portuguese colonization, and the general overall educational philosophy for both countries was the same until independence. For Portugal, education was an important part of its civilizing mission. In 1921, Decree 77 forbade the use of African languages in the schools. The government believed that since the purpose of education was integration of Africans into Portuguese culture the use of African languages was unnecessary. In 1940 the Missionary Accord signed with the Vatican made Roman Catholic missions the official representatives of the state in educating Africans. By the 1960s an educational pattern similar to that in Portugal had emerged. It began with a preprimary year in which the Portuguese language was stressed, followed by four years of primary school. Secondary education consisted of a two-year cycle followed by a three-year cycle. After 1963 two universities were opened, one in Angola and the other in Mozambique. In addition, postprimary education was offered in agricultural schools, in nursing schools, and in technical service courses provided by government agencies. Despite remarkable progress in the 1960s, primary education was available to few Africans outside urban areas, and even there the proportion of African children in secondary schools was low.

Marxist governments triumphed in both Angola and Mozambique when independence came in 1975. Dissident groups, however, maintained bloody civil wars in both countries that had disastrous effects on the educational systems. Nevertheless, even during the fight for independence, educational reform was a main objective of the Popular Liberation Movement of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola; MPLA), which gained control of Angola when Portugal withdrew. A report of the first congress of the MPLA published in 1977 provided a blueprint that was followed with few deviations. Marxism-Leninism was stressed as the base for the educational system. The training of all people to contribute to economic development was a major objective. Eight years of primary education was to be universal. Secondary education, offered on a limited basis, included vocational as well as college preparatory courses. At the University of Angola, special emphasis was placed on scientific and engineering courses.

The Mozambique Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique; Frelimo) introduced its educational system in the areas it controlled even before independence. After independence, at the Third Congress of Frelimo in February 1977, policies for the transition to socialism were formalized. While Marxism would provide a foundation, the particular needs of Mozambique would be addressed. All schools were nationalized. However, the government faced a tremendous teacher shortage, as most of the teachers, who were Portuguese, had left the country. Crash programs in teacher training were introduced. Textbooks, although very limited, were produced that reflected the culture of Mozambique. Most were in Portuguese, which remained the official language of the country, in part because none of the multitude of different cultural groups dominated.

German educational policy in Africa

Well before Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had granted a charter to the German Colonial Society in 1885, German missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, were operating in various regions of western, central, and eastern Africa—from 1840 in Mombasa (now in Kenya), from 1845 in Cameroon, from 1847 in Togo, and from 1876 in Buganda (now Uganda) and in Mpwapwa and Tanga (now in Tanzania). Instruction was everywhere conducted in the local languages, which were objects of study by numerous missionaries and by eminent scholars.

On the eve of World War I, more than 95 percent of the schools in German Africa were operated by religious groups. In the southwestern part of the continent the government did not establish any schools at all, relying completely on missionary activity. (In eastern Africa, however, where the large Muslim population was unwilling to send its children to schools managed by Christian religious groups, the government did assume a more active educational role.) To assist the missions, the government granted aid to those schools that met requirements based on specific government needs that changed with time. An example of this sort of aid was the fund founded in 1908 for the dissemination of the German language. The missions had not previously been required to include German in the curriculum but were now forced to do so in order to receive money from the new fund. The language problem was a persistent one and was handled differently in different colonies. In eastern Africa, Swahili was recognized as a language and emphasized in the lower schools, thus providing a lingua franca for the entire area. The government attempted a similar policy with Ewe in Togo and Douala in the Cameroons, but German was the language of instruction in southwestern Africa.

Throughout the literature on German educational policy in the African colonies, there is a continued emphasis on the necessity for vocational education and practical work. The missions, however, were more interested in establishing schools providing general education, and lay German educators took a dualistic approach to African education, emphasizing both practical and academic studies.

The absorption of German colonies by England and France after World War II eradicated most of the German influence in education. However, the German insistence on Swahili in German East Africa left that area far more unified linguistically than any other colonial area.

Education in British colonies and former colonies

In the British colonies, as elsewhere, religious missions were instrumental in introducing European-style education. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the Moravian Mission, the Mission of Bremen, the Methodists, and Roman Catholic missionaries all established themselves on the Gold Coast (Ghana) between 1820 and 1881, opening elementary schools for boys and girls, a seminary, and eventually a secondary school (in 1909). In Nigeria, Protestant missions were opened at Badagry, Abeokuta, Lagos, and Bonny from 1860 to 1899, and the Roman Catholic missions entered afterward and opened the first catechism, primary, secondary, and normal schools. In Uganda and Kenya the Church Missionary Society, the Universities Mission to Central Africa, the White Fathers, and the London Missionary Society opened the first mission schools between 1840 and 1900.

The first official lay schools came later and for a long time constituted a weak minority. In 1899 in Nigeria, for instance, only 33 of the 8,154 primary schools, 9 of the 136 secondary schools, and 13 of the 97 normal schools were government-run. Similarly, in the Gold Coast in 1914 the government was responsible for only 8 percent of the schools. In Kenya and Uganda all schools were conducted by missions. Not until 1922 did the British government assume some responsibility for education in Uganda, by opening the first government technical school at Makerere (the future Makerere University College). Only in territories seized from the Germans in World War I did the British take over the administration of existing government schools. Generally, the British preferred to leave education to missions, which were given variable financial aid, usually from local and inadequate sources.

Following the publication of critical reports in 1922 and 1925—when there was growing uneasiness among the Africans, the missions, the governors, and the administrators—the necessity of a precise policy on education was imposed on the British authorities. In 1925 an Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies, created in 1924 and presided over by William Ormsby-Gore, published an important report. The ideas, principles, and methods formulated in this document covered the matters involved in defining a policy—namely, the encouragement and control of private educational institutions, the cooperation by the governmental authorities with these institutions, and the adaptation of education to the traditions of the African peoples. Special importance was placed on religious and moral instruction, the organization and status of education services, subsidies to private schools, instruction in the African languages, the training of native teachers, the inspection of schools and the upgrading of teachers, professional training and technique, and the education of young girls and women. The structure of an educational system at the most advanced stage was to consist of an elementary education (generally six years), diversified middle and secondary education (four to six years), technical and professional schools, specialized schools of higher education, and adult education.

In practice, subsequent British policy in Africa was far from the recommendations of the Ormsby-Gore committee. The subsidies to mission schools were subject to regulations that varied from one colony to another and paid insufficient attention to the character of the education. The development of instruction, especially secondary, was generally curbed, and various local associations and numerous organizations therefore arose to promote the expansion of education. The colonial governments exerted real effort only on behalf of schools that trained subaltern cadres for administration and commerce (mostly schools for the children of chiefs and prominent persons and the colleges at Makerere and Achimota). Government-sponsored secondary education began only after 1930 in the Gold Coast, only in a conditional manner in 1933 at Makerere College in East Africa, and only after 1935 in Nigeria. In Uganda no complete secondary school existed until 1945.

The Advisory Committee reports published in 1935 and 1944 raised the same questions and the same fundamental themes, indicating that the government still was playing an insufficient role in education. Development was primarily a result of the efforts of missions, of various private local or foreign institutions, and of local indigenous authorities. After World War II the different sectors of education were developed with the growing participation of Africans, who were gaining more autonomy. Secondary education expanded. Institutions of higher learning were improved and increased in number. University colleges were established at Accra and Ibadan in 1948, at Makerere in 1949, and at Khartoum in 1951; a College of Technology (later, University of Science and Technology) was founded in Kumasi in 1951; and the Royal Technical College of East Africa (later, University College) was founded in Nairobi in 1954. Beginning in 1950, development plans for the various colonies—Ghana (the Gold Coast), Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika—contributed to educational progress.

Upon achieving home rule and then independence, the new African states born of the old British colonies were inheritors of an educational system that, though better than that of the other African states, was still a cause for concern. In most states (Ghana, Kenya, and Malaŵi being the only exceptions), less than 40 percent of the population had a primary education. Secondary education was even less widespread, Ghana being the only country in which it exceeded 10 percent. Higher education existed in urban centres but only in an embryonic state. Other serious obstacles to the ultimate development of education for all the people included the diversity of organizations and institutions responsible for education, the necessity for students to pay fees, and the complexity of the legislation in force.

Every one of the various countries set out to improve education. They offered subsidies to private schools, extended supervision over them, and regulated their tuition. They increased the number of primary and secondary schools offering free or partly free instruction and created numerous institutions of higher learning, such as the universities of Cape Coast in Ghana, of Lagos, of Ifé, and of Ahmadu Bello in Nigeria, as well as the universities of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Nairobi in Kenya, and Makerere in Uganda. The educational systems inherited from colonial rule were racially integrated and subjected to “Africanization.” The rate of educational growth was not spectacular, however. Moreover, the place made for African languages in primary education seemed everywhere to have been eclipsed by English, the official language—in spite of the widespread use of African languages in the mass media.

Education in French colonies and former colonies

As elsewhere in Africa, mission schools were the first to be established in French colonies. Although public or official schools appeared in Senegal between 1847 and 1895, the first such schools in Upper Senegal, Niger, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Dahomey were begun only from 1896 on.

Only after 1900, with the organization of the federated colonies of French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa, was there a French colonial policy on education. By decree in 1903, education in French West Africa was organized into a system of primary schools, upper primary schools, professional schools, and a normal school. Two further reorganizations followed decrees in 1912 and 1918, and important schools were established—the St. Louis Normal School in 1907 (transferred to Gorée in 1913), the School for Student Marine Mechanics of Dakar in 1912, and the School of Medicine of Dakar in 1916. The educational organization that remained in force in French West Africa from 1924 until 1947 included a system consisting of primary instruction for six years (regional urban schools), intermediate-higher education given in upper schools and in professional schools (generally one for each colony), and at the top the federal schools (two normal schools, a school of medicine and pharmacy, a veterinary school, a school for marine mechanics, and a technical school). The two schools for secondary education, both in Senegal (the Faidherbe State Secondary School of St. Louis and Van Vollenhoven State Secondary School, at Dakar), were reserved for Europeans and those rare Africans having French status.

Total enrollment in French West African schools rose from 15,500 in 1914 to 94,400 in 1945. The number of students in the higher primary schools grew in the same period only from 400 to 800 or 900. (The area’s total population in 1945 was almost 16 million.)

Educational policy was stated frankly in the official statements of governors general:

Above all else, education proposes to expand the influence of the French language, in order to establish the [French] nationality or culture in Africa (Bulletin de l’Enseignement en AOF, No. 45, 1921); Colonial duty and political necessity impose a double task on our education work: on the one hand it is a matter of training an indigenous staff destined to become our assistants throughout the domains, and to assure the ascension of a carefully chosen elite, and on the other hand it is a matter of educating the masses, to bring them nearer to us and to change their way of life. (From Bulletin de l’Enseignment en AOF, No. 74, 1931.)

After World War II all inhabitants of the newly established French Union became citizens in common who were represented in the French Parliament. This political policy carried over into education, which became even more assimilationist: the old higher primary schools, for instance, became classical and modern secondary schools on the French model. An Investment Fund for Economic and Social Development provided financial and developmental aid to education—to the extent that primary enrollments rose to 156,000 in 1950 and to 356,800 in 1957 and higher primary enrollments rose to 5,800 in 1950 and to 14,100 in 1957. Technical and professional education also expanded, from 2,200 students in 1951 to 6,900 in 1957. Scholarships awarded by the central government, the colonies, and local groups enabled an increasing number of African youths to pursue higher education in France. In Senegal in 1950 the first French West African university, the Institute for Higher Studies (later called the University of Dakar), was established. It was followed by those of Abidjan and Brazzaville.

In 1957 and 1958, when the colonies achieved autonomy and then a kind of commonwealth status within the new French Community established by the Gaullist constitution, education began a more intensive development, at least quantitatively. More primary and secondary schools were opened, teacher training was accentuated, and more scholarship students went to France. Within three years, after the French African countries had achieved full independence, this upgrading of education accelerated. Curricular reforms, however, were slow. Although countries including Guinea, Mali, and Congo (Brazzaville) introduced such reforms as the Africanization of history and geography, generally the traditional French system persisted, and courses were taught in French. The so-called ruralization of primary education—that is, the spread of education out beyond the towns—proceeded under the aegis of the governments and French educational officials.

The rise in the number of primary students was spectacular at first. Between 1955 and 1965, for instance, the percentage of primary-age children enrolled in school increased in Guinea from 5 to 31, in Senegal from 14 to 40, in Niger from 2 to 12, and in Chad from 5 to 30. Such progress, however, depended on recourse to unqualified teaching personnel. Some countries subsequently continued programs of rapid educational expansion. Progress was slower in other countries, and in some areas enrollment even declined. Also, in the former French areas, the number of students attaining a higher education remained among the lowest in Africa.

Education in Belgian colonies and former colonies

As elsewhere—and perhaps more than elsewhere—the Catholic and Protestant missions played the prime role in the development of education in the Belgian Congo (now Congo [Kinshasa]; called Zaire from 1971 to 1997) and in Ruanda-Urundi (the present states of Rwanda and Burundi). In the period before 1908, when the Belgian king Leopold II treated the Congo as virtually his private preserve, the missions had assumed an unofficial responsibility for education. After 1908, when the Belgian parliament assumed control of the Congo, the Roman Catholic mission schools were afforded government subsidies and given a privileged official status; the Protestant schools, though not provided with financial assistance, were officially authorized to operate. Throughout the colonial period the overwhelming majority of schools were missionary, and until 1948 the systems were limited to two-year primary schools, three-year middle schools, and a sprinkling of technical schools for training indigenous cadres. In 1948 the Belgian government issued a new plan titled “Organization of Free Subsidized Instruction for the Indigenous with the Assistance of Christian Missionary Societies,” which promised more diversification in primary education (both vocational and secondary-preparatory) and, more radically, recommended the establishment of secondary schools that would prepare the Congolese for higher education.

In 1962 the government of the newly independent Congo proceeded with a reform of the old educational system. The first primary degree was standardized and its length extended from two or four years to six years; and pupils were to take a common primary course prior to their orientation toward general, normal, or technical secondary education or toward professional education. Numerous specialized schools of higher education were created: the National Institute of Public Works and Construction, the School of Civil Engineers, the National Institute of Mines, the Higher Pedagogical Institute, the Higher Institute of Architecture, and the National School of Administration. To the already existing Lovanium University of Kinshasa (founded in 1954) and the Official University of the Congo (founded in 1955 in Lubumbashi) there was added the Free University of the Congo (founded in 1963 in Léopoldville [from 1966 called Kinshasa]). Although less pronounced, an analogous evolution characterized Burundi and Rwanda.

By 1970 Congo was among the African countries enjoying the best school and university infrastructure. Then, from 1974 to 1977, the country, then called Zaire, went through a period of intense nationalism. Zairian citizens with Christian names were ordered to change them to African names. Foreign-owned businesses were sold to Zairian citizens. All schools were nationalized, and mission schools were made state schools. A program of accelerated teacher training was instituted. The old universities were combined with the National University of Zaire. The economic chaos that resulted from these moves caused the government to quickly rescind its plans, however. Businesses were returned to foreign owners in 1977. The church schools were reinstated in 1976, and the universities once again separated in 1981. The result of this upheaval was disastrous for the educational system.

Problems and tasks of African education in the late 20th century

The independent African states faced numerous problems in implementing an educational policy that would encourage economic and social development. Pedagogical problems and economic and political problems intermixed. The difficulties confronting most governments, however, were basically political.

Numerical increases in school enrollments, though occasionally spectacular, failed to correspond to the legitimate aspirations of the people or even, more modestly, to the initial objectives fixed by the governments themselves. The Conference of Nairobi in July 1968 viewed as rather alarming the lack of progress in education and literacy in the context of growing populations. Increasing emphasis was placed on improving and expanding vocational-technical, adult, and nonformal programs of education. There was also concern about the financial difficulties of the different states, the unsuitability of current educational systems to local needs, the waste and duplications in primary and secondary education, and the insufficient liaison between educational policy makers and the planners of economic and social development. In short, an educational crisis developed and ripened in Africa.

The Middle East

Modern education was introduced into the Middle East in the early 19th century through several channels. Rulers in both Egypt and the Ottoman Empire (1300–1922) established new military and civilian schools to teach people the skills required to build modern states. In Iran, too, rulers opened new schools, though on a much smaller scale. Many missionary and foreign schools were also established, especially in the Levant. These modern institutions affected only a small percentage of the people, however; the mass continued to receive a traditional education in the Islamic schools.

Colonialism and its consequences

Following World War I and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, new states emerged, which—with the exception of Turkey and Iran—fell under French or British control. Although the new countries inherited educational institutions of various size, each needed to build a new educational system, either from scratch or by expanding a small existing system. Each country sought to use education to provide the skilled manpower required for national development and to socialize its diverse population into feeling loyal to the new state. Educational expansion was pursued everywhere, but the particular pattern of change was profoundly affected by the nature of the political regime, particularly by colonial status. In Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, educational policy reflected French interests. In Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq, British policy prevailed. Both colonial powers shared similar goals: to preserve the status quo, train a limited number of mid-level bureaucrats, limit the growth of nationalism, and, especially in the case of France, impose its culture and language. Accordingly, they limited educational expansion, particularly at the higher levels, even though the demand continued to grow.

Private, foreign, and missionary schools were favoured everywhere as alternatives for the upper classes to the inadequate public schools. The public systems were centrally administered. Their curricula were usually copied from the British or the French and thus were of limited relevance to local needs; the numbers and quality of teachers were seldom adequate; and dropout rates were high. Few modern schools were to be found in the Arabian Peninsula. Only in Lebanon and in the Jewish community in Palestine (which developed its own educational system) were significant numbers of students enrolled in modern schools. Elsewhere only a small percentage of the populace (including a few women) received a modern education.

Upon achieving independence, the Middle Eastern countries nationalized the private schools, which were regarded as promoting alien religions and cultures, and greatly expanded educational opportunities, especially at the upper levels. Egypt, for example, in 1925 nationalized a small, poor private institution (founded in Cairo in 1908) and made it into a national university and subsequently opened state universities in Alexandria (1942) and ʿAin Shams (1950). The newly independent countries also sought to equalize educational opportunities. Iraq provided free tuition and scholarships to lower-class students. Syria, in 1946, made primary education free and compulsory. Jordan enacted a series of laws calling for free and compulsory education and placed strict controls on foreign schools, especially the missionary ones.

Despite their importance, these reforms did not transform education. The schools in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan, for example, continued to be characterized by rigidity, formalism, high dropout rates, and limited relevance to national needs. Moreover, rapid population increases often offset the educational gains, especially in Egypt. Egypt also could not overcome the existing fragmentation of its educational system. Its modern system was divided into schools for the masses and schools that provided access to the higher levels for the elite. Both types coexisted uneasily with the traditional Islamic schools, which ran the gamut from rudimentary primary schools to the venerable al-Azhar University.

Countries with strong nationalist leaders were more successful in modernizing education. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk of Turkey, who was determined to create a modern state, initiated a dramatic program of social and cultural change in which education played an important role. He closed the religious schools, promoted coeducation, prepared new curricula, emphasized vocational and technical education, launched a compulsory adult education project, established the innovative Village Institutes program to train rural teachers, and, in 1933, reorganized Istanbul University into a modern institution staffed mainly by refugees from Nazi Germany. Later, Istanbul Technical University also reorganized and Ankara University was established.

Reza Shah Pahlavi followed similar policies in Iran, albeit to a lesser degree, for he was a reformer rather than a modernizer and ruled a country that had been largely isolated from modern influences. He integrated and centralized the educational system, expanded the schools, especially the higher levels, founded the University of Tehrān (1934), sent students abroad for training, moved against the Islamic schools, promoted the education of women, and inaugurated an adult education program. Nevertheless, the Iranian educational system remained small and elitist.

After World War II new leaders came to power, including Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt in 1952, Habib Bourguiba in Tunisia when it became independent in 1956, and the revolutionary government that deposed the monarchy in Iraq in 1958. They began to make major administrative and social reforms and adopted educational policies similar to those of Atatürk. Bourguiba’s reform plans called for universal primary education, an emphasis upon vocational training, expansion of the higher levels, incorporation of the Qurʾānic schools into the modern system, and the promotion of women’s education.

Tunisia, like the other French possessions in North Africa, had to face yet another educational challenge—nationalizing a system that was designed to socialize students into French culture. Arabicization, the substitution of Arabic for French as the language of instruction and of texts and syllabi representing Arab concerns for ones developed to meet French needs, presented many difficulties. Most teachers were qualified to teach only in French, and appropriate texts were not available. When Algeria and Morocco gained independence from France they adopted similar policies and encountered the same problems, which were expensive and difficult to overcome.

Egypt’s President Nasser also sought to transform society and culture. He integrated and unified the Egyptian educational system by bringing the religious schools under secular control and by transforming al-Azhar University, long a centre of Islamic learning, into a modern institution. The old elementary system, which provided access to further education only for urban students, was abolished, and major curricular and other reforms were implemented. All public education was made free, and strong efforts were made to universalize primary education, to upgrade technical and vocational education, and to improve the quality of education generally.

These important reforms did not always produce the anticipated results. Nasser failed to devise a coherent educational strategy that paid adequate attention to the systemic implications and the fit between educational expansion and developments in other sectors. Tunisia, too, despite large investments, was unable to coordinate educational expansion with the needs of the economy.

The second half of the 20th century

Every modern Middle Eastern state strove to create an educational system that promoted economic growth and provided equal educational opportunities. In addition, the Arab states wished to promote cultural unity. In 1957 Egypt, Syria, and Jordan replaced the educational structures that had been established by the colonial powers with a common one consisting of six years of primary school, three years of middle school, and three years of secondary school. Most of the Arab states subsequently followed this pattern, although the length of the school year varied from country to country. The Arab systems also differed in the emphasis they placed on certain subjects, especially religious instruction and Arabic, which occupied an especially prominent place in Saudi Arabian schools.

Turkey, Iran, and all the Arab states except Lebanon had another feature in common: education to the secondary level in these countries was planned and administered by a central ministry. These ministries were generally characterized by administrative weaknesses that severely handicapped the provision of education. University education could also be the responsibility of the ministry or—as in Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt—of a separate body.

Educational planners had usually attained, or surpassed, their quantitative targets for academic schooling. School enrollments and literacy rates rose substantially throughout the Middle East. These gains, however, were at least partly offset by rapidly growing populations. Some governments initiated adult literacy programs, with varying degrees of success.

Planners were less successful in achieving their other goals. Despite great efforts, primary and secondary education everywhere retained certain traditional features. Inequalities remained in such areas as rural and urban access to education and women’s education. Although female school enrollment ratios rose throughout the Middle East, they remained considerably lower than male ratios in every country except Lebanon and Israel, which achieved almost universal elementary literacy. Moreover, at the higher levels of education, the percentage of women students became progressively lower. Many countries, especially Egypt and Tunisia, made strenuous efforts to overcome the economic and cultural factors that limited women’s education, but their experience demonstrated how difficult it was to do so.

Qualitative goals were also difficult to achieve. Financial, human, and physical resources were not able to keep pace with growing enrollments. As a result, the quality of primary and secondary education suffered. Split shifts, crowded classrooms, serious shortages of qualified teachers, and inadequate textbooks and curricula were common problems. The strict examination system used by most countries to determine which students may advance to the next level of education also hurt educational quality. Most experts agreed that the examination system did not provide a valid or reliable indication of student ability. Furthermore, they felt that it reinforced traditional tendencies toward memorization and a rigid classroom culture.

Various innovations were introduced in an attempt to remedy these shortcomings. One of the most important was the nine-year basic education program, which sought to provide all children between the ages of 6 and 15 years with an integrated study program that was practical, did not involve examinations, and prepared students to function in a changing environment. It was widely implemented in Egypt and was introduced in Tunisia and Syria as well.

The Middle Eastern countries were also confronted by serious problems at the university level. Because a degree was widely regarded as a passport to elite status, the demand for higher education grew dramatically. Every government sought to limit the flood of entrants through examinations but managed only to slow, not stop, the growth, which far outpaced projections and resources. To help accommodate the surplus, Egypt and Turkey established programs of “external students” and open universities, which allowed students to take courses at home at their convenience. Every year more and more students of lower-class backgrounds received a university education, but the entrance examinations tended to limit admissions to the most desirable faculties (medicine and engineering) to students with elite backgrounds. The rising number of graduates with unneeded skills in turn aggravated problems caused by lack of coordination between education and employment needs. Except in the Gulf states, which had manpower shortages, governments faced the difficult task of absorbing poorly prepared graduates into the work force while they tried to find qualified managers, technicians and skilled workers.

The development of higher education was adversely affected by political considerations. Most Middle Eastern countries never accepted the principle of academic freedom. Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel were prominent exceptions, but even Lebanese and Turkish universities were subject to political control. The Lebanese civil war and subsequent conflicts created a difficult environment for education at all levels. In Turkey the universities became so politicized in the 1970s that ideology influenced many aspects of university life. After the military coup of 1980, the government proceeded to limit university autonomy and to eliminate political activism. Iran and most Arab countries were ruled by more or less authoritarian regimes that regarded universities as potential sources of opposition. The governments in these countries tried to use schools and colleges to disseminate the prevailing ideology. Hence, scholars often emigrated, and those who remained at home were compelled to teach and to conduct research in ways that did not create difficulties.

Efforts to increase vocational and technical training were not very successful, because of the continuing appeal of white-collar careers. In Egypt the government’s determined attempt to channel students into technical and vocational schools yielded mixed results. Enrollments did increase, but the quality and relevance of such education was questioned as authorities considered the costs involved in purchasing necessary expensive equipment and in training and retaining qualified teachers, whose skills enabled them to obtain more remunerative positions in industry. The same difficulties prevailed in the other Middle Eastern countries, though Turkey established—with World Bank support—a network of modern vocational schools.

Technical training in the agricultural sector was also deficient. There was a shortage of qualified extension agents and other specialists everywhere. Moreover, the bias toward academics meant that rural education tended to be neglected, even though the need for agricultural modernization in national development required that peasants acquire a wide range of skills. Israel was one country where rural education received the attention that it deserved.

The Islamic revival

The rapid expansion of modern education and knowledge produced results that were not welcomed everywhere. Islam remained, in all societies, a powerful force—one nurtured by traditional factors and by religious education, which continued to be widely offered in one form or another. Believing that traditional Islamic values had been eroded by Western knowledge based on erroneous assumptions, numerous Islamic scholars called for the creation and diffusion of knowledge within an Islamic framework. The Iranian Revolution and the rise of Islamic fundamentalist movements demonstrated the power of this appeal. Religiously based polities like Saudi Arabia and Iran emphasized Islamic teachings and values in all schools and colleges, but many other states were providing more religious education than previously.

Migration and the brain drain

Educational systems were also affected by the widespread international migration of professionals and skilled workers that characterized the Middle East. The West siphoned off a significant percentage of the skilled manpower from Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan. Large numbers of educated persons migrated from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and especially Egypt and Jordan to the oil-rich states, particularly Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates, all of which faced severe manpower shortages. This flow aggravated shortages of skilled workers in many of the exporting countries, especially Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

These migration patterns influenced and were influenced by educational developments in several ways. They were the result of systems that did not meet a country’s labour requirements. The outflows further reduced existing standards, because migrants included the most qualified teachers, especially those with vocational and technical skills. Moreover, the attraction of working abroad was so strong that many persons chose schools and subjects in order to enhance their potential for migration, regardless of the domestic demand. Thus, domestic educational systems became geared to meet the needs of other societies while domestic employment needs were neglected.

Despite the many problems, it should be emphasized that all the Middle Eastern states built modern educational systems in the face of considerable difficulties. The importance of education was acknowledged everywhere, and every state strove to make education more relevant to personal and societal needs, to achieve greater equity, to lower the high wastage rates, and to improve quality.

Latin America

The term Latin America is a facile concept hiding complex cultural diversity. This abstraction covers a conglomerate of areas, distinguished by differences not only in the Indian and black population base but also in the superimposed nonindigenous patterns—Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and Anglo-Saxon. In this brief survey, generalizations will be limited to the major Spanish and Portuguese patterns.

The heritage of independence

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Spanish colonies enjoyed a prosperity that led to optimism, thoughts of independence, and republican rule. In the prolonged struggle for independence, they were all but ruined, and the change from absolute monarchy to popular democracy was far from easy. The revolutionaries tried to follow the U.S. model, but novel institutions clashed with those of the past; governmental practice did not follow political theory; and the legal equality of the citizens hardly corresponded to economic and educational realities.

The new governments all considered education essential to the development of good citizens and to the process of modernization. Accordingly, they tried to expand schools and literacy, but they faced two obstacles. Their first was a disagreement over what should form the content of education. Since the time of the Enlightenment, political tyranny and the Roman Catholic Church had been blamed for backwardness. Thus, once independence had been achieved, the liberals tried to get rid of the church’s privileges and to secularize education. The conservatives, however, wanted to follow traditional educational patterns and considered Catholicism a part of the national character. After decades of confrontation, the liberals in many countries managed to make education both secular in character and a state monopoly. In other countries, such as Colombia, by way of a concordat with the Holy See, religious education became the official one.

The second obstacle to educational expansion was a financial one. The new governments lacked the means with which to establish new schools. Thus, they began to import the Lancaster method of “mutual” instruction (named for its developer, the English educator Joseph Lancaster), which in monitorial fashion employed brighter or more proficient children to teach other children under the direction of an adult master or teacher. Its obvious advantage was that it could accomplish an expansion of education rather quickly and cheaply. Beginning in 1818, it was introduced in Argentina and then in Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Brazil. Until well into the second half of the 19th century, it was to be the most widely used system.

Almost all the heroes of independence tried to establish schools and other educational institutions. José de San Martín founded the National Library and the Normal Lancasteriana, a teacher-training school, in Lima; Simón Bolívar established elementary schools in convents and monasteries and founded the Ginecco (1825), known afterward as the Normal Lancasterian School for Women. Bernardino Rivadavia, the first president of Argentina, also stimulated educational development, including the establishment of the University of Buenos Aires. In mid-century Benito Juárez in Mexico also championed education as the only bulwark against chaos and tyranny.

By the 1870s the liberals had won the day almost everywhere throughout Latin America. Education was declared to be compulsory and free, the lack of teachers and teacher colleges notwithstanding. A program to remedy this situation was launched. Chile paid for the educator Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s travels to the United States and Europe and enabled him to found, on his return in 1842, the Normal School for Teachers. This was the first non-Lancasterian teachers’ college and was to be followed in 1850 by the Central Normal School in Lima and in 1853 by the Normal School for Women in Santiago. Countries with more acute educational problems, such as Ecuador, simply imported the Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart and put them in charge of organizing their educational system. During the 1870s and ’80s, foreign teachers began to be imported and students were sent abroad. Sarmiento had already called in North American teachers to open his normal schools in the 1860s, and Chile invited Germans for its Pedagogical Institute (1889). Germans and Swiss came to Mexico and Colombia; a number of distinguished Mexican educators were trained by Germans in the Model School in Orizaba. With the foreign professors came new pedagogical ideas—especially those of Friedrich Froebel and Johann Friedrich Herbart—and also new ideologies, foremost among them positivism, which flourished in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico.


With independence the task of overseeing public instruction fell to the state and local authorities. Fiscal poverty and a lack of trained personnel soon proved them unequal to the task. Furthermore, since most existing schools were confessional and private, the need for intervention by the central authorities to enforce unity became obvious. In 1827 the Venezuelan government established a Subdirectory of Public Instruction, which in 1838 became a directory. Mexico established a General Directory of Primary Instruction in 1833. Soon some countries decided to assume responsibility for centralization through a ministry for public instruction—Chile and Peru in 1837, Guatemala in 1876, Venezuela in 1881, and Brazil in 1891. Other governments abstained from accepting total responsibility. In Mexico, no ministry was created until 1905 and then only with jurisdiction over the Federal District and territories; even that became a victim of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. In 1922 a Mexican ministry was reestablished, now in charge of the whole republic and taking up the functions that the states could not fulfill. In Argentina the Lainez Law, decreed in 1905, authorized the National Council of Education to maintain, if need be, schools in the provinces.

In all countries, the control over education is in the hands of a ministry of public education or a similar government unit. Its functions include planning, building, and administering schools; authorizing curricula and textbooks for public elementary and secondary schools; and supervising private ones. In some countries, the states sustain their own educational systems, which the federal government then supplements, but, because of the disparity between city and countryside, these federal governments often had to shoulder almost the total burden of rural elementary education.

Primary education and literacy

At the time of independence, elementary education consisted of teaching reading and writing, the religious and civil catechisms, and rudiments of arithmetic and geometry. By the second half of the century it became differentiated between “elementary primary” and “superior primary” education, and the curriculum was enlarged to include the teaching of national language, history, geography, rudimentary natural sciences, hygiene, civics, drawing, physical education, and crafts for boys and needlework for girls. The elementary primary school was increased to five or six years, and the superior primary was to become the secondary school of the 20th century. These educational levels absorbed the greatest part of the governmental efforts and became a means to do away with illiteracy and also to create a concept of citizenship.

Primary instruction was improved by special programs and teacher training, and both benefited not only from educational influences coming from abroad but also from improvements resulting from the study of national problems. Today, primary-school teachers are trained in teachers’ colleges having the status of secondary schools.

Thanks to solid foundations laid during the 19th century, public education in Argentina and Chile reached a high level of competence. In other countries, because of such factors as a more heterogeneous population, a higher level of demographic growth, and greater geographical barriers, the results of great efforts have been less than impressive. Although all countries have declared primary instruction to be free and compulsory, the situation in reality is rather complex. Whereas in towns many children have gone from kindergarten to secondary schools since the beginning of the century, in the rural areas many schools have only one teacher to handle students of all levels. Furthermore, because many Indian citizens do not understand Spanish, special instruction is required.

In the 20th century, governments established special institutions for Indians. The first such cultural mission was created by the Mexican secretary of education, José Vasconcelos, in 1923. The idea was to send an elementary-school teacher, an expert in trades and crafts, a nurse, and a physical-education teacher to underdeveloped communities for a limited period of time to provide the population with some general education. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) helped in the training of teachers for these special areas through two regional centres of fundamental education for Latin America (CREFAL), one in Mexico and the other in Venezuela. Many countries tried to master the dropout problem by offering at least one free meal a day to those who continued their schooling.

Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile were able to multiply their schools and thus to provide facilities for their entire population of school age. In other countries the efforts may be gauged by comparing statistics. In Peru only 29,900 children went to school in 1845, but there were 59,000 in 1890 and 2,054,000 in 1965. In Brazil there were 115,000 pupils in 1869, 300,000 in 1889, and 9,923,000 in 1965. In Mexico there were 349,000 in 1874, 800,000 in 1895, and 7,813,000 in 1969. Unfortunately, the high population-growth rate made it difficult to keep up with the ever-increasing needs. Illiteracy was fought by various means in accordance with the political and socioeconomic situation.

Secondary education

During the 19th century, many countries established new secondary schools on the basis of colonial institutions. Thus, in 1821 Argentina converted its College of San Carlos into its College of Moral Sciences. Mexico attempted a total reform in 1833 but would not complete it until 1867 with the founding of the National Preparatory School, which involved reforming the whole system on the basis of positivist philosophy. In Brazil the Royal Military Academy was established in 1810 and the Pedro II College in 1830, but secondary instruction did not prosper until the return of the Jesuits in 1845 and was to be supplemented later by gimnasios—that is, Gymnasien on the German model. Peru and Venezuela established national colleges, and Chile and Argentina created liceos (modeled on the French lycées) and, later, national colleges. (The term college in all cases here is used in the continental European sense to refer to secondary institutions, not institutions of higher education.)

In all countries (except perhaps Chile), secondary instruction was considered a preparation for the university. All attempts to make it more formative and practical failed, in spite of the fact that the government took charge. The secondary-preparatory course lasted from five to six years, with a degree of bachelor (bachillerato) usually awarded upon its completion. Its teachers came from the humanities departments of the universities and the superior normal schools (which existed from 1869 in Argentina, 1889 in Chile, and the 20th century in the other countries).

Polytechnical education—industrial, commercial, and agricultural—had been a concern of liberal governments since the end of the 19th century. Traditional prejudices against practical instruction were overcome only after industrialization began. It was emphasized in Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and Mexico.

Higher education

Imbued with a revolutionary spirit in which education was a vital element, Latin Americans founded 10 universities between 1821 and 1833, among them the University of Buenos Aires (1821). Bolívar himself established two in Peru, Trujillo (1824) and Arequipa (1828). With independence, practically all theological faculties had disappeared, and their position of preeminence was taken over by faculties of law.

Four universities were founded in the 1840s, Chile’s among them, and 10 more in the second half of the 19th century. In Mexico the new institutions called themselves institutes of arts and sciences, because the University of Mexico (founded in 1551) was associated with colonialism and had become a favourite target of the liberals. The University of Mexico was suppressed in 1865, not to be reopened until 1910, the year of the revolution. Argentine liberals solved their problem by passing the Avellaneda Law (1885), which allowed only national universities, prohibiting private universities (until the reform of 1955).

In Brazil the plans to open a university in 1823 failed. Several professional schools were established, but the first university opened its doors in 1912 in Paraná. In 1920 the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro was founded.

Almost all higher education in Latin America came to be secular and state-operated. The fact that Latin American governments, themselves unstable, generally took charge of higher education explains in part its uncertain existence.

Some colonial religious institutions nevertheless survived. During part of the 19th century, for instance, the University of the Republic in Montevideo maintained its ties with the church. In 1855 the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, through a concordat with Rome, reverted to pontifical status. But with the exception of the Catholic University in Chile (1888), the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (1917), and the Javeriana University in Colombia (1931), all religious universities were modern creations. The need for technical education was also recognized by the Mexican government when it founded, in 1936, the National Polytechnical Institute as its second national institution of higher learning, with several branches in the country (regional technological institutes) to serve the particular needs of each region.

Until the 20th century, universities were mainly professional schools. Often they also supervised primary and secondary education (Uruguay, 1833–37; Chile, 1842–47; Mexico, 1917–21). Today they also conduct research and try to encourage regional developments. Unofficially, they have sometimes played a role in political life. Since the reform movement for student representation at the University of Córdoba in Argentina in 1918, they have become involved in political controversies. The Mexican government tried to extricate the National University from political strife by giving it autonomy in 1929. Student demonstrations by the late 1960s, however, proved this measure to lack effectiveness.

Reform trends

Although most of the Latin American countries achieved nominal independence in the 19th century, they remained politically, economically, and culturally dependent on U.S. and European powers throughout the first half of the 20th century. By 1960 many viewed this dependency as the reason for Latin America’s state of “underdevelopment” and felt that the situation could best be remedied through educational reform. The most general reform movement (desarrollista) simply accepted the idea of achieving change through “modernization,” in order to make the system more efficient. The Brazilian educationist Paulo Freire, however, advocated mental liberation through self-consciousness, a view that was influential in the 1960s and ’70s throughout Latin America. Because political dictatorship prevailed through the 1960s and part of the 1970s in many countries, authoritarian pedagogy became the practice, especially in Chile. In the 1980s the deep economic crisis in Latin America proved to be the greatest influence on education, obstructing all renovation or modernization of public education.

Southeast Asia

Indigenous culture, colonialism, and the post-World War II era of political independence influenced the forms of education in the nations of Southeast Asia—Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Before 1500 ce, education throughout the region consisted chiefly of the transmission of cultural values through family and community living, supplemented by some formal teaching of each locality’s dominant religion—animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, or Islam. Religious schools typically were attended by boys living in humble quarters at the residence of a pundit who guided their study of the scriptures for an indeterminate period of time.

With the advent of Western colonization after 1500 and particularly from the early 19th to the mid-20th century, Western schooling—with its dominantly secular curriculum, sequence of grades, examinations, set calendar, and diplomas—began to make strong inroads on the region’s traditional educational practices. For the indigenous peoples, Western schooling had the appeal of leading to employment in the colonial government and in business and trading firms.

After World War II, as all sectors of Southeast Asia gained political independence, each newly formed country attempted to achieve planned development—to furnish primary schooling for everyone, extend the amount and quality of postprimary education, and shift the emphasis in secondary and tertiary education from liberal, general studies to scientific and technical education. Although indigenous culture was still learned through family living and traditional religion continued to be important in people’s lives, most formal schooling throughout Southeast Asia had become predominantly of a Western, secular variety.

Schooling in all these countries was organized into three main levels: primary, secondary, and higher. In addition, nursery schools and kindergartens, operated chiefly by private groups, were gradually gaining popularity. The typical length of primary schooling was six years. Secondary education was usually divided into two three-year levels. A wide variety of postsecondary institutions offered academic and vocational specializations. Beginning in the 1950s, nonformal education to extend literacy and vocational skills among the adult population expanded dramatically throughout the region. Most of the countries were committed to compulsory basic education, typically for six years but up to nine years in Vietnam. However, the inability of governments to furnish enough schools for their growing populations prevented most from fully realizing the goal of universal basic schooling.

In each country a central ministry of education set schooling structures and curriculum requirements, with some responsibilities for school supervision, curriculum, and finance often delegated to provincial and local educational authorities. Government-sponsored educational research and development bureaus had been established from the 1950s in an effort to make the countries more self-reliant in fashioning education to their needs. Regional cooperation in attacking educational problems was furthered by membership in such alliances as the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The problems that most Southeast Asian education systems continued to face were reducing school dropout and grade-repeater rates, providing enough school buildings and teachers to serve rapidly expanding numbers of children, furnishing educational opportunities to rural areas, and organizing curricula and access to education in ways that suited the cultural and geographical conditions of multiethnic populations.


The indigenous system of education in Myanmar consisted mainly of Buddhist monastic schools of both primary and higher levels. They were based on (1) the moral code of Buddhism, (2) the divine authority of the kings, (3) the institution of myothugyi (township headmen), and (4) widespread male literacy. The Western system was established after the British occupation in 1886. The new system recognized women’s right to formal education in public schools, and women began to play an increasingly important role as teachers. The Government College at Rangoon and the Judson College established in the 19th century were incorporated as the University of Rangoon under the University Act of 1920.

Following independence in 1948, the country experienced more than a decade of political instability until a coup d’état in 1962 brought a strongly centralized socialist government to power. Subsequently, marked improvements in education occurred. Science was emphasized along with general academic subjects, civic education, and practical arts. Primary school attendance for children ages five through nine became free where available. Enrollments in primary schools and secondary schools and in higher education all increased.

Malaysia and Singapore

The Malay states, Singapore, and sectors of North Borneo were British colonies until reorganized as the country of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the coalition in 1965 to become an independent city-state. As a result, while Malaysia and Singapore shared common educational roots, their systems diverged after 1965.

Under British rule, the most significant feature of education on the Malay Peninsula was the structuring of primary schools in four language streams—Malay, Chinese, English, and Tamil. Students in the English stream enjoyed favoured access to secondary and higher education as well as to employment in government and commerce. After 1963 Malaysian leaders sought to indigenize and unify their society by adopting the Malay language as the medium of instruction in schools beyond the primary level and by teaching English only as a second language. In contrast, the government of Singapore urged everyone to learn English, plus one other local tongue—Chinese, Malay, or Tamil. Thus, in both Malaysia and Singapore the learning of languages became a critical issue in people’s efforts to gain access to socioeconomic opportunity and in political leaders’ attempts to unify their multiethnic populations.

Efforts to popularize schooling in Malaysia and Singapore were notably successful. By 1968 all primary-age children in Singapore were in school. In both countries, secondary- and higher-education enrollments continued to increase rapidly. Both nations were well supplied with school buildings, textbooks, and trained teachers.


From 100 to 1500 ce the Indonesian aristocracy adopted Hindu and Buddhist teachings, while education for the common people was provided mainly informally through daily family living. Islam, introduced into the archipelago about 1300, spread rapidly in the form of Qurʾān schools. The first few schools on Western lines were established by Portuguese and Spanish priests in the 16th century. As the Dutch colonialists gained increasing control over the islands, they set up schools patterned after those in Holland, primarily for European and Eurasian pupils. In 1848 the Dutch East Indies government officially committed itself to providing education for the native population. However, even though the amount of education for indigenous islanders increased over the following century, Western schooling under the Dutch never reached the majority of the population.

After Indonesians gained independence from the Dutch in 1949, they sought to provide universal elementary schooling and a large measure of secondary and higher education. Progress toward this goal after 1950 was rapid, despite the challenge of an annual population growth rate around 2.3 percent. Enrollments after 1950 increased significantly at the elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels. The majority of the country’s schools were of a Western secular variety, and the remaining Islamic schools were required to offer secular studies in addition to religious subjects.


The pre-Spanish Philippines possessed a system of writing similar to Arabic, and it was not uncommon for adults to know how to read and write. Inculcation of reverence for the god Bathala, obedience to authority, loyalty to the family or clan, and respect for truth and righteousness were the chief aims of education. After the Spanish conquest, the first educational institutions to be established on Western lines, apart from parochial schools run by missionaries, were in higher education. The Santo Tomás College, established in 1611 and raised to the status of a university in 1644–45, served for centuries as a centre of intellectual strength to the Filipino people. Educational growth, however, was slow, mainly because of lack of government support.

With the advent of American rule, the stress laid on universal primary education in the policy announced by U.S. Pres. William McKinley on April 7, 1900, led to a rapid growth in primary education. A number of institutions of higher education were also established between 1907 and 1941, including the University of the Philippines (1908). Private institutions of higher education, however, far outnumbered the state institutions, thus indicating a trend that remains a characteristic feature of the system of higher education in the Philippines.

The new Republic of the Philippines emerging after World War II launched a series of national development plans that included components aimed at the renovation and expansion of education to promote socioeconomic modernization. After 1948, enrollments rose dramatically in primary, secondary, and tertiary schools. In the late 20th century the Philippines had more than 1,000 higher-education institutions, and nearly all primary pupils attended public schools.


The traditional system of education in Thailand was inspired by the Thai philosophy of life, based on (1) dedication to Theravada Buddhism, with its emphasis on moral excellence, generosity, and moderation, (2) veneration for the king, and (3) loyalty to the family. The beginning of the modern system of education can be traced to 1887, when King Chulalongkorn set up a department of education with foreign advisers, mostly English educationists. Gradually, temple schools were established. The process of Westernization of education was strengthened with the establishment of a medical school in 1888, a law school in 1897, and a royal pages’ school in 1902 for the general education of “the sons of the nobility.” It was converted into the Civil Service College in 1910.

The abolition of the absolute monarchy after the 1932 revolution stimulated the government to increase educational provisions at all levels, particularly for training specialists in higher-learning institutions. Beginning in 1962, the nation’s series of five-year development plans assigned educational institutions a crucial role in manpower preparation. The government supervised all educational institutions, public and private. Financing education was primarily a government responsibility, supplemented by the private sector. Thai was the language of instruction at all levels, with English taught as a second language above grade four.


For nearly four centuries before the advent of the French in 1863, the educational system in Cambodia grew up around Theravada Buddhism, which became the established religion toward the end of 1430 under Thai influence. In 1887 Cambodia became a part of the French Indochina Union and did not achieve complete independence until 1954. Pagoda schools, imparting education at the primary level, were remodeled and integrated into the primary school system administered by the Ministry of Education.

Civil war throughout the 1970s disrupted education until Vietnamese forces overthrew the Khmer Rouge government in 1979. By the mid-1980s schools had reopened with a total enrollment of nearly two million throughout the four-year primary, three-year junior-secondary, and three-year senior-secondary structure. Secondary schools and the country’s few higher-education colleges were in a state of rebuilding. Much of the teacher-training was in the form of short courses, and nonformal adult literacy classes multiplied at a rapid pace.


The pagoda school was the main unit of the traditional educational system in Laos. Efforts toward modernization came in the wake of the country’s becoming a French protectorate in 1893 and finally after its inclusion in 1904 within the French Indochina Union. The medium of education was changed to French when the French Education Service was created.

In 1975, after 30 years of uninterrupted revolution, a socialist government was established and schooling was accorded high priority. Within a decade, more than three quarters of all children 7 to 11 years old were in the five-year primary school, about one half of children 12 to 14 years old were in the three-year junior-secondary school, and about one quarter of the 15- to 17-year-olds were in the three-year senior-secondary school.


Lengthy Chinese domination of Vietnam resulted in strong Confucian and Daoist influences on the Vietnamese educational system, though it centred on Buddhism. The establishment of French rule, commencing with the occupation of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1859, led to the gradual growth of a pattern of education similar to that of the rest of the former Indochina Union. Vietnamese attempts to develop education were thwarted by the continued fighting from World War II onward and, after the partition of the country in 1954, by fighting between the South and the North. After the war’s end in 1975, the communist government attempted to “reeducate” the conquered South and sought to establish urgently needed technical and vocational education in secondary and higher levels. By the next decade there were eight million pupils in elementary schools, four million in secondary schools, and more than 115,000 in higher-education institutions.

Global trends in education

The development and growth of national education systems

One of the most significant phenomena of the 20th century was the dramatic expansion and extension of public (i.e., government-sponsored) education systems around the world—the number of schools grew, as did the number of children attending them. Similarly, the subjects taught in schools broadened from the basics of mathematics and language to include sciences and the arts. Various explanations have been given for the substantial increase in numbers of youths as well as adults attending government-sponsored schools; social scientists tend to categorize the reasons for these enrollment increases as products of either conflict or consensus in the process of social change. In most cases these perspectives are rooted in theories of social science that were formulated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Education and social cohesion

One major school of thought is represented in the work of French sociologist Émile Durkheim, who explained social phenomena from a consensus perspective. According to him, the achievement of social cohesion—exemplified in Europe’s large-scale national societies as they experienced industrialization, urbanization, and the secularization of governing bodies—required a universalistic agency capable of transmitting core values to the populace. These values included a common history that contributed to cultural continuity, social rules that instilled moral discipline and a sense of responsibility for all members of the society, and occupational skills that would meet the society’s complex and dynamic needs. Durkheim recognized that public schooling and teachers—as agents of a larger, moral society—served these necessary functions. As he observed in The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), “Education sets out precisely with the object of creating a social being.”

Durkheim’s thoughts, expressed near the turn of the 20th century, were reflected in the policies of newly sovereign states in the post-World War II period. Upon achieving their independence, governments throughout Africa and Asia quickly established systems of public instruction that sought to help achieve a sense of national identity in societies historically divided by tribal, ethnic, linguistic, religious, and geographic differences.

Education and social conflict

The German political theorist and revolutionary Karl Marx viewed public schooling as a form of ideological control imposed by dominant groups. This perspective saw education not as building social cohesion but as reproducing a division of labour or enabling various status groups to gain control of organizations and to influence the distribution of valued resources. The German sociologist Max Weber regarded educational credentials as one such resource, in that credentials function as a form of “cultural capital” that can generally preserve the status quo while granting social mobility to select members of society.

Education and personal growth

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that education should mean the total development of the child. On the basis of the observations he made at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools—the experimental elementary schools that he founded in 1896—Dewey developed revolutionary educational theories that sparked the progressive education movement in the United States. As he propounded in The School and Society (1899) and The Child and the Curriculum (1902), education must be tied to experience, not abstract thought, and must be built upon the interests and developmental needs of the child. He argued for a student-centred, not subject-centred, curriculum and stressed the teaching of critical thought over rote memorization.

Later, in Experience and Education (1938), he criticized those of his followers who took his theories too far by disregarding organized subject matter in favour of vocational training or mere activity for their students. If prudently applied, progressive education could, Dewey believed, “shape the experiences of the young so that instead of reproducing current habits, better habits shall be formed, and thus the future adult society be an improvement on their own.” Concurrent pedagogies appeared in European institutions such as Ovide Decroly’s École de l’Ermitage (the Hermitage School), which envisioned students utilizing the classroom as a workshop, and Maria Montessori’s Casa dei Bambini (“Children’s House”), which incorporated experiential and tactile learning methods through students’ use of “didactic materials.”

Education and civil society

Toward the end of the 20th century, comprehensive theories—such as those represented by the consensus and conflict models—were increasingly viewed as oversimplifications of social processes and, in many quarters, gave way to more particularized interpretations. One such perspective viewed educational expansion and extension less as a function of national interest and more as a by-product of religious, economic, political, and cultural changes that had occurred across most of Europe. Especially in the wake of the Enlightenment, an emphasis on the glorification of God was joined by the growing celebration of human progress (ultimately defined as economic growth), while concerns for the salvation of the soul were augmented by the cultivation of individual potential. As nation-states with centralized governments extended citizenship rights in the 18th century, state sponsorship of schools began to supersede the church-supported instruction that had become the norm in the 16th and 17th centuries (see Education, history of: Central European theories and practices). According to such scholars as John Meyer and Michael Hannan in National Development and the World System: Educational, Economic, and Political Change, 1950–1970 (1979), formal systems of education not only represent the means by which nation-states have modernized and prospered economically but are also the surest route to enhancing the talents of individuals. As a requirement for all children and youths between certain ages and as an institution regulated by the state, schooling also became the primary agency for creating citizens with equal responsibilities and rights.

These values emerged in education systems throughout the world, especially in the late 20th century as education professionals promoted them in developed and less-developed countries alike. As such, schools effectively carried modernity into many parts of the world, where it was met with varying degrees of resistance and acceptance. Teachers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies contributed, for example, to standardization in the shape and style of the classroom, types of curricula, and goals for school enrollments. In the first half of the 20th century, schools in most industrialized countries came to exhibit similar characteristics—that is, schools could be identified as schools. By the second half of the 20th century, these traits had become prominent in most schools around the world.

Education and economic development

One explanation for the changes evidenced in this “institutionalist” view of education can be found in the human-capital theory first popularized by American economist Theodore Schultz in “Investment in Human Capital,” his presidential address to the American Economic Association in 1960. According to this theory, education is not a form of consumption that represents a costly expenditure for government but instead serves as an investment that improves the economic worth of individuals (e.g., human capital) and thereby raises a country’s overall productivity and economic competitiveness. In other words, governments support education because it ultimately strengthens their countries.

Global enrollment trends since the mid-20th century

Each of these theories partially explains the widespread increase in enrollments, as reported by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), in all levels of education during the last half of the 20th century. Broadly speaking, enrollments increased substantially for school-age children and youths, while adult illiteracy rates decreased significantly. In the second half of the 20th century, the proportion of children worldwide enrolled at all levels (from primary through tertiary) increased from less than half to approximately two-thirds of the relevant age-groups.

Much of this enrollment growth was a product of political change. Most countries in a postcolonial phase expand their education systems, largely because it is something governments can do at a reasonable cost with significant effect. With the opening of schools to many who were once denied education under semifeudal, colonial, or totalitarian systems, it has not been uncommon to find large numbers of overage students enrolled. First-grade classes might have an age range from 6 to 11. Overall, primary-school enrollments more than tripled in the last half of the 20th century, from slightly more than 200 million to some 670 million; secondary education increased more than ninefold, from more than 40 million to nearly 400 million; and tertiary education increased more than 12-fold, from about 7 million to nearly 90 million. Higher levels of enrollment are usually sustained, in part, because “credentialing”—the attainment of degrees or certificates of achievement—has become a social necessity. Employers tend to seek highly schooled individuals while depending on the education system to prepare and distinguish job candidates. In addition, enrollments have been known to gain momentum through the “queuing” effect; that is, when people line up to participate in something, others soon join the crowd in the belief that something of value will be obtained.

Primary-level school enrollments

In not only the industrially developed world but also in other regions (e.g., Latin America and East and South Asia), gross primary-school enrollment rates had reached 95 to 100 percent by the beginning of the 21st century, while in Africa they had achieved an average of about 80 percent. Some of the world’s least-developed countries took the most dramatic steps toward offering universal primary education in the final decades of the 20th century. As late as 1970 less than half of the relevant school-age population attended primary schools in such countries, but by 1997 primary-school enrollments in the least-developed countries had grown to include more than 70 percent of school-age children. Between 1999 and 2005, the overall number of children entering primary education worldwide increased by 4 percent, from 130 million to 135 million. Worldwide total enrollment for primary education increased 6 percent, to 688 million. The biggest gains for entering students took place in sub-Saharan Africa, with an increase of 40 percent. Some countries, however, continued to lag behind this trend. Some of the world’s lowest primary-school enrollment rates persisted in countries such as Niger and Djibouti (both less than 40 percent). Although primary education, as compared with higher levels of schooling, is the least costly to maintain and the easiest to expand, a 2008 UNESCO Global Monitoring Report, Education for All, concluded that a number of sub-Saharan African and Arab countries were not likely to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Another significant challenge is to provide continuing education opportunities for those who complete basic schooling.

Secondary-level school enrollments

In the second half of the 20th century, secondary-school enrollments worldwide expanded from less than one-fifth to almost two-thirds of the relevant age-group. Between 1999 and 2005, enrollment in secondary education grew by 17 percent to 512 million worldwide, an increase of 73 million. Secondary education in developed countries has become, with few exceptions, universally available. In East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, secondary-education enrollment rates ranged from approximately 60 percent to 70 percent at the beginning of the 21st century. South Asia and Africa had the lowest enrollment rates, at approximately one-half and one-third of the age-group, respectively. Between 1999 and 2005, the fastest growth rates in secondary education occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia, and the Arab countries at 55 percent, 27 percent, and 21 percent, respectively. Enrollment numbers are significantly dependent upon a country’s economic resources; it has been the case, for instance, that many youths in this age group cannot attend school because they are needed to supplement family income.

There was a marked worldwide trend toward more comprehensive secondary education in the second half of the 20th century. The higher enrollments were intended to permit students to continue with higher education instead of being “tracked” into different schools and programs that provided a terminal vocational education. However, not all college and university graduates find work that is commensurate with their educational attainment. Increasingly, large numbers of underemployed tertiary-level graduates have led to a renewed interest in vocational education. At both the primary- and secondary-education levels, another worldwide trend has been the inclusion of a greater number of courses in mathematics and science, accompanied by a growing emphasis on computer-related courses intended to prepare students of all ages for participation in the modern economy and its dynamic labour needs.

Tertiary-level school enrollments

Higher education, which once had the primary purpose of educating religious leaders, now acts as a gateway to the modern sectors of national economies and often to a higher social status. Higher education is also where the greatest constriction of enrollments occurs. Worldwide, fewer than one-fifth of those aged 18–24 were engaged in some form of tertiary education at the turn of the 21st century, with less than 5 percent of those in the least-developed countries enrolled. By contrast, in the most industrialized and developed countries, higher-education enrollment as of 2005 reached approximately half of the age group, with rates of greater than two-thirds in North America and western Europe and nearly three-fifths in Oceania. Between 1999 and 2005, tertiary education enrollment grew by 45 million students to 138 million, with Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Cuba, and South Korea showing the greatest gains. In some countries access to higher education has come to be considered an entitlement or, alternatively, a social requirement for entry into the most prestigious occupations or high political offices.

Since the 1990s international trends in higher education include rapid growth of private institutions, closer ties to the marketplace (such as corporate sponsorship of university research), and institutional differentiation (such as specialization in particular subject areas or occupations). Postsecondary-learning options range from distance education and short-term courses to extended residential stays and postgraduate work at world-class institutions. Some of these trends stem from advances in communications and international travel. Developed countries not only provide more students with a greater variety of study options but also invest more heavily in the research-and-development infrastructure of higher education. However, regional differences in the capacity of higher-education systems to contribute to scientific research and technological innovation may constitute an even greater gap than differences in material wealth between the richest and poorest countries.

Other developments in formal education

At the other end of the school continuum, access to early childhood care and preschool education became increasingly important in preparing children for success in school. Although preschool enrollments more than doubled to approximately 100 million between 1975 and 2000, in many countries access was not always guaranteed to the poorest and most marginalized members of society, and private preschools frequently accounted for a majority of the options available to parents. Some countries, however, have attempted to provide universal preprimary education to all children for purposes of both child development and the socialization of individuals toward a national identity. France, for example, possesses a strong notion of a national, secular identity that was forged in the French Revolution. Debates at the beginning of the 21st century about the right of French students to wear religiously symbolic clothing or jewelry were, in fact, rooted in the values that emerged from the revolutionary period. In Italy an emphasis on early schooling was the result of social movements of the early 1960s. According to the American sociologist William Corsaro and the Italian psychologist Francesca Emiliani, the massive migration to cities and the active participation of women in labour protests brought demands that the state provide basic social services—including education and publicly funded child care.

Contemporaneous experiences in other parts of the world were quite different. Political revolution in China, for example, changed the very nature of education. Although traditional Chinese culture had attached great importance to education as a means of enhancing a person’s worth and career, by the end of the 1950s the Chinese government could no longer provide jobs adequate to meeting the expectations of those who had acquired some formal schooling. Furthermore, the anti-intellectualism inherent in the mass campaign periods of the Great Leap Forward and, especially, the Cultural Revolution diminished the status and quality of education. The damage done to China’s human capital was so great that it took decades to make up the loss.

A shift to rapid and pragmatic economic development occurred in the late 1970s, when China’s educational system increasingly trained individuals in technical skills so that they could fulfill the needs of the advanced, modern sectors of the economy. The overall trend in Chinese education reflected a combination of fewer students and higher scholastic standards, resulting in a steeply hierarchical educational system. At the turn of the 21st century, slightly more than one-third of the total population had completed primary schooling while roughly one-tenth of all Chinese had finished a secondary school education; fewer than 4 percent had earned an advanced degree. By the end of the 20th century, however, higher-education enrollments in China had grown rapidly. The government had permitted the opening of private educational institutions and had begun to decentralize the overall governance of education.

Higher education in China has expanded dramatically from nearly 7 percent of students in tertiary education in 1999 to nearly 22 percent in 2006. In 2007 almost 19 million students were enrolled in universities, and another 5 million were receiving some form of adult higher education at either the bachelor- or the associate-degree levels. In the same year, approximately 16 percent of students receiving higher education were enrolled in private institutions. Forty-eight percent were female.

Literacy as a measure of success

Between 1950 and 2000 the worldwide illiteracy rate dropped from approximately 44 percent to 20 percent of the population aged 15 and older. Yet the number of illiterate people, according to UNESCO data, increased from approximately 700 million in 1950 to some 860 million in 2000 due to rapid population growth in less-developed countries with inadequate education coverage. In the early 21st century South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa remained among the regions with the highest illiteracy rates, at about two-fifths. India and China—each with populations exceeding 1 billion and illiteracy rates of approximately two-fifths and one-sixth, respectively—accounted for a majority of the world’s illiterate adults. Even in developed countries, illiteracy rates of less than 2 percent continued to mask sizable populations who could not understand written communications or use various forms of print material in their everyday lives.

Global commitments to education and equality of opportunity

Countries increase the social and economic opportunities for their citizens by increasing access to a basic education that includes instruction in math, language skills, science, history, civics, and the arts. The right of individuals to an educational program that respects their personality, talents, abilities, and cultural heritage has been upheld in various international agreements, including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child; and the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Other international declarations further promote the rights of adults and special groups—including disabled individuals as well as ethnic minorities, indigenous and tribal peoples, refugees, and immigrants—to an appropriate education. UNESCO became a driving force toward the goal of universal education, especially through its sponsorship of the World Conference on Education for All (held in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990), which established 2000 as the target date for universal primary education. In UNESCO’s follow-up World Education Forum (held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000), that goal was postponed until 2015—a realistic reflection of the difficulties of both enrolling and retaining students through a complete primary education. The target date of 2015 also became one of eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) drafted in 2000. Steps toward the achievement of universal education and other MDGs were to be tracked by specific indicators, such as literacy rates and enrollment ratios.

Access to education

Despite these international conferences, treaties, and goals, by the end of the 20th century more than 120 million primary-school-age children worldwide remained outside formal education systems. Depending on the country, and especially its level of economic development and its political system, the number of children not attending school ranged from fewer than 5 percent to well over 30 percent of the relevant age group. Moreover, it is important to note that high aggregate enrollment rates for any one region or country do not reveal how many children successfully complete the legally required years of schooling. In developing countries repetition of grade levels and dropout rates take their toll, with frequently less than half of a student cohort completing primary schooling. The initial experience of many children is often one of failure. The problem may be as general as the enrollment of children who have never been exposed to formal schooling and who simply do not understand what is occurring in the classroom. Most frequently, the problem is inappropriate curricula and foreign languages of instruction. Even though the drive to extend schooling to greater numbers of students is a universal phenomenon that does not necessarily represent a Western agenda, Western content and languages of instruction are nonetheless employed in countries whose citizens would prefer their education systems to reflect their own cultures and national goals.

For those who complete the initial stages of schooling, examinations commonly serve as a filtering device for determining who shall go on to postprimary education. As countries develop economically, compulsory schooling is extended, and selective examinations are consequently instituted for entry into upper secondary and higher education (as, for example, in South Korea and Japan). Countries with greater wealth tend both to expand education to a greater number of students and to extend the number of years of compulsory schooling. But even expansive systems eventually introduce selection devices for the most advanced and prestigious levels and types of education.

Central questions concerning the role of education in reproducing social status or opening up opportunity to everyone revolve around who has access to what levels and types of education; what is learned; and how the postschool outcomes of education affect occupational attainment, income, social status, and even power. A predominant theme in discussions of education in the late 20th and early 21st centuries was that of equality of educational opportunity (EEO). Some analyses of EEO liken opportunity to a footrace by asking the following three questions: (1) are the contestants equally prepared at the starting line?; (2) are they running on the same course?; and (3) do they all have a fair chance of crossing the finish line? EEO does not necessarily mean, however, that the educational outcomes will be the same for every student.

Implications for socioeconomic status

In the West a commonly used measure of social class is an index of socioeconomic status (SES), which usually takes into account the occupational status, income, and education levels of children’s families. To determine whether education systems are truly meritocratic in their workings and outcomes, several hypotheses need to be tested using the SES index. In The Limits and Possibilities of Schooling (1993), the American sociologist Christopher Hurn proposed one method of evaluating education systems over time. Hurn identified the following set of relationships between variables: first, the correlation between adults’ educational attainment (years of schooling and degrees completed) and socioeconomic status should grow stronger over time; second, the correlation between parents’ SES and the educational attainment of their children should diminish over time; and, third, the correlation between the SES of parents and that of their offspring should also decrease over time.

Not all of Hurn’s tests of meritocracy, when applied to actual outcomes, have proved true. In the first case, international experience supports the proposition that education has become the strongest determinant of individuals’ occupational status and chances of success in adult life. For the two other variables, however, the evidence does not demonstrate a decrease over time in the relationship between family background and children’s educational attainment. Rather, the correlation between family SES and school success or failure appears to have increased worldwide in recent decades. Moreover, long-term trends suggest that, as societies industrialize and modernize, social class becomes increasingly important—compared with the role of school-related factors—in determining educational outcomes and occupational attainment.

Social consequences of education in developing countries

Evidence is similarly mixed with regard to gender equality in access to high-quality education and opportunities to enter nontraditional fields of study. Although international agencies and national governments have been active since the late 1980s in promoting education rights for girls and women, complex changes were not adopted swiftly. Of the 120 million children excluded from education systems at the turn of the 21st century, for example, approximately 60 percent were girls and nearly three-fourths were living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, of the nearly 900 million illiterate adults in the world at the beginning of the 21st century, almost two-thirds were women. Again, the greatest number and percentage of illiterate female adults were located in the poorest regions. If geographic location and ethnicity are taken into account, as many as two-thirds to three-fourths of rural indigenous women in the least-developed countries lack the basic literacy skills to claim their citizenship rights—for example, the right to vote. In some contexts there are strong cultural, economic, and political obstacles to women’s access to education. Despite these negative patterns, there have been indications of gains made by women. In many countries a majority of secondary-education graduates and university entrants are women. In the 1970s and ’80s women also began entering technical and professional fields such as engineering and computer sciences in greater numbers, although these advances had plateaued by the turn of the 21st century. In developed and developing countries alike, however, higher educational attainment for women does not necessarily translate into thorough equality in occupational status and income. Education nonetheless leads to healthier, more productive populations, which is why many international organizations argue that the best long-term strategy in the fight against AIDS is universal primary education.

The role of the state

Equality of educational and occupational opportunity and outcomes for women as well as for other previously underprivileged groups (working-class, rural, and minority children) is greatly dependent on mutually reinforcing economic and education policies. Comparative studies suggest that government policies favouring overall poverty reduction and wage equity can contribute to overcoming past educational and economic disadvantages. At the same time, there are strong convergent policies internationally that call for a diminished role for the state in the provision of social services such as education; for decentralization of educational governance and financing structures; for privatization of public education through school-voucher programs or by charging fees for services once provided free; and, generally, for the application of a market logic to the overall workings of public schooling.

Critics of these decentralized, more market-oriented approaches acknowledge that they are well-intentioned and are aimed at increasing the equity, quality, and efficiency of education systems through greater local participation in decision making about school standards, competitiveness, and accountability. But critics believe such policies may contribute to disappointing and contradictory results. For example, in countries with great disparities in the wealth and resources of different regions, the transfer of funding and administrative responsibilities to subnational governmental units (on provincial, departmental, municipal, and even specific-school levels) may lead to increasing gaps between educational outcomes for the rich and the poor. Moreover, scores on standardized achievement tests tend to reflect differences in family background and community resources; test results tend to show that urban children from affluent backgrounds attending better schools (whether public or private) typically outperform less-well-off rural children in public schools, and achievement tests similarly document the continuation of past inequities in educational opportunities for ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. Furthermore, some government policies that reduce basic social services have increased the overall level of poverty and the distance between top and bottom income earners within and between countries. In poorer countries the rate of school expansion is decreasing, and in some cases a process of “deschooling” (keeping children out of school) is occurring not only for economic reasons but also because of the inappropriateness of education systems that do not recognize the particular needs stemming from local cultural values and languages. In the long run, however, there is the possibility that local values will be complemented or supplanted by more cosmopolitan ones.

Despite these constraints, there are poor countries that have nonetheless achieved outstanding results on international standardized achievement tests in the areas of language, mathematics, and science while also providing near-universal secondary education. One such example is Cuba, where education and health have been viewed as fundamental components of the Cuban Revolution (1959). Alternatively, Finland exemplifies a wealthier country whose students on average have performed well on various measures of achievement and where differences between top- and bottom-scoring schools and between various categories of students have been minimal. Such successes tend to occur in countries that give priority to investments in education, health, and other social services, while other positive academic results can be seen from governments that are willing to experiment with alternative forms of education and to support innovative programs.

A number of examples from around the world indicate that governments can improve the educational achievement of the great majority of students—even those most at risk of academic failure. Studies such as Unequal Schools, Unequal Chances: The Challenges to Equal Opportunity in the Americas, edited by Fernando Reimers (2000), identify measures governments have implemented with successful results. These can range from the provision of health care services and supplemental nutrition to improvements in school infrastructure that provide poorer children with basics such as school desks and chairs, electricity, and running water. Other solutions may involve flexible academic calendars that mesh with the socioeconomic needs of students and their families in different parts of a country. Also important are adequate numbers of books and teaching materials that are culturally sensitive, socially relevant, and written in “home” languages. Measures that improve the quality of instruction include teaching guides to accompany new curricula, active pedagogies that involve teamwork as well as one-on-one attention, relevant certification and ongoing education programs for teachers, and professional development opportunities and extra pay for teachers serving in challenging settings.

For girls, research suggests that there are benefits to be gained from an additional set of supportive conditions that include close proximity of schools to homes, female role models, single-sex learning environments when needed, and curricula that challenge female students, particularly in mathematics and the sciences. Other measures include reducing the costs of educating female students by waiving school fees or providing monetary incentives to families as a means of compensating for lost income (because their children are not working). Outside the classroom, agencies and community-development specialists emphasize the benefits of education while countering beliefs that the education of daughters is contrary to religious doctrine or cultural traditions.

Social and family interaction

Research further indicates that parent participation in schools is an important factor in the success of their children’s academic work. Generally, parents from more affluent backgrounds have both the resources and the confidence to play a more active role in schools and to act as advocates for their children. Moreover, the formal content of instruction and even the pedagogies employed tend to reflect the values, language, and instructional and learning patterns of the middle classes as well as the more privileged and powerful social classes. Various measures initiated by schools to equalize opportunities for less-advantaged groups include establishing closer and more systematic involvement of teachers with parents (rather than only when problems arise), arranging for parent-teacher conferences to take place at convenient locations and times, making information about the workings of the education system and individual schools available in the home language, and focusing on children’s strengths and abilities. In the absence of other social service agencies in rural areas and depressed urban neighborhoods, schools have been called upon to offer a number of educational and social services, such as extended day care, recreational activities and sports programs, health programs (including inoculations and birth control information), and literacy and adult education classes.

Alternative forms of education

Developments in Internet-based communications and instructional technologies since the late 20th century provide previously unimaginable opportunities for people of all ages to tap the vast stores of world knowledge. Many of these technologies inevitably bring forth new forms of socialization. Contradicting the long-term historical movement away from apprenticeships or learning within a family setting and toward institutionalized education controlled by central governments, distance learning and other technological developments have opened the possibilities of learning in multiple ways at various sites—all under the control of individual learners. Technologies that promise to bring people together to share knowledge and life experiences, conversely, may also lead to the isolation of individuals and to the absence of face-to-face interactions among peers and teachers that are critical to preparation for adult roles as members of particular cultures and societies. Homeschooling has also raised concerns about childhood socialization, though consortia of homeschooling parents (whereby students can meet and attend classes with other home-based students) are increasingly common. The use of learning packages and degree programs exported from the metropolitan centres of North America, Europe, and the Pacific (notably Australia) to the countries of the Southern Hemisphere, while providing opportunity for advanced studies, may also include culturally inappropriate content, disregard for traditional knowledge, and the displacement of local languages by an international lingua franca, such as English.

Finally, it should be noted that, in addition to state-regulated schooling, there are many parallel or supplementary systems of education often designated as “nonformal” and “popular.” Many private and public agencies provide various forms of instruction, aimed at specific populations, to serve needs not met by public schooling. In Sweden, for example, reforms implemented in the 1990s enabled private, for-profit schools to provide free public education in exchange for government funding. Another internationally recognized example is BRAC (the Bangladesh Rural Action Committee), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that combines community-based literacy and basic education programs with income generating activities for girls and women. BRAC and other NGOs helped raise enrollments in Bangladeshi schools from 55 percent in 1985 to 85 percent by the 21st century.

In programs such as these, education for job entry, upgrading, or promotion occurs on a vast and systematic scale, sometimes offering educational certificates equivalent to college degrees for educational goals achieved while working. Religious institutions, as they have done in the past, instruct the young and old alike not only in sacred knowledge but also in the values and skills required for participation in local, national, and transnational societies as well. And mass media may also be considered a parallel education system that offers worldviews and explanations of how society works, commonly in the form of entertainment, and that systematically reaches larger audiences than formal schooling. These parallel systems may complement, compete with, or even conflict with existing state-sponsored systems of schooling, and they provide challenges that current school systems, as in the past, must confront and reconcile as well as they can.

Source Article