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The history of education is both long and short. In 1994, Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universität Berlin, said "education began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770". This quote by Lenzen includes the idea that education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before.

Education was the natural response of early civilizations to the struggle of surviving and thriving as a culture. Adults trained the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on. The evolution of culture, and human beings as a species depended on this practice of transmitting knowledge. In pre-literate societies this was achieved orally and through imitation. Story-telling continued from one generation to the next. Oral language developed into written symbols and letters. The depth and breadth of knowledge that could be preserved and passed soon increased exponentially.

When cultures began to extend their knowledge beyond the basic skills of communicating, trading, gathering food, religious practices, etc, formal education, and schooling, eventually followed.

Education is defined as, "teaching and learning specific skills, and also something less tangible, but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, positive judgement and well-developed wisdom. Education has as one of its fundamental aspects the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialization)", then first formal education can be attributed to the nation of Israel c.1300 BCE, that is c.3300 before present, with adoption of the Torah which means "teaching", "instruction", "scribe", or "law" in Hebrew. Three positive Torah commandments, numbered ten, eleven and seventeen command provision of education in general society:
Number 10 - To read the Shema` twice daily, as it is written "and thou shalt talk of them . . . when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deuteronomy 6,7).
Number 11 - To learn Torah and to teach it, as it is written "thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children" (Deuteronomy 6,7).
Number 17 - For every man to write a Torah scroll for himself, as it is written "write ye this song for you" (Deuteronomy 31,19).
Thus the father was obligated as the sole teacher of his children in Jewish history (Deut. xi. 19).

In other contemporary ancient civilisations such as Dynastic Egypt, Babylon and later Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic the provision of education was restricted to the wealthy elite, or to professional scribal guilds.

The institution known as the "be rav" or "bet rabban" (house of the teacher), or as the "be safra" or "bet sefer" (house of the book), is said to have been originated by Ezra' (459 BCE) and his Great Assembly, who provided a public school in Jerusalem to secure the education of fatherless boys of the age of sixteen years and upward. However, the school system did not develop until Joshua ben Gamla (64 CE) the high priest caused public schools to be opened in every town and hamlet for all children above six or seven years of age (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 21a).

The expense was borne by the community, and strict discipline was observed. However, Rav ordered Samuel ben Shilat to deal tenderly with the pupils, to refrain from corporal punishment, or at most to use a shoe-strap in correcting pupils for inattention. A stupid pupil was made monitor until able to grasp the art of learning. Raba fixed the number of pupils at twenty-five for one teacher; if the number was between twenty-five and forty an assistant teacher ("resh dukana") was necessary; and for over forty, two teachers were required.

Only married men were engaged as teachers, but there is a difference of opinion regarding the qualification of the "melammed" (teacher). Raba preferred one who taught his pupils much, even though somewhat carelessly. Rav Dimi of Nehardea, preferred one who taught his pupils little, but correctly, as an error in reading once adopted is hard to correct (ib.). It is, of course, assumed that both qualifications were rarely found in one person.
Current research suggests that if class size is reduced from substantially more than 20 students per class to below 20 students, the related student achievement somewhat increases. For disadvantaged and minority students, the effects are somewhat larger.

The standard education texts were the Mishna and later the Talmud and Gemora, all hand-written until invention of printing. However significant, emphasis was placed on developing good memory skills in addition to comprehension by practice of oral repetition.

Basic education today is considered those skills that are necessary to function in society. Hence, in Ancient Israel, the child would be taught from the six broad subject areas into which the Mishna is divided, including: Zeraim ("Seeds"), dealing with agricultural laws and prayers
Moed ("Festival"), pertaining to the laws of the Sabbath and the Festivals
Nashim ("Women"), concerning marriage and divorce
Nezikin ("Damages"), dealing with civil and criminal law
Kodashim ("Holy things"), regarding sacrificial rites, the Temple, and the dietary laws
Tohorot ("Purities"), pertaining to the laws of purity and impurity, including the impurity of the dead, the laws of ritual purity for the priests (Kohanim), the laws of "family purity" (the menstrual laws).
To understand the subject areas the student was required to learn counting, basic chemistry, physics and astronomy, writing, geography, agriculture and animal biology, history, accounting and economy, social and cultural role differences, basic medicine and pharmacology, and many others.
This is broadly known as Kol Torah, or Cul'Tura in the Jewish communities of the pre-Revolutionary Russian Empire.

Education begun at the age of six or seven and continued throughout life, although full time basic education was completed before marriage at the age of about 18 years old. In general, this ensured almost universal literacy for most of Jewish history.

Although girls were not provided with formal education in the yeshivah, they were required to know a large part of the subject areas to prepare them to maintain the home after marriage, and to educate the children before the age of seven, today considered the harder of the periods of education.
In Israel women did know how to read and write (despite popular belief to the contrary), and did participate in commerce independently, although not when married. This required them to be knowledgeable in all the laws of Nezikin not normally taught to girls.

India has a long history of organized education. The Gurukul system of education supported traditional Hindu residential schools of learning; typically the teacher's house or a monastery. Education was free, but students from well-to-do families paid "Gurudakshina," a voluntary contribution after the completion of their studies. At the Gurukuls, the teacher imparted knowledge of Religion, Scriptures, Philosophy, Literature, Warfare, Statecraft, Medicine Astrology and History (the Sanskrit word "Itihaas" means History).

Takshashila was an early center of learning dating back to the 5th century BCE.[1] Some claim Taxila was an early university[2][3][4][5][6] or centre of higher education,[7] though others do not consider it a university in the modern sense.[8][9][10] Takshashila is described in some detail in later Jātaka tales, written in Sri Lanka around the 5th century CE.[11]

One of the oldest university in ancient India was the Nalanda university. Nalanda University, founded in Bihar, India around the 5th century BC conferred academic degree titles to its graduates, while also offering post-graduate courses. Nalanda was a Buddhist center of learning from 427 CE to 1197 CE partly under the Pala Empire.[12][13] It has been called "one of the first great universities in recorded history."[13] Nālanda was identified by Alexander Cunningham with the village of Baragaon[14].

Another Indian university whose ruins were only recently excavated was Ratnagiri University in Orissa.

Vikramaśīla University was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India, along with Nālandā University during the Pala dynasty. Vikramaśīla was established by King Dharmapala (783 to 820) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nālandā. Atisha, the renowned pandita, is sometimes listed as a notable abbot.

Education was widespread in the 18th century, with a schools in most regions of the country. The subjects taught included Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics, Medical Science and Religion.

The current system of education, with its western style and content, was introduced & founded by the British during the British Raj, following recommendations by Lord Macaulay. Traditional structures were not recognized by the British government and have been on the decline since. Gandhi in his speech in London, on October 20, 1931, described the traditional educational system as a beautiful tree that was destroyed during the British rule.[15].

Unlike in many regions of the world, education in China began not with organised religions, but based upon the reading of classical Chinese texts, which developed during Western Zhou period. This system of education was further developed by the early Chinese state, which depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire, and an imperial examination system was established in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) for evaluating and selecting officials. This merit-based system gave rise to schools that taught the classics and continued in use for 2,000 years, until the end the Qing Dynasty, and was abolished in 1911 in favour of Western education methods.

The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco as the oldest university in the world with its founding in 859.

The origins of education in Japan are closely related to religion. Schooling was conducted at temples for youngsters who wanted to study Buddhism to become priests. Later, children who were willing to study started to meet at places called, "Tera-koya" (literally meaning temple huts) and learned how to read and write Japanese.


Primary School in "open air". Teacher (a priest) with class, from the outskirts of Bucharest, around 1842.

Modern systems of education in Europe derive their origins from the schools of medieval period. Most schools during this era were founded upon religious principles with the sole purpose of training the clergy. Many of the earliest universities, such as the University of Paris, founded in 1150 had a Christian basis. In addition to this, a number of secular universities existed, such as the University of Bologna, founded in 1088.

The curriculum of the educational institutions of this period was frequently based around the trivium and quadrivium (the seven Artes Liberales or Liberal arts) and was conducted in the clerical language of Latin.

In northern Europe this clerical education was largely superseded by forms of elementary schooling following the Reformation. In Scotland, for instance, the national Church of Scotland set out a programme for spiritual reform in January 1561 setting the principle of a school teacher for every parish church and free education for the poor. This was provided for by an Act of the Parliament of Scotland, passed in 1633, which introduced a tax to pay for this programme. Although few countries of the period had such extensive systems of education, the period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries saw education become significantly more widespread. In Central Europe, the seventeenth century scientist and educator Amos Comenius promulgated a reformed system of universal education that was widely used in Europe.

This growth resulted in increased government interest in education. In the 1760s, for instance, Ivan Betskoy was adopted by the Russian Tsarina, Catherine II, as educational advisor. He proposed to educate young Russians of both sexes in state boarding schools, aimed at creating "a new race of men". Betskoy set forth a number of arguments for general education of children rather than specialized one: "in regenerating our subjects by an education founded on these principles, we will create... new citizens." Some of his ideas were implemented in the Smolny Institute that he established for noble girls in Saint Petersburg.

Betskoy's work in Russia was soon followed by the Polish establishment in 1773 of a Commission of National Education (Polish: Komisja Edukacji Narodowej, Lithuanian: Nacionaline Edukacine Komisija). The commission functioned as the first government Ministry of Education in a European country.

Meanwhile, there was an increasing academic interest in education and the first attempts to create what might be considered academic rationales for teaching methods. This led, in the 1770s, to the establishment of the first chair of pedagogy at the University of Halle in Germany. Contributions to the study of education elsewhere in Europe included the work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi in Switzerland and Joseph Lancaster in Britain.

Under the guidance of Wilhelm von Humboldt a new university was founded in Berlin in 1810 which became the model for many research universities. Herbart developed a system of pedagogy widely used in German-speaking areas.

In the twentieth century, new directions in education included, in Italy, Maria Montessori's Montessori schools; and in Germany, Rudolf Steiner's development of Waldorf education.

United States of America

Teachers in America
Teachers in ancient societies were revered for their knowledge and wisdom. However, by the time teaching became a profession in America, it became one of the lowest levels of the working poor, right alongside the clergy, often suffering deprivations and lack of personal life to which others were accustomed.

English schools, which were founded on the principle of a well-rounded student, became the model for the first American education system, with a very humanist approach. But unlike England, where the greater portion of schools were privately funded, New England colonists relied largely on government funding, while still holding the reins of who got the teachers’ jobs. Hired by the town council or clergy, a teacher was frequently monitored for violations of their moral code of conduct.

Early colonial teachers may have received only wampum or furs as their pay, and although that changed to money in the next 200 years, pay was often so low, that teachers were forced to take other jobs, or to manufacture pens and quills to sell…if their jobs allowed that liberty.

The Revolutionary War served as an impetus to improve the education of all. Franklin, Jefferson and George Washington himself, spoke passionately about the need for an educated electorate if America were to become a democracy. This led to an ordinance laid down in 1785, whereby it was recognized that private and religious organisations could not provide uniform educational programs, and so townships would now be required to set aside land for schools and operate them according to their population count.

At that time, as it would be for many years, the vast majority of teachers were male, starting with Puritan preachers in the early 1600s. Traditionally, it was considered a man’s profession, and women being uneducated in general, were unsuited. This was something of a farce, since the qualifications for teachers were so low. All it required was that the candidate had attended school themselves…with no particular level of achievement. When a woman did manage to get a job, it was with little children, the role woman was best suited for.

The 19th century saw the greatest movement in education. Education for all was not only suggested, it was legislated. Still, most schools lacked quills and pens, and the pencil had not yet arrived. Nor had the blackboard, which was invented in 1809, but did not come into regular use until 1820. Public schools multiplied rapidly, but women still took the backseat for employment, because it was assumed they were incapable of maintaining discipline.

War, the great equalizer of the sexes and other things, caused a shift in the demographics. After 1865, men returned to find their jobs had been filled during the Civil War by women, and filled quite competently, at up to 60% lower pay rates. Men left the profession in droves, because the pay was so low, even though those employed, made more than the women.

Just as today, teachers were expected to be like Caesars wife, “above reproach.” The moral strictures on their behaviour were somewhat Draconian in nature, and may have accounted for the high turnover of teaching staff. Men were not allowed to be seen having a shave in a public shop. They were allowed one night a week for courting purposes, and two if they were regular church-goers. Women were not permitted to marry, and couldn’t even attend public performances for entertainment. Even into the 1930s, new teachers hired in 77% of the existing school districts, were single, and 62% of those districts required them to resign if they married. Card playing was also forbidden, and when 11 high school teachers attended a local country club dance in 1929, they were immediately fired by the Kansas board of education.

At least by then, the explosion in public schools had also caused an equal increase in “Normal” schools, established to train competent teachers. As their competency was observed, so grew the respect for their profession.

America’s First School
John Cotton (1585-1652), noted Puritan minister was responsible for establishing the first public school in America.

Cotton himself, was a learned man, having graduated from Cambridge, and been elected a Fellow of Trinity College. During this period, he was not particularly religious in his beliefs or his teachings. Although he would later become head lecturer, dean, and catechist at Emmanuel College, the cradle of Puritanism, he himself was rather a free thinker, lecturing more often on one’s self, than one’s relationship with God.

When he did convert, it was with a whole-hearted enthusiasm, if somewhat non-conformist leanings. Where once he lectured at school and at home on the fields of learning, he now preached the word and love of God to all and sundry, and with great frequency.

Called to serve in the parish of Boston, Lincolnshire, Cotton held the usual weekly services as well as additional ones three times a week, and daily lectures for students. All this in addition to his six daily hours of prayer and study. It was during his tenure in Boston, that he came to extol the virtue of church rule by the congregation. Eventually his unacceptable arguments and exhortations led to his conviction for “unreformed evil” by the Church of England, so that when a call came from the High Court of Commission, he resigned and fled to the new world, and what we now know as New England. The year was 1633.

Cotton continued his teachings in Boston, Mass. as a firm believer in the right of a congregational minister to direct his flock, and gained widespread fame and respect for his treatises on the subject. In 1635 he established the first public school, the Boston Latin School, modelled on the Free Grammar School in Boston, England, which taught Greek and Latin. It was built on the ancient Greek premise that the only good things, are the goods of the soul.

When Edmund Burke referred to America as being the model for “dissidence of the dissent” more than 100 years later, he might have been speaking referring to the Boston Latin School, founded by one of the earliest dissidents in the nation. To this day, it teaches and encourages, dissent with responsibility. Five of the 56 signers of the declaration of Independence were students of the Boston school: John Hancock, William Hooper, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Treat Paine.

The building of Boston Latin School pre-dated Harvard College by a year. It was supported by public funds, and began without a formal building, holding classes in the home of headmaster Philemon Pormort.

Harvard was founded in 1636 by general vote of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and was often referred to as “the school of the prophets” for its focus on theology. The college awarded its first professorship, in Divinity in 1721, making it the oldest endowment in America. In later years the college would become Harvard University, One Room Schoolhouses

When “formal” education came to America, it differed greatly from the English models on which most new American ideas were founded. England had academic schools, but mainly for the privileged. All other “students”, trained as apprentices, often starting as very young children placed in fostership with a master who taught them the trade or skill they would practice during their lifetime.

The first schools in America, including that of Joseph Cotton, established in Mass. In 1633, were more academically inclined but still limited in content. Basic reading skills and memorization comprised the mainstay of the curriculum, with Greek and Latin for scholars in upper levels.

Formal schools started wherever space could be found, whether it be a meeting hall, barn, or spare room in a large home. Eventually it came to be recognized that focus on the subjects at hand, was better achieved in their own, stable environment, and the better established and richer settlements began building schoolhouses.

There were no examples to model their schools after, and so they ended up being the most practical of shelters: one room, with benches, and a stove. Desks would not appear for many years yet, and blackboards wouldn’t be seen until the 1820s.

In the town or city where the teacher lived nearby and so did the students, this kind of institution was all very well, but in the country it was a different matter. Teachers were charged with clearing away heavy snowfalls, and arriving early enough to bring wood in from outside and have the stove going before students arrived. There were no “snow” days, and the teacher was expected to be there, even if the students didn’t show up. In the country, that could mean anything from a walk of several miles, to a horse struggling over roads blocked by snowdrifts.

There were no grades in the beginning, simply children learning at their own pace, something which may very well have been an advantage over today’s system. Certainly, the benefit of having children older or more advanced than others helping those struggling or at lower levels of achievement, was preferable to some school situations now faced in cities where classrooms are overcrowded, teachers overworked, and students under-assisted.

Some of the first one-room schoolhouses in America, are still standing, including the Old West Street Schoolhouse in Southington, Conn. which accepted its first students in 1750. The single room institution would remain as the standard educational centre for elementary students until well into the 20th century. In 1939, there were 150,000 one-teacher schools in America. By 1995, that figure had fallen to 428.

Despite having only one teacher, and multiple grades in a single class, one-room schoolhouses graduated some of America’s greatest legislators, teachers, writers, and modern day heroes, including Alan Shepard, the first man in space.

Education for Black Americans
Prior to the American Civil War, education for Black Americans in the South, was dependant on the goodwill of their masters, and sometimes the church, where if lucky, the more socially advanced congregations taught them to read the Bible.

Even in the supposedly liberal northern states, the opportunity to gain more than the basic rudiments of reading and writing, was hard to come by. New York City opened the first African Free School in 1797, which gained public funding in 1824. Larger cities with institutes of higher learning, did take in black students, but they were few and far between, and often admitted under vehement protest from alumni and financial supporters of the college.

Oberlin College, was the first to set down a policy of admissions for all, regardless of color, in 1834-35. It would be 1853 before the Ashum Institute, specifically for the education of black males was established. But there was movement afoot long before this, in many quarters to bring the escaped, or newly freed black American the skills to help them cope in living and working on their own.

Prudence Crandall, a Quaker, opened a school for black girls at Canterbury, Conn. In 1833. Connecticut had been the last northern state to abolish slavery, and had even wangled legislation to let it run 20 years longer than any other state. Crandall’s school was originally a simple academy for girls, but when she admitted a black girl, other parents withdrew their daughters. Refusing to change her policy of admitting any girl, Crandall eventually ended up teaching an all black school, to the outrage of local residents who blocked delivery of her supplies and tried to burn the building down. When the school’s popularity started attracting students from Boston and Pennsylvania, local authorities used a vagrancy law to administer ten lashes to any of these girls caught attending the school. When Connecticut passed a law in 1834, forbidding the free education of black Americans, Prudence Crandall refused to give in, and was subsequently convicted and imprisoned. While she won her case on appeal, the resulting mob attacks left her in fear for the safety of her students, and she eventually closed the school.

Mary Ann Shadd grew up in Delaware, where her father’s store was part of the Underground Railroad. Mary Ann moved north to Windsor, Canada in 1851 to educate freed or escaped slaves, many of whom would return home in later years. She opened a racially integrated school against the vociferous opposition of white and black abolitionists, most of whom held that their societies should co-exist but as separate entities. Henry Bibb, leader of the Black community, reviled her in his paper, so Shadd started her own paper, The Provincial Freeman in rebuttal, making her the first black woman in North America to own or edit a newspaper. The fight to educate Blacks led her to law school, which she graduated in 1860, becoming the first black female lawyer in North America.

Laura Towne, a dedicated abolitionist born in Pittsburgh, Penn. In 1825, would open the first schools for freed slaves in the South. A homeopathic physician and teacher, she answered the call for compassion, when the Southern residents of the Seas Islands off South Carolina, fled before the Union Army in 1861, leaving behind 10,000 slaves. Arriving in April of 1862, she set to work with her doctor’s skills, before opening the school in June of the same year, with nine students who attended class in the back room of a plantation house. It became known as the Penn School, which she would operate with Ellen Murray for another 40 years.

When the Civil War was over, it became possible for blacks to attend public school in the south, albeit under the displeasure of the white residents. The government established the Freedmen’s Fund to assist in building schools, which expanded with the aid of the Freedmen’s Aid Society, an association of northern churches.

As education for Black Americans became more available, so did institutions created specifically for them. Black colleges sprung up partly from the large numbers to be educated, and partly because the traditional colleges, publicly or privately, still would not accept more than token numbers of black students. Thirty-seven were established between 1864 and 1894. There are still over 100 “Black” colleges in America today.

Outstanding Teachers
While the vast majority of our early teachers, faded into anonymity with perhaps only the gratitude of a few students and parents, many distinguished Americans started their careers as teachers and went on to greater contributions to the country. These are two of the most memorable.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) Born into the family of cotton manufacturer Daniel Anthony, in Adams, Mass. Susan Anthony enjoyed a relatively rich educational start in life at first her father’s school, and then a Philadelphia boarding school. She did not enter the teaching field until 1852, when she was engaged by a female academy in Rochester, N.Y. where she would teach for 15 years. The annual education convention was held in her now home city, in 1853, and Anthony attended all three days of the sessions, along with thousand of other female teachers, who were neither allowed to speak, nor vote on questions. For possibly the one time in her life, this worked to her advantage. After listening to an hours long debate on why the teaching profession got so little respect, Miss Anthony stood and addressed the President. When questioned as to what she wanted, she asked to speak. The assembly was asked their pleasure, and there followed a half hour debate on whether it could be allowed. By a small margin of male votes, she was given the floor. Anthony stood and asked why, when they deemed women unfit to be lawyers, doctors, etc. that they were praised as teachers. And since men were also teachers, did that not place them on the lower intelligence level attributed to women. She then drove her point home by noting that male teachers have to compete with the cheap labour of women, who were paid less, and would they not elevate both the salaries and status of those educating the country’s future Presidents and Senators. Anthony continued to attend the annual conferences, repeating her requests each year for equal pay and rights, and in the end saw all the concessions asked for, granted. Women were appointed to committees, voted on issues, delivered reports, sat on the platform, and held office. Susan B. Anthony went on to champion women’s rights on many fronts. She died in March, 1906.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) Macon County, Alabama got its first school for black Americans in 1881, thanks to the machinations of that great institution- politics. An ex-confederate colonel coveted a seat in the state legislature and thought the Negro vote would swing the balance his way. He struck a deal whereby a school would be opened in return for the leading townsman delivering him the Negro vote. The colonel got his seat, the town of Tuskegee got its school, and the school got its first teacher, a young black man named Booker T. Washington. Washington at that time, was nothing but a teacher, such an unusual state, that people would mistakenly refer to him as “Reverend”. The only black citizens of note were ministers and politicians, with most ministers being teachers as well. Once his lack of “status” was discovered, the same preachers who allowed him to take the pulpit on Sundays and encourage people to send their children to school, got up and condemned him for a godless man running a godless school. Washington’s career was off to a rocky start, from whites and blacks. Six weeks after his school opened in an old shanty church, he had 30 pupils and an assistant teacher, Olivia A. Davidson, who would become Mrs. Washington. He soon discovered that 85% of the families he would teach, derived a living from agriculture. Washington then applied himself to teaching them how to live off the land, by personally borrowing $250 to buy land and erect buildings where his students would learn more than just their alphabet. Eventually they started their own brickyard, again out of necessity in order to erect proper buildings in which they would house boarding students. For the recently emancipated black population, learning to properly raise, store, cook and serve food from the land would take more than day classes. Not content with the hands-on improvement of his students’ lives, Washington sought ways for them to help those less fortunate, without the benefit of schooling. Emmett J. Scott and Lyman Beecher Stowe, authors of his 1916 biography, noted that he had no patience with those who climbed the tree of knowledge and pulled the ladder up after them. Washington went forth with his students onto the farms of the county, helping, suggesting, sharing the work, and in general improving the farmers’ lives and enriching those of his students. Soon, Mrs. Washington would form a ladies organisation of wives and mothers, where household hints and sanitation would be taught. From the nucleus of his first school, Washington’s influence spread to the next county, then the next, gaining momentum until there was a statewide wave of practical and conscience-driven education and social reform. As is often noted, his influence, like that of his school, was at first community wide, then county wide, then State wide, and finally nation wide. In 1895, he mounted the platform of the Cotton States and International Exposition to address the assembly, the first black man to ever do so. He left the stage to overwhelming enthusiasm. Later his approach to education and emancipation was criticized by W. E. B. Du Bois.

History of Education: Tools of the Trade
In examining the history of education in this country, it is important to look at the resources used to educate, to inspire, to provoke the imagination and to satisfy curiosity. These tools of the trade have evolved over the years, reflecting America’s transformation from an agrarian economy to a high-tech economy. It may be several more generations, however, before we can determine to what extent these new tools have improved education.

Even the selection of books used in the classroom have changed dramatically over the last 250 years. At a time when religious instruction is strictly prohibited in public school classrooms, it is interesting to note that America’s first textbook was probably the Bible. In the nation’s first schools, heavy emphasis was placed on religious, moral, and ethical teaching. But the Bible was not used simply to indoctrinate students. Schoolchildren were also encouraged to read the Bible in order to develop their reading skills. Teachers tested their students’ memories by encouraging their classes to recite passages from the Bible, and many students learned how to write by copying Bible versus onto paper. Following the Bible, the next textbook that was used was the New England Primer, popular between 1760 and 1843. A subsequent book, the McGuffey Reader, was based on the world’s greatest literary works. Six readers in all, each representing a gradual increase in difficulty, the McGuffey reader not only taught students how to read, but also taught basic moral values including honesty and charity. The readers were prized by teachers, who appreciated a text that they could use for students of various ages. In all, tens of millions of McGuffey Readers were sold in the 19th century, following their debut in 1836. In many rural areas, McGuffey represented a student’s only exposure to world literature.

How times have changed. In today’s schools, it’s common to have a large library filled with books specifically designed for children of all ages and skill levels. Often, a child can receive guidance from a paid or volunteer librarian about appropriate reading material. While hardback books remain a popular means of instruction, schools are increasingly turning to electronic means of transmitting information, such as computer programs, CD-ROMs, various high-tech software, and the World Wide Web. Emphasis is placed upon research rather than memorization, encouraging students to explore various subjects on their own. Some educational analysts, however, believe that schools have taken a misguided approach by de-emphasizing memorization as a key to learning. While schools are unlikely to return to the McGuffey Reader, there is a movement to incorporate more traditional teaching methods into school curriculum. For instance, some school districts are actually requiring teachers to use phonics, or the “sounding out” method of reading, rather than a “whole language” approach which involves more guesswork on the part of the student.

To a certain extent, today’s “homeschooling” movement pays homage to education’s past. The homeschool method often stresses the use of traditional textbooks which encourage the teaching of moral lessons in addition to the 3Rs. Some parents believe that the educational practices of the 18th and 19th century actually encouraged students to exercise better judgment and reasoning ability. In fact, a number of families rely heavily on the Bible for their daily lesson plans. By studying the history of education, parents and professional educators alike have the opportunity to learn what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and the best way to blend traditional teaching and high-tech techniques in an academic setting. Certainly, American education can only be enhanced by such attention to the details of teaching’s past.

A Look Back at American Education
Classrooms were far less ornate in the 1800s than they are today. The typical American classroom in the 19th century had few decorations and furnishings. The school design itself was quite stream-lined, reflecting the cost-consciousness of the farm families who sent their children to school. Communities in agricultural areas had little money to spend on education, and the school supply industry had not yet developed, so the schoolhouses tended to be fairly Spartan in appearance. In many cases, children were needed to work on the farm or at home, so schools were opened only a few months a year to accommodate their work schedules.

The schools of the 19th century tended to attract students from a range of ages and skill levels. Usually, there was only one teacher per school--a woman who had not yet married. In a number of cases, the pupils were actually older than the teacher. A teacher’s tools were simple, yet effective: slate, chalk, and a collection of books. Emphasis was placed on reading, math, penmanship, and manners. The teachers of the 1800s tested their students each day through drills, oral quizzes, and recitation exercises.

It was a time when parents and other community residents pulled together to build and maintain their schools. Farmers could be counted on to provide the wood or other fuel to keep the school warm during the frigid winter months. The parents themselves often built the desks their children used and also regularly cleaned and stocked the stable housing the horses the children used as transportation to get to school. In a number of cases, parents would also take turns providing a place to stay for the school’s teacher.

In contrast, today’s school system is much more centralized and, in a sense, de-personalized. Large bureaucracies often govern school districts. Given the demands placed upon workers by employers, parents usually have much less time to devote to the upkeep of their schools. Teachers are also obligated to have a college degree and special educational training. In some areas of the country, pupils attend school year-round, foregoing a summer vacation. Schools also tend to be larger today, often opening up their classrooms to the community. There is also less interaction between students of different ages, since schoolchildren are separated by grade. On the plus side, today’s schools offer a wide variety of sports and extra-curricular activities for students to choose from, although budgetary concerns often force schools to scale back on such “extras.” While the schools of the 21st century are much better-equipped than those of the past, they may be lacking some of the one-on-one attention 18th century schools provided. It’s truly amazing to think about the technological progress that has been made in the last two centuries, but the history of education shows that schools must retain a “personal touch” in order to be relevant in their students’ lives.

New Zealand

Education began with provision made by the provincial government, the missionary Christian churches and private education. The first act of parliament for education was passed in 1877, and sought to establish a standard for primary education. It was compulsory for children to attend school until the age of 14 years.

Recent world-wide trends
Overall, illiteracy has greatly decreased in recent years. In some countries this has been the result of deliberate government action. For example, in Cuba the illiteracy rate was for many years less than that in the USA.

Illiteracy and the percentage of populations without any schooling have decreased in the past several decades. For example, the percentage of population without any schooling decreased from 36% in 1960 to 25% in 2000.

Among developing countries, illiteracy and percentages without schooling in 2000 stood at about half the 1970 figures. Among developed countries, figures about illiteracy rates differ widely. Often it is said that they decreased from 6% to 1%. However, the National Adult Literacy Survey of 1993 showed that more than 20% of the adults in the USA were functionally illiterate[16]. These findings were confirmed in a 2003 follow-up study. [17] Illiteracy rates in less economically developed countries (LEDCs) surpassed those of more economically developed countries (MEDCs) by a factor of 10 in 1970, and by a factor of about 20 in 2000. Illiteracy decreased greatly in LEDCs, and virtually disappeared in MEDCs. Percentages without any schooling showed similar patterns.

Percentages of the population with no schooling varied greatly among LEDCs in 2000, from less than 10% to over 65%. MEDCs had much less variation, ranging from less than 2% to 17%.