History of education (last 200 years)

Some educational systems originated 200 years ago and some even earlier. In different countries are different types of educational systems, each of them has evolved differently. The main factors that affect the educational system are resources and the amount of money each country uses to support education. The most noticeable change during the last two centuries is that women got the opportunity to go to school. They have access to regular education and have the same education as men. Schools have become more available for kids with special needs. Most of the kids have access to education. In the last 200 years, the structure of the schools has not changed very much. Children still follow a schedule and get materials from books and theories. We are now starting to use some advanced technology in schools, and it is becoming more popular, but the system has not changed that much.

Education in different countries

There are four different mainstream systems of education. They did not change much since the 19th century. The first is the French educational system. It arose during Napoleon's reign and, it’s in France until now. The characteristic of this system is simple: teachers want children to learn most of the technical skills that are important for office professions. The system is very competitive, and they usually have winners and losers there. Children compete with each other in most of the school day. They need to have a good grade because good grades lead to good schools and good jobs later. The great thing about this system is that it does not matter if you are poor or rich. Children from all social classes can become successful and do what they like. If you have good grades, you will get to a good school regardless of family economic background. In the French system, teachers do not focus on creativity and originality. They mainly focus on grades, competitions, and technical skills. This system is in all countries where people speak French and wherever the French have colonized the territories. Some areas of the Soviet Union and former Soviet Union countries, Arab countries, East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) also use this system.

The English system of education is very different. This system is very diverse, in almost every country you will find different skills that are focused on in schools and for teachers. If we look at it from a higher point of view, schools are mostly focused on practical skills, creativity and leading skills. In this system it is also important to write essays and exercise written expression. Under the term practical skills, we mean skill that children will use in future and usually do not require much memorizing. This school system puts focus and value on students knowing how to express yourself and formulate a sound argument. For pupils and younger students they try to make all subjects fun and to link even different topics together. Many alternative schools prosper in USA because the educational system is very open-minded there. The thing is that more prestigious schools usually cost parents a lot of money. Good universities and colleges are very expensive, and it is almost impossible to get there from a poor family. Basically, people who are rich can afford good education (from primary school till university) and are able to provide their kids good education too. When you are from a poor family it is very hard to get out of that vicious circle when you could not afford good education. This system is mostly used in USA, England and its former colonies.

The last system is the Scandinavian system. Scandinavian countries are popular because of the quality of education given to their citizens. It is a very egalitarian system and (unlike in the French system) there is not so much competition. Teachers in this system are open to new modern methods which are used daily. Children are not used to compare themselves with others. Money doesn't play a role here, and if someone is good, they can make a name for themselves even though they come from a poor family. This system is not only used in Scandinavia but also in countries such as Netherlands or Switzerland (mainly the progressive countries which have been investing a lot of money in education).

Basic structure

asic levels of education are primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary education is typically the first stage of education (sometimes part of it is also a kindergarden). It is usually from age 4 or 7 till 11 years. Commonly, the primary education is mandatory for the whole population. When primary education ends, then the secondary education follows that is for children from 11 or 13 till 15 or 18 years old. After graduation, people can get a tertiary education (which is typically performed at a college or university) if they want and can afford its costs. This depends on the specific school you go to, and the country where you live.

Alternative education

The oldest alternative school systems were introduced around or after the first world war. The roots of introducing and inventing these schools systems can be traced to influential persons who advocated the ideals of humanism. Especially, after the horrific Great War the society got more willing to search for new educational philosophies such as Rudolf Steiner’s Waldorf and Maria Montessori’s movements. They differ from the ordinary approach in many ways. For example, many of these schools provide a highly individual approach or an unusual structure of education such as working on just one topic for weeks.

Most popular types of alternative education:

Home education

Home education or homeschooling is the way of learning children at home, typically by parents or tutors, instead of the education provided in the formal environment of state or private schools. It is getting more and more popular. In the UK there is around 10 percent of children who learn at home with their parents. Home education is not allowed in all countries.

Forrest schools

Forest School is an innovative educational approach offering outdoor play and learning typically for kids at the age of 2-11 years. For example, there are hundreds of forest schools in each of these countries: United Kingdom, Germany or Czech Republic. In United Kingdom about two-thirds say that demand for their services has increased since last two years.

Montessori schools

Montessori schools (developed by Maria Montessori) work on the method based on independent activity, practical learning, and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms, children make creative learning decisions. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge about the world and develop their maximum potential. The school curriculum has more degrees of freedom than mainstream schools, but does not go to extremes, especially for younger pupils and students. The approach relies a lot on use of specific pedagogical tools, games and puzzles.

Waldorf schools

Waldorf pedagogy is a worldwide pedagogical movement based on the philosophy of education of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. In Waldorf education, the learning process is essentially threefold, involving thinking, feeling, and doing. Today, Waldorf education is represented worldwide with approximately 1,000 schools and nearly 2,000 early childhood programs in more than 60 countries. The approach values and develops, for example, contact with nature (frequent use of wood is one of commonly observable traits in these schools), dramatic expression, dialog and communication or certain kind of spirituality. From the perspective of mainstream value systems these schools may evoke confusion or impressions of weirdness.

Educational approaches using very high degree of freedom

These approaches have many branches and flavors. The older ones are the one used in Summerhill school (introduced after the first world war) or Sudbury (1968). These schools systems have been isolated or extended only to few other schools worldwide until around 2000 where this approach to education got more widely desired. During the last generation more people appreciate this approach and nowadays it becomes a major branch of alternative pedagogic approaches. All these approaches give pupils and students absolute or nearly absolute freedom and responsibility for their learning while the schools provide inspiration and support. The differences between the freedom-oriented educational systems are subtle – for example, one such schooling systems allows the adults to offer the learning opportunities to children while the other forbids adult intrusion into the learning path. During the last two decades other variants have been spreading. One example of these variants is unschooling, which is a style of homeschooling that allows a student's interests and curiosity to guide the learning path. Unschoolers believe that children acquire knowledge organically rather than using defined curricula. Unschooling has been gaining in popularity since the pandemic began.

Note that because the structure of schooling differs across countries we sometimes prefer to use literal translations of terms and names instead of attempting to unify the terminology. Information last updated in January 2022.