Who invented the school?

Who invented the school?

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No, of course, this sacred Charlemagne did not have invented the school. Likewise, we cannot really answer the question “Who had this crazy idea, one day iinvent the school ?”. In fact this one has almost always existed, and has especially been reinvented many times to lead to our current education system. Since antiquity, human societies have started to set up more or less elaborate means of transmitting knowledge and knowledge.

Antiquity and education

In ancient Egypt, teaching was limited mainly to inculcating the common writing, the hieratic. The elite, a tiny minority therefore, who were destined for religious or administrative functions, were initiated into the mysteries of hieroglyphics. A long apprenticeship which guaranteed a high social position. In ancient Greece, education reached a first high degree of sophistication. In addition to writing, new disciplines are added, such as literature, war or sport. The principle is to harmoniously combine physical and intellectual development.

Here again, it is young people from aristocratic families who benefit from this education, provided at home by teachers or in the city gymnasium. In ancient Rome, the training of elites was largely inspired by the Greek example. Moreover, wealthy patrician families most of the time resorted to Greek slaves to educate their male offspring. In the Roman Republic, knowing the art of warfare is just as important as the art of rhetoric ...

Charlemagne's school ...

With the fall of the Roman Empire, education fell into disuse. Under the Merovingians, places for learning reading, writing and arithmetic were scarce, and religious and political elites were mostly completely illiterate. It is this situation that saddens Charlemagne, himself illiterate, and who would badly need well-trained executives to administer his gigantic empire. One of his closest advisers, the English monk Alcuin, will take charge of remedying this situation. In charge of the education of the young nobles of the Palace of Aachen, the first “minister of public education” streamlines education. Grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy… are organized into subjects. Throughout the empire, clergy were ordered to open schools modeled on the capital. This voluntarism will greatly contribute to the cultural renewal of the Carolingian “renaissance”.

In the 12th century, the declining monastic schools gave way to the benefit of the first universities, such as that of Paris, founded in 1200 by Philippe Auguste, where law, art, medicine and of course theology were taught. Still from religious institutions, colleges and high schools developed from the Renaissance. French is gradually replacing Latin. The royal power encourages these schools without ensuring either the organization or the funding, which reduces their number and attendance. The French Revolution posed for the first time the principle of secular and free education. Nevertheless, the school will remain the fact of religious education until the Third Republic.

... to Jules Ferry

During the 19th century, several governments attempted to organize primary education. In 1850, the Falloux law required all municipalities to have a state-funded primary school which coexisted with private religious schools. It was the Ferry Laws of March 1882 that made primary school compulsory for ages 6 to 13, free and secular. After the Second World War, secondary education in turn became free, and in 1959 compulsory until the age of 16. Finally, co-education became general in 1976 with the Haby law.

While we cannot strictly speak of an invention of the school, we do know who invented and reinvented the reform of education: in this case almost all the ministers of education for fifty years. Rarely for the benefit of the quality and efficiency of the school ...

For further

- History of the school: Masters and schoolchildren from Charlemagne to Jules Ferry, from Pierre Giolitto. Imago, 2003.

- The Most Beautiful History of the school, by Alain Boissinot and Luc Ferry. Laffont, 2017.

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