History of Education
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 are separate and distinct from that of England and Wales, although there are 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 arises 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 there was, however, a conscience clause and another to ensure that no teacher should suffer because of religious convictions. Religious instruction continues to be given in both fully maintained and state-aided voluntary schools, and opportunities exist for religious training beyond the daily worship and minimum required instruction. In many schools the religious offering has become nondenominational, and in areas of high non-Christian immigrant population consideration may be given to alternative religious provision.
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 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 United Kingdom.
Early 19th to early 20th century.
English education has been less consciously nationalist than that of continental European countries, but it has been deeply influenced by social class structure. Traditionally, the English have 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. Nor did it 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 school-leaving age was raised to 14, and power was given to local authorities to extend it to 15.
Federal involvement in local education.
Although the U.S. Constitution has delegated educational authority to the states, which have in turn passed on the responsibility for the daily administration of schools to local districts, there has been 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 has taken a vigorous role in stating national positions and in researching questions of overall interest. Its findings have proved influential in both state and local reforms.
Financing of education is shared among local districts, states, and the federal government. Beginning with the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, Congress has 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 include
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 that was designed to prepare the child for success in public schools and that includes medical, dental, social service, nutritional, and psychological care. Head Start has grown steadily since its inception and has spawned 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 include: 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 has infiltrated the regular grades of the elementary school. Articulation or interface programs allow preschool children to work together with first graders, sharing instruction. Extended to higher grades, the early-childhood learning methods promote self-pacing, flexibility, and cooperation.
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: (1) the basic school with compulsory education became the eight-year general and polytechnical labour school, for ages seven to 15 (vosmiletnyaya shkola); and (2) secondary education, embracing grades nine 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 was 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 creches 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 was carried out between August 1964 and November 1966 that brought about several important results: (1) the grade 11 of the secondary school (except for the evening school) was abolished; 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) a new curriculum and new syllabi for all subjects were elaborated. After 1958 hundreds of secondary schools for gifted pupils in mathematics, science, or foreign languages were developed, besides 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 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 have 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 automobile driving, cookery, carpentry, writing, and the like. In addition to changes in the form of earlier practical subjects, the curriculum has 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. Recent interest in vocational-technical education has been 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. Recently, however, economic strains, the ineffectiveness of many schools, and troubled school situations in which the safety of children and teachers has been threatened have led to questions about the extension of «compulsory youth» in high schools. Criticisms have also been leveled at the effect
s and aftereffects on education of 1960s idealism and its conflict with harsh realities. The publicized emphases on alternatives in life-style 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 is expected of teachers and students, states have increasingly detailed curricula, have set competency standards, have mandated testing, and have augmented the high-school diploma by adding another credential or by using transcripts to show superior achievement. Curriculum reforms have accentuated the academic basics, particularly mathematics, science, and language, as well as the «new basics,» including computers. Computers have become increasingly important in education not only as a field of study but also as reference and teaching aids. Teachers are using computers to organize and prepare course materials; children are being taught to use computers at earlier ages; and more and more institutions are using computer- assisted instruction systems, which offer interactive instruction on a one-on-one basis and can be automatically modified to suit the user’s level of ability. Other technological developments, such as in broadcasting and video production, are being employed to increase the availability of quality education.
The reports on the state of education also expressed concern for gifted children, who have 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, apart from occasionally being viewed as somewhat freakish. 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, gifted children were directly recruited into special academic high schools and other local programs. American education is still aimed at broadening or raising the level of general provision, however, so neither programs for the gifted nor those for vocational education have been treated as specifically as in some other countries.
Education for females.
Though the common school vouchsafed instruction to girls, girls’ chances to attend 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. The truth is that as late as the 1840s, when 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 every state university, except that of Missouri, was coeducational from its beginning. The East moved more warily; Cornell University was the first Eastern school to become coeducational, in 1872.
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 seven to six 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.
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 recommende
d a mandatory study of grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, and Aristotelian metaphysics. One consummation of the Hutchins prescription is the study of some 100 «great books,» wherein reside the unalterable first principles that Hutchins insisted are the same for all men always and everywhere.
The vocationalism that Hutchins deplored was taken to task by several others, but with quite different results—notably by Harvard 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 has been the establishment and expansion of the junior college, which was conceived early in the century by William Rainey Harper, 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 is sometimes private but commonly public. It began as a two-year school, offering early college work or extensions to secondary education. It has since 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 recruit from a wide population range and tend to be vigorous innovators. Many maintain close relationships with their communities. Colleges limited to the undergraduate level, especially in articulated state systems, may not differ much from well-developed junior colleges.