Compulsory education  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Compulsory education refers to a period of educational attendance required of all students. The period of compulsory education is often determined by the students age.



Antiquity to Mediaeval Era

Plato's The Republic popularized the concept of compulsory education in Western intellectual thought.

The Talmud (tractate Bava Bathra 21a) praises a sage Joshua ben Gamla with the institution of formal Jewish education in the 1st century AD. Ben Gamla instituted schools in every town and made education compulsory from the age of 6 or 7. Prior to this, parents in Judea taught their children informally.

The Aztecs (AD 1400-1600) had one of the first compulsory educational systems. All male children were required to attend school until the age of 16.

Early Modern Era

During the Reformation in 1524, Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling so that all parishioners would be able to read the Bible themselves, and Strasbourg—then a free city of the Holy Roman Empire—passed accordant legislation in 1598.

In Scotland, the Reformation prompted the establishment of the first national compulsory system of education. The Education Act of 1496 had obliged the children of noblemen and freeholders to attend school, but the School Establishment Act of 1616 commanded every parish with the means to establish a school paid for by parishioners. The Parliament of Scotland confirmed this with the Education Act of 1633 and created a local land-based tax to provide the required funding. The required majority support of parishioners, however, provided a tax evasion loophole which heralded the Education Act of 1646. The turmoil of the age meant that in 1661 there was a temporary reversion to the less compulsory 1633 position. However, in 1696 a new Act re-established the compulsory provision of a school in every parish with a system of fines, sequestration and direct government implementation as a means of enforcement where required.

In Austria, mandatory primary education was introduced by Empress Maria Theresa in 1774.

Prussia can claim the first modern compulsory system that was widely recognised and copied. It was introduced by decree of Frederick the Great in 1763-5 and was later expanded in the 19th century. This provided a working model for other states to copy; the clearest example of direct copying is probably Japan in the period of the Meiji Restoration.

Modern Era

Compulsory education on this model gradually spread to other countries, reaching the American State of Massachusetts in 1852, and spreading to other states until, in 1918, Mississippi was the last state to enact a compulsory attendance law.

Massachusetts had originally enacted the first compulsory education law in the American colonies in 1647. The Massachusetts General Court passed a law requiring every town to create and operate a grammar school. Fines were imposed on parents who did not send their children to school and the government took the power to take children away from their parents and apprentice them to others if government officials decided that the parents were "unfit to have the children educated properly".

Compulsory education had not been part of early American society, which relied instead on private schools that mostly charged tuition. The spread of compulsory education in the Massachusetts tradition throughout America, especially for Native Americans, has been credited to General Richard Henry Pratt. Pratt used techniques developed on Native Americans in a prisoner of war camp in Fort Marion, Augustine, Florida, to force demographic minorities across America into government schools. His prototype was the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania.

One of the last areas in Europe to adopt a compulsory system was England and Wales, where the Elementary Education Act 1870 paved the way by establishing School Boards in order to set up schools in any places that did not have adequate provision. Attendance was made compulsory until age 10 in 1880.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Compulsory education" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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