History of Education

Education careers have evolved throughout history. In ancient and medieval times, religious leaders and philosophers were responsible for the majority of educational experiences. Writing was taught in temple schools in Egypt in 3000 BCE, and formal schools were established in China in the year 2000 BCE.


During the Medieval period in Western Europe, the Catholic Church taught writing and science alongside religion to monks and priests. The first universities were founded by Catholic thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas who created education careers based on the idea of Scholastics, a concept that granted degrees in various subjects. This time period also saw the emergence of the modern university, such as the Sorbonne in 1150 and Cambridge in 1209, though few people were able to attend these universities. Most of the common people were illiterate.

The Renaissance, which began in the 1500s, brought a new interest in education as more people began to interpret and apply classical texts. Education was still not equal for all, but it became more accessible for women. Literacy increased with the Protestant Reformation as more people became interested in reading their holy texts for themselves, and in 1690, philosopher John Locke brought up the importance of early education.

Educational careers involving young children originated in 1699 when Johann Pestalozzi created the first elementary schools in Switzerland. He taught children with different object lessons, and his ideas spread throughout Europe. The first public school opened in England in 1833 and was the first to use tax dollars rather than church funding to operate.

The idea of an educational career teaching children younger than elementary school took off when Friedrich Froebel opened the first kindergarten in 1837. Maria Montessori further explored early childhood learning and development in the 1920s, focusing on basic sensory, formula, and practical skills. Her ideas shaped the fundamental practices in preschools and kindergartens throughout the world.

In the United States, education and educational careers have been important throughout the nation’s history. The mid-1800s saw most Western civilizations adopt public education policies. The founding fathers believed that education was essential to forming a new nation, and in 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to offer free education to its citizens. Different states followed Massachusetts’ example in offering education services, and by 1918, every state required free education for the general public. The movement toward equal education began in 1954 with racial integration and continued with special needs students.

Modern education is more complex than older models. There are now a variety of educational opportunities and education careers in the United States. Universities existed in America before the nation was independent, but community colleges and technical schools became a popular option in the twentieth century for people who could not afford a traditional university education. These schools provide the benefits of learning from professors or experts in a particular field without the costs and obligations. The availability of the Internet has expanded opportunity even more with long-distance learning a viable option for both college-level and grade school classes.

As educational opportunities have increased, education careers have as well. General education teachers may work with specific subjects, such as science or English, but elementary school teachers often need to focus on basic learning techniques. At the grade-school level, teachers can specialize in subjects or work with disabled students. There are also special education teachers for every grade as well as reading specialists who help children work on their cognitive abilities; specialists still work in classrooms with general teachers.

Education careers require educators to understand and apply different educational theories to their work, such as Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development and B.F. Skinner’s theory of behaviorism. Fortunately, modern education courses cover major theories, and there are seminars and continuing education classes that allow educators to expand their knowledge.