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Péter Szebenyi: The beginnings of a new era in European education: The requirement of public education

The author argues that the defining attribute of the modern school is attendance required from everyone, i.e. the whole of new generations. The state guarantees its compulsory nature by way of sanctioning non-attendance and establishing a comprehensive school system in which all young people receive some kind of education. Therefore the beginnings of the modern school and modern pedagogy should be dated from the appearance of the requirement of public education and not, as some educational historians claim, from humanist education, which had emerged somewhat earlier. The establishment of elementary schools gathered momentum with the introduction of the requirement of general public education, in Protestant and Catholic schools alike (and, in fact, the latter even took the lead in certain aspects). The contents of general elementary public education, however, were restricted to the catechism and church songs. In Hungary, even the teaching of reading was not general before the beginning of the 18th century, even though the requirement itself was present from the beginnings of the Reformation. As regards the compulsory nature of schooling, only the era of enlightened absolutism brought about significant advances with the introduction of compulsory schooling mandated by the state at the end of the 18th century. Still, it took a long time before public education did really become general. This delay, however, does not contradict the arch significance of the appearance of the requirement itself. It was the gradual realisation of the requirement of public education that led to the formation of modern schooling and the emergence of the corresponding educational thinking from Comenius to the present day.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 101. Number 3. 393-410. (2001)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Szebenyi Péter H-1025 Budapest, Felső Zöld­­máli út 64.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia