Educating Europeans


Rebecca ROGERS

Sciences lesson in Kalvskindet's school (Norway), around 1900, Erik Olsen.The movement towards compulsory and prolonged schooling since 1800 had a greater impact on girls than boys in European countries because girls’ education significantly lagged behind that of boys in 1800. Early 19th-century schools were strictly divided by both sex and class: elementary education was directed toward the poor, whereas secondary education was mainly for wealthy boys. By mid-century national networks of schools increasingly allowed girls to pursue studies, particularly within vocationally-oriented and teacher-training programs. Between 1850 and the 1920s, many countries mandated compulsory elementary education for both sexes and single-sex secondary schools for girls developed. Feminist movements also promoted girls’ schooling, including in the colonies. Women, and particularly nuns, were very present in the “civilising mission” that encouraged the creation of schools in the Empire and in Europe. From the inter-war period on, the most dramatic changes in educational systems have been the spread of comprehensive secondary education and the disappearance of single-sex schooling. After 1945 this meant that the numbers of students attending secondary schools soared.