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The United Kingdom_Early 19th to early 20th century.
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.
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