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Development of Education in Victorian England


  • There was no uniform system followed in the whole country. Different classes and sections of people followed different systems and standards. This emphasized the need for improvement in the Education system.

  • There were many kinds of schools.

  • The poor went to schools under the National Society with the guidance of church.

  • A large no. of private schools was available for all classes of people.

  • The Dissenters and the Roman Catholics differed from the Government Schools.

  • Private schools were cheap and were scandalously managed.

  • Most of the private village schools were far below in standards.

  • No central authority controlled the educational activities.

  • The education for poor was neglected although the 18th Century.

  • The secondary education of the well-to-do underwent remarkable development.

  • The children of upper and middle class people went to schools founded by the Kings and town corporations.

  • Every Englishman of eminence was an old student of Eton. (Schools like Eton became notorious for indiscipline)


  • Dr. Arnold, father of the poet Mathew Arnold and the Headmaster of the school Rugby was a great educationist.

  • He emphasized the study of religion and introduced the Monitorial system.

  • It was introduced to maintain discipline among students.

  • He introduced organized games in schools.

  • This system aimed to develop students’ overall personality which was later copied and followed by many other public schools.


  • The passing of the Second Reform Bill in 1867 helped in bringing a uniform system of Primary education.

  • The right of thinking made people think on the importance of masses education.

  • The outcome was the Gladstone’s Education Act of 1870.

  • This act made provision for the establishment of a School Board in every district and their duty is to provide education for the children between five and twelve ages.

  • This education was cheap and not for free.

  • This is the first National system of education in England.

  • Between 1870- 1890, average school attendance rose from one and a quarter to four and half millions.


  • The Gladstone’s Education Act made effective changes in Universities.

  • Earlier the custom was, whoever opting for Oxford or Cambridge has to pass the Religion test, this practice was abolished with the Test Act of 1871.

  • The study of physical sciences was introduced and eminent scientists like Clerk Maxwell and J.J. Thomson came from Cambridge.

  • New universities were founded to encourage the study of professional subjects.

  • The University of London was established 1836.

  • Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Cardiff were also established.

  • There was a separate college for scientific instruction which became the Royal College for Science in 1890.


  • Attention on women’s education was also provided.

  • 1848- The Queen’s College for Women was established.

  • Bedford College, Cheltenham College and other private schools for women were also established.

  • Some examinations in Oxford and Cambridge were made available for both men and women.

  • The newly-formed universities provided education for both men and women together.

  • 1879- For the first time degrees were provide for women.


  • Gladstone abolished patronage in all public offices and made competitive examination, the normal entrance to the Civil Service.


  • A Royal commission was appointed to study the education system in the country.

  • 1895- The committee reported that the system has many defects comparing to the German Education system.

  • This established the Board of Education in 1899.

  • Arthur James, the then Prime Minister passed the Education Act of 1902.

  • This Act laid the foundations for the twentieth century education in Britain.

  • The School Boards were abolished, the powers of both primary and secondary schools were provided to the elected County Councils and certain Large Borough Councils.

  • To get financial assistance from the government many private schools were made to have certain standards.


Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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