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Christian Learning

The History of Early Education

31 July 2020

The History of Early Education -

This is adapted from an article written by Steven Bonnay.


In the early 1500’s Martin Luther advocated for children to be educated in a time when universal education was unheard of and many people were illiterate. Luther wanted children to be educated so they could read the bible for themselves. Luther was a strong Christian and great reformer.


John Comenius (1592-1670) philosopher and theologian, built on Luther’s legacy and set up a system of schools. He wrote the first picture book for children to increase literacy and was also a strong Christian (he held the office of pastor and bishop).


John Locke (1632-1704) a famous philosopher, pushed for parents to be nurturers of their children, and that learning should be fun. He was also a Christian.


Another major player in early education was Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852). He believed that children learn through play, that child-directed activity is to be valued, and the whole child is important, even their inner being. Friedrich formalised early childhood education and the Kindergarten was birthed. He was a strong Christian.


Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was a physician and educator, she found herself working with children and observed their behaviours, recognising that the children spontaneously wanted to learn given the right environment. She saw that independent learning was the aim of education, and the teacher’s role to be an observer and director of their inner soul development. The Montessori Method is widely recognised, and she was also a devout Christian.


In Australia, the first schools were started by Christians. The very first school was established by Rev Johnson along with his wife Mary in 1793, taught around 150 children in their new church building located in Castlereagh St, the city of Sydney. But it wasn’t until 1816 that the government started building schools, the first one being established by Henry Wrensford who was a convict but conditionally pardoned. It was in Newcastle.


In 1866 the Public Schools act was created to help the government organise how they would spend money to establish schools. And in 1880, the Public Instruction Act made provisions for religious teaching to be taught to the students. This is partly in effect today, called SRE, Special religious Education. More information can be found here.



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