Who Invented School?

Horace Mann invented school and what is today the United States’ modern school system. Horace was born in 1796 in Massachusetts and became the Secretary of Education in Massachusettes where he championed an organized and set curriculum of core knowledge for each student.

Most kids all around the globe receive some sort of education, whether it’s learning from family members, going to school, or even getting homeschooled. If you have ever questioned who actually created school and standardized education, well look no further.


Early Schooling

School and education have been around for quite some time, but our standardized education is actually fairly new to us. Check out this guide to education.

“Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.” — Shakuntala Devi
The idea of passing children knowledge is nothing new and can date back to the first humans on Earth. Long before schools parents and elders would pass down their knowledge to their children. This was typically done one on one as opposed to teaching a group of children. The knowledge passed down typically consisted of hunting skills, self-defense tactics, responsibilities that needed to be done, and even responsibilities that had to be done for the group they belonged to.
After a while, the idea of placing a group of people to teach them those skills came up. By doing that, a group of students could learn the skills and knowledge together, which saved time and allowed the students to learn with each other. This was the very early stages of the concept of school. This early stage of school was not what we know today. these students were taught about survival and religious ideas rather than calculus and all that boring stuff we dealt with in school now.

The Start Of Formal Schooling

 We can find the first idea of formal schools and education can be seen as early as 500 AD in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and even ancient Egypt. Societies began to teach more than just skills the pertained to their culture and students were given a more formal education. Alexandria, in Egypt, became the home to the Library of Alexandria and literacy became an important focus to many schools in different civilizations. During the Middle Ages, mathematics became yet another main focus for education and during the Renaissance period science became a focus for education. As you can see, the different periods in civilization opened up another main focus and added more ideas for education.
The first college in the world, the University of Bologne, was founded in 1088 and is the oldest and longest-running university in the world. It started when students began grouping together and hired educators to teach them different things and ideas. Scholars were able to pass down their knowledge to large groups of people who came from many different nations, and the students were able to decide if the professor was doing their job or not. The students essentially controlled the professor by using money against them, somewhat similar to what we have today. Over time the professors banded together to get their own rights and began setting up degree plans and even set up exams.

Mandatory Schooling And Who Invented It

Overtime education and schooling became more and more important to different societies. Here are some countries who made education mandatory:
  • The Aztecs made education mandatory in the 1400s
  • Different German settlements made education mandatory in the late 1500s
  • Scotland paid for schooling for everyone and made it mandatory in 1616
  • In the United States, Massachusetts made mandatory schooling in 1642
  • Prussia made school compulsory in 1763
  • The UK did not make school mandatory until 1870, but only elementary school was required
    • It wasn’t until 1996 that children were required to have a full-time education BUT school is still not compulsory
  • Japan made school mandatory in 1868

This Is Who Invented Modern Education

While there is no one to credit for inventing school, there is someone who is considered to be the father of modern education. Meet Horace Mann (1796-1859), who was the Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of education, and who eventually became a representative for the state of Massachusetts. Mann truly believed that universal public education was extremely important to help mold American citizens. Under his tenure, he created a number of public schools in Massachusetts and reformed public schools so much that other states adopted Mann’s ideas.

“Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.” — Oprah Winfrey

After being appointed Secretary to the school board Mann visited every school in Massachusetts to see how they operated. Mann began a journal named Common School Journal in 1838 for teachers to follow and get on the same page in their teachings. Mann also went to Europe to check out their schools to see what was important to the Europeans to teach children.


What Are The Principles Of Modern Education?

Mann came up with 6 principles regarding public education. They were actually pretty controversial at the time but were adopted and put into place. Here they are:

  1. Citizens cannot be both free and ignorant
  2. The public needs to pay for, maintain, and control education
  3. Children from all classes should have the same schooling
  4. Education needs to be nonsecular (meaning not religious)
  5. Education needs to use the principles of a free society
  6. The educators and teachers need to be professionally trained

Along with these principles, Mann also separated grades by age as opposed to grouping all students together. He is also the one who best theorized that lecturing would be better suited to learning. Over time, many other states began adopting Mann’s principles that led to the education system that we know today.

Standardized Education

Love it or hate it, ou education system now relies on the usage of standardized education. Historically there have been standardized tests dating as far back as the Han dynasty in the early ADs for citizens to become members of the government. Standardized tests are tests that ask students the same questions that measure how much a school is actually teaching, and it has become very controversial.

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” — Brian Herbert

Just as with the founder of schools, there is no real inventor of standardized education. In 1905 Alfred Binet began developing tests of intelligence, but that became what we know today as IQ tests, and aptitude tests began coming around in the early 1900s but it is still not the standardized tests that we have today. The SAT and ACT were developed in the early 1900s as well by the College Board to test who could be accepted into colleges, but it was a group of people who developed that idea.


Overall, education is an extremely important part of not just American society, but for the citizens across the globe. As Mann believed, a free society can only function with educated individuals running it.

Comments (93)

  1. why does school exist, I know because it is for us to learn but why does it need to be?
    welp, I don’t know but it does so be with it!!!!!!

  2. School =
    S = Seven
    C = Cruel
    H = Hours
    O = Of
    O = Our
    L = Lives
    I honestly don’t understand things with the Zoom Classes, Like, if I get 100/100 on a test, then why the hell do they require my assignments? If I know the material, then why the hell do I need to give proof other than my test papers?

  3. I know school is for us to get an education, but some of the things they are teaching us is just stupid.Like I feel like I’m wasting my life.

    1. Yes you are saying right most of the things taught in school are not essential but just to serve leaders and get them their economy safe.

    2. The reasons that “you can make new friends and you can socialize” are invalid because teachers don’t let us communicate with each other. At all. Like, so many skills they try to “teach” us don’t have any real value in the real world outside of school. Like, wth am I going to do with a bunch of random knowledge that I have no real use for?

  4. I taught English and writing for 22 years. I finally realized that school is an institution. Institutions are places where everyone is categorized. Be free my former students…find education in the mountains and streams, the woods and the oceans! Find your voice with your own hands and minds! F**K school!😎

  5. We should get paid to go to school. We go there 5 days a week , we basically work 8 or 7 hours a day and get punished when we talk to friends. If we got paid to go to school I would want to come every day. The only good things about school (in my opinion) is band, P.E. and lunch other than that it is just teachers yelling at us.

    1. Fun fact- I don’t know when we are going to use MATH in the real world “oh look the looks like the addition sign” like really

    1. But is that education necessary? I don’t know when I would use the quadratic equation anywhere in my life except for getting a good grade so I don’t look like a failure.

  6. So school you’re not aloud to talk to friends except for 2 times and we’re not allowed to be kids and laugh and talk and the teachers get to boss us around and they don’t get in trouble so we don’t even get to be with friends barely and if we can’t help laughing and we get in trouble and we work a full shift and don’t get paid and we have to pay the school

    1. we don’t get to talk to our friends because that is not what school is for stupid! school is for getting an education. and the teachers boss us around because in the 8 hours we are in school, they are responsible for us. they have custody. and the only good thing people like about school is lunch, but the only reason we have lunch is because it is the law that they have to feed us during school. and we pay because we have to pay for our education. you would be dumb as a lolly pop. and school is not about “being a kid” it is about learning. we can be kids outside of school. and you should have friends outside of school to hang out with because friends are not what school is about. you can hang out with your friends at lunch or “recess” if you have it. but we go to school to learn because if we did not how would we have a career? and who cares what is on TIK TOK? does TIKTOK rule your guys’s lives or something?

      1. Fact Check: Most of what we learn in school is useless because most of the time about 2-3 subjects of all you learn is used later on in your life. School should be for us to learn, but not every single thing. They should make a away in which they give you courses to be good in the career you would like to have when your older. Like for me, U.S. history is pointless due to the fact that im going to be working with animal science when im older. School should have been made a better way.

      2. Ok boo… school stands for six cruel hours of our life for a reason. We pay people to torture us if you think abt it. Also I don’t think we’ll ever need to know abt what has happened in the past bc it’s in the past. We should focus on the future. They should teach us abt things we’ll actually need to know in life. Like I don’t know how to do taxes but it’s ok bc my teachers taught me how to find a square root! Like no. I agree that school give you a education but a stupid education. You can be successful in life without school too. Look at flipping Jake Paul he dropped out of high school and he’s a million air. Also school gives kids stress. When they make us right 500 word essays on a thousand page book in less than a week and if you don’t get it in on time you get a 0. I would rather be spending my time making Tik Toks thank you very much.

  7. School was not made not for us to like it does not say anything about kids loving school he made test someone made school some one made homework ok get over it it’s not the end of the world think about the good side of things like
    Good side of things:
    Get to see friends every day
    You get to make new friends every day
    Two days off of school(Saturday & Sunday) some times extra days off to spend with family and friends
    End of conversation

  8. I don’t get what the point is for school😒,I spend 8 hours in school it’s dumb because why can’t we just learn the hard stuff that we actually need than all of this non sense😒😭🙄🤦🏽‍♀️

    1. i wish school wasn’t a thing all it does is makes me mad. the world would be better without school. and how come we have to go to school when animals don’t

  9. I found this article very helpful. It provided a lot of details and needed knowledge to describe the history of school. Thank you, Science Trends, for making this article. Again, it was very helpful with my research.

  10. School is useless we need to interact with others Sure “education “ is important but it is also really annoying 😑

  11. I hate school and all kids could agree with me who ever invented school I know is just trying to make us have better’’education’’ but it is useless and we need to interact with people than we see at school and I know that is true

    1. No Dear, do not think about luch think about the right education thta school should procure. Me I am writing in call of a better education an integral education and which will not be boring and non essential as this one. I believe that schools should focus on moral such as wisdom and the right way to live an integral life instead of money and scholar jobs and mind competitions which only destroys humans but not agree with your statement it makes it pointless.

  12. school helped us all be the people we are today we may not like school but it is important for all of us so just chill not much you can do cause he died already!!!!

      1. How do y’all like school literally school is literally the most stupid little thing I have ever Heard All school does is one thing get you away from your parents And the teachers just buzz you A round Have you seen Tik Tok have you seen every single video it’s mostly about Kids hating School And if you like school I give you One thing 🤬

  13. school is awesome peasants
    only rich people have fun in school
    i have a private jet
    and go to the bahamas every weekend
    you are all peasants



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