school in elizabethan england compared to modern england

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: April 14, 2016

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Submitted: April 14, 2016



School In the Elizebethin Era Compared to Modern Englan 

By Patrick A. Smith 


School, something that currently is an integral part of everyone's life, in the U.S we spend on average 60,000 hours of total primary education:  in england it is slightly different. In england primary schooling is one from age 5 through age 16 after that they can choose rather to continue their education or learn a trade. This raises the question, How does school in elizabethan england compare to current england. During elizabethan times schooling was rather different, schooling began at an early age. During their early years, before the were even eligible to start school they learned several life lessons. Like, respecting their parents, saying prayers on the morning, Table manners and proper edicate. Also girls were taught to be obedient and to learn housekeeping and sometimes even music and dance. Then from ages 5 through 7 boys and only boys, were enrolled in a type of a school called a “petty school”.

A “Petty School” as it was called was taught by an educated housewife, they were run for a small price, also referred to as dame schools. Young boy’s  education would consist of being taught to read and write English, learn the catechism and also learn lessons in behaviour. These were considered the most important elements of Elizabethan Petty School education and what must be taught during childhood. Nobel children were taught by private tutors in their own homes. Middle class children would attend a school referred to as a grammar school. This was the most common of institute of elizabethan education, and was mostly funded by some sort of a local guild. Young boys ages 7-10 would be taught by an usher or a senior pupil at the school. During the first year of their education, which started at age 7 consisted of learning parts of speech together with verbs and nouns. The second year of schooling was primarily focused on the rules of grammar and sentence construction. The third year of this schooling primarily consisted of children that were 9 years old and concentrated on English-latin and latin-English translations. Also he Elizabethan alphabet contained 24 letters, as opposed to the present day alphabet of 26 letters. In the Elizabethan alphabet the letters "u" and "v" were the same letter as were and "i" and "j". These ushers did not care to teach handwriting so it was usually taught by a traveling scrivener which was like a scribe or a clerk. Then between the ages of 10-14 the boys were taught by a master and they were taught about the following:

  • Latin to English translations

  • Literature including the works of the great classical authors and dramatists, such as Ovid, Plautus, Horace, Virgil, Cicero and Seneca

  • Occasionally the study of Greek

  • Religious education continued

  • Arithmetic

Life for these young boys was rather strict, school began at Six O'clock am and lasted till five in the afternoon. They however got a 2 hour break at noon for lunch. Because of the dark nights the hours changed during the winter and school started at seven and finished earlier at four o'clock. The school week consisted of five full days and one half day on thursday. Their schedule was set like this:

  • Monday - An examination based on the previous Sunday’s sermon

  • Tuesday to Thursday - the basic curriculum

  • Friday - Examinations and Punishments

  • Saturday - study of the catechism and some arithmetic

School lasted anywhere from 40 to 44 weeks a year. Accordingly each year school boys spent a total of 2,000 hours which is significantly more than what is currently expected. Also at all times during school hours, school boys were expected to converse in latin, to improve their fluency in the language. If any boy was caught speaking english they were punished, The punishments were fierce and fifty strokes of the cane was not an uncommon occurrence.At the age of 14 boys went to university, popular schools were Cambridge and Oxford university. The different areas of study were related to each teacher and students could chouse their desired education. They were:

  • The University Faculty of the Arts - The Arts would have included Philosophy, Rhetoric, Poetics, Natural History education etc.

  • The University Faculty of Liberal Arts would have included Grammar, Logic, Music, Astronomy, Arithmetic and Geometry education

  • The University Faculty of Theology - religious education

  • The University Faculty of Medicine including the study of Hippocrates, Galen, Arabic and Jewish medical texts

  • University Faculty of Law

Education in the rural areas of england was not as important, and because of this there were very little people who could read or write. This was the same for people who did not have the money to send their children to school. They would rather get jobs right away, these young workers were referred to as apprentices. This practice was popular and even common practice up until around the 1950’s in the U.S and is still seen in England on occasions.

Modern day england education system is different but has taken cues from this era. Kids now only go to school monday through friday, no longer sunday. Starting at age 3 kids are allowed to explore and play outside and experience the world for themselves first hand. After they learn these valuable life lessons they transfer to primary school. This is like a regular elementary school in the U.S and all around the world. After this they head to secondary school from ages 12-16 and learn most of the same things we learn in highschool. However they can then go to a higher level of education or go and learn a trade and start making a living for themselves.

Therefore, a lot of the English school system has changed over the years, but they did try to keep some of the formation of the schools that was created and used in the Elizabethan era. England also decided to continue to let their students chose their own future and not make them for on job or another like the U.S school system tries to do and fails every time. So, How does Elizabethan England's School system stack up to the current. Well they may have changed a lot of the system and the curriculum, but they still have their basic roots that started over five hundred years ago.


© Copyright 2018 patrick smith. All rights reserved.

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