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Importance of education was not fully realized by the people of England before the nineteenth century.
This is evident from the fact that there was no uniform system for the whole country. Public schools provided
education at a high charge for the upper and middle classes. For the poor people, the Church of England
conducted schools, where the pupils had to pay only low fees. On the whole education was provided to the
people, according to the status of people.

There were many other schools also. But the Roman Catholics were not allowed to enter the government
schools. So they got their education in schools conducted by them which were very expensive. But the cheap
schools were not good for education. For example, Charles Dickens described such a school as, “Do-the-boys
Hall”, in his novel “Nicholas-Nickleby”. Altogether there was no Central authority to control the educational
activities of the country.

In the middle of the 19th century, there were many changes in the field of education. Children of the
upper and middle classes went to the public schools which were founded by the kings. Duke of Wellington was
believed to have said that Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing Fields of Eton. It was a fact that every
English man was an old student of one of the public schools such as Eton, Harrow or Winchestor. Later these
schools were known for indiscipline. But this was changed by Dr.Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby and father
of the poet Matthew Arnold.

Arnold, the great educationalist for 14 years [1828-1842] emphasized the study of religion and
introduced the monitorial system for maintaining discipline among students. He also introduced games. The
Second Reform Bill was passed in 1867. According to this bill a large section of working class got the right to

Gladstone’s Education Act of 1870 made provision for the establishment of a School Board in every
district. The Board also provided the education for the children between ages of five and twelve. The Act was
followed by many other Acts which brought many changes. New universities were founded to encourage the
study of professional subjects. There was a separate college for scientific instruction which became in 1890, the
Royal College of Science.

Sufficient attention was given to women’s education. In 1848, Queen’s College for Women was
established and was quickly followed by Bedford College, Cheltenham College and several good private
schools. London University gave its degree to women for the first time in 1879. Gladstone abolished patronage
in all public offices and made competitive examination the normal entrance to the Civil Service. The year 1870
was a turning point in the educational history of England.

A Royal Commission was appointed to study the system of education in the country. In 1895, the
commission reported that the system was defective when compared to German System. In order to eradicate
this, the Board of Education was established in 1899. In fact Arthur James Balfour education Act of 1902 laid
the foundation for education in Britain during the twentieth century. The School Boards were abolished and the
power to provide for education was given to the elected County Councils and certain large Borough Councils.
Thus a great step forward was taken towards the establishment of a uniform national system of education.