The education system as we know it is only about 200 years old. Before that, formal education was mostly reserved for the elite. But as industrialization changed the way we work, it created the need for universal schooling.
Factory owners required a docile, agreeable workers who would show up on time and do what their managers told them. Sitting in a classroom all day with a teacher was good training for that. Early industrialists were instrumental, then, in creating and promoting universal education. Now that we are moving into a new, post-industrial era, it is worth reflecting on how our education evolved to suit factory work, and if this model still makes sense.
“Factory schools,” as they are now called, originated in early 19th-century Prussia. For the first time, education was provided by the state and learning was regimented. Dozens of students at a time were placed in grades according to their age, and moved through successive grades as they mastered the curriculum. They took an industrialized approach to education: impersonal, efficient, and standardized
Related: Frederick Taylor.