History of Education

Comparative Historical Timeline


Further Explanation on Educational History by Country



1000-1899: Foundational Period

Romania’s education foundation has a long and rich history dating back a millennia when the oldest known school was founded in a monastery located in the Romanian town of Cenadul Vechi (State University, 2016). Three main principalities Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania united under Michael the Brave in 1600 thereby creating Greater Romania and the initial awareness of Romanian national identity (citation). Rome heavily influenced Romania’s development as evidenced by the latin-based Romanian language. As such, lessons during the middle ages remained in Latin and followed religious in content and methodology. Finally, in the sixteenth century, schools began instruction in the Romanian language, and the seventeenth century saw an increase in schools (State University, 2016).

Most of the Balkan peninsula fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire by the mid 1500s. The principalities of Romania were a unique case because of Ottoman suzerainty; that is, the Ottomans controlled Romanian foreign policy and international relations, yet granted the Romanians full internal autonomy. Although resources regarding education from this time period are scarce, Romania enjoyed a high level of autonomy which allowed for the subsequent development of a robust educational system.

Integral to understanding Romanian educational history is the demographic diversity of the country’s population. Romania has been uniquely located between various empires throughout its existence: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and later the German Empire. All of the principalities were, at one time or another, the property of these various empires. Due to the volatile nature of the region, various ethnic groups can be found dispersed throughout the country. Romania today is home to large Hungarian-speaking, as well as German-speaking populations. These two ethnic groups strongly influenced the path of education in Romania up until the Communist regime of the twentieth century (State University, 2016).

As noted in the timeline above, by the late eighteenth century, schools began to be secularized: whereas in the middle ages churches were the only institutions with the knowledge and resources to operate schools, by the late 1700s, local communities assumed more control over education (State University, 2016). This led to the growth of a professional class of teachers, separate from the clergy.

Although several educational institutions existed as early as the seventeenth century, the nineteenth century saw the true birth of Romanian higher education. These institutions offered similar content to other European institutions of higher education during the period (Sadlak, 1991). Over the course of the nineteenth century various universities were founded. The first Romanian university was founded in 1860 in Jassy. Regarded as a national university, it included three faculties: natural sciences, law,and theology. The fourth faculty, medicine, opened nearly two decades later in 1879 (Sadlak, 1991). These organizational structures would exist until the communist reforms of the mid-twentieth century.


1900-1970: World Wars and Communism   

In the waning years of the nineteenth century, Romania gained its independence from the Ottoman empire. In 1881, the Kingdom of Romania was formed. Following World War I, Transylvania was reintegrated into the Romanian state, completing the consolidation of what had been considered Greater Romania. As the principality had belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire, Hungarian influence was dominant in the education system, reflected by the high number of ethnic Hungarians enrolled in the secondary schools (State University, 2016). The incorporation of an institute into the Romanian education system further demonstrates Hungary’s educational clout. Babeș-Bolyai University, founded while Transylvania remained part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, offered classes only in Hungarian, until a complete reversal to Romanian classes post 1918 (Sadlak, 1991).

Pre-World War II Romanian educational laws were designed to unify the newly established country under a uniform education system, since the ethnic and historical makeup of the various regions posed a challenge to such uniformity (State University, 2016). In 1932, the Law on Organization of the University was passed, granting universities previously unprecedented academic freedom in teaching and research and defining the mission of universities “for the development of culture, education and science in Romania” (Sadlak, 1991). In spite of the liberalization of university governance at the time, Romanian political thought and thus education remained anticommunist and became more pro-nationalist and markedly anti-Jewish as the interwar period progressed (State University, 2016).

At the outset of World War II, Romania maintained neutrality. This was short lived, however, and after Soviet aggression, Romania entered on the side of the Axis powers, thus prompting the Soviet Union to invade and annex some of its territories. After a coup d’etat in 1944, Romania switched sides and began to fight on the side of the Allied powers. Following the end of World War II, Romania fell under the influence of the Soviet Union. Under pressure from the Soviet government, the Romanian Communist Party (RCP) came to power.

The rise of communism in Romania had a great impact on education and education reform. The 1948 Law of the Educational Reform promulgated the Marxist-Leninist ideals of extreme secularism and state-control over education (Connor, 2003). It created a centralized education system through a process of nationalizing private schools and religious schools (State University, 2016). Universities, which had been granted considerable academic freedom and autonomy during the interwar period, lost such freedom under the new law. A major obstacle to such freedom were political requirements for student admission and faculty positions (Connor, 2003). This early phase of communist influence over the education system would change as the country moved into the 1950s.

Immediately following World War II, Romania had been heavily influenced by Soviet communism. However, by the 1950s, the communism practiced in Romania began to take on a virulently nationalistic tone (State University, 2016). This was reflected in educational reforms which suppressed the Hungarian minority in Romania, as well as sought to “Romanize” various minorities through education. The Education Law of 1955 brought about a quantitative expansion of the education system: secondary and postsecondary schools were developed, new institutions of higher education were opened, and specialized high schools similar to vocational schools were created (Connor, 2003). Although material conditions for students improved, the systematic expansion led to an increase in the student to teacher ratio.

The Law and Educational Reform of 1968 was the culmination of Romanian dissatisfaction with the Law of 1948. The Romanian government decided to replace the 1948 Law which they said borrowed solutions from the Soviets. The law gave importance to science in the construction of the new Romanian communist state. Technological advancement was seen as necessary for progress; the law proposed higher education as a means of promoting a scientific and technological revolution in Romania (Connor, 2003). The educational emphasis at this time was to prepare Romanian youth for industrial work (State University, 2016). The 1968 law also changed the ratio of general secondary schools and specialized schools to favor those specialized schools. It modernized curricula, textbooks, courses and teaching methods. Furthermore, it replaced the familial origin criterion for admissions into higher education with written and oral exams. Under the law, universities also saw a strengthening of their autonomy (Connor, 2003).


1970-Today: Fall of Communism

The 1978 Educational Law was the last major education law to be passed under the communist regime. Educational bodies and new regulations governing them were developed. For example, the 1978 law created a National Council for Science and Technology, the Academy of Social and Political Sciences, as well as other educational governance bodies. Some of the regulations included the extension and diversification of high schools. It maintained the political criteria for academic appointments and promotions, further reinforcing communism in the country. The law was a reflection of the philosophy of Ceausescu, the communist leader at that time, and his regime’s desire to industrialize: it required education to undertake productive activities, causing the decline in fields such as law, humanities, and natural sciences, in favor of engineering and architecture (Connor, 2003).

The trends of the 1970s, towards vocational training for workers, continued into the 1980s (Bachman, R. D., & Keefe, 1991). This, coupled with a severe economic crisis in Romania, led to a reduction in resources allocated for education and in turn caused privatization of certain social services (Zajda, 2005). A rise in the price of education, among other things, would lead to social discontent and eventually the toppling of the Ceausescu regime in 1989.

Since the fall of communism in Romania, the education system changed greatly, although many were not immediately implemented. The period from 1989 until now has been typified by privatization, especially in the sector of higher education. From June 1993 to June 1995, Romania set a European record, running 73 private higher education institutions. Another trend is the international commercialization of Romanian higher education: in 1998 3.25% of students enrolled in Romania were foreign, and in 2001 approximately 70 foreign countries were represented in the student bodies of Romanian universities – mostly to study art and medicine (Zajda, 2005). Since the fall of communism, Romania has worked with international organizations such as the World Bank to help fund educational reforms.



1000-1899: Foundational Period

Czech history is rich of educational milestones. In 1348 Charles IV, King of Bohemia and King of the Romans founded Charles University, making it the first institution of higher education North of the Alps and one of the oldest European universities. The university was modeled after universities in Bologna and Paris, and quickly became internationally renowned and an educational hub for Central Europe. The university constant transition was highly influenced by the political and religious movements of the time.  A significant shift occurred during the 17th century, at the end of the Thirty Year War the institution became state-governed restoring secular faculties (History of Charles University, 2016).

During the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa introduced mandatory primary education for the entire country. Attendance became compulsory for all citizens, however those on the countryside experienced difficulty accessing schools (Education, 2012). The Industrial Revolution resulted in more people moving into cities, thus spiking school attendance rates.


1900-1970: World Wars and Communism   

In beginning of the 20th century, the Czech “First Republic” used education to address ethnic disparities. Eight years of compulsory education in the native language of each ethnic minority did much to raise literacy rates, particularly among Slovaks and Ukrainians. During this period, vocational education was expanded which lead to an increase of technical skills in industrial labor force. Even with the changes to eliminate ethnic disparities, issues still remained; German and Czechs predominated disproportionately in secondary schools and universities and the well-off rural citizens boarded their children in towns for secondary, vocational and higher education (Gawdiak, 1987).

With end of WWI and the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian empire in 1918, the countries of Czech and Slovakia combined lands to form the independent country of Czechoslovakia. Three years later saw the birth of communist party of Czechoslovakia “Komunistická strana Československa” (KCS). Education reforms during this period promoted ideological purity and were molded to fit the Soviet model of schooling. The next few years were turbulent times; the signing of the Munich Agreement allowed Hitler to invade and occupy Czechoslovakia until WWII. The Prague Uprising in 1945 welcomed the arrival of the Soviet Red Army, as they liberated the land from German rule. In 1948, the USSR imposed a communist government upon Czechoslovakia, which lasted until 1989.

Educational reforms in the 1970s were aimed at redressing disparities in the distribution of educational resources between Czech and Slovak lands, and achieved a certain equity. This was partly due to planned efforts of policymakers and partly through the change of circumstances of normalization. These reforms shortened the course of study in most higher education fields from five to four years.

The political influence over education was still strong during this time. The Principled Class Approach was introduced, which can be described as the selection of applicants in higher education based on political character. The 1971 regime stated: “We make no secret of the fact that we want to do this at the schools in a manner that will guarantee graduations will be supporters of socialism and that they will place their knowledge at the service of socialist society”(Gawdiak, 1987). In theory, admissions decisions were based on a variety of criteria, including talent, academic interest, class origins, civic and moral fortitude, as well as social and political activism of the parents; however, in practice, class background and parents political activities outweighed all other factors (Gawdiak, 1987).


1970-Today: Fall of Communism

In the late 1970’s, policy makers shifted their focus to primary and secondary education. The primary cycle was shortened from nine to eight years and curriculum was standardized within the secondary school system. The state financed these levels of education, making all textbooks and instructional material below university level free for students. Secondary schools were developed into the models now seen today. This includes two 4-year programs: gymnasiums that stress higher education preparation and general education; and vocational schools which stress technical education.

In the 1980’s, focus was back on higher education. Laws were implemented that granted Czech and Slovak ministries educational control over universities and technical colleges. Faculty could exist within a university system or as independent entities. Nonetheless, applications were still ranked depending on political affiliations. Students whose parents were both communist party members, children of farmer workers, and children with one parent involved in the party were given preferential treatment. Students who failed to meet any of these conditions were considered last. Bribery and corruption continued to surround university admissions. Despite the political corruption involved in higher education, this decade saw an increase of 93% in female attendance in higher education (Gawdiak, 1987).

In 1989, the fall of Berlin Wall sparked the nonviolent Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, resulting in the end of Communism for the country. Three years later in 1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was enacted. Education in Czechoslovakia was democratized. Private schools, along with six and eight year Gymnasia were introduced. Academic freedom was restored and university’s added bachelor’s programs (Czech Republic).

During 1992, the first education programs involving the support of the European Commission were launched. In 1993, the Czech Republic came into existence after peacefully splitting with Slovakia. Two years later, the Czech Republic became a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999. In 2004 the country joined the European Union, with its first Presidency in 2009.



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