School Museum in Reckahn, Brandenburg an der Havel quoting Mark 10:14 at the entrance. The Prussian education system refers to the system of education established in Prussia as modern education and development of children result of educational reforms in the late 18th and early 19th century, which has had widespread influence since.
The basic foundations of a generic Prussian primary education system were laid out by Frederick the Great with his Generallandschulreglement, a decree of 1763, authored by Johann Julius Hecker. The Prussian system consisted of an eight-year course of primary education, called Volksschule. Construction of schools received some state support, but they were often built on private initiative. Friedrich Eberhard von Rochow, a member of the local gentry and former cavalry officer in Reckahn, Brandenburg, installed such a school. The overall system was soon widely admired for its efficiency and reduction of illiteracy, and served as a model for the education systems in other German states and a number of other countries, including Japan and the United States. Major drivers for improved education in Prussia since the 18th century had a background in the middle and upper middle strata of society and were pioneered by the Bildungsbürgertum. The system’s proponents overcame such resistance with the help of foreign pressure and internal failures, after the defeat of Prussia in the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1807 Johann Gottlieb Fichte had urged a new form of education in his Addresses to the German Nation. Various German national movement leaders engaged themselves in educational reform. Pietism, a reformist group within Lutheranism, forged a political alliance with the King of Prussia based on a mutual interest in breaking the dominance of the Lutheran state church. Prussia was able to leverage the Protestant Church as a partner and ally in the setup of its educational system. Prussian ministers, particularly Karl Abraham Freiherr von Zedlitz, sought to introduce a more centralized, uniform system administered by the state during the 18th century. Generations of Prussian and also German teachers, who in the 18th century often had no formal education and in the very beginning often were untrained former petty officers, tried to gain more academic recognition, training and better pay and played an important role in various protest and reform movements throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. 18th and 19th century Enlightenment ideals of teachers educating the nation about its most sacred and important issues.
State-oriented mass educational systems were instituted in the 19th century in the rest of Europe. They have become an indispensable component of modern nation-states. Public education was widely institutionalized throughout the world and its development has a close link with nation-building, which often occurred in parallel. In Austria, Empress Maria Theresa had already made use of Prussian pedagogical methods in 1774 as a means to strengthen her hold over Austria. The Prussian reforms in education spread quickly through Europe, particularly after the French Revolution. The Napoleonic Wars first allowed the system to be enhanced after the 1806 crushing defeat of Prussia itself and then to spread in parallel with the rise and territorial gains of Prussia after the Vienna Congress. While the Russian Empire was among the most reactionary regimes with regard to common education, the German ruling class in Estonia and Latvia managed to introduce the system there under Russian rule.
Early 19th-century American educators were also fascinated by German educational trends. In 1818, John Griscom gave a favorable report of Prussian education. English translations were made of French philosopher Victor Cousin’s work, Report on the State of Public Education in Prussia. In 1843, Mann traveled to Germany to investigate how the educational process worked.
Upon his return to the United States, he lobbied heavily to have the “Prussian model” adopted. In 1852, Mann was instrumental in the decision to adopt the Prussian education system in Massachusetts. Americans were especially impressed with the Prussian system when they set up normal schools to train teachers because they admired the German emphasis on social cohesion. That led to the establishment and proliferation of factory model school programs and facilities through to the end of the 20th century. Current American critics of the Prussian system use purported Prussian drill and Prussian serfdom, actually predating 1807, as counterclaims against compulsory education. Early Prussian reformers took major steps to abandon both serfdom and the line formation as early as 1807 and introduced mission-type tactics in the Prussian military in the same year. In 1918, the Kingdom of Prussia became a republic.
However, Haenisch’s and other radical left approaches were rather short-lived. 1919 confirmed the tripartite Prussian system, ongoing church influence on education, and religion as a regular topic, and it allowed for peculiarities and individual influence of the German states, widely frustrating the ambitions of radical leftist educational reformers. After 1945, the Weimar educational compromise again set the tone for the reconstruction of the state-specific educational system as laid out in the Prussian model. In 1946 the US occupation forces failed completely in their attempt to install comprehensive and secular schooling in the US Occupation Zone.