Comenius, The Father of Modern Education
John Amos Comenius, the father of modern education, was a Moravian theologian, philosopher, and pedagogue. He structured pedagogy as an autonomous science and established its fundamental principles. Do you know how many centuries ago that was?
How do you think this pedagogue of more than four hundred years ago viewed education? Comenius believed that education played a fundamental role in the development of people.
He was convinced that education was the best way to achieve peace. Therefore, he made a great effort to ensure that knowledge reached everyone equally, regardless of race or sex, without mistreatment and seeking the motivation and joy of his students.
The work that made him famous was Didactica Magna, the first illustrated book for learning Latin. This and other great contributions to pedagogy and the perseverance regarding universal education earned him the title of “Teacher of Nations”.
A little history about Comenius
Comenius was born in 1592 in a village called Komná. From an early age, his father read to him and instilled in him critical thinking and ideas about the Christian faith regarding justice. When he was only 12 years old, he was orphaned and went to live with relatives, who sent him to study at a school The Unity of Brethren.
At school, he learned what the teacher told him by shouting and beating, so Comenius began to express and criticize some texts and the rote method by which the school educated him.
At that time, learning to read, write, and calculate were relegated to the background, as if they were supplementary learning. Moreover, Comenius disagreed with the methods used by his teachers, as they required years of learning.
He thought that if teachers sought the interest and motivation of the students, they could learn in much less time. Hence the interest he showed as a trainer of new generations, to reform teaching methods and the rules of the educational context.
When he finished his studies at the University of Heidelberg, he returned to his homeland and began his profession as a teacher. He proposed new teaching methods so that students would learn for pleasure, feel the joy of learning, and learn out of interest rather than obligation.
The teaching system of Comenius, the father of modern education
Comenius believed and fought for a school for all men and for all peoples. Thus arose his so-called “pansophia”, which means “to teach everything to everyone”. Moreover, he firmly believed that education was the quickest way to world peace.
For Comenius, freedom of thought, teaching with reason, and without shouting or authoritarianism, was very important. Therefore, when he began his profession as a teacher, he undertook a new pedagogical method that was very different and in contrast to those that were popular at the time. It was the active method, that is, learning by doing.
This active method was based on three steps:
- Understand. First, he explained the lesson to his students so that they could understand it.
- Retain. Then, he helped his students to elaborate on the content and concepts he’d explained.
- Practice. Finally, he had the kids put into practice and exercise what they’d learned in practical ways for life.
As you can see, this isn’t very different from what education for our children seeks today, although sometimes memorization still prevails.
Comenius’ pedagogical ideas
For Comenius, the father of pedagogy, students are the main element of the educational process. From his point of view, children at an early age are susceptible to education. For that reason, they should attend school gradually and according to their stage of development.
This idea and many others that gave rise to the Modern School are based, to a large extent, on what Comenius wrote four hundred years ago. So, let’s look at more pedagogical contributions of Comenius, the father of modern education:
A single teacher should teach a group of students. Moreover, the group should be homogeneous with respect to age and should bring together all children of both sexes.
The students at a school should be distributed by degrees of difficulty, beginners, intermediate, and advanced. Therefore, he established different educational levels.
- Schools can’t be completely autonomous, but school education systems must be organized simultaneously.
- All schools must begin and end their activities on the same day and at the same time (a single school calendar).
- Schools should teach knowledge gradually, going from easiest to more difficult, from concrete to abstract, and from the known to the unknown.
- Teaching in the students’ mother tongue, knowing things in order to teach them, and eliminating violence from the schools were some of Comenius’ recommendations for teachers.
- The most appropriate medium for learning to read is a book that combines age-appropriate readings with graphics and images.
- Learning should be a game. Children should go to school with joy and when parents visit a school, it should be like a party.
- Schools have to be built with playgrounds, yards, and joyful, open spaces.
Final thoughts about Comenius, the father of modern education
The thoughts and ideas of Comenius seem quite normal to us today, as this is the kind of education most of us have known all our lives. However, he significantly changed the functioning and methods used in the educational system of his time, i.e. in the 17th century.
For Comenius, as for many teachers, education should be comprehensive and not rote. In other words, students should learn by doing.
Furthermore, education, according to this pedagogue, should be a lifelong process that integrates creative activities. In such a way that education serves to fully develop people’s potentials and abilities, and not simply reason.