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100+ years of British education in quotations

The UK education system has seen some dramatic changes throughout its long history

The UK education system has seen some dramatic changes throughout its long history - from the introduction of state schooling in the XIXth century and gradually raising the school leaving age from just 10 to 18 to the introduction of a national curriculum in the XXth century.

Here're the most famous and interesting quotes about British education that perfectly capture and reflect these changes throughout the years:

“A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.” — John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was an English philosopher, political economist, politician, and civil servant as well as one of the most influential thinkers of the XIXth century. His renowned and widely celebrated essay 'On Liberty' argues for the importance of individual freedom, intellectual independence, and tolerance of other people's opinions.

"The teacher who allows his scholars the freedom of the city of books is at liberty to be their guide, philosopher, and friend; and is no longer the mere instrument of forcible intellectual teaching."— Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason was a British educator and reformer at the turn of the twentieth century. She introduced a new way of teaching children with a focus on reading engaging books, observing nature, and developing an appreciation for music and art. Her ideas surrounding homeschooling are still influential today.

“The province of popular education is to equip the men and women of this country for the tasks of citizenship. All are called upon to live, many are called upon to die, for the community of which they form a part. But the argument does not rest upon grounds of political prudence only; but upon the right of human beings to be considered as ends in themselves and be entitled, so far as our imperfect social arrangements may permit, to know and to enjoy all the best that life can offer in the sphere of knowledge, emotion, and hope.”— H. A. L. Fisher

Herbert William Fisher was an English historian, educator, and Liberal politician. He was the author of the Fisher Education Act of 1918 that made secondary education compulsory up to age 14 and gave responsibility for secondary schools to the state.

“I feel convinced that any educational measure will have to make it clear that we in the Education Department are not afraid of change; that we wish to preserve quality; that we have not in this country two absolutely separate types of education; and that they converge at various points.”— R. A. Butler

R. A. Butler was a prominent British Conservative Party politician. He is most renowned for the Education Reform Act of 1944 which influenced the British education system for decades to come.

“With organic systems, if the conditions are right, life is inevitable. It happens all the time. You take an area, a school, a district, and you change the conditions and give people a different sense of possibility, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunity, you cherish and value the relationship between teachers and learners, you offer people discretion to be creative and innovate in what they do – schools that were once bereft spring to life.” — Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson was a British author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education and arts bodies. In 1998, he led a UK commission on creativity, education and the economy that produced an influential report All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education. The report recommends a much stronger emphasis on creative and cultural education and a new balance in teaching and in the curriculum between learning knowledge and skills and having the freedom to innovate and experiment.

LEO International Online School offers a wide range of distance learning programs based on the British Curriculum depending on the level of English and background of the student, including Secondary Key Stage 3 and IGCSE programmes. Learn more about these programmes and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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