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The Introduction of Compulsory Education
There were a number of possible reasons for the introduction of compulsory education.
To create a more skilled workforce Britain had been `the workshop of the world'
but other countries were catching up. Many
employers believed that, in order to remain
competitive, the new industrial society
required a numerate, literate workforce able
to cope with the complexities of modern
To improve the effectiveness of our armies The high casualties of the Crimean War (1854-6)
were seen as partly due to inexperience and
poor tactics. Better-trained, fitter soldiers might
have been given Britain a better showing.
To re-socialize the feckless (aimless or wasteful) Many Victorians felt that the working classes
poor were poor through their own fault- spending
unwisely, drinking too much and living immorally.
They needed to be taught to lead a more
responsible and respectable life.
To reduce the level of street crime Many felt that compulsory schooling would get
young pickpockets `off the streets', thus
reducing the high levels of petty theft.
To ward off the threat of revolution The upper classes feared the `tide of socialism'
what was `sweeping' through Europe. Free
education, on the one hand, could make the
ruling classes appear generous, while on the
other, giving them ideological control over the
masses. The working class would learn to
respect authority, follow instructions and
conform to rules.
To provide a `human right' Many liberal thinkers felt that education could
improve the life experience of all citizens,
including the working class.