This month is marked by going back to school, schedules, books, folders, backpacks and school canteens.  It does not hurt to remember what school was like in the days of our grandparents, even that of our great-great-grandparents back in the early nineteenth century. It is interesting to see how despite the fact that we have evolved enormously in many aspects.  There are others that are still the same today.  However,  let’s check what the ten differences are between our children’s school and that of our grandparents.

  1. Shared classrooms

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was common in towns for classrooms to have children from the ages of four up to those who were about to stop school to work in the fields. The teacher of the school taught everyone at the same time, although each one in their grade. The younger ones sat in the front and the older ones in the back.

  1. There was no school transportation

In those years there were no school buses nor any exclusive means of transporting students, who were forced to walk the distance separating their homes from the school. Distances could sometimes be greater than 10 kilometers, which was only one way, on the way back there were another 10 kilometers. These 20 kilometers traveled daily by students amount to completing a half marathon.

The lack of school transport is something that in many cases has been solved. I many developing countries and some areas of the already developed ones, it is still common for students or their parents to have to provide the necessary means to get to school.

  1. Girls and boys were kept separate

This is not really a difference, because today there are still schools in which students are separated by sex. Nevertheless, today in age there is a greater number of mixed schools.

  1. The school year was shorter than now

Around 1870, the school year had a duration of 132 days.  Today it is about 180 days. The normal schedule was from nine in the morning to two in the afternoon with a one-hour break to eat and stretch the legs. This had a logical reasoning, since many families needed all possible help to work on the harvest.  With many children dropping out of school to help their parents in the fields.

Does it sound like something to you?

  1. Scarce and homemade school supplies: blackboard and chalk

Forget that image of the school students writing on paper with a pen and inkwell, pencil or ballpoint pen. In those days they were materials that were within the reach of very few pockets. A slab of slate and chalk were the common school supplies.

  1. Student-student teaching

On some occasions, the older students or those more advanced were in charge of teaching the smallest or the most “clumsy” students. Something like the older brothers from school.

  1. The memorisation of lessons

Back in those times, teachers taught different subjects. It was common for a single teacher to teach subjects such as mathematics, physics and chemistry in addition to language, geography, history, Latin, etc. The school students had to learn lessons by heart.  Then recite them in front of the teacher, who could correct any defect in pronunciation or a forgotten word.

  1. The teacher lived with the student’s family

It was not a common practice, but it was practiced in some cases: the teacher lived with the student’s family and generally taught him for a week, after which he moved to the home of another of his students. Something like a traveling governess.

  1. Strict discipline and corporal punishment

If there is something that has changed since those days, it is the punishments inflicted by teachers on students. In those days it was enough to be late to class, get out of line or not know the lesson to receive a couple of spankings.

  1. Food was brought from home

In those days, except in boarding schools and for obvious reasons, what we now call school canteens did not exist. Each student brought their food in a metal lunch box.

As running water was a scarce commodity in the field, the students drank water from a bucket that was filled by the older students and with a single cup for the whole class.

Let us know if you knew about these differences or if you can relate to any of these points. If you are a child at school now, why don’t you ask your grandparents about their schooling?

If you are someone that was in school in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, let us know how accurate this facts are or any anecdotes you have about school!