Did you know the father of all modern, western education was a Czech?
Jan Amos Komenský (anglified as John Amos Comenius) was one of the earliest proponents of universal education, and introduced foundational concepts like illustrated textbooks, teaching in native languages rather than Latin, and more progressive, logic based thinking instead of plain memorization. He also pioneered social justice issues in regards to education, advocating for education for poor children, women, and disenfranchised people.
Born in Moravia in 1592, Komenský spent the first half of his life involved with the church during the religious wars, and wrote influential writings spiritual writings that made him famous throughout Europe.
As a prominent protestant figure, Komenský was sent into exile after the war, and was forced into Poland, where he was given control of their school system and the Bohemian and Moravian Church. It was here where he made a name for himself as a highly revered educator, and was eventually invited into England to advise the government in reforming their public education system.
Komenský later went on to advise several other European civilizations on their educational systems, including, Poland, Hungary, Holland, and Sweden. The system that is seen in the USA and most British commonwealth countries where kids move through kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college and then university is taken directly from Komenský’s magnum opus work called Didactica Magna (Great Didactic).
On top of the very educational systems and ideologies that Komenský created hundreds of years ago, his legacy lives on in many visible ways. In the Czech Republic, his face adorns the 200 koruna note, and his name the University of Jan Amos Komenský in Prague.
Other schools and universities can be found named after him in Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Slovakia. The Moravian University in Pennsylvania, USA, has a “Comenius Hall.”
The largest collections of Komenský’s original manuscripts can be found in University of Sheffield’s Western Bank Library in the UK.
Image via STORE NORSKE LEKSIKON. License: Public Domain