''As the whole world is a school for the human race, so every individual's lifetime is a school from the cradle to the grave'' - these were the famed words of John Amos Comenius; one of the finest educational theorists, who was also a philosopher and theologian. Born into a Protestant family, Comenius had to witness a lot of wars/persecution in his country and as a result, witnessed his wife and children die as refugees. He always lived under the hope of returning back to his homeland, but in vain. Author of almost 154 books on education and theology, most of his ideologies became ground breaking concepts in education and passed the test of time. Most of his educational theories were unheard of during his lifetime, including women's education, drama lessons, educational system division and the usage of visual aids, maps, charts and images for children. A look at the policies of Comenius would make us wonder whether the world had to tread faster to walk at par with this 'champion of universal education'.
Childhood And education
John Amos Comenius, well-known as the father of modern education, was born on March 28, 1592 in Moravia, Habsburg (Czech Republic). He was the only son of Martin Comenius and was born into a protestant family, known as Bohemian Brethren. At a tender age of ten, Comenius lost his parents and two of his siblings in a mishap. After a brief period of depression, Comenius went to Stražnice, where he lived with his aunt and attended a Latin School in Prerov.
He completed his higher education at the University of Heidelberg, Herborn. It was at this University, where he was influenced by Irish Jesuit William Bathe, Johann Piscator, Heinrich Gutberleth and Heinrich Alsted to become a priest. Comenius decided to live the life of a priest, and decided to return back to Bohemia in the year 1614. After returning to Bohemia, Comenius taught at the various schools of the Brethren and was ordained a priest two years later. After serving a brief tenure as the priest, Comenius was appointed as the Parish in 1618.
In the meantime, the thirty year persecution that occurred between the Czech Protestant forces and the Catholic armies during the 1620's, resulted in the Protestant forces being defeated. This marked the end of the religious freedom for the Protestants and manifested the beginning of a 'counter reformation' of the Czech lands. During the course of this war, Comenius was forced to live in exile in order to avoid persecution from the Protestant brethren's.
During the war, Comenius lived and worked in many countries like Sweden, Transylvania, england, Netherlands, Hungary and the Roman empire. He sought refuge and eventually, through the course of time, lost hope of returning back to his home land. even though Comenius was forced into hiding after the war outbreak, he decided to establish a school in Hungary. The institution failed to do well, but Comenius was determined to set things right. It was at this time, he decided to write his book "The World in Pictures".
The educational Theorist
Popularly known as the 'Father of Modern education', Comenius was also the pioneer of modern educational policies. He was one among the many contemporaries such as Milton, Descartes, Galileo and Rembrandt, who believed in holistic education and made use of images in textbooks for better understanding. According to Comenius, education was not for selective sections of society, but was a ubiquitous necessary for the whole of mankind. Advocating the concept of education, he also conceptualized 'Pansophism' that entailed philosophy, theology and education into a single theory.
Comenius encouraged teaching children in Latin, which was the most prevalent language spoken and read in europe at the time. Thus, his educational policies enabled him to maintain the distinctiveness of individual culture as well as encouraging the unity of mankind. He was also credited for founding formal education for women, which was unheard of in the 17th century.
According to Comenius, the perfect blending of words and images were more powerful and enhanced the women's and the children's ability to learn. Thus, he was convinced that pictures were inherent to education and had to be included in textbooks. He also stated that the school curriculum must grow from simple to complex with reviews, which would make the learning process easy. He believed that the subjects that were taught in school should have been more practical with demonstrations and direct observations.
Comenius was accredited for writing 154 books that dealt with various aspects of educational philosophies and theology. Some of his noted works were 'The Labyrinth of the World, 'The Theater of All Things', 'Janua Linguarum Reserata' (The Gate of Languages Unlocked), 'Orbis Pictus' (The World Illustrated) and 'Didactica Magna' (The Great Didactic).
Towards the end of his life, Comenius fled to Amsterdam in 1656. He lived in this city until his death on November 4, 1670.