A Brief History Of Government Involvement In Education

One of the most important things in society is education. However, who is responsible for providing education and how it should be delivered are often contested questions. In this EDU Blog, we will take a look at government involvement in education and its various perspectives.

What's 'government involvement' in education?

A simple way to define government involvement in education is how much and how the state controls, pays for, and checks the quality of education for its people.

Different kinds of education can have different amounts and kinds of government involvement. Depending on the state, a government may involve itself more or less in different types of education and educational settings. These include education for young children, teenagers, and adults, and education that public schools, private schools, or homeschooling provide.

Government involvement can also vary across different countries and regions. This can depend on their politics, money, and culture.

What is the role of the government in education?

One way to look at the government’s role in education is to consider how it affects different aspects of society, such as the economy, social justice, and human rights.

The economy benefits from having an educated and skilled workforce that can increase productivity and competitiveness.

Social justice is enhanced when education is accessible and fair for everyone, regardless of their background or identity.

Human rights are respected when the government recognizes and supports the right to education for all people, as stated in many international agreements and laws.

History of government involvement in education

Many governments have been involved in education for a long time. They do this for different reasons. For example, some want to help their people learn new skills and get better jobs. While others want to make their people proud of their country and culture. On the other hand, some governments want to make their people get along with each other and with other countries.

Objectives and control in education

One theme of government involvement in education is the objective to make it free and open for everyone. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 stated that “everyone has the right to education” and called for free and compulsory primary education for all children (UNESCO, 2015). Today, most countries have laws that say that everyone can go to school and finish basic education (UNESCO, 2020).

Another theme is how much power different governments have over education in their areas. Some governments have complete control over education. They decide what students learn, how they are tested, how much money schools get, and how schools are run. Because they want all schools and regions to be equal and have high quality. Meanwhile, other governments let local people make more decisions about education. They want more freedom and variety in education.

The amount of power may change depending on the kind of education (for example, for young children, teenagers, or adults) or the way of learning (for example, in school, at home, or in the community).(OECD, 2019).

Nation building and International relations

Another theme refers to the role of education in building a nation and connecting the citizens. Many governments use education to make people feel proud of their country, respect different cultures, take part in society, and get along with others.

Education can also serve as a means of promoting peace and cooperation among different groups and regions within a country or across borders. For example, after World War II, several European countries established exchange programs and joint curricula to foster mutual understanding and reconciliation among their youth (Eurydice, 2017).

These are some of the main themes that can be explored in the history of government involvement in education worldwide. However, this is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other aspects and perspectives that can be considered.

The history of education is a rich and fascinating field of study that can reveal a lot about the past, present, and future of human societies.

Federal government’s influence on education: Advantages and Disadvantages

The federal government helps or hurts education in different ways. On the positive side, it:

  • Gives money and help that some states or schools may not have or may not share fairly.

  • Makes national goals and rules that keep things the same and hard across states and schools.

  • Supports new ideas and studies that can make teaching and learning better and easier.

  • Defends the rights and needs of students who may face problems or unfairness, such as students of color, poor students, students with disabilities, students who speak other languages, etc.

On the negative side, it:

  • Makes laws and orders that may not fit the wants or needs of local people or teachers.

  • Creates stress and rivalry that may lead to teaching for the test, cutting down the topics, or cheating.

  • Takes away the power and skill of teachers and leaders who may know more and do better in their places.

  • Causes fights and troubles between different parts of government or between government and other groups over who is in charge, who is to blame, or what to believe.


What role does the government play in education? It depends on the time and place in history. Different societies have different needs and situations. Sometimes, the government pays for schools, sets rules, or gives scholarships. But other times, it faces challenges or disagreements from other people who care about education.

We can learn a lot from studying how governments have been involved in education in the past. We can also see how complex and diverse this topic is.

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