John Comenius (1592-1670) was a Czech educator who has had a tremendous influence on education. This post will take a look at his life and educational philosophy.
Comenius was born in 1592. Early in life lost his parents and was raised by guardians. Due to this chaos, there were some delays in Comenius education as he did not study Latin until he was 16, which was considered late during this time.
Comenius late exposure to Latin allowed him to observe with a critical eye how it was taught compared to if he had studied as an uncritical small child. This would lay the foundation for his views towards language teaching and education in general.
Comenius would later go on to college and would graduate and take the position of minister in his church. These first few years were peaceful as he would work and marry. In addition, Comenius continues to nourish his views on education. However, were would soon break out and Comenius would lose all of his property in the process.
From here, Comenius goes fully into education and teaches and writes. Comenius would work in several countries writing about education as well as teaching. He focused a great deal on reforming how language was taught in particular Latin. In addition, he produced several highly influential books such as”The Gate of Tongues Unlocked” which may be one of the first language teaching books ever and “Didactic Magna” which may be one of the first books on teaching methods. In 1670, Comenius died at the age of 77.
Comenius believed that education should not only improve the main but should be focused on the development of the whole man which means physical, mental, and social development. The teaching should be inductive and based on examples. this means that you teach by using examples and have the students make conclusions.
The focus on inductive teaching and observation made Comenius critical of rote memorizing. Instead, understanding should be the primary goal. Lastly, Comenius was a support that everyone should be educated and not just males. This idea was somewhat ahead of its time.
Comenius is most famous for proposing grade levels. His system had four levels.
- Level 1 Domestic school-Home with mother
- Level Proper School-Basic reading and writing
- Latin School-College Preparation
Comenius also had views on specifically teaching language. He supported teaching the mother tongue first until mastery. His point was that comprehension of the language must move in step with the tongue. Comenius claimed there was no benefit to teaching a language without understanding. Of course, this is in strong contrast to Audiolingualism which is a strong support of nonsense repetition.
He also believed that learning by doing was the most appropriate way to learn a language. After the students do it you can teach them the rules. This allows the students to build on their strengths.
The life work of Comenius is an example of practical Reformation of educations. Many of his ideas and views are still influencing education to this day.