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This article is intended to give an overview about the history of education.

In the Ancien Régime before 1789, educational facilities and aspirations were becoming increasingly institutionalized primarily in order to supply the church and state with the functionaries to serve as their future administrators. France had many small local schools where working-class children — both boys and girls — learned to read, the better to know, love and serve God. The sons and daughters of the noble and bourgeois elites, however, were given quite distinct educations: boys were sent to upper school, perhaps a university, while their sisters perhaps were sent for finishing at a convent. The Enlightenment challenged this old ideal, but no real alternative presented itself for female education. Only through education at home were knowledgeable women formed, usually to the sole end of dazzling their salons.[72]

The modern era of French education begins in the 1790s. The Revolution in the 1790s abolished the traditional universities.[73] Napoleon sought to replace them with new institutions, the Polytechnique, focused on technology.[74] The elementary schools received little attention until 1830, when France copied the Enlightenment challenged this old ideal, but no real alternative presented itself for female education. Only through education at home were knowledgeable women formed, usually to the sole end of dazzling their salons.[72]

The modern era of French education begins in the 1790s. The Revolution in the 1790s abolished the traditional universities.[73] Napoleon sought to replace them with new institutions, the Polytechnique, focused on technology.[74] The elementary schools received little attention until 1830, when France copied the [73] Napoleon sought to replace them with new institutions, the Polytechnique, focused on technology.[74] The elementary schools received little attention until 1830, when France copied the Prussian education system.

Jules Ferry, an anti-clerical politician holding the office of Minister of Public Instruction in the 1880s, created the modern Republican school (l'école républicaine) by requiring all children under the age of 15—boys and girls—to attend. see Jules Ferry laws Schools were free of charge and secular (laïque). The goal was to break the hold of the Catholic Church and monarchism on young people. Catholic schools were still tolerated but in the early 20th century the religious orders sponsoring them were shut down.[75][76]

French colonial officials, influenced by the revolutionary ideal of equality, standardized schools, curricula, and teaching methods as much as possible. They did not establish colonial school systems with the idea of furthering the ambitions of the local people, but rather simply exported the systems and methods in vogue in the mother nation.[77] Having a moderately trained lower bureaucracy was of great use to colonial officials.[78] The emerging French-educated indigenous elite saw little value in educating rural peoples.[79] After 1946 the policy was to bring the best students to Paris for advanced training. The result was to immerse the next generation of leaders in the growing anti-colonial diaspora centered in Paris. Impressionistic colonials could mingle with studious scholars or radical revolutionaries or so everything in between. Ho Chi Minh and other young radicals in Paris formed the French Communist party in 1920.[80]

Tunisia was exceptional. The colony was administered by Paul Cambon, who built an educational system for colonists and indigenous people alike that was closely modeled on mainland France. He emphasized female and vocational education. By independence, the quality of Tuni

Tunisia was exceptional. The colony was administered by Paul Cambon, who built an educational system for colonists and indigenous people alike that was closely modeled on mainland France. He emphasized female and vocational education. By independence, the quality of Tunisian education nearly equalled that in France.[81]

African nationalists rejected such a public education system, which they perceived as an attempt to retard African development and maintain colonial superiority. One of the first demands of the emerging nationalist movement after World War II was the introduction of full metropolitan-style education in French West Africa with its promise of equality with Europeans.[82][83]