Origen de la Pedagogía

Origin of pedagogy, how it evolved over time

Pedagogy is a social science concerned with optimising learning methods, using sociology and anthropology to do so, and is therefore closely linked to societies. To know a little more about it, it is necessary to know the origin of pedagogy, and in this article we will talk about it.

Origen de la Pedagogía

Etymology of the word pedagogy

The word ‘pedagogy’ comes from the Greek word ‘paidagogeo’, which is composed of ‘paidos’, which means ‘child’ in English, and ‘ago’, which means ‘guide’. It is thought that the term pedagogy refers to the first pedagogues in ancient Greece, who were slaves whose job it was to take children to school.

In the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, Pedagogy is defined as the science responsible for the study of education and teaching, which aims to provide sufficient material to plan, evaluate and implement teaching and learning methods, also supported by other branches of science.

History of Education

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant, the French sociologist Émile Durkheim and the German idealist movement have all contributed important elements to the history of the origins of pedagogy and its relationship with education.

On the one hand, Immanuel Kant proposed that pedagogy is a scientific, theoretical and practical discipline based on experimentation and reflection on concrete practices. On the other hand, Émile Durkheim, who inaugurated the first “science of education” in France in 1902, defined pedagogy as the construction of knowledge through the application of methodological rules that guarantee the scientific character of this science.

Now the German idealists added to Kant’s and Durkheim’s proposals by affirming that pedagogy is a more transcendental status, capable of giving meaning to human existence. With these three definitions, pedagogy was maintained and developed as a field of study that complemented science with the social domain.


The origins of pedagogy can be found in ancient Greece, where methods and strategies were used to transmit knowledge. However, pedagogy as such has been present since the beginning of societies, even if it was not called as such. Greece and some Eastern civilisations, such as the Egyptians and the Chinese, were pioneers in establishing methods and systems for imparting knowledge.

Great Greek thinkers such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle wrote about the importance of establishing methods for expanding knowledge and studying certain disciplines. In the 17th century, the theologian John Amos Comenius laid some of the foundations of pedagogy in his book ‘Didactica Magna’. In this book, the importance of education for the development of children can be seen.

On the other hand, in the same century, the “traditional pedagogy” emerged in France, founded and directed by the Jesuits and characterised by being the main school of cultural and religious transmission within society. Traditional pedagogy consists of the transmission of knowledge by a teacher, in which the pupil plays a passive role, i.e. he does not interact with his teacher.

Origen de la Pedagogía

The Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and the polymath Jean Jacques Rousseau would lay the foundations of what is known as modern education. Both would focus on the development of pedagogical methods.

In addition, they promoted the development of teaching methods that moved away from rigid education, where there would be no student-teacher interaction and memorisation of concepts, to make way for observation, experimentation and reasoning, so that students would learn empirically, i.e. through experience. Rousseau’s ‘Emile’ emphasises the importance of education through the child’s curiosity rather than through discipline.

From the 19th and throughout the 20th century, modern pedagogy as such would focus on the relationship between pupil and teacher, so that both would develop skills around pedagogy. Pedagogues such as Johann Friedrich Herbart, John Dewey, Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget were the most prominent in the various branches of pedagogy, thanks to whom this science experienced a great boom that has continued to this day.

Church pedagogy

This branch of pedagogy was founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1548 and later strengthened by the Jesuits. This pedagogy is based on strict discipline, which is undeniable because it aims to strengthen the power of the Church over society, and is thus the origin of religious pedagogy.

Origen de la Pedagogía

The education around the Church was due to the fact that men were needed who would unite without doubt to the Church, these men would be trained throughout their lives with a rigid behaviour. It was on the basis of this pedagogy that the boarding schools were created, as they were the most recognised for their orderly way of life.

There are two main characteristics of boarding schools: The first was the separation from the world, since the pupils were isolated and only allowed to know what they were taught, without being able to question the knowledge imparted, and the second was the constant supervision of the pupils, since they could not have access to events that could change their thinking.

The kind of education given in the boarding schools consisted in imposing distrust towards the world, thus isolating the pupils from the outside world so that they could live in a world where only religion existed. The Jesuit method of education was based on questioning science, history and geography, thus superimposing all knowledge on religion.

The Jesuits used Latin as well as the daily inculcation of obedience and the transmission of a peaceful world to create people who would fit into society and bring peace to it. This method of education was due to the fact that at that time the school was considered to be the first institution responsible for society.

Origen de la Pedagogía

In the course of the 17th century, several writers appeared who had a great influence on church pedagogy, as their writings transformed this system into a free system. This system, which largely reformed church pedagogy, was traditional pedagogy.

Traditional pedagogy

The schools of traditional pedagogy have as a principle not to teach more than one thing at a time, on the other hand they try to maintain order and not to move on to the next process until it is clear what has been taught.

The authors who promoted the origin of traditional pedagogy emphasised that it was important for teaching to be highly valued by society, as each subject taught could be applied in any area of life.

On the other hand, there were authors who argued against sending to school those who showed no interest in learning, since the teacher had the fundamental role of awakening in students the desire to be educated. In this case, pedagogy proposed the use of innovative methods, one of which was learning to read, since it was extremely useful for the student throughout his life and could also be a method of self-taught learning.

The most extreme traditionalist method was proposed by the philosopher John Locke, who said that punishment with the whip to correct bad behaviour was the most effective method of preventing such behaviour from recurring. He also claimed that discipline should be instilled from childhood so that when the child reached adulthood he or she would be a fit and proper person for society.

Traditional education argued that the best way to prepare a child for life was to develop intelligence as well as attention span and problem-solving skills. In the 19th century, this pedagogy went so far as to become the first social institution of the state, as schools were given the power to be the institution responsible for education.

Modern pedagogy

This pedagogy was created to break the rigid schemes of traditional pedagogy. This was the origin of modern pedagogy, which also brought about changes in the mentality of the time. Many of the traditional principles are still in use today, but they are mixed with concepts derived from modern pedagogy.

The concept of the traditional school, in which the pupil was a passive recipient, gave way to one in which the pupil became the protagonist, discoverer and agent of his or her own learning. The foundations of this thinking were laid by Rousseau, who believed that the best learning a child could have was in contact with nature.

The Swiss biologist Jean Piaget discovered the evolutionary stages of human maturation, which emphasised that from childhood to adolescence, a person goes on to possess his or her own characteristics. This meant that pedagogy was no stranger to this process of maturation, adapting itself to each stage from childhood to adulthood.

The Industrial Revolution, which took place in the 1760s, had a strong influence on pedagogy, as it promoted the technical training of people, so that pedagogy was not only based on education, but also on the efficiency of processes, a fact that can be seen in modern pedagogy.

One of the most important educators in modern pedagogy was the Swiss John Henry Pestalozzi, who proposed that learning should be gradual and based on experience, including morality, sociability, physical activity and religion. On the other hand, he proposed that study should be integrated with tasks such as agriculture or activities in which the pupil was in contact with nature and in freedom.

This model proposed by Pestalozzi gave rise to a new concept of education in which the teacher’s role was to accompany the pupil in discovering the world around him, stimulating him to create, imagine and question established concepts, placing the pupil at the centre of the educational process.

Contemporary Pedagogy

Contemporary pedagogy is a conglomerate of ideas proposed by various pedagogues, thinkers and philosophers since the French Revolution in 1789. These ideas paved the way for new pedagogical trends whose positions and methodologies sought to shape the pedagogical experience, thus giving rise to contemporary pedagogy.

The pedagogical experience could now be defined as the sum of concepts that identify the human being that we wish to develop, a process characterised by the definition of principles, laws, strategies, methods and techniques in order to develop an educational process that leads to the formation of an integral human being, capable of growing as a person and, in turn, becoming an agent of change in the social environment in which he develops.

It should be noted that contemporary pedagogy is the branch of pedagogy that has brought more innovations to pedagogy, since it aims to make learning a dynamic, active and participatory process that focuses on the attention, motivation, interests and needs of students.

On the other hand, these new trends in pedagogy have always been marked by the influence of the traditional school, which, although highly questioned, is still very relevant in many institutions. This fact gives rise to conflicts that influence the development of teachers’ educational process and create barriers that impede the progress towards a modern pedagogy.

History of pedagogy in education

Contemporary pedagogy has made fundamental contributions to the broadening of the concept of education. Throughout history, each branch of pedagogy has developed and supported the others, making education an important social projection.

The more the educational process expands, the more pedagogy reaches its own domain, and this in turn conditions the improvement and development of education throughout history, together with the social and cultural reality that conditions education. Both pedagogy and education are, in one way or another, conditioned by the social reality of the moment, and this fact can be appreciated from the variants that pedagogy and education have undergone throughout history at different times.

Pedagogy is the science that makes education possible, and therefore neither education nor pedagogy are isolated facts. Both are part of the same system, the parts of which always come together to form an educational system.

The research that allows us to delve into the origins of pedagogy, and therefore of education, must draw on the various branches of pedagogy that have emerged, which have been strongly influenced by the historical contexts of the moment. Pedagogy is currently at the forefront of education, becoming a disciplinary and reflective entity of this activity.

In this article we have been able to learn about the origin of pedagogy, which can be said to be in ancient Greece, but in reality education and its processes have been there since the beginning of society. Pedagogy has always been very much influenced by the context of the moment, so it is an extremely changing social science that depends a lot on the influence and relationship it has with society. You may also be interested in the following article:

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