- Historical event:
- 15 September 1616
- The first school for poor children was opened due to the help of St. Joseph Calasanz, the generous saint who dedicated his life to education of poor children.
The first public school in Europe was opened in the Italian town of Frascati on this day in 1616.
Only noble families’ children and future priests attended the schools which had been opened before that. The school opened in Frascati was a public school, and anyone could attend it (the concept of free education).
The man who was meritorious for the establishment of the first public school in Europe was St. Joseph Calasanz, the generous saint who concluded that most of his students came from poor families.
St. Joseph Calasanz founded the Piarist Order (The Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools). He dedicated his life to education of poor children. This was the first Catholic order primarily dedicated to education.
The Piarists established schools throughout Europe. It is interesting to note that many states followed their example when they were establishing public schools.
Therefore, the concept of free primary schools actually originated from the Piarists.
They also made big contributions to education of children with special needs. Many famous people owe their education to the Piarists, such as Victor Hugo, Francisco Goya, Haydn, Schubert, Mandela, and Nobel Prize winners George Hevesy and George Olah.