Feature,  For Students,  For Teachers,  Philosophy & Science of Learning

International Women’s Day: Maria Edgeworth’s Ideas on Education

As today is International Women’s Day, I thought it appropriate to draw attention to the contribution of Irish woman and novelist, Maria Edgeworth to educational thinking in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

She is best know for her works of fiction such as Castle Rackrent but less well know is that she broke the mould of the day by writing a book on Practical Education in 1798. 

There is much to admire in her thoughtful analysis of education and inquiry. 

Although her work should be interpreted within the social historical context of the time.

The quotation below is a remarkable insight for its time and is as apt today as it was over 220 years ago. 

A number of facts are often stored in the mind, which lie there useless, because they cannot be found at the moment when they are wanted.

It is not sufficient, therefore, in education, to store up knowledge; it is essential to arrange facts so that they shall be ready for use, as materials for the imagination, or the judgment, to select and combine.

The power of retentive memory is exercised too much, the faculty of recollective memory is exercised too little, by the common modes of education.

Whilst children are reading the history of kings, and battles, and victories; whilst they are learning tables of chronology and lessons of geography by rote, their inventive and their reasoning faculties are absolutely passive; nor are any of the facts which they learn in this manner, associated with circumstances in real life.


[Maria Edgeworth Practical Education Pg 300]

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