What Was Education Like in Colonial Pennsylvania?

Education in colonial Pennsylvania did not have a common system such as in New England, and was more focused on practical education. The first public school in the American Colonies was founded by the Quakers in Philadelphia.

Education varied among the 13 colonies. Schools in the New England Colonies were notable for their standardized school system, which often included instruction in the Puritan religion. However, education in the Pennsylvania Colony was more varied. Pennsylvania’s population was more diverse than that in New England, and consisted of German, Irish, English, Scottish and Dutch immigrants. The residents of Pennsylvania Colony were diverse in their religious beliefs. Due to this, the schools varied in the type of education they offered, which was usually based on the local community’s’ religious and cultural beliefs. In addition, most schools were private, rather than public.

The Pennsylvania Colony stressed freedom of expression and believed in educating all members of the colony. The Quakers opened their first school in 1683, which taught reading, writing and basic math. The Friends Public School in Philadelphia included history, literature and Latin in its curriculum. Private schools in the city taught science, math and languages to children, and night schools were opened for adults. While most educational resources were directed at males, women and girls also received some education in French, grammar and the arts from private instructors.