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Education and research are a crucial part of the infrastructure of any culture; they help to promote life skills, critical thinking, and quality of life.  Free public education until age 18 is a foundation of American democracy, and both public and private educational institutions employ more than 10 million people in teaching, administrative, research, professional, and support staff roles.  Educational institutes include preschools, public and private K-12 schools, vocational-technical schools, two and four year colleges and universities, graduate and professional schools, business and industry schools, adult and continuing education programs, and arts and crafts schools.

Education has experienced much change throughout the years.  The early, poorly-equipped schools of the colonial period experienced a high rate of teacher turnover and a short school term.  The nineteenth century brought about the vision of universal education, and the concept of "common schools," now known as public schools.  While these early schools provided education only for whites, the concept of "universal education" was later extended to encompass students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as those who are disabled or gifted.  Beginning in 1823, teacher education institutions, known as "normal schools" came about to provide teachers with specialized training.

education collage During the early twentieth century, normal schools evolved into teachers' colleges and progressive education became a primary focus.  Progressive education promotes the natural interests of the student as motivation for learning, the teacher's role as a guide or facilitator, responsibility for general health and physical development, and the collaboration of school and home.  The 1950s and 1960s brought attention to the needs of students with disabilities, and federally funded programs such as Head Start and Title I came into existence.  By the 1970s, a four-year college degree became the standard of teacher education, and teachers pursuing advanced degrees were rewarded with better opportunities and higher salaries.

Education remains one of the most fundamentally important aspects in a society, and citizens and policy makers are increasingly realizing the connection between high-quality education and quality of life, innovation, and global competitiveness.  As we advance to the future, the availability of continuing educational training for all becomes imperative to the health of the nation, while the current shortage of teachers makes education a promising field for those looking for opportunities to inspire learning and development in our nation's citizens.

For more information about education trends and professions, visit the Educational Policy Institute and U.S. Department of Education websites, and read this book entitled Education:  The Practice and Profession of Teaching.

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