What Is a School?


Schools are organized spaces for teaching and learning. They include classrooms for general education and specialized rooms such as laboratory classrooms for science education or workshops for industrial arts education. They may also contain a cafeteria, a dining hall or canteen, and a schoolyard.

When choosing a school for your child, carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of each option. This will help ensure that your child is getting the best possible education.


In the modern sense of the word, school is a building where children learn. Its origins are rooted in the notion that children should be inculcated, or implanted with certain lessons and ways of thinking.

Schools were largely private in the early days. The Massachusetts Bay Colony required that towns set up schools, and those schools generally taught Puritan values and basic information about the Calvinist religion. Boys, but not girls, were usually required to attend schools.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, states began to establish public schools. These were often one-room schools, with students and teachers learning together in the same classroom. The term normal school reflects this teaching model. In the later twentieth century, concerns about student performance and economics caused schools to change significantly. They now focus on child-centered policy and standardized curriculum, and many colleges of teacher education offer normal schools to help prepare their graduates to teach in the real world.


We tend to think of schools as a fairly recent invention, but education has existed for thousands of years. Originally, families educated youngsters on an individual basis within the home. However, as populations grew and societies consolidated, it became more efficient to have a group of adults teach children in a central location. Thus schools were born.

There is often much disagreement about what schools should do. This is partly because the desired goals are highly reflective of culture, norms and power structures. For example, while everyone might agree that schools should help students develop a national identity (a social possibility aim), the desired identity of people in WWII France and 2018 Silicon Valley may be different.

In addition to the intrinsic aims, there are also instrumental aims, which are ways in which schooling is used to achieve other socio-economic outcomes. Examples include fostering democracy, which requires an educated population that is capable of reading and considering many viewpoints.


Schools have a variety of organizational structures. These structures are based on the desired goals of schooling and the ways in which people can be grouped together to work towards those goals. While it is not uncommon for there to be some disagreement between different groups as to what aims should be prioritized, those differences are generally smoothed over with statements of goals that can generate broad agreement (although these can be highly problematic when they are used to justify inherently unequal or unjust practices).

Within schools, there are also administrative teams who handle supervision of teachers and students. They may also be responsible for implementing a curriculum and making decisions on how to best spend school time and resources. Other departments can include guidance workers, janitorial and cafeteria staff. For the most part, these departments are based on academic subject areas (although schools also have classrooms that are specialized for specific subjects). Since 1988 significant organisational changes have occurred in England, notably with the introduction of Academies and Free Schools by successive Labour and Conservative Coalition governments.


School catchment areas have become a major consideration for home buyers. This is especially true for those with school-aged children. Real estate agents know this and stay on top of the local schools’ developments, test scores and ratings to answer questions from potential homebuyers.

Some people like to live close to a school so they can walk their children to and from school. This avoids the hassle of scheduling bus rides and allows children to build a sense of independence by walking on their own.

However, living near a school can be noisy and stressful at certain times of the day. Kids arriving and leaving the school can cause traffic headaches, while sports teams and other clubs often use the grounds in the evenings and at weekends. It can also be a nuisance when teenagers loiter around and trespass on private property. These problems are more prevalent with secondary and tertiary schools. It is therefore important to visit the house you are thinking of buying more than once, particularly during school opening and closing times.

What Is a School?
Scroll to top