After the edict on compulsory education of 1774, all girls and boys had to learn arithmetic, reading and writing from the age of six.
The edict of 1774 extended compulsory education to all levels of the population throughout the Habsburg Monarchy. Where previously an elitist school education had been reserved for seminarians and the nobility, the new law provided the opportunity and indeed the obligation for all girls and boys to attend school from the age of six for a period of six years.
Following the Prussian-Silesian model it was the goal of the Maria Theresa’s school reform to educate ‘children of both sexes as the most important foundation for the true happiness of the nations’. On the part of the State there now followed an expansion of the infrastructure, schools were built in many villages, and the journey to school was thus shortened. In smaller towns, market towns and parishes there were elementary schools with just two classes. In all the larger towns and districts secondary schools with three or four classes were established. In addition school fees for elementary education were completely abolished in 1783. In this way equal access to education for boys and girls was guaranteed – girls had hitherto been obliged to pay school fees.
A uniform curriculum provided education in German, mathematics and religious education for all children at primary level. History, geography and drawing were added to the curriculum for children in secondary schools. But it was not just children who were forced to go to school: the edict on education also obliged teachers to undergo specialist training. Any man training to be a teacher or a priest had to complete a four-year programme of study at special secondary schools which existed in all the provincial capitals. As part of their pastoral care priests were now legally obliged to provide supervision and material support for schools and religious education. Since many priests resisted these requirements, the law was tightened to stipulate that clergy would only be admitted to the priesthood only after a period of practical teaching experience.