History of Education in Society during the Second World War



The Second World War was one of the most cataclysmic events humanity has ever experienced, wreaking havoc and destruction across the world. So far reaching across the globe were the effects of the war that it comes as no surprise that many history courses will dedicate a large amount of the curriculum to understanding the conflict as deeply as possible.

The fascinating history of the Second World War stretches far beyond the battlefield, however. The conflict itself sparked many crises of food, resources, and population for many of the countries that were involved, and there was no area of society that went unaffected by these ripples of devastation. 

The war led to a rapid restructuring of many parts of society, from the military command, to the role of women in the workforce, and to the education of the youth. Students of history who are looking for history essay topics can turn to essay examples about history to witness how these fascinating changes occurred. Focusing on a specific aspect of wartime changes, such as the history of education and how does war affect children’s education, makes a truly great subject for writing a historical exploration. 

Children and the war effort

During the Second World War, children were not spared when it came to having their lives changed completely, and in many cases World War II for kids was just as hard as for the adults around them. Many urban centres across the world were subjected to intensive bombing raids by enemy forces, and this disrupted the ability of many children from accessing school and learning in wartime. Even just going to a classroom for a lesson in such conditions could end up being a life-threatening endeavour, and during these periods of bombing, students would have been kept at home.

The danger of urban centres was so great that some governments issued measures that completely upheaved children’s lives. In the UK, for instance, the government introduced measures to evacuate the children of London to families in the countryside to receive their wartime schooling away from the threat of German blitzkrieg. When this happened, the schools in towns and cities were ordered to close, and children joined schools in their new rural homes. 

Education and the war effort

As the war intensified, school buildings were often made the target of air raids, and so authorities had to move education to other facilities such as town halls, churches, and warehouses. For many students, this meant going to school with a total lack of the necessary resources for learning, such as a desk, book, or blackboard. These damages to schools meant that most children ceased to receive routine medical inspections, and cases of illness and lice skyrocketed among children.

Working as a teacher did not guarantee one immunity from the effects of the war effort. Many young male teachers were conscripted into the armed forces, which created a shortage of teaching staff and much larger class sizes for the schools that managed to stay open.

Academia in university during the war

Wartime conscription to the armed forces meant that universities had much smaller populations, and it became an opportunity for many women to go to college who likely never would have if not for the war. The number of women enrolled in class at university went up at the beginning of the war, although stagnated when in many places, young unmarried women started to be enlisted for national service. Even so, universities generally remained open during the war, and there were lucky students who managed to avoid wartime service and earn degrees during the war. 


World War II is a fascinating period of history that offers many different historical perspectives for students to investigate from many different angles. Seeing how the war affected the education system is just one small slice of WWII history that opens the door for further exploration!

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