Normal school
A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose is to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name. Most such schools are now called teachers' colleges; however, in some places, the term normal school is still used.

In 1685, John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools is a Roman Catholic religious teaching congregation, founded in France by Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle and now based in Rome...

, founded what is generally considered the first normal school, the École Normale, in Reims
Reims , a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire....

. According to the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

, normal schools in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 trained primary school
Primary education
A primary school is an institution in which children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as primary or elementary education. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth Nations, and in most publications of the United Nations Educational,...

 teachers, while in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, normal schools educated primary, secondary
Secondary education
Secondary education is the stage of education following primary education. Secondary education includes the final stage of compulsory education and in many countries it is entirely compulsory. The next stage of education is usually college or university...

 and tertiary
Tertiary education
Tertiary education, also referred to as third stage, third level, and post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, university-preparatory school...

-level teachers. The first public normal school in the United States was founded in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1839. It operates today as Framingham State University.

In the United States, teacher colleges all over the country were suddenly denominated universities beginning in the 1960s. A good example is Southern Illinois University
Southern Illinois University
Southern Illinois University is a state university system based in Carbondale, Illinois, in the Southern Illinois region of the state, with multiple campuses...

, a mere teachers college that enrolls more than 26,000 students, has its own "university press", and issues most of its bachelor degree's in "education", an immediate sign not of a university but of what used to be called and more honestly, a normal school.

Many famous state universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

 were founded as normal schools. In Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, such institutions are typically part of a university as the Faculty of Education offering a one- or two-year Bachelor of Education program. It requires at least three (usually four) years of prior undergraduate studies.


The term "normal school" originated in the early 19th century from the French école normale. The French concept of an "école normale" was to provide a model school with model classrooms to teach model teaching practices to its student teachers. The children being taught, their teachers, and the teachers of the teachers were often together in the same building. Although a laboratory school
Laboratory school
A laboratory school or demonstration school is an elementary or secondary school operated in association with a university, college, or other teacher education institution and used for the training of future teachers, educational experimentation, educational research, and professional...

, it was the official school for the children—primary or secondary.

In Europe

In Finland, normal schools are under national university administration, whereas most schools are administered by the local municipality. A normal school is the official school of the children. Teacher aspirants do most of their compulsory trainee period in normal schools and teach while being supervised by a senior teacher.

In France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, a two-tier system developed since the Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

: primary school teachers were educated at départemental écoles normales, high school teachers at the Écoles normales supérieures
École normale supérieure
An école normale supérieure or ENS is a type of publicly funded higher education in France. A portion of the student body who are French civil servants are called Normaliens....

. Nowadays all teachers are educated in instituts universitaires de formation des maîtres. The Écoles Normales Supérieures in France and the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
The Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, also known in Italian as Scuola Normale , is a public higher learning institution in Italy. It was founded in 1810, by Napoleonic decree, as a branch of the École Normale Supérieure of Paris...

 no longer specialize in teacher training.

In Asia

The terminology is still preserved in the official translations of such schools in China since the early 20th century, Beijing Normal University
Beijing Normal University
Beijing Normal University , colloqiually known as 北师大 or Beishida, is a public research university located in Beijing with strong emphasis on basic disciplines of humanities and sciences...

 being the first. A Chinese normal university is usually controlled by the national or provincial government.

In Taiwan, the four national normal universities (located in Taipei
National Taiwan Normal University
National Taiwan Normal University is an institution of higher learning operating on three campuses in Taipei, Taiwan . NTNU is widely recognized as one of Taiwan's elite institutions of higher education. The university enrolls approximately 11,000 students each year. The ratio of undergraduate to...

, Taichung
National Taichung University
-The Locals’ Best, The Nation’s Leading, And The World’s Famous University:National Taichung University of Education is a university with proud legacy...

, Changhua, and Kaohsiung
National Kaohsiung Normal University
The National Kaohsiung Normal University , founded in 1967, is a public university located in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The university has two campuses—Ho-Ping and Yen-Chao...

) prepared secondary school
Secondary school
Secondary school is a term used to describe an educational institution where the final stage of schooling, known as secondary education and usually compulsory up to a specified age, takes place...

 teachers (although they have become de facto liberal arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

 universities in the late 20th century). There were also about ten Taiwanese provincial teachers' colleges that originated as normal schools established by the Japanese
Taiwan under Japanese rule
Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was a dependency of the Empire of Japan. The expansion into Taiwan was a part of Imperial Japan's general policy of southward expansion during the late 19th century....

. After the retrocession of the island
Retrocession Day
Retrocession Day is an annual observance in the Republic of China to commemorate the end of 50 years of Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan on October 25, 1945.-Background:...

, they were renamed provincial normal schools before becoming provincial teachers' colleges. In the early 1990s, these teachers' colleges came under national control and by the mid-2000s were all renamed "universities of education" (教育大學) or simply "universities" to signify their comprehensive training.

In Naga City
Naga City
The City of Naga is a first class independent component city in the Philippines...

, the Philippines, one can find the oldest normal school for girls in the Far East, the Universidad de Santa Isabel. It is a sectarian school run by the Daughters of Charity
Daughters of Charity
The Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, sometimes simply referred to as Daughters of Charity, is a Society of Apostolic Life for women within the Catholic Church. Its members take simple, private, annual vows...

. The first secular normal school was founded in 1901 by the Thomasites, the Philippine Normal School. It was coverted into a college in 1949 and was elevated to its present university status in 1992 as the Philippine Normal University
Philippine Normal University
The Philippine Normal University is a public national university in the Philippines established during the early days of American rule of the Philippine Islands. Pursuant to a law passed by the Philippine Congress, Republic Act No...

, . In 2009, it was named National Center of Excellence for Teacher Education by virtue of Republic Act 9647.

In the United States

In 1823, the Columbian School, the first normal school in the United States, was founded in Concord, Vermont
Concord, Vermont
Concord is a town in Essex County, Vermont, United States. The population was 1,196 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Berlin, NH–VT Micropolitan Statistical Area, and contains the villages of North Concord and Miles Pond.- History :...

 by the Reverend Samuel Read Hall
Samuel Read Hall
Samuel Read Hall was an American educator.He was born in Croydon, New Hampshire, the son of a clergyman. When he was only three years old, his family moved to Guildhall, Vermont. Samuel was home schooled and never attended a college. In 1814 be was employed as a teacher in Rumford, Maine...

. Influenced by similar academies in Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 and elsewhere in Europe, American normal schools were intended to improve the quality of the burgeoning common school
Common school
A common school was a public school in the United States or Canada in the nineteenth century. The term 'common school' was coined by Horace Mann, and refers to the fact that they were meant to serve individuals of all social classes and religions....

 system by producing more qualified teachers.

Sixteen years later the first state-funded normal school was founded in Lexington, Massachusetts
Lexington, Massachusetts
Lexington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 31,399 at the 2010 census. This town is famous for being the site of the first shot of the American Revolution, in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775.- History :...

, thanks largely to the efforts of education reform
Education reform
Education reform is the process of improving public education. Small improvements in education theoretically have large social returns, in health, wealth and well-being. Historically, reforms have taken different forms because the motivations of reformers have differed.A continuing motivation has...

ers such as Horace Mann
Horace Mann
Horace Mann was an American education reformer, and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1827 to 1833. He served in the Massachusetts Senate from 1834 to 1837. In 1848, after serving as Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education since its creation, he was...

 and James G. Carter
James G. Carter
James Gordon Carter , born James Carter, Jr., was a Massachusetts State Legislator and education reformer.He wrote “Influence of an Early Education” in 1826 , and in 1837, as House Chairman of the Committee on Education, contributed to the establishment of the Massachusetts Board of Education, the...

. Shortly after its founding that school moved to Framingham, Massachusetts
Framingham, Massachusetts
Framingham is a New England town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 68,318 as of the United States 2010 Census. -History:...

. Today, Framingham State University is recognized as the oldest, continuously operated public normal school in the United States.

The first normal school west of the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

 in the United States was the Michigan State Normal School, now Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University is a comprehensive, co-educational public university located in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ypsilanti is west of Detroit and eight miles east of Ann Arbor. The university was founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School...

. It was created by legislative action in 1849 and opened in Ypsilanti, Michigan
Ypsilanti, Michigan
Ypsilanti is a city in Washtenaw County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 22,362. The city is bounded to the north by the Charter Township of Superior and on the west, south, and east by the Charter Township of Ypsilanti...

 in 1853.
Harris–Stowe State University
Harris–Stowe State University
Harris–Stowe State University is a historically black, public university located in midtown St. Louis, Missouri.-History:Founded in 1857, Harris–Stowe State University is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Missouri. Founded by the St...

, now a state university in Missouri, was founded by the St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 public school system in 1857 and claims to be the oldest normal school west of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

. The first state-authorized normal college to open west of the Mississippi River was Winona State Normal School, now called Winona State University
Winona State University
Winona State University is a comprehensive public university in Winona, Minnesota, United States, a college and river town located in picturesque bluff country on the Mississippi River, with around 8,900 enrolled undergraduate and graduate students...

. Opening in 1858, its creation was one of the first acts of the newly formed Minnesota Legislature
Minnesota Legislature
The Minnesota Legislature is the legislative branch of government in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is a bicameral legislature located at the Minnesota Capitol in Saint Paul and it consists of two houses: the lower Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate...


The State of Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 passed an act to establish a normal school on 18 February 1857, and proposals were submitted to locate the new school in Batavia
Batavia, Illinois
Batavia was founded in 1833, and is the oldest city in Kane County, Illinois, with a small portion in DuPage County. During the Industrial Revolution, Batavia became known as ‘The Windmill City’ for being the largest windmill producer of the time...

, Bloomington
Bloomington, Illinois
Bloomington is a city in McLean County, Illinois, United States and the county seat. It is adjacent to Normal, Illinois, and is the more populous of the two principal municipalities of the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area...

, Peoria
Peoria, Illinois
Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River and the county seat of Peoria County, Illinois, in the United States. It is named after the Peoria tribe. As of the 2010 census, the city was the seventh-most populated in Illinois, with a population of 115,007, and is the third-most populated...

, and Washington (in Tazewell County
Tazewell County, Illinois
Tazewell County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 135,394, which is an increase of 5.4% from 128,485 in 2000. Its county seat and largest city is Pekin. The majority of the population live in the suburbs and bedroom communities...

). Bids were opened by the State Board of Education in Peoria on 7 May 1857 and the offer from Bloomington, Illinois, was accepted. The normal school was located near the village of North Bloomington, which later was renamed Normal in honor of the school. The school, originally known as Illinois State Normal University (ISNU), is now known as Illinois State University
Illinois State University
Illinois State University , founded in 1857, is the oldest public university in Illinois; it is located in the town of Normal. ISU is considered a "national university" that grants a variety of doctoral degrees and strongly emphasizes research; it is also recognized as one of the top ten largest...


The first normal school in what is now considered the Southwest
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

 was opened in 1879 as Sam Houston Normal Institute (now Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University was founded in 1879 and is the third oldest public institution of higher learning in the State of Texas. It is located in Huntsville, Texas. It is one of the oldest purpose-built institutions for the instruction of teachers west of the Mississippi River and the first...

). Finally, the first state-run normal school on the West Coast
West Coast of the United States
West Coast or Pacific Coast are terms for the westernmost coastal states of the United States. The term most often refers to the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Although not part of the contiguous United States, Alaska and Hawaii do border the Pacific Ocean but can't be included in...

 was the Minns Evening Normal School
George W. Minns
George Washington Minns was an American teacher, notable for running the Minns Evening Normal School, which was established in San Francisco, California, in 1857 in order to train teachers for the city's public school system...

, created in 1857 to train teachers for San Francisco's schools. It was taken over by the State of California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 in 1862 and became the California State Normal School
California State Normal School
The California State Normal School was a teaching college founded on May 2, 1862, whose original campus later became both the California State University and its San Jose State University campus....

 (now San Jose State University
San José State University
San Jose State University is a public university located in San Jose, California, United States...


The Lowry Normal School Bill
Lowry bill
The Lowry Bill, also known as the Lowry Act and the Lowry Normal School Bill, was a bill introduced in 1910 in the Ohio state legislature which called for the establishment of two state normal schools in northern Ohio, one in the northeast and one in the northwest. It was named after its main...

 of 1910 authorized two new normal schools in Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

—one in the northwestern part of the state (now Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green State University, often referred to as Bowling Green or BGSU, is a public, coeducational research university located in Bowling Green, Ohio, United States. The institution was granted a charter in 1910 by the State of Ohio as part of the Lowry Bill, which also established Kent State...

) and another in the northeastern part (now Kent State University
Kent State University
Kent State University is a public research university located in Kent, Ohio, United States. The university has eight campuses around the northeast Ohio region with the main campus in Kent being the largest...


In Latin America

Early normal schools in Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

 include several in Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, such as the Escuela Normal de Enseñanza Mutua de Oaxaca (1824), the Escuela Normal Mixta de San Luis Potosí (1849), the Normal de Guadalajara (1881), and the Escuela Normal para Profesores de Instrucción Primaria (1887). The Mexican normal school system was nationalized and reorganized by the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) under José Vasconcelos
José Vasconcelos
José Vasconcelos Calderón was a Mexican writer, philosopher and politician. He is one of the most influential and controversial personalities in the development of modern Mexico. His philosophy of "indigenismo" affected all aspects of Mexican sociocultural, political, and economic...

 in 1921.

Perhaps the oldest continually operating normal school in Latin America is the Escuela Normal Superior José Abelardo Núñez, founded in Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile
Santiago , also known as Santiago de Chile, is the capital and largest city of Chile, and the center of its largest conurbation . It is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of above mean sea level...

, in 1842 as the Escuela de Preceptores de Santiago under the direction of the emininent Argentine
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 educator, writer, and politician Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was an Argentine activist, intellectual, writer, statesman and the seventh President of Argentina. His writing spanned a wide range of genres and topics, from journalism to autobiography, to political philosophy and history...

. The first normal school in the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 was founded in 1875 by Puerto Rican
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 educator and activist Eugenio María de Hostos
Eugenio María de Hostos
Eugenio María de Hostos known as "El Ciudadano de América" , was a Puerto Rican educator, philosopher, intellectual, lawyer, sociologist and independence advocate....

In Argentina, normal schools were founded starting in 1852, and still exist today and carry that name. Teachers training is considered higher education and required a high school diploma, but normal schools have the particularity of granting four year teacher degrees while at the same time hosting secondary and primary school students (and sometimes kindergarten and pre-school). Teachers-to-be do intense practical training in the schools annexed to the higher education section.

Other Latin American nations have long traditions of normal schools. In Panama, the Escuela Normal Juan Demóstenes Arosemena was founded in Santiago de Veraguas
Santiago de Veraguas
Santiago de Veraguas is the capital of the Panamanian province Veraguas. Santiago is located in southern Veraguas near the provincial border with Herrera. The city has approximately 60,059 people according to the Panama 1990 Census. Santiago is one of the oldest settlements in Panama. The...

, Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 in 1938. In Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, normal schools were primarily associated with women's religious schools although in modern times have admitted men, thus forming escuelas normales mixtas (mixed normal schools). In Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

, they are known as Instituto de Formación Docente.

In Brazil

In Rio de Janeiro city there is the bigger public normal senior high school of the city. In Instituto de Educação Sarah Kubitschek more of 2,000 new students begin their studies in theory of education in high school level. However, this school is a reflection of the poor quality of education in Brazil. Most students from senior high school are still functionally illiterate and they'll "teach" Brazilian kids to "read and write".

External links

  • Normal school. (n.d.). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved December 11, 2007
  • normal, 4th adjective Wiktionary, the free dictionary. Retrieved December 11, 2007
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