The first, very probably, was DEFENCE but not from Russia or China!
Children in early Victorian slums, either homeless orphans or from penniless families, would roam the streets, stealing food from market stalls, and playing tricks like throwing stones at horses hooves to make them bolt so the carriage would overturn and miladys jewels would be spread over the cobbles free for the taking. Fanciful perhaps, but maybe not so far out! The solution: schools more as a matter of public order than education.
Other schools were established as a CHARITY, perhaps by the Church, or some other welfare organization.
Children, again homeless or from poor families, would be taught right from wrong, Biblical studies, and perhaps the three Rs: Reading, Riting, and Rithmatic.
Gradually, as the 1800s wore on, social CONSCIENCE began to influence Members of Parliament, and various Acts were passed placing responsibility for Education in the hands of Local Authorities, this combined with a series of Factory Acts limiting the exploitation of child labour.
That was the 1800s. Has that approach changed today? Broadly speaking, not much.
Those who can afford it send their offspring to Good Schools, thence to University. These Fortunates will become the future Leaders, the Captains of Industry, Diplomats and Great Thinkers.
Otherwise, apart from a minority of motivated teachers and experimental schools, were back to the Three Rs in keep-them-off-the-streets State schools.
This approach is both a fallacy and a waste of potential talent, and more seriously, it can act as a brake on our economic development and prosperity.
A growing child needs mind-stretching challenge, awareness that education today is your wealth of tomorrow. And We the People need to wake up to the fact that if we want the wealth and prosperity that skills and talent and invention can bring to our lives and our country, we must uncover and cultivate now the talents which will create them, wherever those talents may lie.
And there are many new options available in computer-ready learning programs and courses which, with personal supervision as necessary, can open up new possibilities and new cost-effective opportunities for more creative education, especially in fields such as advanced production techniques, machine programming, and 3D printing. We need to be in the forefront of the latest developments.
Many states in the USA are already struggling to find skilled workers, and are promoting innovative training schemes. In Connecticut schools are being upgraded with computerised lathes and precision measurement machines.
The State, partly of its own choice, partly of necessity, already plays an enormous role in education. Keeping up to date with contemporary and anticipated needs, in collabration with industry and qualified private-sector institutions, can ensure that we have the skills needed now, and in the immediate foreseeable future.
We need to finance education, and the development of prosperity-creating skills, not as a charity, but as an investment, an assurance of our future and continuing prosperity. And Education must, somehow, be made fully inclusive.
Education is an INVESTMENT a country makes in its future.