What is the education system that Plato proposed?

E.g. the United States education system might be:

  • 3-4 basic counting and communication
  • 5-6 basic math, reading, writing, shapes, and time
  • 7-11 deeper exploration of the above holistic curriculum, and science, technology, social studies
  • 12-18 more advanced math, algebra, geometry, language and literacy
  • 18-22 optional becoming an expert in one subject
  • 22-24 optional catching up to limit of human knowledge of one subject
  • 24-30 optional expanding the limit of human knowledge in one area

What does Plato's outline look like and why?


Plato proposed a mass education system in the Republic and not one solely for the sons of the aristocracy. To understand the success of this idea one only need note just how many countries have such a system. In fact, out of the 195 countries in the world, there are only five that do not have a compulsory mass education system: Bhutan, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vatican City.

His educational system underpinned his recommended political system - a republic. Although he is popularly thought to think democracy a bad form of politics, he in fact denounced the bad form of democracy, populism. He thought that for democracy and hence his republic to work, education was key.


It is a bit of stretch to say that Plato's Republic-(and Plato in general), established (or even popularized), the concept or policy of a mass educational system-(similar to what exists in much of the world today). Plato's Academy, was very much, a clubby, members only type of institution with its famed inscription-("Only Mathematicians can enter"...I am paraphrasing the statement and I apologize for its inexactness). Plato's Academy was an educational institution, but it also functioned as a fraternal organization, a type of intellectual brotherhood-(as one of the Commentators stated). The design and purpose of Plato's Academy was actually, the opposite of a mass educational system.

It is difficult to find examples of a mass educational system in the Ancient world, with the possible exception of Alexandria, Egypt during its Hellenistic and Roman heydays. Ancient Alexandria was home to the world's largest and most cosmopolitan Library, though it was also home to the world's 1st College/University-(which is lesser known). But, even the Alexandrian Library/College was still, quite elitist and only available to the (more well-to-do) citizens of The Ptolemaic and later Roman Empires.

Comparatively speaking, the Alexandrian Library/College would have been viewed as a Proletariat's Paradise by Plato and the first generation of Academy students.

  • There's a difference between Plato's Academy and what he himself advocated. It's well known that democracy in the Western world is traced back to the Athenian polity during Pericles time. Nevertheless, their democracy would not be recognised as a democracy today with the franchise being restricted to men of property. Likewise with education. Oct 2 at 2:35
  • Actually, there is little difference between Plato, the School Headmaster/Teacher and Plato, the Philosophical Author as it relates to Education and Society. By today's standards, Plato, would be viewed as an Elitist's Elitist and definitely not a champion of the Proletariat. And even during his lifetime, Plato, was no fan of Democracy or a Universally educated society. One could make the case that Plato's most learned student, Aristotle MAY have supported a more democratized society/polity, though that would be a bit of stretch as well.
    – Alex
    Oct 2 at 2:43
  • It's an error to judge a man by the standards of our time. There was no such thing as a proletariat at that time - there was no industrialising commodities then. Plato championed the people against the oligarchy in Athens and in his philosophy, wrote against tyranny - that makes him a man of the people. Oct 2 at 2:52
  • I think it's fair to say that Plato-(the historical figure), was definitely NOT..."a man of the people". Plato. the son of a wealthy Athenian Ship Owner, who, in his younger years, traveled 'far and wide" and in his later years, founded The Academy-(an educational institution primarily geared for the wealthiest and brightest of Athenian male citizens), was not exactly a righteous populist.
    – Alex
    Oct 2 at 3:11
  • You aren't demonstrating any knowledge or understanding The Republic, but you do show a remarkably limited knowledge of Plato's life. That someone comes from a wealthy aristocratic family is no barrier to being a man of the people. After all, the late Tony Benn was the Viscount Stansgate and was educated at Oxford but he was also a trotskyist - another real man of the people. Oct 2 at 3:35

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