Schooling fell to the Church, the main reason being the education of monks. In the cities higher education became available, i.e., Dom Schleswig, Ratzeburg, and Lübeck. Schriftschulen (writing schools) were available in Lübeck to educate the wealthy merchants. In Kiel a school for Latin developed in the 14th century. In the 18th century reforms were made by the state in order to exercise a greater influence. Secular education became more important. Education in the rural areas was strenghtend, the goals of higher education were appropriated to cultural and professional requirements.
The Reformation renewed the education system. Martin Luther had a major impact on financing education through church funds. The Church determined the curriculum and controlled the schools (Visitationen). The individual parishes took responsibility for building and maintaining schools. Luther envisioned schools to teach Latin which would prepare students for theological studies. Christian III of Denmark issued in 1542 a school curriculum which the Protestant princes supported. They were interested in having new blood for the clercial and administrative posts in their duchies. Higher education was only availabe for males until well into the 19th century. In 1665 the University of Kiel was established. In 1814 school in Schleswig-Holstein became mandatory.
The Church regulations of 1542 dealt extensively with Latin schools in the cities. In the rural schools the sexton was to teach the catechism to his best ability. Schools were found mainly in parish villages. Latin was also taught in some rural schools. Teaching was an incidental occupation, the funding of a school depended on the local economy or the manor lord. Most people were too poor to pay money for schooling. In many places school was open only during the winter months.
Improvements came in the middle of the 17th century when catechism examinations were installed and confirmations required. Between 1733 and 1743 several orders for schools were issued. The school was to serve the common good, the earthly as well as the spiritual. The Christian demeanour was the guiding principle. In 1781 and 1784 the first teacher seminaries were established in Kiel and Tondern.
When in 1814 school became mandatory, several aspects of schooling were improved. Latin and ancient languages were taught in schools leading to university studies. Curricula of realistic subjects were introduced at every school to improve the abilities of an individual to make him a contributing member of society. The teachers' compensation and the building of schools and their repairs were fixed. The success of these reforms were visible when by 1871 only 4.9% of Schleswig-Holsteiners were illiterate.
The Duchy of Schleswig had a special problem altogether. Danish was spoken in the Duchy. Before the Reformation a dialect of German was the administrative language around the city of Schleswig. After the Reformation German became the language of the church and of the court in this area. In the 19th century the German language spread up to Flensburg and westwards. In the rural areas the Danish language persisted, however German was spoken where German was preached at church. In cities where higher education was offered, German was taught. The 1814 school order determined that rural schools in Danish speaking areas should teach in Danish, however, schools of higher education should teach in German. German was looked at as a prestigeous language well into the 19th century. With increased awareness of nationalism in Schlewig-Holstein, the Danish population came more and more in conflict with German officials. A decree in 1840 gave clarity: where Danish was taught in school and church, Danish should also be the language of the administration and court.
Historischer Atlas Schleswig-Holstein. Vom Mittelalter bis 1867. Wachholtz Verlag, Neumünster 2004