John Amos Comenius Essay

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The father of modern pedagogy, Comenius argued that teachers should use developmentally appropriate instructional methods that tap into children’s sense perceptions. He called for a universal educational system, a standardized curriculum and textbooks, trained teachers, and a common language for all (Latin). Although Comenius lived in turbulent times and suffered many personal losses, he remained optimistic about the future of humankind. His most important works include the Didactica Magna (The Great Didactic) (1632), the Janua Linguarum Reserata (The Gates of Tongues Unlocked and Opened) (1631), and the Orbis Sensualium Pictus (World in Pictures) (1658), one of the first picture books for children.

John Amos Komensky was born March 28, 1592, in Nivnice, Moravia (Czechoslovakia). His parents were members of a Protestant religious group persecuted during the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). Living in a time of great political upheaval, Comenius experienced many hardships. His father, mother, and two sisters died of plague when he was twelve. In 1621, he lost his home, his writings, and all of his belongings when soldiers took over the town in which he lived. The same year, his pregnant wife and two of his children died of plague. A refugee most of his life, Comenius traveled throughout Europe, but never returned to his homeland. He died November 15, 1670, in Amsterdam.

Comenius believed in the power of intellect, piety, and systematic learning to improve the human condition. Troubled by the conflict and human suffering surrounding him, he sought to unify people of all nations and faiths. He proposed that pansophy—lifelong study of systematized, encyclopedic knowledge—could lead humans toward shared understanding and global peace. Comenius argued that teachers should put less emphasis on rhetoric (memorization, words, and grammar) and more emphasis on arousing the student’s interest by appealing to the senses.

In The Great Didactic (1632), he proposed an age-graded system of education: nursery school (0–6 years), elementary school (6–12), Latin school (13–18), and Academy (19–24). Comenius believed that elementary education should be made available to everyone regardless of gender, nationality, or economic status. The Janua Linguarum Reserata (1631) described Comenius’s method for teaching Latin using the vernacular (the student’s native language). The Orbis Sensualium Pictus (1658) was a smaller version of the Janua and included 150 woodcuts depicting everyday objects and settings. Elements within each image were numbered and described in Latin and in the vernacular (Spanish, English, German). The Orbis was reprinted in many languages and was widely used for more than two centuries.


  1. Perkinson, H. J. (1980). Since Socrates: Studies in the history of Western educational thought. New York: Longman.
  2. Smith, L. G., & Smith, J. K. (1999). Lives in education A narrative of people and ideas (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  3. Orbis Sensualium Pictus: An invitation to wisdom and learning:

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