a type of general secondary education in which, in contrast to classical education, the classical languages are not taught and primary attention is given to the fundamentals of the natural sciences, physics, and mathematics and to modern languages.
Realschule education originated in the 18th century in connection with the development of capitalism. As early as the 16th and 17th centuries representatives of the nascent bourgeoisie, notably W. Petty and J. Milton in England and F. Rabelais in France, had called for education that would prepare children for practical life and would include a basic knowledge of physics, mathematics, and the natural sciences. The idea of Realschule education was supported by J. A. Comenius and especially by the 18th-century French materialists.
Among the first state-financed Realschulen in Europe were the School of Mathematical and Navigational Sciences, established in Moscow in 1701, and the Mathematics and Mechanical Realschule, founded in Halle, Germany, in 1706–08. During the 18th and early 19th centuries Realschulen in Western Europe and Russia provided a practical education. In the 1860’s in Russia the conflict between the proponents of Realschule education and those who favored classical education intensified. N. G. Chernyshevskii, N. A. Dobroliubov, and K. D. Ushinskii advocated a comprehensive education that would include instruction in the humanities as well as practical subjects. The Charter of 1864 provided for the creation of Realgymnasiums in addition to the classical Gymnasiums. In 1872 the Real-gymnasiums were replaced by Realschulen, which in 1888 became general education schools whose graduates were admitted to the physics and mathematics and medical faculties of universities.
After the October Revolution of 1917 a system of uniform general education schools was established in the USSR. Realschulen or Realschule divisions at secondary schools are part of the public education systems of Austria, Italy, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries.