This is a huge topic so here I’ll aim to give a general overview (beware, it’ll be long).
Education went through enormous changes throughout the Victorian period and its focus and quality varied greatly depending on which social class it was aimed at and the resources available. At the beginning of the 19th century education was basically in complete chaos. There were no effective centralised authorities to govern schools– no set curriculums or exams or reliable methods of raising funds, distributing educational materials or providing adequately trained teachers. For the majority attendance at school was dismal and good quality education was reserved for the privileged few. Compulsory, universal, free education didn’t come into existence until the last years of the 19th century. Illiteracy was rife amongst the lower classes and even some of the rich struggled. One-to-one teaching didn’t exist and large classes were the norm (1 teacher to 43 children was the average) so children frequently got left behind. Having gone through an ineffective system themselves many teachers were barely more educated than their pupils. Until the 1890s all schools (aside from charity initiatives) were fee-paying which put education out of reach of a large number of the working classes. For much of the 19th century the Church held sway over education and it continued to resist change and calls for modern subjects to be introduced in favour of traditional and religious education. Great importance was placed on religious education with all social classes having a daily Bible reading or study session. Over the course of the 19th century mainstream education shifted from unregulated, locally run, private initiatives to a predominantly government-funded, formal system.
Learning by repetition was the norm in this era and was practised across all social classes and academic subjects. Poorer children repeated the alphabet while their richer counterparts learnt Latin phrases and grammar by rote. This type of learning focused on memorising information rather than teaching the children how to reason and work out answers for themselves. It was severely criticised by reformative thinkers but remained in place for most of the Victorian period. Towards the end of the 19th century the ‘observation method’ was brought in to try to improve the situation but the result was generally the same – the child would be shown an object or image, the teacher would read a series of sentences on the topic and prompt the children to finish the sentence with the appropriate memorised word.
Very few schools in the Victorian era had what we would call uniforms, they merely had standards of dress which for the upper classes involved a smart, fashionable suit/dress and for the very poorest whatever they could scrape together to look vaguely presentable. School hours also varied considerably. Upper class schools had a more rigid daily structure while lower class children attended school when and if they could, fitting lessons around other responsibilities. Before compulsory education was introduced lower class children only had to spend an allotted number of hours (very rarely consecutive and usually amounting to around 20 weeks) in school to pass the year. Many of these children would leave school for lunch then come back in the afternoon.
There were many different types of educational institutions. The ones I’ll detail here are: public schools, grammar schools, private schools, elementary schools, dame schools, girls’ schools, technical schools, reformatory or industrial schools, Sunday schools, Ragged schools, higher grade schools, teacher training colleges and Universities.