The most important way that education was changing in both western and eastern Europe at the turn of the century was an increasing democratization of literacy. In the early nineteenth century, literacy had been restricted to a small segment of the population, with few women outside the upper classes being literate and most non-elite males having, at best, limited forms of signature literacy. By the end of the nineteenth century, literacy was far more widespread, close to ubiquitous in western Europe, although lagging somewhat in Russia and some of the Slavic countries.
Most of the Balkan countries were under Ottoman rule during at least the first part of the century, with attendant tension between the culture of the conquering Turks and the conquered peoples. Greece reacted to its hard-won independence from Turkey with a dramatic revival of classical Greek language and heritage in its schools. Poland had similar experiences with Russian rule, with a concerted program of "russification" intended to make Poland part of a Russian sphere of cultural influence.
Another major shift in educational patterns was a move away from an emphasis on classical studies, a stronger emphasis on scientific and practical education, and the introduction of the study of modern humanistic figures. Education also became increasingly secularized over this period.