Imágenes de página
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]








[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


English Journal of Education.

JANUARY, 1857.



T a time when promotion of Primary Education in public schools is the object of so many discussions and efforts, when various views and schemes to that effect are proposed, it may not be amiss to give a little sketch of the state of Public Education, especially in Primary or

National Schools, in Germany,—a country where sciences and general instruction are acknowledged to be more cultivated, and more universally spread than in any other part of the globe. Whilst here in England some fundamental questions,—as the convenience or admissibility of coercive measures, the exact share which government ought to take upon itself in that matter, the claims of different religious persuasions,—are still under discussion ; in Germany a fixed, complete system has been for a long time in operation, and proved its excellence by striking results, appreciated by those who are directly concerned, as well as by distant observers. Comparing the state of other countries with their own, Germans may well feel proud of their superiority in this respect; and it is not asserting too much that by this time people at large, even the lower classes, have become conscious of the moral and material advantages derived for their children from suitable instruction, and consider the facilities afforded thereto by government a valuable acquisition, which they would be quite as reluctant to give up as any other improvement owing to modern inventions or political institutions. For those who take an interest in the welfare of the rising generation it is therefore well worth while to examine that system, its principle and working, leaving it then to promoters of different views to decide whether the same results may be obtained or compensated for by other means or in a different way. A short preliminary observation is necessary. • There is generally a certain degree of indistinctness or confusion of ideas if people speak about institutions in Germany: they very often forget that in many respects there is not one Germany, but from thirty to forty independent States comprised under that name. In order not

VOL. XI. NO. 121, N.S.


to commit the same error, we must state that the leading features of the following observations apply pretty equally to all parts of Germany, but more particularly refer to Prussia, which country, even amongst the German Confederation, ranks as one of the first, as far as universal education is concerned.

The principle which characterizes public education in Germany, and forms the fundamental difference in this point with England, to be found in the eminent part which government takes in this inutter. Government always considered it their right and duty to guide and control education, and take care for its efficiency ; this forms one of the great branches of administration, like that of military, commercial, or political affairs ; a minister is at the head of the department,-its organization spreads over the whole country.

As a first consequence of this principle, all schools, from the highest to the lowest, are public establishments, supported, if necessary, and superintended ; the teachers trained, nominated, and controlled by government; and the more general regulations are the same all over the country. Secondly, the means of acquiring the necessary knowledge suitable to the different stations in life are placed within the reach of every one. Colleges and commercial schools are in sufficient number, and at convenient distances ; at least one elementary or national school is to be found in every parish ; there the poor are received with the wealthy either gratuitously or at reduced terms. But, on the other hand, there is also obligation for parents to have their children instructed during a certain period; from the age of six to twelve or thirteen children are bound to attend school.*

* Any word like compulsion sounds harsh to English ears, and many persons may, in their jealousy of personal liberty, from one such expression be induced to condemn the whole system in question. A few remarks on this point are, therefore, not out of place here, and will perhaps serve to modify a one-sided or hasty judgment. All sensible parents do not, of course, want any additional stimulus for sending their children to a place where they get suitable instruction. There are but very few, and those of the lowest class in moral and social station, who, from indifference, or in order to reap some trifling advantage from the labour of their children, perhaps even from worse motives, would keep their children from school, and allow them to grow up in a semi-barbarous state. For such unscrupulous parents and guardians the coercive measures are intended ; and the question with them is, whether, means for education being provided by government, there is not, besides the undeniable moral obligation, also a social one to avail themselves of the advantages thus offered; whether the community, whom we expect to protect lives, property, and morals, and to prevent crimes, has only duties, but no claims in this respect, but must quietly look on, that, through want of proper dispositions in parents or guardians, the germs of future offences and crimes grow up in the midst of civilization. Such a view of the case is more prevalent in Germany ; little or no objection is entertained against accordant regulations; and, nevertheless, this fact must not be ascribed to indifference in such matters. A recent trial to introduce stricter measures for the proper keeping of the Sunday, such as are, with general approbation, in force in England, excited a great deal of indignation and opposition ; similar outcries might have been heard on that occasion as compulsory measures for attending a school would meet with in England. Thus every country has not only its particular opinions and feelings, but also special favourite objects to apply the same ; but right consequence in thinking and acting is as rare in the masses as among individuals. However, these national particularities, should they even incline towards deceptions or prejudices, must be taken into consideration before the introduction of iunovations; but if a double view of a question can be taken, public opinion may at least have a chance of knowing both sides, and afterwards decide accordingly.

The same principle likewise entitles government to protect public schools against rival private establishments, and the latter are almost rendered impossible, at least to the extent in which they exist in England. Grammar schools or gymnasiums, as well as commercial schools, enjoy several privileges referring to military service and examinations for the universities; the lower or elementary schools do not even want such privileges, as their general efficiency and cheapness excludes all competition. Moreover, no one is allowed to establish a private school, or give private lessons, without having submitted to an examination, and acquired a certificate of capability. In towns a few private establishments may be found, but parents often prefer sending their children to the parish school. . Besides the moral and material support given by government, there are many causes which contribute to the proficiency of national or parish schools : the interest which parents, or rather the population at large, naturally take in them, the suitable training and general character of the teachers, finally, the continual control and efforts for improvement.

The proper training of those who devote themselves to the education and instruction of the people has always been a point on which the attention of government was chiefly directed, and nothing is spared in this respect. Young persons who feel inclined for this vocation generally continue at school when their companions are dismissed, occasionally assist with the junior classes, and by private lessons from the respective masters and study, prepare for an examination which admits them to a so-called seminary or training college for teachers. Here they enter at the age of about eighteen, and reside there for two years. The course of lectures and study during this period is not so much calculated to augment the real store of knowledge as to give an idea of the most rational and effective method to be followed for each object. In fact many branches of instruction--as grammar, arithmetic, singing,are more or less minutely gone through as in an elementary class, in form of model lessons. There is also a common parish school attached to each of these establishments, and there the lessons on method are not only often illustrated, but the young men themselves have to practise them under the eyes of experienced masters. After two years of such training, an examination decides the number (from One to Three) of the final certificate ; and thus qualified and authorized the young candidates, before they obtain an independent situation, in many cases enter first as assistants in a larger school.

But even after their dismissal from the seminary and entering into actual service, care is taken, means and stimulations for improvement are afforded by continual surveillance over the efficiency of their efforts, and by regular meetings for educational purposes. In large towns, all schoolmasters of the place, in the country from twenty-five to thirty belonging to a district, assemble at fixed intervals, under the presidency of a clergyman, and spend a day or part of it together. Either a lecture is given, essays on a subject before agreed upon are read and discussed, books and periodicals exchanged, circulars and other rescripts communicated, part-songs executed, and very often also a regular lesson given in the respective school, to be afterwards made a subject of discussion. Several publications in form of pamphlets, books, or periodicals,

« AnteriorContinuar »