The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Reform Schools in Germany.
by Mr. C. C. Th. Parez.
Appendix/Chart images still need to be added
[Readers of the Review may be interested in knowing that the subject here discussed, and of which it is hoped a clear, though succinct, account is given, is also handled in the just recently issued Volume 3 of Reports of the Special Inquiries Branch of the Education Department, especially by Mr. Fabian Ware, and by the Editor, Mr. Sadler, in an important paper by him on "Problems in Prussian Education for Boys, with special reference to similar questions in England."]
The pedagogic side of the question, the postponement of Latin till the age of twelve to thirteen and of Greek till fourteen or fifteen is, I venture to think, a chance of considerable import and one which demands our careful attention, both to method and the results obtained.
Only when a boy begins to learn a foreign language, not empirically, but according to a grammatical system, does he learn to recognize, compare and distinguish the notions which attach to words.
He is compelled by translation to think about the position of words in the sentence, and the kind of expressions he uses, and to make comparisons with his own language. The farther a foreign language is removed from our direct observation, and modes of expression, the more necessary is this reasoning and comparing.
From this standpoint the dead languages offer a far better field for the schooling of the mind than modern languages. The superiority of the cultured man of the present day consists, in no small measure, in that he is, by his education, capable of treating ideas and facts from an objective point of view and considering them on their own merits.
Now there is a general consensus of opinion in Germany, that the boy of twelve or thirteen is better fitted to cope with the intellectual difficulties of a dead language, and derive real benefit from the training of the mind which should accompany the study of one than the boy of nine or ten. The reasoning powers are then more developed, and the mind is capable of more intense application.
A modern language such as French is more suited to boys of nine or ten, because it can be taught empirically, it stands in nearer relation to his immediate surroundings and direct observation than Latin; it lends itself better to what the Germans call Anschauungs-unterricht. Consequently the boy is interested at once, he learns to name what he sees, to talk about his surroundings in the language, in an elementary way. He can apply his knowledge practically. The senses rather than reasoning powers are called into play.
He finds points of connection at home with his new acquisition. It is also admitted that at nine years of age a boy has a better ear for language than at twelve, and picks up a correct pronunciation undoubtedly all the more easily and naturally by commencing at the earlier age.
After three years at French, the boy has advanced so far as to be able to talk simply but fluently on concrete subjects, has read a considerable amount, and made very much further progress than was possible with Latin, and with considerably less difficulty. He has in fact attained a definite end, and has gained something which appeals to him practically, at the cost of less time than if he had studied Latin. The additional time thus saved is devoted to the mother-tongue, or to History and Geography. While after these three years the boy is so far advanced that the time devoted to French can now be reduced to two or three hours a week for the remainder of the school life; at the same time, he is in a better position to understand the real significance of grammatical forms when studied in a dead language than was the case under the old system.
And additional hour or so has also been devoted to the study of Mathematics in these first three years, so that the boy is now in a position to devote his whole energy, strengthened by lingual training in one foreign language, and by a sound grasp of his own tongue to the study of Latin.
It is astonishing what progress the boy makes in Latin under these conditions during the next two years.
Experience has now proved that he is at the expiration of this period no whit behind boys who have ground at it for five years under the old system, in spite of the fact that he has devoted a total of only twenty weekly hours to it as against thirty-six in the case of the latter, and this rapid progress goes far to stimulate the boy's interest in the subject; he feels that his powers are equal to the demands made on them; he has already gained confidence--surely a most important point--through the fact that he has, if only in an elementary way, exploited one modern language, and attacks the new subject with an avidity and interest due to the consciousness of developing powers and tried strength.
At the end of the first year he has already mastered the accidence and worked through a number of easy selections from Latin authors, and is in a position to commence Caesar.
During the second year, a comparatively large amount of reading is done. In one Reform School, Caesar's Gallic War, Books I.-VI., is traversed; in another, part of this and a little Ovid; in each case the boy has the satisfaction of having accomplished a definite piece of work, and of having gained a feeling of mastery over the language before commencing with another.
Goethe's principle, "es genügt nicht dass man Schritte thue, die einst zum Ziele führen, sendern jeder Schritt soft Ziel sein," is thus kept in view; a definite end is gained, not to mention an insight into an interesting part of the world's history, which has a direct bearing on the language with which the boy has already reaped some considerable acquaintance.
The advantage of thus deferring the study of Latin till the twelfth or thirteenth year has been exemplified again and again in English grammar schools. I have myself in many cases had the opportunity of noting the amazing progress made in Latin by boys of twelve or thirteen fresh from the Board Schools, who have entered by competition or otherwise the third or fourth form in a grammar school, and who at the end of a year's work are nearly as far advanced as their fellow-pupils who have been grinding at Latin for some three years; and if their vocabulary is naturally not so rich, their capacity for reading Latin and rendering it into good English points to the great benefit they have derived from a good foundation in the mother-tongue, and to the advantage of postponing Latin to an age when the mastering of grammatical forms presents less difficulty, and the boy is able to see a definite end within reach of his endeavours, and is therefore less likely to be disheartened.
A fair grasp of Latin being thus obtained in the two years, comprising classes IIIb. and IIIa., Greek commences in IIb., while the number of hours devoted to Latin is reduced from ten to eight in the Gymnasium, from eight to six in the Real-gymnasium--except in the case of Reform Schools, such as Hanover, where, as we have seen, both types of school retain a common middle division, the final result, however, coming out much the same in both cases. By the end of his school career, however, the average boy has in the Gymnasium learned to read Horace and Tacitus, and in the Real-gymnasium, Cicero and Virgil, without encountering any great difficulties.
During these last four years, in which Greek forms a part of the curriculum, eight hours weekly are devoted to it, the first year being practically taken up with mastering the accidence, while three remain, as the Headmaster of one Reform School put it, for the study of the beauties of Greek poetry and Greek wisdom.
If the objection is raised that four years is too short a time to devote to Greek, it must be remembered that it is, in general, only taken up by those who have given proof of a taste for languages by their previous attainments in Latin; boys, whose progress in Latin during the two previous years in IIb. and IIa did not warrant their commencing Greek, finding little difficulty in passing over to a Real-gymnasium at this point, while in such schools as Leibnizschule, in Hanover, or the similar Reform School in Carlsruhe, the bifurcation to the Gymnasium and Real-gymnasium sides of the school occurs here, and offers the choice of Greek or English for the third foreign language.
It must also be kept in mind that a more intense application to Greek at a riper age is likely to produce better results than a larger sum total of hours would, when spread over a longer period and beginning at a less mature age.
It is, as yet, impossible to speak with authority on this subject, as the first gymnasium to adopt the Reform system only commenced work on the new lines in 1892, working it from the lowest class upwards year by year so as to avoid any general disturbance of the school work; and no final results, as far as the study of Greek on this system is concerned, will therefore be forthcoming till the first class started has passed through its nine years' course, i.e., not till the year 1901.
Now let us make a closer inspection of the work done in the various stages of the Reform School.
The considerably larger proportion of hours, nearly three-quarters of the whole school time, devoted to the mother-tongue, including History and Geography, and to French in the lower division, makes it possible to ground the boy much more thoroughly in the former than was attempted under the old system, and to give him a sound elementary training in the latter.
Comparing the programmes of various Reform Schools, it appears that at the conclusion of the first three years, the formation of the simple and complex sentence, the co-ordination and subordination of sentences has been studied both in the mother-tongue, and in French, and practised by translation both from and into French--hin und her übersetzen--the whole of the French accidence has been mastered, and the boy is able to converse fluently in French on simple topics having to do with his immediate surroundings. The instruction in the mother-tongue, and in French, during these first three years is in fact calculated to give the boy a certain facility in manipulating one language and a firm grammatical basis as a starting-point for the commencement of the more difficult dead languages. In French, as in other subjects, the principle of attaining a definite end before commencing a fresh study is kept in view during the first three years. In conformity with this the text books are so arranged that in VI. the regular, and in V. the irregular grammatical forms are studied, while in IV. the principal rules of syntax are illustrated and practised.
In the succeeding years the aim of the instruction is to extend and solidify the acquaintance already gained by means of wide and various reading and continual practice in conversation.
With IIIb. comes the introduction to Latin.
In the gymnasium the whole of the accidence is traversed, etymology studied, translation and retranslation of sentences practised both orally and in writing, and the simpler rules of syntax illustrated and applied to these.
The so-called Perthes method of introducing the boy as early as possible to Latin translation is in vogue, and the grammatical and syntactical rules are deduced on the inductive method from the materials that have been read.
With the second year the boy is thus ready to commence reading Latin authors. In one school the course of the second year in Latin includes Caesar, Books I.-VI., revision of the grammar and extension of the syntax, with easy translations from English into Latin; in other schools a corresponding standard is attained.
Comparing this with the corresponding programme of a gymnasium under the old régime, the remarkable fact transpires that at the conclusion of these two years the boy has reached in Latin as high a point as his compeer under the old system although he has devoted only twenty weekly hours to it to the latter's thirty-six, while at the same time he is not behindhand in any of the other subjects.
In the Linsen-städtisch gymnasium in Berlin, for example, the curriculum of which might be taken as fairly representative of the old system, the work done in IIIa. in Latin included four books of Caesar with selection from Ovid's Metamorphosen, which in point of quality at any rate does not exceed the amount got through in the same class of the Reform School. One must remember, of course, that during these two years in IIIa. and IIIb. in the old gymnasium, six hours a week has been given to Greek, on the other hand the Reform Leaders claim that the loss of these hours is again fully compensated for by the additional progress made in the subject form class IIb. onwards, and that the time thus gained from Greek is at this period of school life much more profitably expended on other subjects, French, Latin, Mathematics.
With the entrance into IIb., then, the boy is fairly embarked on Latin; he has achieved a definite end in the study of Caesar, and the grasp of languages already acquired makes the introduction to Greek all the easier.
The Greek accidence lends itself to such orderly and methodical development that it makes less demand on the memory than on the reasoning powers, at that age more fully developed, and the method of arranging the text books in use is such that the grammatical and syntactical rules are developed on the same plan in each language.
In Greek, as in Latin, the whole of the accidence is traversed in the first year with selected rules of syntax, and easy selected passages are attempted for translation from Greek into German and vice versa.
Suitable passage of simple Greek poetry are also committed to memory. So that with IIa., the boy is ready to commence on a Greek author, such as Xenophon.
In Latin in class IIb., the Goethe Reform Gymnasium at Frankfort has the following course: Three speeches of Cicero; Sallust, Jurgurthine War, 600
verses of Ovid, Caesar's Gallic War, Bk. VII., practice in Unseen Translation, and in simple Latin prose, both written and oral; revision of the syntax, with particular stress on a thorough grasp on the structure of the language, and a comparison of the modes of expression in Latin with those in French and German and to a limited extent in Greek.
In the Realgymnasium, the programme for Latin corresponds fairly closely with that of the Gymnasium for the first two years. The lesser number of hours devoted to it from IIb. upwards renders the final aim somewhat less ambitious, and the highest class contents itself with reading a considerable amount of Livy, Cicero, and Virgil; Horace and Tacitus not being attempted.
In English, which takes the place of Greek in the gymnasium, the whole of the grammar and syntax are mastered in the first year, an easy matter for boys already so far advanced in Latin and French, and a standard English author is commenced.
From IIa. upwards the course of reading is extended to various prose works and poetry, the former selected from great historical writers or debaters, the latter from Scott, Longfellow, Tennyson, Byron, Milton, and Shakespeare.
One important matter which I have alluded to above, and which has occupied the attention of the leaders of Reform Schools, is the drawing up of text books in the various languages on the same general principles.
It is most strongly maintained that satisfactory results are much more likely to be obtained from instruction in foreign languages if these languages are treated on an uniform principle. It is argued that the lack of such uniform method must inevitably lead to a waste of energy and time in mastering new methods and a loss of clear insight into the wonderful fabric of languages. This principle should apply specially to the syntax, and the syntax of all other languages should as far as possible be based on that of the mother-tongue, and be arranged as simply and methodically as possible.
This idea has already been practically carried out with praiseworthy energy by the headmaster of the Goethe Reform Gymnasium at Frankfort, in which school the results already obtained under the Reform system are eminently satisfactory.
On the whole the future of the Reform School is hopeful. It seems to meet the practical exigencies of the national life of the day, without the prejudice to the ideal of a good education. It has so far fulfilled the expectations of its advocates in the Realgymnasien and Realschulen founded on the Altona system, and promises to give equally good results on the Frankfort system. It has met with a favourable reception at the hands of the higher authorities and has struck firmly into the roots of educational life in Germany. It might almost be predicted that at no distant date the whole system of higher schools in that country will adopt its principles.
There is at present a strong revulsion of feeling against the system of privileges.
Dr. Reinhardt, the energetic headmaster of the Goethe Gymnasium at Frankfort, Herr Ramdohr, headmaster of the Leibnizschule at Hanover, and other prominent educational authorities have spoken very strongly against it.
When in 1891 the few privileges then attaching to the Realschulen were extended and the leaving examination of these schools recognized as a qualification for admission to the Universities to study mathematics and science, as also for entrance into engineering, forestry, mining, and other careers, the popularity and prestige of these schools went up with a bound, and many of them, then in a languishing condition, entered at once on a new and prosperous existence.
It is probable that the higher privileges formerly extended to the Gymnasien were bestowed on the principle of "timeo Danaos et dona ferentes"; and in course of time, the recognition of the importance of the Realschulen in the educational world will doubtless lead to an extension to this class of school of further privileges.
Again it is urged that a purely classical education ought not to carry with it higher privileges than an education in which mathematics and science take a prominent place, and that the boy who on leaving the Realgymnasium is capable of reading Cicero or Virgil with ease should have the same right of entrance into the various professions as the student of the Gymnasium.
Greek, in fact, should not be made a matter of compulsion, as it would always attract a certain number of students without the additional incentive of higher privileges.
This question of privilege will no doubt come prominently to the front in the near future. The nearer relations established between the different types of school under the Reform system make its solution the more imperative.
Many prominent educationalists are, however, of opinion that the boy who has passed twelve or thirteen years in one of the State schools, should have perfect liberty to adopt any profession he chooses, and that it should be left to professional examinations to test his capability to fulfil the requirements of the career he intends to embrace.
List of the Reform Schools existing in Germany before the 1st January, 1898, with notes on their variation from the normal systems.
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