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Or does the national interest in greater unity of education require the abolition of the present system of dividing secondary instruction into two separate branches—the classic and the realistic—and a complete unification?
(c) Would it be necessary, in order to create a general, popular, and elementary school-system, to abolish the elementary schools connected with the gymnasia and real-schools, and to prohibit the establishment of such schools in the future? (d) Is it desirable to continue the so-called system of bifurcation ?
There were sixteen other points of discussion; but this first one, being the most important, is given at greater length.
Dr. Wiese, privy counselor in the Prussian ministry of public instruction, who is specially charged with the care of secondary instruction, opened the discussion by a lengthy speech. He said that it would be necessary to define the position of the secondary schools, not only with regard to their relation to each other, but also their relation to the higher and to the lower schools. The different grades of secondary schools had been developed in course of time by following the demands of the age. Thus a system had originated which had proved extremely useful in many respects, but which could by no means be considered as finished. The complaint of the universityteachers that the scientific spirit among the students was decreasing is perfectly just. The secondary schools paid too little attention to the training of the thinking and reasoning faculties of the pupils, and merely crammed their memory with a mass of encyclopedic knowledge, so that most of them lost their mental elasticity, and were satisfied with so passing the required examinations as to obtain some position in life.
As causes of this must be assigned partly the system of instruction, partly the want of pedagogical tact among the teachers. It seemed as if the fact that teaching was an art which had to be studied was being more and more lost sight of. A principal cause must also be found in the atmosphere of our age; the desire for earning money quite ignoring the cultivation of science for its own sake. Dr. Wiese considered it best to commence the discussions with 1, b, which actually contained the question whether real-schools were to exist in the future or not. In order to clear the ground, he gave a historical review of their origin. At present there are three opinions concerning these schools; some think they are good now, but that there is still room for improvement, and the object to be attained is to place them on the same level as the gymnasia; others consider the present state of the real-schools as unsatisfactory, and desire to have them brought back to their first and original object, viz, to educate young men for practical modern life. A third party think the real-schools are utterly useless: that their establishment has been a mistake, which should be at once corrected by abolishing them. They think that by establishing real-schools a pernicious dualism has been introduced in our system of secondary instruction. The whole question has, however, a practical side. There are in Prussia a large number of real-schools and kindred institutions, (higher burgher-schools, &c.,) many founded and supported at the expense of the cities. These would certainly not be willing to have them abolished. The consequence would be, not that more pupils would enter the gymnasia, but that many students would enter the technical schools before their time and insufficiently prepared. Facts could never be argued away by theories, and it was, therefore, his opinion that the question 1, b, viz, “Is there any necessity for maintaining the position of the real-schools between the gymnasia and the technical institutions ?" should be answered in the affirmative.
Many other members of the conference said that the state had exercised an undue pressure on the development of the real-schools: that in all the regulations published by the ministry of public instruction the gymnasia had been decidedly more favored than the real-schools. From a political standpoint it was also desirable to introduce reforms, as the South-German states did not look favorably on the Prussian real-school regulations. Comparisons between realschools and gymnasia were frequently started from false premises, quite forgetting that the real-school was by no means a finished institution, but was still in a period of development.
All the members were unanimous that neither gymnasia nor real-schools should be considered as special schools, but that the object of both was the advancement of general education. It was considered desirable that this general education should rest on a common basis, but opinions differed as to the best mode of doing this. One member considered Latin as the common basis; another thought German was far more important and better calculated to make the schools truly national. The discussion chiefly turned on the question of instruction in Latin in the real-schools. Dr. Wiese was in favor of making this instruction optional; others opposed this. The majority of the meeting seemed in favor of the gymnasium and the real-school pursuing each its own way, without interfering with the other. On the question of bifurcation,* opinions were divided, some opposing it and others favoring it. The general opinion seemed to be that for the present none of the existing grades of secondary schools could be considered superfluous.
The other questions discussed were the following; (as the discussion elicited very few points of interest, they are given without much comment:)
(2) In case all these grades of secondary schools continue to exist, what changes in the course of instruction of the real-schools and similar institutions would seem desirable ?
The only speaker was Dr. Wiese. He thought that the existing course of instruction had, as a general rule, been satisfactory to all concerned; that exceptions in individual cases had very frequently been permitted; and that the truly wise policy would be to be still more liberal in this respect in the future. One important condition of success was that the limits set for each subject should not be exceeded, as had been done in some cases,
(3) Should the existing regulations regarding the admission of real-schoolgraduates to the universities be changed ?
Dr. Wiese, the only speaker, was of the opinion that real-school-graduates should be admitted to the universities, but only to those official examinations * See pages 57 and 58 of this circular.
(Staats-Examina–examinations giving certificates for positions) which were required for obtaining the position of teachers of mathematics, natural sciences, and modern languages.
(4) What changes in the gymnasium-course of instruction seem desirable?
Dr. Bonitz, of Berlin, who spoke on this subject, proposed but few changes, viz, to introduce three hours French in the fifth class and two hours French in the second class.
In later sessions of the conference, questions 2, 3, 4, were further discussed, a great diversity of opinion existing on most points. Dr. Wiese's idea of giving greater individual liberty in arranging the course of instruction in the realschools found universal favor.
As regards No. 4, the majority of the speakers were in favor of not raising the demands too high, as far as Greek was concerned; some opposing this, however.
(5) Religious instructions: (a) Shall the existing regulations undergo any change? (6) If the present regulations are continued, how far shall the scholars of other denominations be taken into consideration ?
Most of the speakers were of the opinion that, although in many cases religious instruction was not imparted in the most practical manner, there was no reason for abolishing it; on the contrary, it should remain an essential part of the course of instruction. By a recent regulation, (February 29, 1872,) scholars might be dispensed from religious instruction at school, if it was shown that they otherwise received such instruction; this privilege, however, had been made use of but in very few instances, [an indication that other systematic religious instruction was comparatively rare.)
As regards 5,6, the general opinion was that, unless there were fifteen scholars of other denominations, no special religious instructions should be given.
(6) If sufficient provision is made in secondary schools for religious instruction, is it necessary to make or retain arrangements by which they get a special denominational or ecclesiastical character ?
The opinion seemed to prevail generally that whenever, by the deed of foundation, some special denominational character had been fixed on any institution, this should be maintained, but otherwise not.
(7) The secondary schools have recently been blamed that they were remiss in fostering a patriotic German spirit. Can anything be done to remedy this?
Most of the speakers thought that instruction in German history should take the place of instruction in Prussian history. The national festivals should not be increased, as there was a superfluity of festival-days, (especially church-festivals.) Nothing in this whole matter should be done in the way of orders, but merely of recommendations, such as decorating the school-rooms with national portraits and scenes from German history.
(8) Is it desirable to introduce stenography as a compulsory subject in the course of instruction ?
All the members of the conference answered this question in the negative, maintaining that this instruction should be entirely optional.
(9) Should there be any legislation regarding size of schools, number of classes, and number of scholars in each class ?
Opinions were much divided on the subject; it was generally conceded that fifty should be the maximum number for the lower classes, while it was not deemed advisable to fix any maximum for the higher classes; all such details should be fixed by proper legislation.
(10) Have the existing regulations regarding the age of admission and the length of course in the different classes proved satisfactory?
The experience of the last fifty years had shown that the regulations were entirely satisfactory, and that no change was desirable.
(11) Shall the number of hours per week be either increased or decreased ?
(12) Should instruction during the afternoon-hours be abolished, and how can the bodily welfare of the scholars be still more furthered than is done ?
All the speakers on this question favored the greatest possible reduction of the hours per week, most of them considering thirty hours the utmost limit, while one or two favored thirty-two.
Some thought that in the lower classes the number of hours might, without detriment, be still more reduced.
In large cities, it was considered desirable, but practically impossible, to abolish afternoon instruction.
Regarding No. 12, various recommendations were made, such as large, welllighted, and well-ventilated rooms, the abolition of iron stoves, &c. It was also thought desirable, as benefiting the general health of the scholars, to distribute those studies which required greater mental exertion more evenly throughout the week, and to extend this consideration likewise to the written exercises.
(13) What should be the extent of the annual vacation, and how could greater uniformity in this respect be obtained ?
There seems to be great difference in this respect between the different parts of the country. The total annual extent of the vacations is everywhere ten or ten and one-half weeks, but the extent of vacations occasioned by church-festivals, and the extent of the midsummer, or principal, holiday, differ greatly. Many members favored the idea of placing the commencement of the scholastic year at the same time as the beginning of the calendar-year, and thus to produce greater uniformity. All were of opinion that the time for the principal vacation should be midsummer, especially the month of July. As regards other vacations, it was thought impracticable to have any legislation tending to greater uniformity.
(14) Many secondary schools, especially those supported by cities, have boards of trustees. Shall their duties be regulated by law ? Is it advisable to establish boards of trustees for those schools which are supported by the state, selecting them from the persons most interested in the school, (the schoolcommunity, Schulgemeinde ? ").
The composition, duties, and privileges of these boards differ very much, in accordance with the different origin of the schools. Their duties should certainly be regulated by law, with the proviso that such legal regulations should have no reactionary power, and should only be enforced with regard to new foundations. It was thought desirable to establish boards of trustees for the state-schools, whose privileges should be as extensive as possible.
(15) Has the school any disciplinary power over the conduct of scholars outside of school-hours ?
While recognizing the fact that the school should educate as well as instruct its scholars, the opinion of the conference was that only general principles could safely be determined by law, and that the details should be governed by the circumstances in each case.
(16) Should promotion be based on length of service; and how should this whole matter of filling vacancies be regulated with a view to the growth of the state, the difference of origin of the schools, and the special qualifications required in certain cases ?
It was regretted that there was no legislation whatever on this point; and, although it was acknowledged that the difficulties in the way of a uniform and universally satisfactory legislation would be very great, it was thought that an established order of filling vacancies would benefit both the schools and the teachers.
(17) Shall the present average weekly number of hours (16 for a director, 22 to 28 for teachers) be kept up?
Shall teachers be allowed to have any outside occupation, and on what conditions ?
In how far can teachers be obliged to take the places of colleagues, prevented by sickness or other causes from attending to their duties, without remuneration ?
Regarding the average weekly number of hours, no changes seemed desirable.
Outside occupations of teachers should only be permitted in exceptional cases, and never without the special consent of the respective school-authorities.
As regards remuneration being paid to teachers who take the places of sick or absent colleagues, the majority saw no objection to it; some were of opinion that no remuneration should be paid in cases of sickness, as it was the duty of the colleague to take the place, while others opposed this opinion.
In conclusion, Dr. Falk, the minister of public instruction, said that the ministry would take all the discussions of the meeting into careful consideration, and expressed the hope that sooner or later its results would benefit the secondary schools.