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THE TORCH OF LEARNING

Дата публикации: 10 октября 2018
Автор: Yevgeniya SYSOYEVA
Публикатор: Александр Павлович Шиманский
Рубрика: ПЕДАГОГИКА
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №3, 2007, C.86-93
Номер публикации: №1539173387 / Жалобы? Ошибка? Выделите проблемный текст и нажмите CTRL+ENTER!


Yevgeniya SYSOYEVA, (c)

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by Yevgeniya SYSOYEVA, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University

 

The Russian state system of elementary (primary) education goes back to the 1780s. The University of Moscow has been playing a key role as its Alma Mater.

 

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Karion Istomin's primer. Moscow, anno 1694. Each page of this ABC-book was engraved on copper by Leontius Bunin.

 

How come? Our public education system just two centuries old? But what about the schools of Old Rus?.. A legitimate, crackerjack question! Yes, all the way back in the 10th and 11th centuries the "best people" of Kiev and Novgorod the Great sent their sons to such schools to learn their letters. Their teachers were priests of the lower clergy. Much later, in the 13th to 17th centuries, schools opened at churches and monasteries (both in town and in countryside) to teach reading and writing, fundamentals of the Christian Faith as well as the basics of arithmetic.

 

But educated people came to be much in demand with the growth of trade and industries. It was natural therefore that ABC-books, primers and grammar manuals sold out as readily as did divine literature. All that came out in Church Slavonic, a sophisticated alphabet for plain reading and writing; numbers, too, were written in Cyrillic letters. Such kind of wisdom was a hard nut to crack. A major stride in the dissemination of book learning was made in 1710 as Czar Peter I (Peter the Great) issued an edict ordering the use of a civil ABC and Arabic numerals. As Mikhailo Lomonosov*, the great Russian savant of the 18th century, put it, "not only the boyar nobles but the letters, too, doffed the awkward fur-coats and donned instead the light summer attires."

 

Peter the Great has gone down in history as a reformist czar. The schools set up during his reign early in the 18th century fostered secular trends with an emphasis on vocational training and practical skills. They trained skilled personnel for the army, navy, industries and for the government administration. Pupils were enrolled on a now and then basis, "if need be"; there were no hard and fast rules for an academic year, the very notion was rather vague. The time of lessons was arbitrary, with coercion and punishment practiced on a wide scale. Gymnasia (grammar schools)

 

 

* See: E. Karpeyev, "A Giant of Russian Enlightenment", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003. - Ed.

 

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School lesson. From Feodor Polikarpov's primer. Anno 1701.

 

evolved as the first schools of general education for the offspring of nobility and raznochintsi, or intellectuals not of gentle birth. The very first one was opened at Moscow University in 1755, just when this venerable institution of higher learning was born. The first class of that gymnasium had over 100 boys on its roster, including those who made a name for themselves at a later date, such men as the architect Vassily Bazhenov, one of the pioneers of Russian classicism in architecture; Nikolai Novikov, a prose writer and enlightener; Denis Fonvizin (von Wiesen), the playwright and father of Russian situational comedy.

 

The curricula were flexible enough and geared to a dual objective - either further education at Moscow University or state service upon graduation. Russian letters and basic Latin were the mandatory subjects at the initial, primary stage. Thereupon came a Latin class where Latin was studied in-depth, including grammar, rhetoric, versification and translation; history and genealogy were also in. There were also German and French classes for those seeking proficiency in these two languages.

 

A second grammar school was set up at Kazan in 1758, likewise under the aegis of Moscow University, and a pool for would-be university undergraduates. One of its alumni was Gavriil Derzhavin, a brilliant poet in the classicist vein. He and his classmates studied history, geography, geometry, rudiments of the art of fortification, arithmetic and Latin, too. The enrollment class was rapidly on the rise-first from among the high-born men, and then from the ranks of raznochintsi. Moscow University helped with money and teaching aids, and by sending the flower of the graduation class as instructors. The time of tuition varied and depended on such things as the material condition of students, talents and chance circumstances. The boys were accommodated in dormitories (hostels), with each room for 10 to 15. The daily routine was harsh - reveille at 6 o'clock, and classes from 8 to 18 (counting in a dinner break); one hour from seven to eight in the evening was set aside for homework. The first two grammar schools were a great success. And so similar educational establishments sprang up in other Russian towns - at Tver, Vologda, Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Kostroma. By the year 1787 their total class topped 1,000. The grammar schools were overseen by the Confederation, a collegiate administrative body of Moscow University. Judging by the protocols of its sessions, this body discussed syllabuses, textbooks and manuals published abroad and translated into Russian as well as the provision of teaching aids and moral, ethical matters. Cases of physical punishment were frowned upon, and milder "corrective measures" recommended, namely making the wrongdoers "change into the plain muzhik clothes and take a bench of disgrace."

 

In 1779 Moscow University set up a Boarding School for the sons of nobility with the aim of "enlightening them with various kinds of useful knowledge and instilling... good manners in their hearts... and keeping them in good health." Now what concerns rations: one dish and bread for breakfast; five dishes for dinner, bread and tea for the afternoon snack, and four dishes for supper. Meanwhile grammar school alumni did not have it as good: just sifted-flour loaf at breakfast, four-course dinner and two-course supper.

 

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In the Boarding School for Nobility. Borrowed from the book UNIVERSITY FOR RUSSIA: A LOOK AT RUSSIAN CULTURE OF THE 18TH CENTURY. Moscow, 1997.

 

At first only 12 boys were admitted, and then the class rose to 50. The boys stayed in all the year round for a term of three years, and it came up to six afterwards. According to Stepan Shevyrev, a historian, literary critic and member of the Science Academy from 1847 on, the new institution was making good progress and thus "responded to the needs of time". The curriculum included law, literature, foreign languages, Russia's statistics, country housekeeping, artillery, and fortification. Yet it was a tall order, and the pupils couldn't cope. As one of the alumni recalled, "it was hard to get used to such kind of capital learning... of Latin in particular. Latin was thought to be needed only to apothecaries and seminarists (such notions are still current in the provinces). This is no nobleman's science. We ought to be grateful to the government for coercive measures, for otherwise we would never have become educated." The school had a benevolent atmosphere of respect for the individual and nurtured a cult learning and wisdom.

 

Private boarding schools were instituted under the auspices of Moscow University after 1785, some of them managed by faculty professors. They taught different disciplines, and-what was even more important, an elect group of maitres was involved with education proper, the upbringing. The professors of grammar and boarding schools also gave private lessons which boosted the level of literacy and general education. Illustrious teachers and educators did this job, and they formed a string of pre-eminent writers and public personalities, such as Vassily Zhukovsky, a poet and educationalist (elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences as emeritus member), the prose writer and historian Nikolai Karamzin, the historian and archeographer Alexander Turgenev (both elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences honoris causa in 1818)...

 

Moscow University was also actively involved in the work of teachers' training for public education, as we can learn from reminiscences of contemporaries. Initially letters were taught to high-born children, while the Russian gentry remained illiterate and benighted; their home education did not go further than history and geography (taught in French) and mythology.

 

Moscow University professors examined foreigners for teaching skills. In 1779 it established a Pedagogical Seminary (training college) for prospective teachers and awarded a bachelor's degree to those who made the grade. Both the government and society became aware of the need of rearing the younger generation from the tender nail. The humanistic trends of enlightenment were gaining ground among the forward-thinking Russian public crusading for a "reign of reason", equality and political liberties. Accordingly, the school was to foster civic virtues besides good education.

 

A ukase issued by Empress Catherine II in 1782 instituted a Commission charged with setting up public schools; it was headed by Jankovic-de-Mirievo invited to the Russian service from Austria. A deciple of the great Czech thinker, enlightener and educationalist Jan Komensky (1592 - 1670) he was the right choice for the field of public education. His Commission drew up a Syllabus of Tuition (Statute as of 1786), and turned to getting ready manuals and textbooks (translated from foreign languages or written in Russian), curricula,

 

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A scholar's study. An illustration borrowed from the book UNIVERSITY FOR RUSSIA: A LOOK AT RUSSIAN CULTURE OF THE 18TH CENTURY. Moscow, 1997.

 

 

 

Empress Catherine II. An 18th century engraving.

 

handbooks and teaching aids; apart from the West European experience, the Commission also drew upon the record of the Moscow University grammar schools. Moscow University professors were also invited to join in, among them Anton Barsov (1730 - 1791), an eminent linguist and scholar expert in Russian syntax, "much versed in Russian letters". As a brilliant grammarian, he was asked to write a manual on Russian grammar.

 

The first new type schools established in the St. Petersburg gubernia (province) became a core of the system of public education. In keeping with the Statute, they were subdivided into lower, two-year schools (in district towns) and higher, five-year ones (in provincial centers). The principle of the continuity of education was observed thereby - graduates from two-year schools could enroll in the senior grades of five-year schools for further education.

 

Pupils of the first and second grades learned correct spelling as well the ABC of grammar and arithmetic, and they were taught patristic history and catechism (an elementary book on the principles of a religion, in the form of questions and answers). One manual, The Book on the Duties of Man and Citizen, was authored by Catherine II. At grades 3 and 4 pupils studied Scripture, world and Russian history, geography of Europe and Russia, mechanics, physics, natural science, Latin, European languages, civil architecture, drawing and other subjects.

 

The teachers made a wide use of visual aids and methods in compliance with a single curriculum. Set up for this purpose were libraries, "collections of natural objects", and kits of mathematical and physical "tools". The Commission specified the time of a scholastic year and regular daily classes, and began elaborating methods and criteria for assessing the pupils' academic performance. Unfortunately Jankovic-de-Mirievo and his aides could not realize their plan in full. Primary schools conceptualized as general, public institutions of learning opened in towns only, while education of peasant serfs was at the mercy and discretion of their landlord.

 

Already in the first years of its existence Moscow University accomplished a remarkable lot for publishing teaching aids in Russian. In 1757 it had two textbooks published - Fundamentals of Latin for the Final Class of Grammar School, and The ABC of Russian for Russian Youth. Soon after, there came the grammars of the German, French and Italian languages as well as manuals on arithmetic, geometry, geography and history along with didactic treatises. More than 60 different books of this kind had been published by the end of the 18th century, and their authors or translators were Moscow University professors and graduates.

 

Thus, the Algebra and Trigonometry of S. D. Anichkov, which were known for their clear and explicit style and which made use of Russian terms, were published in sev-

 

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School classes late in the 18th century. Taken from the book UNIVERSITY FOR RUSSIA: A LOOK AT RUSSIAN CULTURE OF THE 18TH CENTURY. Moscow, 1997.

 

eral revised editions supplemented by the author. These two manuals had been in wide use at school up until the turn of the 19th century. The same was true of the Latin Grammar of Nikolai Bantysh-Kamensky and other handbooks.

 

Thus in the latter half of the 18th century the University of Moscow became a body overseeing all forms and institutions of elementary and secondary education, providing them with teaching aids and training teachers for them. Yet the dictates of time called for an overhaul of the educational system. The ideas of enlightenment that the Commission was proceeding from in its work had opponents, too. The larger part of the population did not feel any need for the advanced level of education offered by the public schools. The nobility were likewise reluctant to get their children there, for the course of sciences taught seemed too difficult, and it did not enable graduates to qualify for a university course or government service. The urban middle class saw no use in literacy at all.

 

In 1802 this country's first government body charged with educational matters was established, the Ministry of Public Education. The country was divided into six precincts - those of Moscow, Kazan, Kharkov, Vilna (Vilnius of Lithuania), Derpt (Estonia) and St. Petersburg. An orderly workable system of general public education came into being. Parish schools (set up at every parish both in urban and in rural districts) taught reading and writing, the four basic operations of arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), the fundamentals of natural science and country household management. All that was instrumental in overcoming pervasive ignorance and superstition. The curricula of district town schools likewise included such subjects as history, grammar, geography, physics, patristic history and natural science. Gymnasia (grammar schools) actually evolved as institutions of secondary learning getting young men ready for university enrollment in four groups of subjects - maths, natural history, philosophy and economics, alongside geography, history and foreign languages.

 

All these schools were under rigorous centralized management, with higher managerial and overseeing bodies and methods-of-teaching centers established at universities in respective precincts. School committees of six university professors had the right to dismiss teachers of district and parish schools.

 

Early in the 19th century Moscow University concentrated its efforts toward turning the main public schools into gymnasia, a move that won support from the nobility, material support, too. Gymnasia, or grammar schools, sprang up in 1804 at Tver, Smolensk, Vladimir, Kostroma, Tula, Kaluga, and Ryazan. Visiting professors inspected regularly, every six months, all primary and

 

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secondary (middle) schools in precincts under their jurisdiction. They looked around, saw how things were with textbooks and teaching aids, visited lessons, talked to schoolmasters and demonstrated adequate methods of education and upbringing, with the stress on visibility and gradualism (from simple to complex), as well as a method elaborated by Ilya Timkovsky, a philologist and jurist: a teacher was supposed to explain a new subject (a procedure that was in marked contrast to ubiquitous rote learning).

 

The inspectors interviewed schoolchildren to see how they understood the subjects taught to them and find out how competent the teaching staff were in their "zeal". In their reports the visiting inspectors made honorary mentions of the best teachers "working in the field of public enlightenment" and cited them as worthy of further promotion and awards. In a similar way, they picked out the most brilliant pupils. They, the inspectors general, did not overlook the moral atmosphere either and took pains to drive home how important it was to show respect for a child as a human individual, and to refrain from corporal punishment. A Teacher's Guidebook of anno 1818 stressed the impermissibility of "slaps in the face, buffets, rapping on the knuckles with a ruler, boxing on the ears and pulling the hair... of bringing one to the knees... of humiliation and disgrace touching one's dignity..."

 

Moscow University did a good deal towards organization of parish schools and instruction there, which proved a job of work: the maintenance of such schools was shouldered by town communities that had meager wherewithal at their disposal (district schools were subsidized from the state treasury, and grammar schools even financed to much extent); consequently parish schoolmasters had no regular salary.

 

To remedy the situation, if this or that town had no parish school, inspectors filed solicitations to have a preparatory class opened in a nearby district center. This practice worked and helped cut expenses for the upkeep of extra premises and scrape pennies for paying the services of priests who were loath to double as religious teachers at parish schools.

 

Inspectors did a lot of good in provinces that bore the brunt of the Napoleonic invasion during the Patriotic War of 1812. Professor N. A. Beketov, a philologist and philosopher who visited the gubernia of Smolensk, recalled that local teachers had shown examples of peerless courage in saving school property from sacking by the French, and "enjoyed great respect in the town". Moscow University lent a helping hand in granting allowances to schoolmasters there.

 

The Moscow University Board met regularly to discuss the reports of inspectors general and passed decisions on

 

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raising the salaries or ranks of practicing teachers. But such placebos could not improve their social and material condition radically. The statute of elementary schools adopted in 1828 was a major stride forward by upgrading parish schoolmasters to a status of civil servants and boosting the salaries of their counterparts at district schools.

 

Moscow University continued to work hard in its teachers' training activities. In 1804 it opened a pedagogical (teachers' training) college with an enrollment class of 12 maintained at state expense. Upon graduation they were obliged to work for six years "in the field of enlightenment". Yet judging by reports, the total body of students was not above twenty, and a graduation class of eight sent to schools of the Moscow precinct could not solve the problem of teaching staff shortage. Therefore in 1813 the University Board ruled "to find wherewithal for the maintenance pay... of 5 to 10 alumni at each gymnasium desiring to dedicate themselves to the vocation of teaching and further work at district schools."

 

But the situation turned for the worse with the "innovative" legislation of 1835 that relieved universities of patronage over primary and secondary schools. Rote learning staged a comeback, and expository methods of instruction were phased out. One of the contemporaries recalled that pupils "knew the names of African rivers but had no idea of what a river was in general and what river in particular flowed in their locality; glib in counting, they were unable to solve a simple problem and could not commit their thoughts to paper."

 

Clerks of the Ministry of Public Education were now charged with the duties of monitoring the teaching process; unlike university professors, they were paying more attention to the formal side of learning-glib and flippant answers, rapid counting and reading. Corporal punishments were not discouraged either. Inspectors and teachers who sought to reverse the situation were curbed by Jacks in office (this lackluster situation persisted until the progressive reforms of the 1860s).

 

This is how the first stage in the development of our public education system came to an end. A stage inseparably linked with Moscow University, a major seat of learning, culture and science, and a pioneer of advanced, progressive methods of instruction.

Опубликовано 10 октября 2018 года




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