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Education Review

( Originally Published 1912 )



BEFORE leaving this study of the organic structure of the school systems of the world's nations, we shall do well to gather into more compact compass the salient features of each. Doing so, we shall be the better enabled to recognize their chief points of similarity and difference. The relation of the three broad grades of educational institutions, one to another, is best shown by means of graphic representation (pages 158, 159). Only the more important countries having distinctive educational systems, are considered, and in each case only the traditional types of schools are indicated ; that is, no reference is made to auxiliary, special, or vocational schools. Also it is to be noted that the schemes represent the normal or best conditions. For instance, the Germans consider that their Volksschule consists normally of eight years, and yet, as a matter of fact, a majority of these schools do not carry the full number of grades. In this diagram, too, all infant education is included within the elementary group, and the school years are reckoned from the beginning of the elementary period.

The most striking point of difference in these various systems is the relation of the elementary to the secondary schools. We may immediately group the systems into continuous and non-" continuous, according to whether the pupils in the secondary schools normally enter by way of the elementary school, or whether the secondary school parallels the work of the lower grade school into some of the elementary school years.

Concerning the education of girls and women, we have seen that marked differences of policy characterize the various nations. In the elementary schools Russia makes special effort to segregate, France and Germany maintain separate schools wherever possible ; but in all the other countries coeducation is the general practice. As to schools of secondary grade : Sweden provides none for girls ; the United States, Switzerland, and a few, other countries usually coeducate : Germany, France, England, Russia, Japan, and others are quite definitely committed to segregation. In the colleges and universities women are admitted practically on equal terms in the United States, France, Sweden, and Switzer-land ; they have gained substantial concessions in Germany, England, and Russia; in the other countries little or no provision is made for them.

In at least four countries — United States, France, Russia, and Switzerland — women may get, under State auspices, a continuous education from the elementary school through the university. In most of the others, however, there is a hiatus between the secondary school and the university which must be supplied by private institutions.

Even as we note in formal manner these points of similarity and contrast in school structure, we are impressed by the fact that to do so falls far short of telling the whole story. Nor could the shrewdest observer and most accurate reporter tell that story in a library of volumes. Our diagrams and meager summaries are but the rough plans and specifications ; the architectural details, the finishing embellishments, and the encompassing atmosphere defy complete description. No school system is the work of a day, neither can it be comprehended in a day; certainly not by one who is foreign to the people who have evolved it. We step into a foreign land, sojourn awhile, vaguely sense the national spirit and purpose, and then attempt in a few words to characterize its institutions. But our cleverest epigrams fail to do justice; indeed there is danger that, unwittingly, they inflict injustice.

It is with some temerity then that we review the schools of the nations in terms of brief generalizations.

Germany stands for order, precision, singleness of purpose, and certainty of accomplishment. Imperial strength and military, industrial, and commercial ascendancy are her utilitarian aims ; exact and exhaustive scholarship is her cultural ideal. The efficiency of her schools is only to be called in question when we challenge the validity of her caste system. It is a serious reflection that " there seems no adequate provision for the poor clever boy to pass from one school to another of a higher kind." " Not one boy in 10,000 finds his way from the highest class of the elementary school into the Gymnasium."' However, forces within the empire are striving to remedy this defect, and the ultimate outcome must surely be a victory for democracy.

In France, education is a national affair. It is recognized as a national interest, and hence the government assumes toward it entire responsibility, and exercises over it a complete and detailed authority. This centralization is by no means con-fined to educational administration, but extends to all departments ; the instinct for it seems in-grained in the national character. All nations need intelligent leaders and a trained citizenship. No one in the family of nations recognizes this need more keenly than France, who proposes to meet it systematically through her schools. Her schools seem fundamentally to rest upon the prize system; the rewards to the individual for fidelity to the school requirements are industrial position and military and civic honor. If the system seem somewhat inconsistent with democratic tenets, we have but to recall that France is unique as a republic wherein deep-grounded monarchial ideas and ideals survive. Now that her school machine has been constructed, by the absolutism of a centralized democracy, her next problem is so to operate that machine that the initiative and self- expression of the individual are not stifled, but are permitted to expand to their full fruition. This problem nowhere is better realized than in the great Republic itself.

We are told that " the history of education in England exhibits three characteristics of the national genius. The English temper is reverent of the past. Education had its beginning in the church ; it must never be wholly lost to the church. . . . In the second place, the national temper and government have long been aristocratic. . . . In the third place, the national genius is prosaic and practical."' Hence we see conservative England modifying conditions and abandoning traditions but slowly, and yet doing so with a certain heavy sureness. The chief characteristic of the school organization is its lack of organization. The individual is everything, provided it is the individual in his proper place. Vested influences, social cleavages, individual rights, all are respected, and yet somehow England manages to provide effective schooling for her people—a schooling which, after all, seems to conserve those interests which the Englishman holds most dear.

The influence of these three distinctive peoples of the Old World is felt not only by their immediate neighbors, but by the nations of all the continents. Austria is, of course, markedly German ; to a lesser but yet to a considerable extent is the effect of German thought to be traced in the school systems of her other neighbors — Switzerland, Holland, Russia, and the Scandinavian triad. English ideas have been carried to her colonies, but in the journey across the seas have lost much of their subserviency to the forms of the past. The South American Republics, touched by the spirit of all three European nations and by that of the United States, are facing the dawn of an educational renaissance destined to transmute the native and Latin tempers into builders of organized world powers.

In the Orient, China is shaking her bulky form after her sleep of centuries and opening her eyes to the possibility of applying occidental policies to the solution of her own peculiar problems. Japan has already for several decades been alive to western influence, and, with a healthy skepticism, has modified the results of her own genius for organization, by the lesson she has learned abroad.

Finally, what shall we say of our own country ? It has been said of us that " while we have no national system of schools we have a national program of education. To teach all subjects to all men in the same school—this is the great educational, social, and economic opportunity of America."' Chancellor Brown suggests that among our original contributions to education, the most important are these three : —

" First, the nonsectarian elementary school for all classes of the community, answering to our democratic social organization and our religious liberty.

" Secondly, the American high school, serving at once as a continuation of the elementary school and an introduction to the higher education, with courses meeting a variety of tastes and needs.

" Thirdly, the American university, with its combination of instruction and research, of cultural and technological courses, and with liberal and professional departments often dovetailing into each other. To this might be added that notable invention, that new development of personal efficiency, the American university president."

Lest we soothe ourselves with an unwarranted complacency, it may be well for us at this point to see ourselves as we are seen by other eyes. The educational commission sent by Germany to the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, after quietly investigating the educational systems of the United States, did not hesitate to speak critically. They " declared that America is abundant in resources, filled with energy, exceedingly quick-witted and resourceful ; that a vigorous people is possessed of such mighty and largely undeveloped physical resources, and has such splendid advantage in coast lines and commercial situation, that undoubtedly it will have to be reckoned with in the trade and commerce of the somewhat distant future ; but that the United States is so seriously handicapped with manifest disadvantages, of which Americans are unconscious, that no American industrial competition at any early day need be taken seriously by the German nation. They said these disadvantages make a buoyant confidence without sufficient underpinning for it, a feeling of complacent satisfaction with everything American, an expectation that, without much planning, and without much philosophical study, or concerted action, or definite plan, or cooperative efficiency, everything will come out all right whenever the need of it arises. They emphasized the entire absence of provision for public schools supplying systematic instruction in craftsmanship, and asserted that this lack is sufficient to overcome any natural advantage in resources or geographical situation."

We may seek to deflect the force of this criticism by replying that it is directed chiefly at our vocational education, and we may resent its terms as an exaggeration ; nevertheless there is sufficient truth in it to give us cause for reflection. We may take exception to the sweeping charge of "complacent satisfaction with everything American," for certainly there is a decided tendency among us to discover the "best," whatever its source, and to secure it for our own. Indeed, this very desire, the constant expression of a restless self-governing people, accounts for many of the apparent inconsistencies of our school organization. We are always in the transition state from one experiment to the next' Let us hope that some day we shall reach a condition of stable equilibrium without forfeiting the essential advantages which inhere in our national spirit of adventure.

However faulty the foregoing summary of conditions, one thing is certain : the interest aroused by a nation's schools is by no means proportionate to its area or population. Switzerland, for in-stance, with her four millions of people, has been termed " the home of educational systems, in comprehensiveness and precision scarcely inferior to that of Prussia itself." " Education is the greatest force in Switzerland ; . . . it bulks largest in their legislation and demands their greatest sacrifices."

Russia, with forty times the population, excites no such admiration for her educational organization as does this sturdy inland republic. The twenty million population of Spain is impressive as a statistical item, but from the educational stand-point it forfeits its rank when compared with the six millions of Holland or the five millions of Scotland.

Nevertheless, after all is said of the national coefficients in education, the trend seems conclusively to be toward a certain uniformity of structure, and we may subscribe to the prophecy of Chancellor Brown that " modern education, overpassing partisan and sectarian bounds, over-passing even local, national, and racial bounds, is fast coming to be in its main features the same throughout the world, and to constitute one dominant,'world-wide human interest."



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