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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Recent Reforms in French Secondary Education

Recent Reforms in French Secondary Education.

1. Introduction.—For some time past the French Secondary System has been the subject of national solicitude, and strenuous efforts have been made with a view to ensuring that it shall adapt itself to the normal requirements of the people. . . .

2. The General Character of Recent Reform.—On the question of the general character of the reform the Minister expressed himself as follows :—

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"The reform, the accomplishment of which is now attempted, touches the entire range of education under its three aspects—education of the intelligence, education of the body, education of the will—and before all things the endeavor is to establish a just equilibrium between these three divisions of education. Our school regime, so far, has betrayed a tendency to sacrifice that necessary harmonious development for the too exclusive attainment of intellectual culture. Not only was instruction considered, quite justly, an essential division, and as (one of) the principal means of general education, but, by force of claiming an excess of attention, it became in fact the unique means, the totality of education.

"But it would be inexcusable to allow it to remain so. After those reverses which have imposed military obligations on each—after the advent of the democratic regime, which no longer permits an avoidance of the duties of citizenship, everyone has realised, and the University has not been the last to understand that our children will require something even more than select instruction if they are to honorably discharge their whole task. The conception of education which was narrowed and abased in a period in which education seemed to have less to do, is reconstituted and elevated in every mind when education, as always happens at decisive periods in the life of nations, recognises all its responsibilities

"It is precisely this integral restoration of the conception and function of education, that the present reform—in course of preparation for nearly twenty years—has definitely aimed at in secondary teaching.

"If the education given in our colleges and lyceums has, to-day more than ever, the object of making men, nothing that pertains to man should be foreign thereto.

"As a consequence, the Higher Council has decided that, without any unnecessary curtailment, some of the hours devoted to intellectual pursuits should be taken therefrom and reserved for the unjustly disdained physical exercises. It was desired, above all, that the questions of moral discipline, often too much neglected, should take, in the estimation of the masters of every grade the place to which they are entitled—that is to say, the premier place. Finally it was considered that the University will have well accomplished its task only if the students leave it with a robust and flexible body, with solid instruction and sound judgment, with a will rightly directed and mistress of itself. Fortunate too, it can be considered, only if it has been able to recognise and develop among all the youths some of distinguished talent. It was this conception of an integral and harmonious education of man which influenced all the deliberations of the Higher Council, and which has been made to assume a practical form in a programme which responds to the needs of the country and expresses the true function of the University. Any additional personal effort and devotion it may be found to require, no master will hesitate to bestow."