The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Gymnasia and Real-gymnasia

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GYMNASIA AND REAL-GYMNASIA are schools in Germany which correspond in general to the grammar school in England and the lycée in France. The term was derived from the Greek “gymnasium,” which was originally applied to an exercising ground in Athens. Here teachers gathered and gave instruction between the hours devoted to physical exercises and sports, and thus the term became associated with and came to mean an institution of learning.

This use of the term did not prevail among the Romans, but was revived during the Renaissance in Italy, and from there passed into the Netherlands and Germany during the 15th century. In 1538 John Sturm founded at Strassburg the school which became the model of the modern German gymnasium. In 1812 a Prussian regulation ordered that all schools which had the right to send their students to the university should bear the name of gymnasia. This practice has now been followed in almost all German states, in Austria and in Russia.

The gymnasium organized by Sturm was the kind of school in which classical studies predominated. This classical character the gymnasium has not lost up to the present time.

To enter the gymnasium a pupil must be nine years of age and must have had three years' previous training in reading, writing and arithmetic. These three years are usually had in what is known as vorschulen or preparatory schools and almost all the gymnasia have such schools connected with them.

The course of study in the gymnasium now covers a period of nine years in which the lowest class is designated the sixth, the next in order being the fifth, fourth, lower third, upper third, lower second, upper second, lower first and upper first.

The subjects of instruction include religion, German and history stories, Latin, Greek, French, history, geography, arithmetic, mathematics, natural history, writing and numbers.

The real-gymnasium is an outgrowth of the classical gymnasium and came in answer to a demand for more modern languages and science. In the real-gymnasium, therefore, English takes the place of Greek and more science is given than in the gymnasium proper.

An institution known as the pro-gymnasium is like the gymnasium, but has only the six lower classes. A student who finishes it then goes to the gymnasium proper for the last three years.

The demand for “practical” or “vocational” instruction has had as little influence on the gymnasium in Germany as it has had on the classical high schools in America, or the grammar schools in England. The demand for such instruction has been met by the real-gymnasium and by the establishment of numerous technical schools.

A student who finishes his gymnasium course passes an examination for graduation and then is admitted to the university. At this time he is about 18 years of age. It is sometimes stated that he is about two years ahead of the American student of the same age. This is, however, a somewhat difficult statement to prove, because the bases of comparison are not the same.

Bibliography. — Russell, J. E. ‘German Higher Schools’ (1910); Lexis, W., ‘A General View of the History and Organization of Public Education in the German Empire’ (1904); Sadler, M. E, ‘English Special Reports on Educational Subjects’ (Vol. IX), ‘Education in Germany’ (1902); Hughes, R, E, ‘The Making of Citizens’ (Chap. 10), ‘The Secondary School System of Germany’; Kerschensieiner, G., ‘A Comparison of Public Education in Germany and in the United States’ (Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Education).

James Sullivan,
New York State Historian.