Education included two types of schools: a lower level, the school of common letters, and an intermediate level, the school of Greek letters
Important schools of Greek Education, as well as local schools, home teaching and informal teaching by the literate for the basic knowledge of reading and writing, make up the picture of education during the period of the Turkish occupation.
In particular with regard to the pre-revolutionary period, at the end of the 18th century, the rise of the merchant class, the spread of Enlightenment ideas and the gradual development of a national ideology brought changes in the way and content of teaching, with Korai in the early 19th century underlines the importance of the national dimension of Education for the development of Greek consciousness.
In general, education included two types of schools: a lower level, the school of common letters, and an intermediate level, the school of Greek letters. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Hellenistic Enlightenment changed the image of the education provided, with the establishment of modern schools and changes in the curricula of the schools of Greek letters.
The school of common letters
The role of the schools of common letters in the literacy of the Greek society during the years of the Turkish occupation was essential.
In this type of school, students received rudimentary knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic. These schools during the Turkish occupation did not have an institutional status, as they functioned informally within the context of the community or the parish. Only towards the end of the 18th century did such structures begin to be created next to the schools of Greek letters. The role of teacher was usually performed by the parish priest or anyone with basic knowledge, such as a merchant, a tailor or a shoemaker. For housing, a room in the churchyard, a monastery cell or a professional’s workshop was sufficient.
The informal “curriculum,” as we would call it today, began with the letters of the alphabet on signs and continued with spelling and reading. The books and texts with which students practiced reading were religious.
However, shortly before the beginning of the 19th century, the first alphabets began to be published with simple texts in understandable language for students to practice reading, while introducing new methods for learning the letters.
Writing was a separate “subject”, but not all students reached this level.
It is worth noting at this point that the learning of basic knowledge did not necessarily go through schools. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge—whether from within the family or not—could teach a child to read and write. Well-to-do families could hire a tutor, and there was also paid private tutoring.
The school of Greek letters
Important schools, such as the Patriarchal School of Constantinople, the Schools of Smyrna, Chios, Agrafo, Ioannina, Iasi and Bucharest belong to this type of school.
At this level, the main purpose was the study of the ancient Greek language, elements of philosophy and sciences. Usually, in these schools during the 18th century there are two cycles of study: one for the teaching of grammar, syntax and the study of ancient texts, and one for philosophy.
The progressive increase in the number of students created the need for housing for these schools, which was dealt with either by building a new and larger classroom, or by purchasing or renting a spacious building. It is worth noting that in almost all school buildings of the time, space for a library was provided.
The curriculum was shaped by the teachers, in collaboration with the headmaster and based on the teachers’ capabilities. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, they were enriched with new subjects, such as foreign languages and mathematics.
The vision of the renaissance of Greece through Education
The last 50 years before the Revolution of 1821 are characterized by the “flowering” of the Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment. Thus, according to the standards of the European Enlightenment, emphasis was placed on correct speech and the teaching of the sciences. At the beginning of the 19th century, the contribution of Adamantios Korais to the renewal of Education and its connection with the renaissance of Greece will play an important role.
“For Korai, education is linked to the vision of the renaissance of Greece, which will be achieved by spreading light to all social strata. A basic condition for the rebirth of the nation is a school education, which will be manipulated by “philosophy”. An education freed from its archaic elements, which will make creative use of the ancient Greek tradition and at the same time be open to the modern currents of the enlightened West”, writes Kostas Lappas in “History of New Hellenism”.
Korai’s ideas on education found support in circles of intellectuals and merchants, who supported his efforts. Thus, around 1800, schools began operating in Kydonias, Ioannina, Smyrna and elsewhere, with an emphasis on ancient Greek philology, philosophy, adopting modern teaching methods for the time. It is worth noting that the Patriarchal School of Constantinople also followed the renewing spirit of the time.
The modern schools were founded mainly in urban centers by communities and merchants who were able to undertake their financial support, but there was no lack of support from parish churches, private individuals and guilds of urban centers and especially of Constantinople.
Now, the use of supervisory means, scientific instruments and printed school textbooks (mathematics, physics, chemistry, rhetoric, geography, history, grammar, collections of ancient Greek texts) became widespread.
The duration of studies depended on the subjects taught, while for the first time the duration of the school year was instituted in 1810, at the Lyceum of Bucharest.
When the Revolution broke out, the conditions made it impossible for the schools to continue operating. However, the role of the project of disseminating Greek letters and sciences in the development of Greek national consciousness, which contributed to the Revolution of 1821, remains pivotal.
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