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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/711

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A CAMBODIAN PRIMARY SCHOOL.

tliermore, having been consecrated with a little ceremony which does not always take place in the temple, they are obliged to have their heads shaved like the bonzes and to recite with them certain prayers which they have consequently to learn, and they live in the monastery. While the ordinary pupils may sometimes reside in the monastery under special conditions or for special purposes, they usually live with their parents, and resort every morning to the Véat to take their lesson, go home to breakfast, then return to study and perform a few household duties and play with their comrades for a large part of the day under the eye of their kindly and somewhat too careless professors.

All children who present themselves at the Véat for study are received. It is not even required that their parents bring them or visit them. The newcomer chooses his professor, and, if accepted, begins at once to study under his direction, installs himself in his cell or in the school hall, and becomes his servant. If the professor has already too many pupils, he refuses the new pupil and advises him to choose another teacher; sometimes he guides his choice, directing him to a master who has few or no pupils, or takes him to the superior, who will select a teacher for him. The choice of a professor is always a grave affair, because it is held in Cambodia, as in all Buddhist and Brahmanic countries, that professor and pupil are bound by strong ties of spiritual affinity, and that the pupil ought to respect his master as he does his father and mother. The law inflicts the same penalty upon an offense of the pupil against his master and an offense by a son against his father and mother, and it prescribes that in certain cases the pupil may be the heir of his professor when he has cared for him or supported him or served him when studying under his direction; not only a family bond, but a religious bond, too, is established between them, for the professor makes it his business to teach his pupil the course by which he may earn a more advantageous reincarnation and reach the Nirvana, and becomes his spiritual guide.

Four implements are used in studying: a tablet about two feet by one, blackened with black lacquer; a crayon stick; a bamboo ruler as long as the board, with which to draw the lines at which the tops of the characters must stop; and a cloth for wiping the board when it is full. The pupil generally uses the corner of his scarf or girdle for the last purpose.

The teacher writes on the tablet the characters the pupil is to learn, and names them to him; the pupil learns to write and name them all at the same time. His professor is near him answers him, draws his attention to the often inconspicuous details that differentiate the characters, and to the accents and