Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/446

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Elementary education was imparted to children in their homes by tutors, or in small private schools, seldom exceeding twenty pupils. There were no schools for girls, but a certain number were taught by members of their own family. In China, as in America, much of the teacher's reward had to be obtained from the dignity and honor of his occupation, for the fees generally paid were small. There were no requirements to be met by the teacher; any one might engage in the occupation, neither was any curriculum nor books prescribed, except by tradition. For the first four or five years the child devoted himself to memorizing the classics, learning to recognize and pronounce the characters, but without knowing their meaning, much as if a modern child were required to commit the Iliad to memory without understanding one word of it. Toward the end of the period the child was given a translation of what he had learned, and taught a little writing and easy composition. In this connection I can scarcely do better than quote Père L. Richard:

The whole system labored under serious disadvantages, resulted in a considerable waste of time and had little educational value. The memory and imitative powers were marvelously developed, but the mind was not stored with valuable ideas nor trained in precision and accuracy, and there was an utter lack of originality.

Secondary education comprised the study of Chinese literature, and history, the writing of literary essays and stilted verses. When ready the student might go up for examination. The first examination was held yearly in the prefectural cities (which may be roughly likened to county-seats) throughout the empire. The successful candidates received the degree of hsiu-ts'ai, and were privileged to attend the second examination held every third year in the provincial capitals. The severity of the competition can be judged from the fact that where from twelve to twenty thousand were examined, only about one hundred would pass. These received the degree of chü-jên, and were allowed to attend the examination at Peking, also held once in three years. Here, out of 6,000 candidates about 300 would pass and receive the degree of chin-shih. These degrees are often compared to the B.A., M.A. and Ph.D., but the comparison is totally misleading. The Chinese idea of them is shown by the fact that in the modern system the first degree is given grammar-school graduates, the second to high school graduates, and the third upon the completion of professional courses, such as law or engineering. The criteria were skill in the composition of literary essays, in which adherence to prescribed form was desired rather than originality, and purely mechanical proficiency in writing the characters. It will be seen at once that this was a system of elimination rather than of education, and it is not remarkable that the educational results thus obtained were comparatively barren. Prom this cause, and others too