Page images

to show that the professions of merchant and banker demand as much intelligence as any other."

The view of the founders of the school was that the study of commercial, equally as of other, subjects may be made the basis of a liberal education. What the Ecole Centrale does for engineering and manufacturing industry, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales is intended to do for mercantile pursuits. This school is situated in a fashionable quarter of Paris, in the Boulevard Malesherbes. The site on which it stands cost over 20,0007., and is now worth considerably more. The building contains spacious apartments for administrative purposes, two lecture theaters, twelve class-rooms, or comptoirs, ten examination rooms, a mercantile museum, a chemical laboratory, and a good commercial library. It consists of a boarding establishment, as well as of a day school. The school was opened in the year 1881, and the number of students has since then increased from 50 to 128. The fees are high: 40l. a year for day students, and 1127. for boarders; but in order to enable poor students to enter the school, several exhibitions have been provided by the Government, by the Chamber of Commerce, by the Municipal Council of Paris, by the Bank of France, and by a large number of public companies, and by private individuals, among whom M. Gustav Roy, late President of the Chamber of Commerce, to whose initiative the school owes much of its success, should be specially mentioned. These facts indicate the estimation in which the education afforded in this school is held by different public bodies, as well as by merchants and bankers in Paris.

As regards the curriculum, I will here only mention that ten hours a week are given to the study of foreign languages, in addition to the time devoted to foreign correspondence, and that English or German, and either Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese, are obligatory. To some of the more important subjects of special instruction reference will be made later on; but the purpose of the ten examination rooms requires some explanation. In this school, as in all the higher schools of France, the periodic examination of the students forms an essential part of the instruction. The salles d'examen serve a very different purpose from the examination room of an English college or university, in which the student is employed for three hours in writing answers to printed questions. In France, examinations like laboratory practice or exercises form part of the machinery of instruction. The salles d'examen are small compartments, each of which is just capable of accommodating the examiner and two students. The furniture consists of a blackboard, a desk, and two chairs. About once in three weeks, each student is separately examined on every subject in which he receives instruction. The examinations take place daily from 4.30 to 6, and every student is

expected to attend two or three times a week to answer, orally and in writing, questions on his work, and to submit for inspection and correction his notes of lectures, drawings, accounts, exercises, etc. At the end of each course there are also general examinations, which correspond more nearly with our own, but differ in this respect, that each student draws by lot the questions he is to answer from a large number of questions previously prepared by the examiners. The system of marking, on the result of these examinations, is very complicated.

Schools of commerce in France are not yet placed on the same footing as other high schools, in affording exemption to the students from military service. This is a boon much sought after. At the International Conference on Industrial Education held last year at Bordeaux, one of the resolutions agreed to was, that the Minister of War be asked to assimilate the leaving certificates of schools of commerce to those of other schools, in so far as they confer the rights of the voluntary service. This concession, it is believed, would have the effect of considerably increasing the number of schools of commerce, and of the students attending them; and the fact that it is accorded to similar schools in Germany is urged as an additional reason for seeking it.

Germany still stands ahead of all other nations in the excellence of its primary and secondary schools. The well-known Realschulen, many of which now comprise ten classes, and are co-ordinate with the Gymnasia, afford an education which is perhaps the best possible general preparation for commercial or trade pursuits. In these schools the classical languages are not taught, and the time thus saved is devoted to modern languages and science. In addition to these schools, schools of commerce are found in nearly all the large towns of Germany. There are certain differences between the systems of commercial education, and indeed of education generally, as adopted in Bavaria, Saxony, and Prussia, which are fully described in the Report to which I have already referred. The most important point to observe is, that in most of the German schools, instruction in commercial subjects forms part of the ordinary school education, which is not specialized to the same extent as in the corresponding schools of France. The mercantile schools are well attended, and they are practically independent of Government aid. Several of the Real schools have a commercial department; but besides these, there are in Germany seventeen special schools of commerce, the leaving certificate of which is recognized as conferring the right of one year's military service; nine middle schools, with a less extended curriculum; and a large number of evening schools, which are attended by clerks, merchants' apprentices, and other persons engaged in mercantile houses. The fees in the ordi

nary Realschule vary from 27. to 4l. a year. In the commercial schools the fees are three or four times as much. Moreover, few of the commercial schools are as well housed as are the Real schools, nor do they possess the same appliances for practical teaching. Nevertheless, they are well attended; and the reason assigned is that lads who have received their education in a commercial school are more sought after in commercial houses, and more readily find places, than those coming from an ordinary school. The difference in curriculum is not great; but while, in the commercial school, due provision is made for the child's general education, the requirements of the merchant's office are carefully considered in the teaching of all the subjects in the school programme. Thus, additional time is devoted to the study of modern languages, and especial attention is given to instruction in foreign correspondence. The study of mathematics is pursued so far only as is likely to be required by the future merchant, and the pupils are exercised in questions of exchange, arbitrage, and commercial arithmetic generally. The course of study also includes political economy, bookkeeping, and commercial geography. But the instruction is by no means as practical as in many of the French schools. Although the teaching in these schools is excellent of its kind, and evidently much sought after, it would be unsafe to ascribe to the existence of these schools the remarkable industrial success of the German people. Much more is due to the excellence of the primary instruction, to the fact that children remain at school till they have been able to fix in their minds the knowledge they have acquired, to the evening continuation schools in which they build upon early education, a sure foundation for higher specialized instruction, to the well-organized system of secondary education, and to the general appreciation and love of learning, which, owing to the existence of these educational agencies, is diffused throughout all grades of society, and has produced habits of thought and aptitudes for work which unfortunately are at present wanting among the same classes of our own people. With the view of meeting the requirements of young men who desire to attend special courses of instruction on commercial subjects, some of the Polytechnic schools of Germany have arranged courses of lectures, which are intended for those who are seeking places under Government in the customs or excise offices, but are followed by other students, who have received their early education at a Gymnasium or Realschule, and whose circumstances enable them to spend a year or two at college before commencing business.

In Austria-Hungary there are nine high schools of commerce, eleven intermediate schools, and forty-two schools intended principally for clerks. There is nothing that calls for special notice in the subjects of instruction in these schools. The course of study is

very similar to that in the corresponding schools of Germany. The most important of the high schools is in Vienna, and is known as the Handels Akademie. It gives two courses of instruction, the one occupying three years and the other two years. The subjects of instruction are nearly the same as those of the French high schools. The methods are different. Great attention is given to the analysis of trade products with the view of detecting adulteration, and the school contains large and well-fitted laboratories. The school is attended by 700 students, who are taught by 34 professors and instructors. The fees for paying students are 167. a year, and about 150 students are admitted with exhibitions covering the whole or part of the cost of instruction. In Germany proper, there is no school exactly corresponding with the Handels Akademie of Vienna, which has more the character of a Commercial University than any other institution I have visited. During the winter months the academy is open in the evening for the instruction of clerks and others engaged in business during the day.

In Italy, the subject of commercial education is receiving careful attention. The system of bifurcation commences immediately after a child has left the elementary school. Those intended for industrial. pursuits pass on to the so-called Technical School (Scuola Tecnica), and thence to the technical institute. Others pass through the corresponding classical schools to the university. The technical institute corresponds to some extent with the higher Real schools of Germany; but each institute contains three or more separate departments, in which the instruction is specialized, with a view to different branches of industry. There are sixty-five technical institutes in Italy, in many of which there is a department entirely devoted to commercial education. The Italians are by no means satisfied with their present system, and contemplate making some important changes, with the view of better defining the instruction given in their several schools. Meanwhile, they have recently established a higher commercial school at Genoa, on the model of the well-known but somewhat antiquated school at Venice, with a curriculum following more closely that of the high schools of Paris. When I visited this school in April last, only the first year's course of study had been arranged; but I was struck with the thoroughness with which the subject of geography is taught, with the attention given to the practice of map-drawing, and with the carefully-selected library of works on the history of commerce, mercantile law, and statistics. In a few years the school will take rank with some of the best schools in Europe.

In Belgium there are numerous middle schools, the object of which is to prepare youths for commercial pursuits. The fact that the children of the middle-classes are destined, for the most part, to

earn their livelihood in trade or commerce, is recognized in the general scheme of intermediate education adopted in Belgium, and the course of school studies is arranged accordingly. The youths who are trained in these schools receive that kind of instruction which can be made at once available in their several subsequent occupations. Besides these schools, in which the bulk of the population, whose education is extended beyond the limits of primary instruction, receive their training, there has existed for some years at Antwerp a commercial academy, in which the principals of a large number of Belgian firms have obtained their business education. The commercial academy of Antwerp deserves fuller consideration than the space at my disposal enables me to give to it. It is one of the oldest of the commercial schools of Europe. It sends out annually a number of young men proficient in foreign languages, well trained in commercial science, and with an intimate knowledge of the ordinary details of office work. The school is provided with an excellent museum, in which are found well-arranged specimens of all kinds of raw materials and manufactured products. By its system of traveling scholarships the school has been able to form centers of trade in different parts of the world, and the value of the education afforded in the school is fully attested by the readiness with which those who obtain the leaving certificate are enabled to find places in merchants' offices.

There are several subjects in the curriculum of foreign schools of commerce which require special notice. As has been already pointed out, a large amount of time is devoted to the study of foreign languages, and the pupils are exercised in reading and writing the forms of documents which they would be likely to meet with in the mercantile office. This system of teaching foreign languages differs essentially from that adopted in our own schools. A boy may leave school, where he has learned for some time French or German, and may be capable of reading, with or without the help of a dictionary, portions of Racine or Molière, of Schiller or of Goethe. But when he finds himself in a commercial office, and has a French or German business letter placed before him, he discovers that his previous knowledge helps him very little to understand it, and that he is quite unable to reply to it. Even the handwriting presents an initial and not inconsiderable difficulty, and he is wholly unfamiliar with technical expressions the letter contains. The employer's confidence in the youth's knowledge of foreign languages is thus shaken, and the letter handed over to the foreign correspondence-clerk, who, owing to the special instruction he has received in a commercial school, enters the office with a knowledge and experience which he is able at once to utilize.

Practice in corresponding in foreign languages is afforded in all

« PreviousContinue »