TO those Americans whose knowledge of Roumania is based on the fascinating short stories of Konrad Bercovici, that country must seem but the land of the vagrant "Tzigani", of highway robbers and gypsy caravans—the trail of romantic adventure. But in point of fact a Roumanian, within or without the boundaries of his country, is not very much different from his brothers of the Nordic and Alpine race in knowledge and culture.
Despite the erroneous impression that Roumania is a backward country—savage and uncivilized, because its illiteracy covers 50 percent of the population (as if all culture could be reduced to the spelling and writing of A. B. C.'s)—Roumania is heir to a legacy of twenty-five centuries of culture, handed down since the fifth century B. C. by the Dacians of Buorabista to the present day Roumanians.
These traditions of twenty-five centuries of Roumanian culture have formed in the course of time a national consciousness, aware of its debt to the moulding influences of the past and of its responsibility toward the future, shaping its educational policies with the view of creating ideal citizens.
Roumanian education, in addition, bears the stamp of Latin culture, the imprint of which, slightly obliterated under the Slavonic influence of the church during the Middle Ages, and the Greek religious sway of the following centuries was strongly marked after the vogue of the neo-hellenic literature at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries.
French writings and French ideals for Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood, invaded the soul of the Roumanian Reformer of the 19th century and when, in 1864, the first Law of Compulsory Education was passed, it bore the earmarks of Latin ideals.
I. Elementary Education:
In Roumania, the educational system is divided into four categories: elementary, secondary, graduate and superior. Compulsory education only applies to the first of these classes.
The machinery, however, set aside for the enforcement of this Law was too inadequate to make it effective outside of the cities. The Law provided for compulsory attendance in the Primary Public Schools of children between 7 and 12 years of age. But few of the peasant children went to school and this accounts for the high illiteracy percentage in Roumania prior to the war. However, immediately after the armistice, the rural administrative bodies were entrusted with the enforcement of the Compulsory Education Law in order to prevent any truancy, due to either the parental neglect or the child's aversion to learning. It is interesting to notice the enthusiasm for schooling which was aroused among the peasant class following the creation, in 1919, of Parents' and Teachers' Associations throughout the cities and the rural districts. The increase in school attendance is well illustrated by Table I on elementary education, which shows clearly that the majority of school children are in the rural sections and that the number of peasant girls attending school is five times greater in 1920-1921 than it was in 1900-1901.
This fact also proves that the peasant, intrusted with responsibility, has developed initiative and understanding in coping with the problems concerning the welfare of his community. Nowadays all the peasant children attend school because their fathers, aware through their own experience of the drawbacks of illiteracy, accept the responsibility of keeping up, reconstructing and even building anew their village schools, for which teachers are provided by the Ministry of Education.
The curriculum of all Primary Schools, throughout the country, is uniform as to subject matter, class hours and leisure time activities. The program comprises the teaching of reading and writing, the history and geography of Roumania, arithmetic, grammar and an art or craft, at choice.
The uniformity in discipline and studies, from the social and political point of view, is due to the state's desire to offer equality of treatment to all its subjects. In the light of utilitarian or pragmatic philosophy it might be considered as a common standard to heighten the level of intellectual achievement.
II. Secondary Education.
A. The Normal School.
Some of the peasant children, who have graduated from the rural public schools, can acquire, along with their city brothers, free advanced education on the basis of scholarship and intellectual endowment. Selected by their rural school teacher and the School Inspector, they are boarded and educated scot free in one of the 58 Boys' or Girls' Normal Schools for Rural Teachers. There the "Normalists" get the necessary training to become teachers. Emphasis is placed on pedagogical methods, literary knowledge of the language, the history and geography of the country, physics, chemistry, natural sciences, child psychology, singing, physical education, folk lore and folk dance, appreciation of art, including Roumanian peasant art. After six years of training, the graduates of the Normal schools, averaging 18 or 19 years in age, accept a three-year position in one of the rural schools selected by the Ministry of Education. At the end of their three-year teaching experience they can climb the ladder of didactic hierarchy by passing the "capacity" examination, which enables them, if they so desire, to become urban teachers. Thus the peasant stock keeps swelling the tide of "bourgeois intelligentsia." The total number of Normal school graduates for the year 1920-1921 was 4,284. (See Table II.)
B. The Lycée.
The public school graduates of the middle class, who seek higher enlightenment for the benefit of ultimately acquiring a "liberal profession", enter one of the 84 Lycées scattered throughout the capital cities of the 76 "departments" or counties.
Education in the Lycees emphasizes the positive sciences or the classics according to the individual interests of the students. Those who follow the "Liceul Real" or Modern Lycée, take, during the eight years of training, besides grammar, literature, history, geography, mathematics, algebra, trigonometry, cosmogony, astronomy, psychology, history of international culture and art, physics, chemistry and natural sciences, eight years of French literature and history, seven years of German and six years of either English or Italian or another modern language. Those who prefer the humanities to positive science have, along with the regular curriculum, seven years of Latin and six of Greek, in place of modern languages, as the emphasis is naturally laid upon the classics.
At the end of the eight year Lycee course, the students who are approximately 18 years old, get their degree of Bachelor of Arts, which gives them the right to enter the University.
The total number of Lycee graduates for the year 1920-1921 was 3,501. (See Table II.)
C. The "Gymnaziul", or Secondary School, has the same curriculum as the Modern Lycee but disregards the Classics.
There were 4,368 graduates for the year 1920-1921. (See Table II).
D. The Seminaries are theological schools, with either six or eight years of training, preparing young men for priesthood. Their graduates, after being ordained, become the clerical representatives in rural communities, the lowest grade of Church hierarchy. The number of graduates for 1920-1921 was 2,660.
E. Trade Schools in Roumania offer to the student the equivalent of "Lycee training", with emphasis upon modern languages (French, German and English or Italian) mathematics, economics, trade, business and banking. The graduates of those schools assume clerical positions in banks or industrial concerns. Their number for 1920-1921 totaled 2,940.
F. High Schools for arts and crafts, elementary agriculture, viticulture, arts, professional and domestic science offer opportunities for professional training to students with little interest in positive science or modern languages and a major interest in manual work, home life or out-of-door occupations.
G. Private Education. It would be an unjustified omission to neglect mentioning in this study the valuable contribution of private initiative and endeavor to the educational problems of the country. In the past it has been the pioneer along lines of cultural progress, and during the last five years it has attracted the attention of the social reformer, thanks to the recognition by the Treaty of Trianon of the minorities' rights.
The Bill of 1925 on Private Education formulated by Dr. C. Anghelescu, Minister of Public Education, recognizes within the Roumanian boundaries the minorities' rights to their own churches and schools, having programs approved by the Ministry of Public Instruction.
In spite of this conciliatory attitude on the part of the State, however, the Catholic Confessional Schools (Reformed and Unitarian) put before the League of Nations a complaint against the right of the Roumanian government to exercise control over their schools.
The Special Committee on Minorities, on the question of Private Education in Roumania, appointed by the League of Nations to include representatives from Great Britain, France and Japan, sanctioned in its session of October 25th, 1920, the "State's right to exercise control." This resolution was endorsed by Lord Cecil in his letter to Mr. I. Duca, Roumanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, under date of March 18th, 1925.
The following figures will demonstrate the friendly attitude of the Roumanian Government toward the minorities' private education schemes.
(a) In Bukovina, prior to the war, there were only three German Lycees for the year 1913-1914*. There were 10 German, Roumanian and Russian private Lycees during 1922-1923, with a registration of 1953.
(b) In Bessarabia there were 16 Russian, French, German and Hebrew Lycees for the year 1913-1914, while there were 42 in 1922-1923.
(c) In Transylvania the confessional schools of the Hungarians, the Germans and the Hebrews totalled 814 in 1913-1914, while they reached 1,272 in 1922-1923.
(d) In the Old Kingdom the German, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian, Armenian and Turkish schools amounted to 526 for the year 1913-1914 with a registration of 42,999 students. In 1924 the numbers have decreased to 279 for the schools and 38,974 for registered students.
*Figures from Bill of 1925 on private education.
H. Graduate and Post-Graduate Education. Greater Roumania has since 1919:
(a) Four big universities in the cities of Bucharest, Czernowitz, Cluj and Jassy, including faculties of philosophy, law, sciences, theology, medicine, pharmacy, architecture, and business.
(b) Three conservatories of music and dramatic arts, in Bucharest, Chishinau and in Jassy.
(c) Two graduate schools of fine arts, in Bucharest and Jassy, having a total registration of 19,385 students for the year 1920-1921. (See Tables III and IV).
The entrance requirements to these universities and graduate schools are the presentation of the degree of Bachelor of Arts granted upon the termination of the eight year course of the Lycees, Gymnazia and Secondary schools, a degree which equals the French "Baccalaureat" since it gives access to the Western European universities as well.
After a four year course at the university, the students get their Master of Arts, but in order to teach, even in the Lycees and Secondary Schools, they must pass the "professorate contest."
The Doctor's degree is granted to students who have successfully defended the subject matter of an original thesis before the members of the University Council. No residence requirements are requested from the candidates to the Doctor's degree. They are expected to be familiar with the scientific approach to any problem, even though it might be beyond the realm of their immediate interest.
This is, on the whole and in rough outline, the educational system of Roumania.
One might mention the underdeveloped physical education and sporting life, so important in Anglo-Saxon universities, as well as the absence of social activities, and the lack of opportunities for developing a friendly relationship between the professors and the student-body. This is something for the younger generations to work out in the near future. Already new horizons are looming in university life. The City of Bucharest considers the possibility of building a university campus on the lines of those of Cambridge and Oxford, with opportunities for the students in economics and sociology to experiment and carry out social work in Bucharest.
With this Anglo-Saxon realization of a national dream, Roumania could claim that, within the short period of years which elapsed since her independence after the Russo-Turkish War of 1878, she had lifted herself from the chaotic state of medieval backwardness to the level of western civilization.