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make honourable. Up these classic steps, Mr. Carlyle :
we follow. . . .

To commemorate the siege of Leyden, Holland
erected this University. To commemorate the Peace,
she drained the Beemster lake. And still the Waterstaat
and Education are the great facts in Dutch life, or
shall we say, the Waterstaat, Education, and Calvinism ?
Institutions change at the pressure of modern needs ;
and sometimes, it seems, on the demand of ancient
revivals. But at their heart they have in keeping the
old ideals.

Here in the Academie on the Rapenburg is surely
the heart of Dutch Education. Reviewing it from here,
shall we not be in touch with a tradition that still
inspires it?



CHAPTER XXV
THE PUBLIC SCHOOL BOY

THE Dutch infant enters public life at the ripe age
of seven. The mysteries of his nursery before
that are discreetly related in their proper place. At
seven, the State takes hold of him for instruction in
" all social and Christian virtues." Yet even before that
he may have been the object of public concern, for if
he is sent to a bewaar school, or kindergarten, that
school and its equipment, if not actually the instruction
given in it, will have been inspected and approved by
the communal authorities. Their powers are great.
I think I am right in saying that they even safeguard
him from a false start by discouraging the teaching of
reading and writing in the bewaarschool. And thus it is
true of even the infant in Holland that he is protected
from falling for his education into unsanctified hands.

These Infant Schools exist mainly through private
initiative, partly disinterested, partly sectarian, which in
a comparatively short time has helped to establish them
in quite half the communes in the country. They relieve
tired mothers and overtasked households of some 140,000
children between three and six. Being unorganised,
they vary in efficiency. One sometimes hears that in
staffing and health conditions they leave much to be
desired. I have never been inside one, but have often

watched their methods out of doors, in the streets and

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310 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

squares in summer, and, seeking myself the shady side
from which to be an observer, have admired the gusto
with which both children and teachers perspired at
the study of " Ring-a-ring-of-Roses " and the like.

Is it, perhaps, to these exercises that is due a change
that has come over Amsterdam streets? One day
last June, in the always lively Leidsche Kade, I saw
a company of ragged little street girls dancing to the
beat of a barrel-organ with a precision and art and
merry rhythm of rags that left Drury Lane not a
two-step behind. So far as I can remember, that is
something new for Holland.

The bewaarschool is now so important an institution
that one may expect it soon to receive more official
recognition. So far, however, the State regards the age
of six as the beginning of the career of instruction, under
a strictly certificated and supervised teaching staff.

This barring-out of the untrained, or at least the
uncertificated teacher, is the corner-stone of the Dutch
educational system, and it is laid with characteristic
precision and thoroughness. No one is allowed to teach
in any school who is not able to satisfy, and continue
to satisfy, the appointed examiners as to his or her
equipment and morals. You cannot open an adventure
school unless you hold a head-teacher's certificate.
Those who had opened them previously to 1878, when
that regulation was introduced, had to pass the new
examination demanded by the Education Act of that
year. Teachers cannot be employed in adventure
schools who have not passed the examinations demanded
of teachers in the State schools.

Neither in one school nor in another are the
unqualified allowed to teach. You may not give
instruction in any language unless you have passed
a special examination in that language ; and this applies




OLD1DUTCH CHILD'S CHAIR

FROM THE PAINTING BY JOSEF ISRAELS



THE PUBLIC SCHOOL BOY 311

even to those to whom that language is native. When
English, French, or German girls, say, teach in Dutch
schools, they can do so as assistant teachers without
a certificate up to the age of nineteen ; but after that
they must have qualified by passing precisely the same
examination in the language they profess (which in most
cases, of course, is their own language) as native teachers
in the higher-burgher schools ; and even then they must
have the Royal sanction.

Mr. J. C. Medd, whose report to the Board of
Education on Education in the Netherlands was an
excellent review of the field as it was ten years ago,
he caught it just as it was beginning to show the new
harvest, mentions, with a note of amusement, having
seen the authorisation by the Queen Regent to an
Oxford graduate to teach English at the private school
at Voorschoten. Foreign teachers over nineteen are
comparatively few in consequence.

We are now ready to follow the newly breeched
Dutchman to his primary school, public or denominational,
or adventure, but always State-supervised, which he is
compelled to enter at the age of seven. During the
next six years he is grounded in reading, writing,
arithmetic, the elements of his own language and history,
the elements of geography, nature-study, singing,
drawing, and gymnastic exercises or drill. The last,
though, like the others, it is compulsory, in many schools
was tacitly dropped owing to a popular opposition to it,
which may have had some special reason beyond the
Dutch dislike of militarism, and indeed of discipline,
which I have not discovered. A new ideal of education
is changing that. I saw a class in gymnastic drill
carried out with great spirit by both boys and master
in a school in a poor quarter of Amsterdam ; and the
reaction towards a greater attention to physical education,



312 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

which has been very marked in the last few years among
the educated classes in Holland, is undoubtedly showing
in the humbler also.

While the State lays down a cursus and strictly
supervises instruction for the primary schools, it at the
same time gives the local authority a considerable
discretion. It is, of course, in higher-grade schools and
in optional subjects that this discretion is exercised.
For the child's elementary instruction in the public schools,
the parent is charged a minimum fee of fourpence a week
(which is remitted if he is too poor to pay), and there
are many grades of schools in which the same
compulsory subjects are taught, but at higher charges.
The Dutch have not yielded to the doctrine that if you
force the child to be put to school you must pay his
fees. Education in Holland is compulsory, but it is not
free. At the same time, it is brought within the range
of all. A uniform instruction, in fact, is compulsory,
and charged for, but is made no hardship. That, at any
rate, is the ideal. At the same time, something beyond
this uniform instruction is offered for such as can pay,
and as show an aptitude for it.

In the higher-grade schools, and in many lower-
grade also wherever, in fact, there is a demand for
it, the law compels its supply there is teaching in
optional subjects : elementary French, German, and
English, general history, mathematics, drawing, and
gymnastics. Of the discretionary powers left to the
local authority, I will content myself with one example.
It illustrates also the ideal of the Amsterdam regulations,
to give to every boy who can take advantage of it an
opportunity of learning a foreign language. In the
ordinary course of primary instruction (gewoon lager
onderwys) no foreign language is included ; at the same
time, in Amsterdam, selected pupils are afforded special



THE PUBLIC SCHOOL BOY 313

instruction in the evening, during the last two years of
the cursus, in French, German, and English, at choice ;
and I may add that most choose English, because they
aim at entering offices where that language will be of
most use to them. But there are some, at any rate,
who take French in order to qualify for entrance to the
higher-burgher schools, for which (as we are to see)
some knowledge of French is generally demanded.
This special evening teaching during two years is
supplemented, for such as pass the examination at the
end of them, by two years' continuation instruction in
languages by day ; which also is so arranged, as
regards the course of study, as to extend the opportunity
to those who may not have taken the earlier evening
classes.

In the extended course of primary instruction
(meer uitgebreid lager onderwys ; hence those schools
are known as MULO), on the other hand, French is a
compulsory subject.

The latest development of the Amsterdam effort in
the teaching of languages is its concentration in a special
school, with a three years' course in two foreign tongues.

I desire as far as possible to keep out of this
summary account of education in Holland the mention of
the religious strife which has torn the country for more
than a generation. The reader knows the general outline
of its history from earlier chapters. But I should not be
justified in leaving unrecorded an opinion I have often met,
that the education in the public school, so far as relates
to the instruction determined by law, is, on the average,
more efficient than that of the private schools of all kinds.
As a matter of fact, this question cannot well be discussed
in Holland without prejudice. These private schools,
efficient or inefficient as may be, are on the increase, and
are attended by an increasing number of children. The



314 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

latest figures I have seen are for 1908. According to
them, there were in that year 3274 public schools (an
increase in twelve months of 8), and 1885 private schools
(an increase in the same period of 108); the public
schools were attended by 563,187 scholars, as against
564,445 in 1907, and the private schools by 316,088,
as against 302,305. So far as they are comparative, I
should regard these statistics as conveying information in
respect of the politics, rather than of the education, of the
country. The opinion I have quoted above is possibly
one which prejudice prolongs after it has ceased to be
justified. Private schools doubtless were inferior, but
now that they have become State-aided, and subject to
increased State supervision, they are, one would suppose,
improved.

But there is still another aspect of the matter which
I must glance at before passing on. It has been repre-
sented to me frequently that many teachers in the
elementary public schools have a baneful influence. The
Teacher's Bond, in this view, is a powerful agency for
stirring up class hatred, and some of its members are
Socialists of an aggressive type, exhibiting a violent
partisan spirit, which as much as anything also explains
the rise and flourishing of the " Schools with the Bible."
I am not here reciting the opinion of the Antirevolu-
tionnairs alone, but that also of several anti-Clericals,
who supported it to me by specific instances of intolerable
abuse of the teachers' position.

There is much light thrown upon education proper
by the figures that relate to the enforcement of the
compulsory principle. Briefly, the law compels regular
attendance at a primary school, or qualified instruction at
home, from the age of seven onwards for six years, or
until the six classes of the cursus have been passed. The
parent who fails to carry out this provision js visited by



THE PUBLIC SCHOOL BOY 315

the inspector, and is next called before the Commission
for Prevention of School Neglect. Should the child fail
to attend a school within fourteen days thereafter, the
inspector enrolls his name in one or other school, and
failure to present the child there, and keep him there in
regular attendance, results in the parent being charged
before the Canton-judge. I need not go into the various
penalties inflicted for neglect; they rise at a fourth
conviction to a fine of 253., and at a fifth to one of
4, 3s. 4d., and ultimately to imprisonment for seven
days. These regulations, with their penalties, apply equally
to parents who elect to have their child educated at
home. The Commissions which I have mentioned above
are to be found in all communes. They number nine
members, elected by the communal council from among
parents and guardians, school teachers, and, indeed, all
inhabitants who have attained their majority. To this
compulsory attendance at school, however, there are
exceptions. One great obstacle to it has always been the
demand for child labour in a country so greatly given up
to agricultural pursuits and to life on rivers and canals.
Another lies in the fact that many Dutch families live in
comparative isolation. The last condition is disappearing
with the rapid reclamation of the moors and fen-lands of
the east ; while reduction of the number of children who
live on ship-board is proceeding, at any rate on the Rhine,
with that of the skipper-owned Rhine boats under the
pressure of competition from the " office " (or company-
owned) barges. The difficulty in educating these Rhine-
boat children is increased by their speech being a
mixture of Dutch and German.

The waterways of Holland are crowded with small
craft, here to-day and away to-morrow, never in any haven
for long, but carrying merchandise between far-distant
places inland ; and on these vessels whole families live



316 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

from year's end to year's end. The boats are their only
homes.

Watch any of them enter a canal after a voyage.
They had come from far away up the Rhine, and one
would have thought that once they were again within a
Dutch canal the family on board would feel like sailors
arrived in port. But no, river or canal is all the same to
them. Where their boat is, there they are at home.
The skippers are not yet done manoeuvring into the locks
when buckets are let down, and the women, without one
curious glance at the people on the quay, are busy
scrubbing and polishing as if they lived anchored for ever
in a cottage in the polders.

I once committed myself to the opinion that there
is nothing degrading in that condition of living, and
sometimes it justifies the picture I drew of vessels
scrupulously clean and neat, "painted like toys, with pots
of flowers and cages of song-birds in the cabin windows,"
like the Dutch ships of another class that made Dysart
notable for Mr. R. L. Stevenson. One such I saw at
Enkhuizen the other Sunday morning, as trim and self-
respecting a craft as civilisation can show. But I should
no longer subscribe to an idyllic view of life on canal
boats, as you can see it while they crawl from town to
town ; the lad on the bank straining himself at the long
rope from the masthead, or urging the canal horse to the
same work ; his elder brother laboriously poling, while
a sail is rigged to catch any wind that may be going ; the
skipper hanging leisurely over the helm, or his wife or
daughter taking his place, while he sits " in slippers on
the break of the poop smoking the long German pipe ";
the stove in the cabin drawing comfortably, the dinner
cooking, the children playing about around the cargo. I
count it for very little that ladies in Holland have told me
that to live such a life on such a canal boat was the



THE PUBLIC SCHOOL BOY 317

dream of their childhood. One of these ladies has a
boy, I know, who has set his ambition on the career
of a tram-conductor. To punch anything, even tickets,
is a healthy aspiration, which, providentially, fades at the
touch of years.

These various impediments in the way of administer-
ing the Compulsory Education Act seem, on the whole,
to be reasonably met. Residence four or more kilometers
from a school exempts the parents from its regulations.
In regard to the ship-board population, no provision
appears to have been made by the Act; but I believe that
it is the practice to enforce attendance of its children at
the Navigation School at Rotterdam, or at the schools at
other ports of entry a large phrase for certain Dutch
anchorages. This scarcely realises the Dutch ideal of
continuous instruction, of which I shall have more to say
again, but it is doubtless as effective an arrangement as
the peculiar conditions admit.

A more serious difficulty comes from the demand of
the workers on the land for their children's labour. It is
found impossible to deny their right to it entirely. A
grant of temporary exemption for not more than six
weeks in the year, the vacation apart, lies with the local
inspector, as well as, I believe, with the headmaster, and
is permissible for a child who has reached the age of ten,
and can show a regular attendance (that is, who for two
consecutive months has not been absent on more than
two occasions without reasonable excuse) during the
preceding six months.

The applicant must prove a good case for the services
of the child being required in agriculture, gardening, or
the lifting of peat, and the leave may be granted for any
time of the year. Those who desire his labour ask for it
at the pressing seasons, and in the slack time take care
that his attendance is regular. A prudent solution. The






3i8 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

point, of course, is the amount of care with which these
exemptions are granted. If the conditions are observed,
they clearly argue a regular attendance during the greater
part of the year ; but I found some difference of opinion
about the discretion with which grants of absence are
issued.

Such, broadly sketched to suit the limits of this book,
is the scheme of Dutch primary instruction.



CHAPTER XXVI
THE SCHOOL IN THE CAREER

T T OLLAND'S most important industry is still that
JL JL of her schools. A whole system of her home
interests revolves around " exams." To a Dutchman his
career is his education, and the turning-point in it arrives
for him early. It is in the choice offered him at the
responsible age of thirteen that I can best catch for the
reader some flying glimpses of Dutch secondary education.
With his thirteenth year the boy (Jaap will identify
him) has achieved the highest standard at the public
elementary school. Coming, we will suppose, out of a
good family, with traditions of culture and learning, he
has been bred to pretensions of being an educated man.
The ways now part in front of him. For in the higher-
burgher school (hoogere-burger school}, on the one hand,
with its excellent and wide, possibly too wide, instruction
in science and modern languages, the historical and
literary studies are circumscribed, and the classics are
not taught at all. Latin is left to the Latin school or
gymnasium, in the time - tables of which modern
literatures do not appear, and modern languages occupy
very little space. The gymnasium is officially regarded
as for higher, not secondary, education ; yet it is the
alternative to the higher-burgher school. So that if
Jaap now decides for the higher-burgher school, he is

renouncing the University for a technical or commercial

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320 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

career. He may rue his choice later on, and cross over
to the gymnasium by the paths of private tuition and
study, but like all who take a cross-cut he will run a
risk of losing his way, and in practice he very seldom
does take it.

This has the advantage, common to the whole Dutch
educational system, of orderliness and a fixed purpose,
but its disadvantages are at least as evident. Thirteen,
it is admitted, is too early an age for a decision so
momentous and so difficult to revoke ; and there is a
movement to delay the bifurcation of the courses, and
to provide schools of general education (at which pre-
sumably Latin would be taught, though it need not be
obligatory), carrying the boy forward from the primary
schools to fifteen or sixteen, when he is more competent
to decide upon a career. It is on this system, I believe,
that a recently established lycte at the Hague is arranged.

Jaap, however, has decided for himself already. His
ambitions are set upon commerce, or a professional or
Civil Service post accessible through the polytechnic
at Delft, or the Indian or scientific courses at the
Universities. He can realise them by way of the
higher-burgher school, and so his choice falls on it
instead of on the gymnasium. Unless he live in a
very remote countryside, he will have no difficulty in
finding a school near his own home ; in any case, the
obstacle must be great which prevents him attending
one or other of the seventy or eighty higher-burgher
schools distributed throughout the country State,
communal, and private, the last echoing the religious
strife. The reason why their number cannot be stated
precisely is, that a commercial school here and there is
doubtfully possessed of the title ; a symptom that the
practical instruction in the higher- burgher school is
being more and more emphasised.



THE SCHOOL IN THE CAREER 321

At thirteen or fourteen, then, Jaap sits the ex-
amination for entrance to his new school, French being
a compulsory subject. He passes it very well, for his
was a primary school with an extended course, and in
the weeks since he left it he has been further brushed
up privately in the special subjects. The standard set
is fairly within the capacity of any boy in his circum-
stances who enjoys good health as well as a sound
intelligence. But there are many failures, and they are
more numerous in some schools than in others, owing
to the latitude allowed in drawing the regulations. The
communes are left much discretion. French is not
always compulsory, for example. The fees, too, vary ;
from 2, i os. in small and southern towns, to 16 in
some city schools, and even more if the parents are
forensen. And they are often remitted. A custom is
growing up, throughout the whole educational system,
of making rebates according to income. The variation
of standard in the entrance examination and the school
course explains why one sometimes finds a boy living
and attending the higher-burgher school in a town far
off from that in which his family reside. Had Jaap, for
example, failed for his present school, he might have been
sent to another where entrance is easier, even though
that would dislocate family life and harry the family purse.

Thus all over Holland each year there are some
hundreds of boys of Jaap's age who are put upon their
mettle to pass into the higher-burgher schools of their
town, knowing well the disastrous result of failure to
themselves and their parents. The consequent anxiety
may not be enormous, for such burdens sit lightly on
most at thirteen. But the effect of this early impression
of the importance of education is not difficult to imagine.

The mill through which Jaap has elected to go, turns
him out at the end of five years. In some others the

21



322 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

course is for three years ; in others still, for three, with
two years of commercial education to follow. I have
already indicated the general lines of instruction : Dutch,
French, German, English ; the sciences ; geography,
history, book-keeping, drawing, and gymnastics ; all
(in the large towns, at least) taught in schools that are
admirably equipped. In many of them the standard is
rigorously enforced. The pupil does not rise from class
to class automatically. He is often kept back. I have
known cases where he was permitted to make the step
only after private tuition in a weak subject during the
vacation. From that training Jaap at eighteen, or even
earlier, ought to go out to the practical business of life
a well-instructed man, and I have no doubt that he will.

It is (nominally at least) through higher-burgher
schools that the civil servants, agricultural teachers and
advisers, foresters, and others have passed who study at
the well-known college of Wageningen, the crown of the
Dutch agricultural system of education. Its base may
be considered the innumerable winter courses organised
throughout the Provinces by the travelling teachers and
private societies ; while in the intermediate stage come the
thirteen winter schools, and special schools and courses in
dairying, horticulture, and forestry. To fill in its details is
impossible, but they are illustrated in two typical cases of
country boys whose lives are to be lived on the land.
I mean typical cases of such young working agriculturists
as take advantage of educational opportunities ; for it is
not pretended that the students are numerous. The
most enthusiastic do not picture the countryside agape



Online LibraryDavid Storrar MeldrumHome life in Holland → online text (page 23 of 31)