Conditions of school life


School attendance becomes obligatory.
In 1831 the voters of Zurich accepted a new system of government, which divided the country into cantons and which also provided another important reform, that of mandatory schooling. In Hirzel there were just three schools: Kirche, Höchi and Spitzen and also three teachers, a new job title replacing the earlier one, "schoolmaster". In effect it was a "no cost" promotional device. Strickler appears to have been the most diligent and gifted of the lot. In any case he was the only one who implemented the use a newly introduced inspection and commentary book in which visiting pastors and local leaders could inscribe their observations about the number of pupils in attendance and the recently chosen school curriculum.

Examinations and Treats - (for 123 full day students).
The revitalized school evidently faired quite well., not only with the number of students, but also with regard to their performance. Rote learning requirements remained fundamentally in effect and at a level, which by today's concepts would be deemed excessive. By the end of the 1810/11 school year Pastor Schweizer was able to state that more than one hundred of the continuing pupils had memorized 1416 text extracts, 959 songs, 257 new songs and 200 pages from "Gessner's Lesson Book". On the other hand one had be patient with the behavior of the boys, until they advanced to a more elevated, more courteous level of comportment. To be sure, however, some of the boys and girls distinguished themselves with good behavior and exemplary comportment."

Report of Pastor Schweitzer concerning the exams of the full time students (grades 1-6): "On May 20 examinations of the full time students took place in the presence of the regional school authorities. First the new readers were presented for examination followed by those who had already learned much of the four required disciplines: reading, writing, arithmetic and singing. Then came the presentations by the pupils who had learned their assigned songs by heart. Also undertaken were reading exercises from the New Testament, a review of pupil report cards, and more readings, this time from Waser's pamphlets and from Schulthessen's "Kinderfreund". This was followed by a grammatical review of the material that had been read. Lastly there was a demonstration of memorized exercises in writing and calculating.

Of the 123 day students there were 67 boys and 56 girls. Within those were 52 who could read and write and 12 who could do so by heart. Several of the six to eight year olds did particularly well, partly resulting from their recitation of beautiful music and partly as a consequence of their attractive writing.

Also, I gave the children a short address in which I extended my best wishes to them. By virtue of a scholarly decree each child received a large dinner roll (which in those times was a very special treat)." One asks oneself how the schoolmaster ever managed to instruct such a large number of students in just one room. Fortunately for him, parents at that time had no reluctance to keep their children at home when needed, to the point where the pastor frequently had to admonish them from the pulpit to send their children regularly to school, achieving, thereby, primarily short term success. That the students showed so well in the examination process, in all probability could be attributed to the small reward program established by the regional school authority. Traditionally there had always been a range of incentives (1 to 5 Schillings), awarded in accordance with the level of exam performance. As we know, beginning in 1811 the traditional incentive became the "exam bread", although today it is not as highly esteemed by the students as it once was. Because of the large number of students the exams at times were conducted in the church, where in 1812 the pastor, as previously reported, exhorted the 113 upper level pupils (those who had completed six years of full day study and who were in the process of completing a final two year study program comprised of two mornings per week) and 142 full day students to press forward with their diligence.


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