Page images

frondeurs de Milan) had become the most peaceable of people. The fact is, that knowing, as I do well, what English elections are, I could not but admire the quiet, the order, and, above all, the absence of corruption which characterised the elections of Milan, and did its citizens such great honour.*

If the political state of a country, and the practical working of its political machinery, deserve special attention when seeking to form a correct idea of that country's condition; it is, nevertheless, true that there are also other subjects of the greatest importance which ought to be closely studied; as, for instance, the question of public instruction. That is a matter of the utmost importance in all countries, but especially in those which boast of being free, whose citizens have a large share in the direction of public affairs. Whoever sincerely loves free institutions ought to be the decided and active friend of popular instruction. Only by making it sound and effective, by spreading it in all directions, and by watching carefully over the spirit which directs it, can the edifice of a nation's liberties be established upon an enduring foundation. This truth has not escaped the Italians, and the Milanese especially have set themselves to practise it with an earnestness that deserves the highest praise.

The municipality of Milan appointed a commission, in 1860, composed of six very competent persons, to examine the state of popular education in



* The same is true of the general election of 1865, which the writer witnessed at Florence and in its neighbourhood.

that city, and to report upon it. That report, very detailed, and most carefully drawn up, was presented to the town-council on 6th May 1861. It showed that the number of scholars was, in 1859, 6100, and that in the beginning of 1861 they had increased to 6700; that the school accommodation had also increased in the same period from 84 school-rooms to 100; and that several of them which were not well arranged had been replaced by others which were much superior. The commissioners, whilst admitting this improvement, earnestly called the attention of the town-council to reforms still required, and to the standard which ought to be aimed at. They observed that the material condition of many schools left much to be desired; they insisted on the necessity of constructing more spacious and commodious localities, instead of hiring houses whose arrangements were but little adapted to meet the requirements of a school. They wished the salaries of the masters and mistresses to be augmented, besides giving them a regular increase of 100 francs every five years. They set forth the necessity of forming a superior school for young girls, as well as one for perfecting their education. In proposing these reforms the commission remarked that the development of instruction was the surest guarantee of the prosperity of the country; it therefore demanded, with a view to carry out such a work, that no sacrifice should be spared. The municipality hastened to follow the excellent advice of the commission, and to realise the greater part of the reforms suggested. It recast the system of instruction, and gave it fresh life by the application of the newest and most accredited methods of teaching. It still continues to push forward in the same direction. A few statistics will suffice to show what progress has been made in Milan, since 1861, in the matter of popular instruction :

1862-63 1863-64 1864-65

PRIMARY SCHOOLS. 13 Boys' Schools.


Girls' Schools. 4849 pupils 2986 pupils 5202

3480 5359


Total. 7835 8682 9004


Thus, in these schools, 22 in number, (13 for boys, and 9 for girls,) there were 9004 pupils in 1864–65, as compared with 6100 in 1859 to 1860.

Milan has, besides, three schools for technical instruction, (scoule techniche,) a superior institution of the same character, two gymnasiums, two lyceums, and two normal schools. All these schools and institutions are free. The elementary or primary schools are maintained at the expense of the municipality, and are entirely under its control. The government bears a part of the expense of the other establishments, and has a voice in their management. There are, besides, evening schools and festival schools, (scoule festive,) that is, schools opened on Sundays and certain saints' days. The evening schools were first instituted in 1861 by the municipality; they are frequented by men and lads of all ages, who come for instruction after their day's work. These schools are open from the middle of October to the end of


May. The numbers attending these evening schools amounted in 1864 to 1684. The “scoule festive," or festival day schools, established towards the close of 1862, are of the same kind as the evening schools, with, however, this difference, that the former are exclusively for young girls and women of the working-classes; while the latter (the evening schools) are only for boys, lads, and men. The scholars of the festival schools assemble on Sundays and certain saints' days, from one to four in the afternoon. In 1864 the number of girls and women who took advantage of these admirable institutions amounted to 1156. The evening and festival schools are free, being maintained at the expense of the municipality, which alone has the direction and care of them.

At the close of 1864 Milan possessed not less than 44 schools, containing 200 school-rooms, 275 teachers, and 12,695 pupils, as given in the following tabular statement:

Pupils. 22 primary schools


162 8 evening schools


1,684 8 festival schools

1,156 3 professional schools


483 I superior girls' school 3

95 I normal school (men)

65 I normal school (women)






[ocr errors]













* Two additional facts are not without interest. The numbers attending the primary, evening, and festival schools at the close of 1864 were, as given above, 11,844; in November 1865 they had increased to 13,057. The numbers attending the infant schools had increased at the same time from 1200 to 2684.

The infant schools, which depend wholly on private charity, although under government control, were seven in number in 1864, and contained 1200 children between the ages of two and six years old.

The city of Milan has increased its budget of public instruction from 100,000 francs allotted to it in 1859, to 564,000 francs in 1864. There is no town in Europe which can show a like increase for such a purpose in the same space of five years. In one of the most populous quarters of Milan, there is now constructing a vast school building, which will not cost less than one million francs. The municipality proposes to construct others to meet the wants of their city, whose scholars increase year by year. These facts and figures are striking proofs of the zeal and perseverance with which the civic authorities labour to insure and to advance the moral well-being of the people committed to their charge, as well as of the eagerness with which the Milanese take advantage of the means of instruction thus offered to them.

I did not, however, content myself with reading the reports. addressed to the municipality of Milan on the subject of their popular schools. I wished to look yet more closely into them, and to examine them for myself. Thanks to the kindness of more than one member of the School Commission, I was enabled to visit several of the elementary boys' and girls' schools, and also two or three of the evening schools. I remained two, three, and sometimes even four hours in each school, hearing the pupils read,

« PreviousContinue »