<< The Lithuanian Word     << History     << Back    



EDUCATION. The first school in Lithuania to be mentioned in historical sources is the Cathedral School of Vil- nius, 1397. Known from the beginning of the 16th century are the second elementary school in Vilnius, St. John's, and a few in other cities. There were probably other elementary schools at that period, since the diocesan synod of Vilnius (1527-28) ordered the establishment of houses where pupils might live and study. The students were boys, mostly the sons of gentry and burghers. The first secondary school evolved from the Cathedral School of Vilnius when its curriculum was expanded to include rhetoric, dialectic, and music. This school prepared candidates for theological studies at the Academy of Cracow. To prepare students for Western European universities another secondary school was established in Vilnius in 1539. Special attention was given to Latin, Greek, and to classical culture. In charge of this humanistic school was Abraomas Kulvietis (q.v.), one of the best-educated men in Lithuania at that time. When he began to propagate Protestantism, the school was closed in 1542. St. John's School in Vilnius also became a secondary school in 1563, when courses in law were introduced.
The Reformation emanating from Western Europe in the 16th century gave impetus to the establishment of new schools. Catholics and Protestants, vying with one another, founded schools not only in the cities, but also on estates. The more notable Protestant secondary schools were established in Šiluva (1592), Kėdainiai (1625), and Slutsk (1626). The latter two were supported by the eminent family of Lithuanian nobility named Radvilas (Radziwill). In the school of Kėdainiai, called" gymnasium illustre, Greek, Latin, German, mathematics, philosophy, and Sacred Scripture were taught. With the school were a library of about 30,000 volumes and a press.
Catholic schools were established mostly by religious orders. Among these the predominant role was played by the Jesuits between 1569-1773. Their efforts were concentrated on colleges devoted to the humanities in the Western European style. The first college was founded in Vilnius in 1569. This formed the basis for the Academy of Vilnius, founded in 1579. By the end of the 16th century the Jesuits already had 5 colleges in Lithuania. In the 17th century the number rose to 25; during the 18th century it grew to 30. The most renowned were in Vilnius, Kražiai and Polotsk. In smaller Jesuit colleges courses lasted 3 years, in larger ones 5. Studies were arranged according to the curriculum established by the Society ot Jesus, called the Ratio Stitdiorum. The method was Scholastic and the language used, Latin, (gee Jesuits).
The Jesuits enjoyed the ims exclusiwum docendi, which forbade any other religious order from establishing schools in any place where the Society of Jesus had a school. The Plarists contested this privilege by establishing in 1718-53 about 10 schools called collegia nobilia (colleges of nobility). In
their curricula they introduced new subjects: geography, civics, natural sciences, business and agricultural administration, and modern languages (German, French and Russian). Teaching was in Polish rather than in Latin.
The entire course of studies required from 6 to 7 years. Vying with the Piarists, the Jesuits began in 1741 to modernize their colleges also. However, their order was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, and Jesuit schools and property were confiscated by the state.
To administer schools taken over from the Jesuits, and bother schools, a national Educational Commission (q.v.) was established in 1773, serving Lithuania and Poland. Lithuania was divided into 4 educational districts. In each a district school of 6 grades (7 years) was established together with several sub-district schools of 3 grades (6 years). In all, 28 state schools were established. Other secondary and primary schools remained private, in the hands of Augustinians, Basilians, and Piarists. The Educational Commission adopted a curriculum not much different from that of the Piarists; emphasis was placed on history and geography, law, natural sciences, and agriculture. The tenor of education was liberal, in keeping with the ideas of the Enlightenment then prevalent. The language used in teaching was changed from Latin to Polish. The Educational Commission decided to introduce compulsory schooling tor children 7-12 years old. This decision, however, was not implemented because the gentry objected to the education of the serfs. Supervision of all schools was assigned to the Academy of Vilnius, which was given the new title of Principal School of Lithuania. When Russia annexed Lithuania in 1795, the name was changed to Principal School of Vilnius. Deleting the name of Lithuania underscored the abrogation of the nation’s right of self-determination.
Text from the ENCYCLOPEDIA LITUANICA I-VI.  Boston, 1970-1978