A Study into the History of grammar schools

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A grammar school is a fully selective school which is state funded and usually set up in English speaking countries like United Kingdom and United States of America. The history of grammar schools can be traced from the medieval monastic and cathedral Latin grammar schools which were found in western and central Europe. These schools had a special importance in preparing the pupils for priesthood. Scholars in such schools acquired flair with the Latin syllables, words, and rules of grammar essential to lead spiritual devotion. As time passed, particularly in Elizabethan England, such schools became popular as institutions that trained potential leaders of cathedral and state. The syllabus was narrowly traditional and humanistic, highlighting the reading, writing, and speaking of Latin and imparting a basic knowledge of Greek and sporadically Hebrew. This course of study in the grammar schools equipped the students for higher learning as against the small schools, which provided elementary teaching in reading and writing in the local dialect

Grammar schools were seen as the doorway to a moderate arts education with the basis of the ancient universities established in the late 12th century, and Latin was considered as the foundation of the education system. The Students in this period were generally provided education in grammar schools up to the age of 14. After this age they would go to universities and the Church to pursue higher studies. The first two schools which were self-governing and not dependent on the church wereâ€" Winchester College which was established in 1382 and Eton College set up in the year 1440. These schools were closely joined to the universities. An example of an early grammar school founded by a medieval borough corporation is Bridgnorth Grammar School. It was founded in 1503 by Bridgnorth Borough Corporation.

In the 16th century, when the English reformation was at its heights, most of the church schools were closed and they were substituted by new institutions which received funds from the closure of the monasteries. It is also true for one of the oldest existing schools in Wales which is Christ College, Brecon (1541) and the Friars School, Bangor (1557).These schools were set up on the location of previous Dominican monasteries. Grammar schools owe a great deal to King Edward VI who played a very significant part in the development of grammar schools. He founded a chain of schools during his time in power. It was not only King Edward VI but also King James I who founded a chain of ‘Royal Schools’ in Ulster. One of these schools is the Royal School, Armagh. These schools aimed at providing education to all classes of the society, especially to the poor but the children belonging to the poor families still remained uneducated because their parents considered their labour to be far more valuable than their studies.

In England, imperial grammar schools were greatly dependent upon tuition. The result was that, in such schools a serious proportion of students came from the upper classes only. In 1647, there was a protestant conviction that every human being should be capable to read the Scriptures. Therefore in the same year, the General Court of Massachusetts passed the Old Deluder Satan Act, legally necessitating cities of one hundred families or more to set up grammar schools. Over the next ten years, all eight towns in which hundred or more families were residing met with the terms of the Act.

During the later years of the seventeenth century, the number of imperial grammar schools increased as a result of the various laws all through New England. With a rapid increase in their number, the quality of these schools also improved. On the insistence of the societies promoting them, these Grammar schools were forced to enlarge syllabi to continue being competitive with newly budding ACADEMIES, which provided better education facilities and also offered a professional course for the students belonging to the rising middle class. As a result, by the year1750, many grammar schools offered courses in subjects like history, arithmetic, geography, and bookkeeping.

The popularity of the grammar schools started declining in the 1800s in spite of the expanding syllabus. One main reason for this was the increasing the increasing number of common or public schools. Its name was adopted by these public schools as they started a classification of age grading, sorting out younger students from older ones. Primary schools were established for children approximately five to nine years of age, corresponding with grades one through four. Intermediate or grammar schools were developed for students ten to fourteen years of age, corresponding with grades five through eight. By 1900, these two programs were integrated into a solitary, eight-year elementary school, also referred to as grammar school, which became the most prevalent type of school in the United States.

The Victorian period saw many great and remarkable developments in the education system of Britain. The parents were zealous about providing good quality education to their children. The schools of the period introduced new and latest syllabi but tried to maintain a classical base. These new schools had a propensity to imitate the modern public schools. They tried to imitate their curriculum, culture, philosophy and goal.

After World War II, the government restructured the secondary schools into two fundamental forms. Secondary modern schools were proposed for children who would be going into a trade and focused on the essentials and the practical abilities; grammar schools were meant for kids who would be going on to advanced learning and paid more attention to the classic subjects, science, etc. According to the Education Act 1907, it became compulsory for all the grant-aided secondary schools to offer at least 25% of their seats as free scholarships for the pupils from public elementary schools. Grammar schools thus surfaced as one part of the highly varied education system of England and Wales before 1944.

Being a famous form of school in the United Kingdom, Grammar schools are still very much in demand and are heavily oversubscribed. It is now known as a secondary school attended by students who are 11 to 18 years of age. The entry to these schools is aged 11 to 18 to which entry is a selective process and sometimes involves a written entrance test. After passing out from a grammar school, like with some other secondary school, a scholar may go into higher education at a college or university.