The following extracts from a letter on education in Egypt, reprinted in the Hillsdale Herald, may be of interest. The present khedive, who is a strong supporter of the education of women as well as men, has been doing much good to the cause since his accession to the throne.
"Several schools for boys he has already founded, and sends his own sons to them, while he has in contemplation the establishment of a girl's school in which his own daughter will be educated The public schools, supported by government, which were formed in the beginning of the century, by the enlightened Mehemet Ali, the founder of the present dynasty, are well organized and embrace a pretty thorough course of study. They are divided into civil and military schools, the latter of which include every branch of military education. The former are subdivided into primary, secondary, and special schools. Three years are spent in each of the first two; four years in the last. In the primary schools are taught the reading and writing of Arabic, arithmetic, and French; in the secondary or preparatory schools Arabic, Turkish, French, and English, pure mathematics, drawing, history, and geography. The special schools are devoted respectively to the subjects of law, medicine, and art, engineering, etc. Besides there are government schools for the blind, those supported by the various Christian communities, both native and European, and the almost infinite number of "Free schools" attached to the public fountains and maintained by the same charitable foundation as the fountain. Every visitor to Cairo is familiar with these. Passing a fountain at almost any time of the day, he will be pretty sure to hear from the building connected with it the babel of many infantile voices, pitched in all keys, and on looking in at the open door, he will see a confused mass of little human bodies squatted on the floor, rocking back and forth in well-kept measure, and repeating, parrot-like, the lesson of the day, each viewing with the others as a lung-tester; while in the background, squatted likewise on the pedagogical mat, is the instructor, whose chief business seems to be to keep up the rhythmical rocking and Babel of sound to its highest pitch. This he does by occasional adjuration, strengthened by applications of a long cane, which seems to be the chief badge of his profession, and by means of which he is able to reach the remotest delinquent without the trouble of rising from his seat."
"Perhaps the most remarkable illustration of native teaching in Cairo is to be found in the university, which is established in what was formerly a mosque. This is the university of the Mohammedan world. Students come hither to avail themselves of its instruction not only from all parts of Egypt, but from all over the Orient, and the number in constant attendance ranges from 10,000 to 12,000. For over 900 years this institution has kept the even tenor of its way in this same old mosque, in the same old fashion of teaching and learning, with the same old text-books, and if not with the same old instructors, at least under cover of their old prophetic mantle of blind intolerance. The president of the university is elected by the sheiks of the mosque, who are extremely jealous of their rights, and obstinately resist all the efforts made by the khedive to improve the character of the instruction given. Text-books once adopted are never changed, and the whole course of training consists in committing these treatises to memory."
The instruction given comprehends all degrees of advancement, from the first rudiments of the language to the most erudite disquisitions on mathematics, logic, philosophy, grammar, theology, and Mohammedan religion and law according to the different rites. The errors in both natural and mental science that must be transmitted from generation to generation, by the fanatical intolerance which bars out all "new-fangled" notions may be imagined, but it is doubtful whether their scholastic ignorance goes quite so far as is related of the college engineers, in Constantinople. not many years ago. A committee of foreign engineers had been invited by the government to investigate the workings of the institution. Among the questions propounded to the mathematical professor of the faculty was one desiring the number of right angles comprised in a right-angled triangle. The professor requested permission to consult with his colleagues before giving an answer to so knotty a question, and the next morning gravely returned with the answer that 'it depended on the size of the triangle!'"