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It was not until quite recently that there were established any public institutions for the education of the Turkish youth except those common to Moslem countries, the Mahalle Mektebs or primary schools, and the Medresses or Mosque-Colleges. There have lately been founded in Constantinople, however, Rushdiyes or preparatory schools for those students who have finished the Mektebs. In these schools free instruction is given in the Turkish language, elementary arithmetic, Turkish history, and geography.
Next to these establishments come the Idadiyes or advanced preparatory schools, where the instruction is gratuitous and where the students remain from three to five years. In the Idadiyes the scholars are instructed in studies adapted to the careers they are destined to follow in the medical, military, marine and artillery schools to which they gain admittance on leaving the Idadiyes. Besides these schools the capital contains others of equal importance. There is a school forming professors for the Rushdiyes, a school where foreign languages are taught to some of the employees of the Porte, a forest school, and one for mechanics.
The chief characteristics of all these institutions are a want of a system of control, inattention on the part of the students, and incompetence on that of the professors. Although, besides these schools in the capital, there are Rushdiyes and even Idadiyes in many of the large country towns there are no schools of any kind in the country villages where the three R's are regarded as wholly superfluous luxuries. The mathematical and historical teaching is very deficient, and the whole system of instruction needs much improvement. There is a story told that a commissioner sent to inspect one of the schools where mathematics was somewhat lamely taught, asked the professor of mathematics how many right angles there are in a triangle. The professor after deliberating a moment or two asked permission to consult with his colleagues before answering. The next day the professor replied, not without pride, that it depended on the size of the triangle.
There is a strange custom in the boys' schools of mixing up the large boys of the first class with the little ones in order to break in the small boys to the school routine. In 1868 the Lyceum was established at Constantinople. This university is free to all Ottoman subjects. Foreign subjects are admitted on the payment of fees. languages, literature, history, geography, elementary mathematics, and physical science are taught. After much opposition and a precarious life, the Lyceum has at last gained a strong foundation and is accomplishing very laudable results.
The Medresses or Mosque-Colleges, supported by the Mosques to which they are attached, are the universities where the Softas and Ulemas, and lower down the Imauns and Kyatibs, study, and, so to speak, graduate. Language and theology are of most importance in the eyes of the Ulema (or Dons) of a Medresse. Language means grammar, rhetoric, poetry, calligraphy and almost anything else, in Arabic, Persian and Turkish. Theology includes the interpretation of the Koran and traditions. The instruction in the Medresses is not likely to advance in any great degree the cause of general enlightenment in Turkey, Quite recently a minister of public instruction, sitting upon a commission for looking into the state of the school of Turkey, on being shown some maps and mathematical problems executed by the pupils appeared entirely ignorant of their meaning and exclaimed, "Life of me! mathematics. geography, this, that, and the other, what use is such rubbish to us?" Most of these institutions, except the medical college, were formerly open to Christians only in name; under Ali and Fuad Pashas, however, they became open in reality to a few who were admitted to the schools on an equality with Mohammedans.
In spite of the simplicity with which the various branches of science and art may now be taught, they are not likely to make much advancement among the Mohammedans. These people display an astonishing apathy and a total absence of the spirit of inquiry and research. They confide the secrets of nature to the supreme care of Allah, and consider it entirely uncalled for to trouble themselves about such matters beyond the extent required for their common wants.
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