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SECONDARY AGRICULTURAL SCHOOLS IN RUSSIA.
In a country where 80 per cent of the people are engaged in farming it is but natural to expect that the agricultural schools should play an important part in the general system of education. The methods of farming employed by the Russian peasant are very primitive, and one of the gravest concerns of the Russian Government is the low productivity of farming, owing to the crude methods of cultivation generally in use.
The Russian peasant, contrary to what might be expected from the enormous area and sparse population of the Empire, is generally a small farmer. All the farming land in European Russia is already either in private hands or under Government reservation, and the only part open to settlement is in distant Siberia, famous for blinding snowstorms, howling wolves, and fierce Mongolian tribes, but comprising very fertile areas.
In order to subsist on his small farm the peasant must employ the modern methods of intensive farming. The urgency of this question is emphasized by terrible famines that affect one or several agricultural districts of Russia almost every year.
To promote the adoption of modern methods of farming by the peasants the Government, aided by provincial authorities, communal organizations, and educational societies, exercises ever increasing activity. Agricultural banks, offering the small farmers an easy and low interest credit, have been established in all the farming districts. Agricultural machines are rented to the peasants, and grain elevators and agricultural stores are supplied in all parts of the country.
Experimental fields where the peasants can observe the results obtained by better methods of cultivation are maintained in numerous districts of the Empire, and agricultural experts are stationed throughout the country to advise the peasants in all matters pertaining to cultivation. Popular lectures on agriculture and related subjects are also arranged in villages, and the lecturers often travel over a wide stretch of country. As a distinctive factor in the technical development of agriculture in Russia should be mentioned the large modern farming estates, whose methods are extensively imitated by the peasants.
In this movement an important part is performed by the “ zemstvos,” bodies exercising local self-government. The zemstvos are composed almost exclusively of representatives of land-owning nobility and peasants. They impose local taxes not to exceed 3 per cent of the annual value of the real property in the district, and, having very small administrative expenses, turn back to the population most of the money received in the form of educational and welfare activity. The total sum expended by the zemstvos for agricultural development in 1911 was 11,400,000 rubles. A considerable part of this amount was spent for agricultural education, both elementary and secondary. The zemstvos are very active in this work, the number of schools founded and maintained by them rivaling that of the government schools.
LEGISLATION FOR AGRICULTURAL SCHOOLS. The act of 1904 on agricultural education constitutes the basis of the organization of the agricultural schools. This act places all private schools of this kind under the supervision of the ministry of agriculture and imperial domains, providing at the same time for the maintenance of schools controlled directly by that ministry, and for a considerable part of the support of private schools, the zemstvo schools being included in the latter class.
The act contains some special inducements for the encouragement of private initiative in the establishment of new schools. It declares: 3
To agricultural schools, independently of their sources of maintenance, may be leased, free of charge, farming and forest government lands necessary for housing the students and for the conduct of experimental farming. * *
The act provides further:
The said schools may be furnished, free of charge, with lumber from government forests for the erection of their buildings and for the repair of the same, as well as for heating, according to regulations established by the minister of agriculture and imperial domains.
Agricultural schools, ministerial as well as private, are exempted by the act from import duty on any books or educational material imported from abroad, and they are granted free use of mails within the Empire.
The agricultural schools are divided by the act into three classes, lower or primary, middle or secondary, and higher schools. The higher schools are subject to special regulations, not included in the act. The secondary schools are defined by the act as “having for their object the furnishing to students of a practical agricultural education, based on scientific principles, in order to prepare them for agricultural work.” The higher primary schools are described as “established for preparation for practical farming,” and the elementary schools as having for their object the “preparation, mainly by practical instruction, of men informed and skilled in respect to farm work.”
1 The exchange value of the ruble is 51.5 cents. 2 Now called “ general office of land management and agriculture." 8 Collection of data on agricultural education, 14th issue; see Bibliography.
In the elementary division are also included “practical agricultural schools," limited to certain special agricultural branches, such as gardening, vine culture, wine making, butter making, and caring for cattle. These practical schools are intended to prepare trained laborers in the branches enumerated.
The primary schools are naturally limited in scope by their short course and by the necessity of giving the students general elementary education. These schools are very numerous and are an excellent means of popular education, since they attract more peasant children than any other primary schools. From different reports and opinions it appears, however, that the primary agricultural schools of Russia are in the experimental stage, and their usefulness is still a matter of question.
The secondary schools represent the normal type of technical schools, like those established in Germany and other western European countries. They are organized and managed admirably. Some of them have existed a long time; the Moscow school, for example, was founded in 1822. These schools have a curriculum of wider scope than is necessary for the purely practical instruction of peasant youths in modern farming. Only a small part of their graduates ever return to farming on a small scale, while many become managers of larger estates, government officials, teachers, etc. Still, these schools help to diffuse the new ideas in agriculture among the population in an indirect way. Located in the country, often in the immediate neighborhood of a number of small peasant farms, they attract the attention of the peasantry to their experimental fields, the imported breeds of cattle and horses, the use of modern machinery and scientific methods. The Russian “moujik” has keen observation and is imitative. He therefore readily adopts the methods whose successful application strikes his eye. In many cases the schools maintain breeding centers for the improvement of the local breeds of cattle.
Another important function of the secondary schools is that of furnishing teachers to the primary schools, which multiply very rapidly.
MAINTENANCE OF AGRICULTURAL SCHOOLS.
The most important government activity in agricultural education is that developed through the channels of the department of agriculture. A glance at the figures representing the annual disbursements of the State for this purpose gives a suggestion of the importance attached to agricultural education in Russia. The following table shows that the increase in the government provision for agricultural schools controlled by the department was 2,010,880 rubles within the period 1907–1911, and that it progressed yearly as follows:
The few agricultural schools coming within the province of the ministry of public instruction are classified as technical. With the exception of some scanty references, no separate data for them can
be gathered from the official reports. It will be interesting, however, · to note the relative importance of the educational activity of the de
partment of agriculture as shown by the following comparison: The entire amount contributed by the treasury toward the maintenance of the technical schools under the supervision of the ministry of public instruction amounted to 2,689,907.67 rubles in 1912. This total included nearly one and a half million rubles expended on higher technological institutes; it also included a certain amount corresponding to the expenditure for several agricultural schools. The department of agriculture in 1911 expended 3,884,351 rubles for agricultural schools alone.
SECONDARY AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION.
Admission of students.--There are at the present time 15 secondary agricultural schools in Russia. This number appears far too small to meet the popular demand. At the beginning of every year there is an enormous number of applicants, exceeding the number of vacancies, so that pupils must be accepted by competitive examination. The preparation required of these competitors is equal to the
1 Report of the minister of public instruction for 1912; see Bibliography.
first two years of gymnasium or a full course of primary two-class schools.
Social class of students. Because of lower tuition fees these schools attract the children of peasants and other poor classes in a larger proportion than the other secondary schools. By the latest available statistics, the percentage of pupils, according to social classes in the several agricultural schools is as follows:
and working classes in other secondary schools in Russia is comparatively low. According to official figures, quoted by the minister of public instruction in his report for 1912, 32.7 per cent or nearly one-third of the gymnasium pupils are scions of the nobility, while another third is composed of the sons of men ranking high in the social scale. Only 27.1 per cent of the pupils are children of burghers and artisans.
This tends to show how really democratic is the agricultural school in Russia in comparison with other divisions of secondary education.
Free scholarships.-While as a rule the pupils of the secondary schools are required to pay nominal tuition fees, the poorer children are aided by scholarships from various private foundations and from government provisions for that purpose. The number of beneficiaries is naturally limited by the amount of available funds. Those who desire to obtain a free education must not only prove that they are poor, but also show by their good behavior and excellent progress in studies that they are deserving.
In the four secondary agricultural schools whose printed reports are available the relation of the number of students with scholarships to the total number of students is as follows: