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Title: Classics for girls : classics in independent schools 1902-1960 with special reference to the differing experiences of boys and girls
Author: Hasler, P.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 1999
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At the end of the nineteenth century independent education was largely classical, knowledge of arcane tongues a shibboleth for privileged classes. During the twentieth century demarcation of the class structure became less pronounced and education compulsory for children across the social spectrum. One aspect that distinguished independent schools from state schooling was the classical nature of their curriculum; in 1900 Greek and Latin was taught to almost all boys in these schools. In the nineteenth century upper and middle class girls were groomed for the marriage market. Education was considered an unhealthy and unladylike pursuit which did not befit their status. Social attitudes changed and education became more acceptable to parents and available to all. Due to a lack of tradition teachers in girls' schools were willing to try new methods and often offered a fresh approach. Difficulties such as a shorter working day, a broad curriculum and late start made it hard to achieve the same standard as boys in classics. By 1920 supporters of sciences and modern languages had claimed a greater share of the timetable. Those who could not cope with classics were channelled into the modern side streams, an option initially seen as second class. Gradually as career opportunities opened up these alternatives to classics gained in respectability and the vocational values of classics were questioned. Emphasis in their teaching moved from composition and grammar to the literature and its context. Despite attempts to modernise the teaching of classics, change was slow. Whilst private schools were independent of state control, the focus of examinations caused a uniformity of purpose and stifled opportunities for innovation. As the academic route became an acceptable one for girls so their experience drew closer to that of boys. In 1919/20 Oxford and Cambridge withdrew Greek as an entry requirement and it became a specialist subject. Regulations of the new 'O' and 'A' levels in 1951 resulted in Latin losing its status as an entrance qualification. The 1960 decision by Oxford and Cambridge to drop it as a requirement for all removed the only justification for learning Latin for many, although it still retained a more secure place in independent schools than in state schools. The character of the independent schooling system, with the reactionary preparatory schools at the bottom of the chain, did not foster change. Each element of the system focused on entry to the next, classics playing a crucial role in the transition, although other subjects took an increasing proportion of the curriculum. For girls classics was not an integral part of the system, but one that gained a place as academic results became crucial to careers.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available