Jesuit Education

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Jesuit Education


the system of education developed by the Jesuit order. Its principles and methodology were set forth in the special school regulations entitled Ratio atque instilutio studiorum Societatis Jesu, approved by the head (superior general) of the order, Aquaviva, in 1599.

The goal of Jesuit education is training for blind service to the church, absolute submission to the pope in Rome and the highest ranks of the Catholic Church. Jesuit schools are divided into lower schools, or colleges (with a seven-year term of instruction), and higher schools, or seminaries (with a six-year term of instruction). In scope and character the former provided an education resembling that of the Gymnasiums that had appeared during the Renaissance, whereas the latter resembled the universities of that time. Mutual spying was encouraged among the students, and to facilitate this, all pupils were divided into small groups and pairs. In order to develop a feeling of competition among children, the Jesuits worked out a system of encouraging those who distinguished themselves in their courses and in their conduct (special seats in the classroom, titles of honor, etc.). The misbehavior of pupils brought upon them punishment by shaming (a cap with donkeys’ ears, nicknames, benches of shame, etc.). In cases of delinquency with regard to religion, corporal punishment was also allowed, but those who carried it out were laymen (“correctors”).

Jesuit educational institutions were located, as a rule, in good buildings; cleanliness and order were rigorously observed in them, and a great deal of attention was paid to the children’s physical development. All this attracted a large number of children from aristocratic families to Jesuit colleges and seminaries.

Principal attention in Jesuit schools was devoted to the study of Latin. In the two senior classes of a college a special subject called erudition was introduced; it included excerpts of materials from geography, history, archaeology, and natural history. Later (during the 18th century) the need to broaden the practical education brought about the introduction into the Jesuit school curriculum of systematic courses in history, geography, the native language of the country, and other subjects.

Teachers as well as pupils were deprived of any independence whatsoever in their work; each action was stipulated by the school regulations.

By the beginning of the 18th century there were about 800 Jesuit educational institutions, including more than 20 universities.

Changed social and economic conditions compelled the Jesuits to reexamine their school regulations in 1832. The basic principles and goals of Jesuit education remained as before, but the number of subjects was expanded. Increased attention was devoted to teaching the natural sciences and mathematics. At the beginning of the 20th century permission was given to implement changes in the curricula of individual educational institutions, depending on local conditions and needs.

In many capitalist countries (Spain, Portugal, the USA, the countries of Latin America) the Jesuits even during the 1970’s continue to have a great influence upon public education; they run their own schools and train teachers for both state and private schools. (The USA has about 50 Jesuit educational institutions.) Jesuits work as teachers in most Catholic schools.


Gozhalchinskii, A. “Iezuitskie shkoly v Iugo-Zapadnoi Rossii.” Tr. Kievskoi dukhovnoi akademii, 1869, no. 4.
Iastrebov, M. “Iezuity i ikh pedagogicheskaia deiatel’nost’ v Pol’she i Litve.” Ibid. , 1869, no. 2.
Mikhnevich, D.E. Ocherki iz istorii katolicheskoi reaktsii. (Iezuity), 2nd ed. Moscow, 1955.
Tondi, A. Iezuity. Moscow, 1955. (Translated from Italian.)
Weicker, G. Das Schulwesen der Jesuiten nach den Ordensgesetzen. Halle, 1863.
Schwickerath, R. Jesuit Education: Its History and Principles Viewed in the Light of Modern Educational Problems. St. Louis, 1903.
Mertz, G. Die Pädagogik der Jesuiten. Heidelberg, 1910.
Dainville, F. de. La Naissance de I’humanisme moderne. Geneva, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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