Ratio Studiorum

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The abbreviated term for the Jesuit curricular and methods guide, which appeared in 1599 under the title Ratio atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Iesu.

Organization. This document is a collection of 30 sets of practical regulations for administrators, teachers, and students of Jesuit establishments. When fully developed, these institutions offered instruction in three faculties or curricular areas, and the Ratio's rules referred to one or all of these. In the faculty of letters or classical language studies, the program was divided into five main sections: three grammar classes, whose readings and exercises the Ratio gave in detail; humanities, which emphasized poetry; and rhetoric. The arts faculty provided a three-year course in philosophy together with some science and mathematics. Studies in the theology faculty covered four years and were normally pursued only by candidates for the priesthood. Not every Jesuit college possessed each of these faculties but all had at least the faculty of letters, which constituted a secondary or middle school between the abecadarian exercises of elementary education and professional specialization in such university faculties as theology, medicine, and law. The prestige of 16th- and 17th-century Jesuit educators was chiefly associated with these middle schools, and the Ratio deals principally with their work or that of the arts curriculum.

Origin. An account of the Ratio may conveniently consider its origins and its contents. ignatius of loyola (14911556), founder of the Society of Jesus (see jesuits), began the process that culminated in the Ratio of 1599. The Fourth Part of the Constitutions, which Ignatius wrote for the Society, dealt with the Jesuits' own training and with their schools. Its 13th chapter called for eventual construction of a "separate treatise" detailing particulars of schedules, curricula, and pupil exercises. During the quarter-century following Ignatius's death, numerous discussions of these matters emerged from Jesuit schools. These have been collected in Monumenta Paedagogica, a volume appearing in Madrid in 1901, as part of the continuing series Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu. It was Claudio Aquaviva, however, elected fifth general of the Society in 1581, who brought the Ignatian directive to fulfillment. He appointed a six-man delegation that in 1586 produced a trial version of the Ratio. This consisted mainly of essays on the conduct of classes, repetitions, and disputations; on teacher formation and the various curricula, vacations, time-orders, prizes, and degrees. After review by Aquaviva and his advisers together with committees in each province of the order, this draft was revised in 1591. The material remained substantially unchanged but was organized into rules and omitted theoretical discussions. After further experimentation, a final, more polished version was formally promulgated by Aquaviva in 1599.

The 1586 and 1591 drafts are very rare, but the 1586 and 1599 texts were published by G. M. Pachtler, SJ, in the series Monumenta Germaniae Paedagogica as part of a four-volume critical edition of early Jesuit educational documents: Ratio Studiorum et institutiones scholasticae Societatis Iesu. The Ratio guided Jesuit schools until the order's suppression in 1773. After the restoration in 1814, a revision was planned and an experimental emendation, which placed more emphasis on science and vernacular literature, appeared in 1832 but was never definitively promulgated.

Contents. The contents of the Ratio are similar to those of other Renaissance school plans, for it drew from the best contemporary practice and theory. In Ignatius's own day the Jesuit schools had adopted the sequence of studies and the procedures used at the University of Paris, many of them inspired by Quintilian (see paris, university of). The schools of the brethren of the common life were also an influence. The success of the early Jesuit institutions was due not to curricular novelty but largely to four characteristics owed to Ignatius himself. Their teachers were carefully prepared and inspired with an apostolic dedication. The schools charged no tuition fees. In light of available knowledge of methodology and psychology, the course of studies and the pupils' activities were carefully organized to promote learning in graduated steps. But this concern for order did not eliminate innovation and reconstruction, since Ignatius had directed in the Constitutions that all provisions of the anticipated Ratio were to be adapted to places, times, and persons. This made it possible for the spirit of the Ratio to remain influential even when its concrete details became obsolete.

At first sight the letter of the Ratio may appear to obscure its spirit since few theoretical principles are enunciated. The curricular and methodological details, however, imply some theory. The aim is both moral and intellectual formation, with primacy of honor going to the former and most attention to the latter. The letters and arts curricula center on a Renaissance Christianization of the Greco-Roman tradition of literary and philosophical culture directed toward writing Latin like Cicero and thinking like Aristotle. In theology St. Thomas is the precribed author. The chief methodological emphasis is on student activity, and the Ratio prescribes an abundance and variety of written and oral exercises. One of its few general statements is: Variety is good because satiety is bad. Hence there are provisions for academic contests, the concertatio, pitting individuals or groups against one another; for academies in which gifted students do advanced work; and for dramas, fêtes, games, and vacations. To facilitate teaching, the Ratio recommends dividing large classes into decuriae, groups of ten, each with a captain who has some monitorial duties. The teacher's work includes hearing recitations, correcting exercises, and explaining in a "prelection" (lecture) the problems posed by an assignment. He is advised to motivate pupils not by chastisement but by the attraction of honor and the rewards of scholastic success. This Renaissance accent on glory, however, is counterbalanced by the assertion on the first page of the Ratio that the whole of schooling should be designed to bring students to the knowledge and love of God.

Bibliography: e. a. fitzpatrick, ed., St. Ignatius and the Ratio Studiorum (New York 1933). f. de dainville, La Naissance de l'humanisme moderne (Paris 1940). a. p. farrell, The Jesuit Code of Liberal Education (Milwaukee 1938). Monumenta paedagogica Societatis Jesu, ed. c. o. gomez rodeles et al. (Madrid 1901). g. m. pachtler, ed., Ratio Studiorum et institutiones scholasticae Societatis Jesu per Germaniam lim vigentes collectae , 4 v. (Monumenta Germaniae paedagogica 2, 5, 9, 16; Berlin 188794). b. duhr, Die Studienordnung der Gesellschaft Jesu (Bibliothek der katholischen Pädagogik 9; Freiburgi. Br. 1896).

[j. w. donohue]