Foundation of the Forselius' seminary

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1684

With Lutheranism came the will and the need to educate people. At first, vicar's assistants - the parish clerks taught children to read. There were few of them. and their own education limited. Therefore came the need to educate schoolmasters. The head of this endeavour was Bengt Gottfried Forselius. Forselius was born in county of Harjumaa, a son to a Swedish preacher from Finland. The family was friendly towards the common folk and Forselius knew Estonian and German. He was educated in Tallinn's gymnasium and attended an university in Germany for a little while.
Forselius started teaching the Estonian farmers and eventually established his own school - the seminar for preparing schoolmasters and cantors. The seminary was located near Tartu, at the bishops estate, and the only teacher was Forselius himself. The students were mainly from around Tartu and studies lasted for two years. The main subjects were: reading and religion, but also choral songs, book binding, German and calculus. He used a new method for teaching to read; instead of having everyone spell together, he had one person read out loud and the others follow the text silently. In 1686 he published his own "ABC".
Educating the peasants did not sit well with the nobles and they started spreading slander about Forselius' school. It was said that the school is expensive and that instead of the proclaimed purposes, it prepared the students for Swedish army service instead.
To prove himself and his students, Forselius took two students, Jaak of Ignatsi and Jüri of Pakri Hans, along with him to Stockholm and brought them before king Karl XI, where the boys showed the skills they had learned. In 1688, Forselius received the authority and permission to establish new schools and he was appointed to the position of inspector of the common folk schools in Estonia and Livonia. On the way back, however, autumn storm sank his ship and Forselius perished. Without him the seminary could not continue and it continued to work for only four more years. Alas, about 160 young men had got their education there. His efforts laid the foundation for the education of the common folk in Estonia.

Image: Bengt Gottfried's Foreslius' memorial stone at his place of birth, Harju-Madise.

Source: Ain Mäesalu, Tõnis Lukas, Mati Laur, Tõnu Tannberg. Eesti ajalugu I. Avita, Tallinn 1995
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/dd/ForseliusMemorial.jpg


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