Education in Arab Countries of the Near East: Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon

By Roderic D. Matthews; Matta Akrawi | Go to book overview

Chapter 26
FRENCH SCHOOLS

AMONG FOREIGN schools in Lebanon, French schools are the most numerous, in 1942-43 numbering 273 schools out of a total of 326. These had a total student registration of 39,513 out of 46,726 in all foreign institutions during that year.1

French missionary and educational activities have a long history in Lebanon. Late in the sixteenth and early in the seventeenth centuries Franciscan, Capucin, and Jesuit missionaries came to Syria and began to establish missionary posts in various parts of the country. The Jesuits were perhaps the most active. They established their first mission in Aleppo in 1628, which was followed by other missions in Damascus, Tripoli, Sidon, and 'Anturah. The latter, founded in 1636, still has a well-known college which will be described later. The fact that Lebanon had a large community of Maronites, who had centuries before acknowledged the authority of the Church of Rome, facilitated the entry of Catholic missions to Lebanon, and connection with the Maronite community is intimate up to the present day.

The early missionaries usually established a small school at each of their stations. They taught the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, catechism, and liturgy, occasionally teaching also French or Latin. At the same time some of the brighter pupils were sent to the Oriental Seminary in Rome where they took advanced studies in philosophy and theology, and sometimes became well-known scholars. At one time Louis XIV, upon the advice of his minister Colbert, brought at state expense oriental Christian children to Paris to study in the Collège Louis-le-Grand which was then under the direction of the Jesuits. It was these activities that eventually led to schisms among the oriental churches resulting in the establishment of a Catholic branch of each of the existing oriental churches.

The activities of Catholic missions were mainly missionary in the first

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