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 27
AMERICAN AND BRITISH SCHOOLS

American Institutions

AMERICAN missionary connection with Syria began in 1822 with the arrival in Beirut of two American Protestant missionaries. By 1825 they had opened a small school for boys enrolling about 85 pupils. The American Press, which had been founded in Malta about the same time, was transferred to Beirut in 1831 and began publishing books in Arabic. A school for girls was started shortly before 1830 by the wife of one of the missionaries, Dr. Ely Smith, and a building for it, the first one of its kind in Syria, was erected on the grounds of the present mission. This school continued until the death of Mrs. Smith in 1843. Later another missionary school for girls was opened in the home of another missionary, and did not close until 1854 when that missionary family returned to America. In 1860 the foundations of the present American School for Girls were laid; it has been in operation ever since, continuing the work of its two predecessors.

In the meantime, another boys school was founded in 'Abay which acquired considerable fame as a school giving a modern type of secondary education and preparing Protestant ministers. In this school, books were prepared in Arabic by one of the greatest American missionaries who ever came to Syria, Dr. Cornelius V. A. Van Dyck. Having become a master of Arabic, he soon produced books in geography, algebra, geometry, logarithms, plane and spherical trigonometry, navigation, and biology. These books were printed at the American Press and remained standard works almost until the end of the century. It was Doctors Van Dyck and Ely Smith who worked for more than a decade on the translation of the Bible into Arabic. After the death of Ely Smith, Dr. Van Dyck brought the work to completion with the assistance of a great Syrian scholar of the time, Butrus Bustani.

It was not until after the troubles of 1860, however, that the firm foundations of American and British Protestant missionary work were laid

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