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No. 10, June 1997
The German model of state education according to Giovanni Scopoli (1774-1854)


No. 13 - Dec 2000 (PDF)

No. 12 - Sep 1999

No. 11 - May 1998

No. 10 - Jun 1997

When Giovanni Scopoli was prefect, and director general of state education for the Kingdom of Italy, he wrote an important report for Eugenio Beauharnais dated April 1st 1813 entitled "Report on the visit to state schools in several places in Germany and reflections on those of the Kingdom" (Relazione della visita fatta delle pubbliche scuole in più luoghi di Germania e riflessioni su quelle del Regno). It is one of the most interesting documents concerning the study of the educational system (both schools and universities) in Napoleonic Italy, in comparison to the German system. Alessandro d'Ancona had already recommended it to be published in the nineteenth century. Its publication now is most welcome.

Giovanni Scopoli (1774-1854), was the son of the botanist and natural scientist Giovanni Antonio (professor at the University of Pavia and rival of Spallanzani), and friend of Vincenzo Dandolo. As prefect and later director of state education, which was at that time part of the Home Office, he was one of the best of Napoleonic functionaries. Having completed a wide-ranging provision of new regulations for the entire state educational system and the National Institute, Scopoli applied for permission to go on a study tour of German-language schools and universities, which took him to Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany and Switzerland from April to August 1812, in the company of Gaetano Cattaneo, the founder of the Brera numismatical laboratory. He went to Vienna, Budapest, Munich, Erlangen, Dresden, Leipzig, Göttingen, Frankfurt-am-Mein, Heidelberg, Zurich, Berne and Yverdun, where he visited Pestalozzi's institute. Scopoli left us a very accurate description of the system of public education which had been adopted in German-language countries, especially of the university. They are all the more interesting for the comparison with Italian and French models. The autonomy of German universities, the relative freedom to teach what you thought fit, the institution of the privat-dozent, the programs of study and the subjects, are all discussed. Scopoli much admired the wide range of courses on offer, but he was also worried about the way German universities seemed vulnerable to outside influence.
With the Restoration, after a short period, Scopoli was pensioned off by the Austrians. He began a long scholarly retirement, becoming one of the founders of the Venetian Institute, an assiduous participant in the meetings of Italian scientists, and also of the rising of 1848.

The Relazione is published together with three essays: L. Pepe, "Giovanni Scopoli and Public Education in the Kingdom of Italy"; G. Schubring, "The Impact of the Napoleonic Structural Reforms of the Educational System of Europe"; L. Blanco, "A Functionary on Tour: the German Journey of Giovanni Scopoli".

Stato e pubblica istruzione. Giovanni Scopoli e il suo viaggio in Germania, edited by L. Blanco and L. Pepe, "Annali dell'Istituto storico italo-germanico in Trento", 1995, XXI, pp.407-587.