Education and Curricula in Early Universities: Some Documentary Evidence

Education and Curricula in Early Universities: Some Documentary Evidence

Nicolay V. TSAREVSKY (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

Chemistry: Bulgarian Journal of Chemistry Education, Vol.14:5 (2005)


Several European documents dating from as early as 13th Century (including laws, papal Bulls, and University records) are cited demonstrating that the importance of the syllabus or organized and planned education was recognized in the earliest Universities. The quoted texts are related to science, mostly medical, education. A collection of laws originating from 8th Century Japan is also cited that sheds light on the methods of education in the Far East. An evidence of planning in medical education and of an early form of “curriculum” in that region is presented.

Numerous discussions have been dedicated to the role of curricula and of a defined system in education. Since curricula are crucial to the formation of well-educated students and due to their fundamental importance in modern education, it is interesting to trace their origins. Curiously, the very first universities, being much less “primitive” than is often thought, had their own curricula, which were constantly being modified in order to meet the requirements of students, teachers, or certain authorities. Subjects and books were added or removed (or even banned!) from syllabi as evidenced from documents dating from the time when the early universities were established. Translations of such texts are not readily available but are rather scattered in various monographs and articles on the subject.

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