The vocational schools

Under the Second Napoleonic Empire, the Protestants were partly responsible for the growing number of vocational schools.

A spiritual structure for the apprentices

  • Pastor Eugène Bersier (1831-1889) © S.H.P.F.

The Protestant church financed numerous trade schools, supported by patronage committees. Boarding schools were created in the vicinity of the vocational schools in order to provide for the material and spiritual needs of the apprentices. The Paris Protestant Home was founded in 1857.

In 1876 pastor Eugène Bersier opened the girls’ primary school of the Etoile parish in Paris. This inter-denominational school prepared its pupils for a variety of professional crafts, particularly dressmaking.

Adult schools were opened in Mazamet, Nîmes and Paris. They operated by night in the children’s schools, technical teaching thus being a close neighbour to elementary primary education. In a speech delivered in 1866 at the General Assembly of the SEIPF, pastor Ch. Gaudard made a description of the situation : “here a teacher was teaching physics, in the next room students were practiced drawing of machines ; however, what deeply moved me was to see some sixty workers of all ages, young and old, who were learning how to read… A few efforts more and France, Protestant France in particular, will have no reason to envy its neighbours.” (ici un professeur donnait une leçon de physique, dans la sale voisine on s’exerçait au dessin des machines ; mais ce qui m’émut profondément ce fut de voir une soixantaine d’ouvriers de tout âge, jeunes ou vieux, qui apprenaient à lire… Encore quelques efforts et la France, spécialement la France protestante, n’aura rien à envier à ses voisins – J-Cl. Vinard, Les écoles primaires protestantes en France de 1815 à 1885, op.cit.)

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