School Programmes and Annual School Reports

The BBF has probably the most complete collection of annual reports of Prussian secondary schools. Together with the annual reports from schools outside Prussia, the BBF owns about 70,000 issues. The collection of Prussian reports begins around 1825 and ends in 1940.

For the Prussian Ministry of Education, the reports were important for obtaining comparable data on schools, so they were already doing what we now call "educational monitoring". For this statistical monitoring on Prussian schools and their teaching staff, a separate office "Auskunftsstelle für Schulwesen" was set up. The annual school reports collected until then by the Ministry of Education were handed over to this office in 1922, and the collection was continued there. The holdings of this information center, which changed its name several times in the course of its history, were finally transferred to the BBF in 1997, which already had considerable holdings of school reports from Prussia and other German-speaking regions. The collections is supplemented by comprehensive staff records of Prussian teachers in the BBF archive, also coming from this information center.

The collection of Prussian school reports is almost complete for the years from 1825 to 1915 and from 1921 to 1940. From the beginning of the 20th century, reports from girls' secondary schools are also part of the collection. After the beginning of the First World War, the delivery of the reports was stopped and resumed only in 1921. The reports of the interwar period were only partially printed, more often handwritten or typewritten, so they are essentially unique copies that exist only in the BBF. The obligatory preparation and delivery of the annual reports ended in 1940, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War. However, there are also much older issues in the collection and reports from other German regions. For example, the oldest school program, „Kurtze Nachricht von gegenwärtiger Einrichtung der Teutschen Schulen bey der Dreyfaltigkeits-Kirche auf der Friedrichsstadt in Berlin“, dates from 1744. There are also isolated reports from girls' schools as early as the first half of the 19th century, e.g., the annual reports of the “Königliche Elisabeth-Schule zu Berlin”.

Origin and History of School Programs and Annual School Reports

Since the 18th century, "school programs" have existed as invitations to events at secondary schools, especially to the annual graduation ceremonies, which were essentially public examinations. They contained the "program" of these events, i.e. a description of how they were to be held, and were addressed primarily to parents and patrons of the school. Later, these invitation pamphlets were expanded to include school news and enclosed academic papers that came from the school's principal or another teachers.

The original function of the school programs as invitations to school events was lost in the course of the 19th century, especially as public examinations became less and less important and were abolished by the end of the 19th century. The writings that continued to be published regularly therefore changed their designation along with their character and function: "school programs" became "annual reports," "report on the school year ..." or similar titles. Today's term "school program" as a planning document for the development of a school thus has a linguistically and historically different origin than the historical school programs have.

School programs and school year reports in Prussia

In the course of the 19th century, the regular submission of such an annual report became mandatory for secondary schools in most German states. On August 23, 1824, the Prussian Ministry of Culture (then called the "Ministry of Spiritual, Instructional, and Medicinal Affairs") issued the "Circular-Rescript [...] die Gymnasial-Prüfungsprogramme betreffend." In this circular, the structure and content of the reports, the financing of the printing, and the delivery to the university libraries and the ministry were regulated in detail for all grammar schools in the Kingdom of Prussia. This was followed by regulations on the exchange of the programs among the grammar schools, so that in the course of the century, a regular exchange of publications between the Prussian and German secondary schools developed. It was eventually organized by the Teubner publishing house in Leipzig. Teubner also published a multi-volume bibliography of the academic articles attached to the programs for the years from 1876 to 1910.

Many high schools were thus able to create large collections of the reports of other high schools. While the collections usually no longer exist in the schools themselves, they were often transferred to regional university libraries. Therefore, large collections of school programs are also kept at the university libraries in Giessen, Leipzig, and Düsseldorf.

Structure and Contents of Prussian Annual School Reports

Annual school reports are a fundamental source for numerous questions of school and (educational) historical research, and they are far from being fully evaluated. Among other things, they contain information on teachers and graduates, lessons taught, examinations, textbooks and teaching materials used. The "Circular-Rescript" of 1824 lists the following obligatory components of the school news, which should be preceded by essay on a scientific subject:

  • "The general teaching constitution" of the school, listing all classes with their respective teachers, the subjects and their number of lessons, the textbooks used
  • A school chronicle, which should mention in particular the opening of the school year, school celebrations, changes in the teaching staff and extraordinary events during the school year
  • A statistical overview of "the number of pupils both as a whole and in each individual class," pupils who left, additions to the school library and teaching materials collections, and endowments for pupils
  • The program of public examinations

This pattern was modified over time, but not fundamentally changed. Thus, as a serial source, the annual school reports allow deep insights into the practice of teaching and general school life. Likewise, they provide extensive material for the study of teachers or students as a group (prosopographical studies). The enclosed scholarly essays are also significant; for example, they are of great interest for questions concerning the development of specialized or subject teaching.

Using the BBF Collection

The BBF seeks to make this unique collection available to researchers in the history of education, but also to all other interested parties, in as uncomplicated a manner as possible. The use was and is made difficult by the partly bad state of preservation of the reports, which are mostly collected in thick volumes. In the meantime, most of the volumes have been taken apart and the reports have been stored as individual issues in archive boxes, which facilitates on-site use and digitization.

Searching Reports in the Library Catalog

Most of the BBF holdings are cataloged. Because of the changing names of schools and titles, searching often requires multiple search approaches to find all the annual reports you are looking for. A good starting point is to search using the keyword "Schulprogramm” and the place of publication. This is done by entering the following in the search slot of the library catalog:

su,phr: Schulprogramm and pl,wrdl: ortsname.

So for Berlin, the query would be:

su,phr: Schulprogramm and pl,wrdl: berlin

The search can then be further refined using the filters on the left side of the library catalog.

If you have any questions or need help with your search, please feel free to contact our Reference & Information Services.


Using the Annual School Reports Online

The BBF has begun to make the annual school reports freely available online. However, this is a task that will take some time due to the size of the collection.

So far, the available reports of the girls' and boys' schools in the Prussian province of Saxony from 1921/1922 to 1939/1940 and larger holdings from Berlin, including those of the boys' schools from the period 1921/1922 to 1925/1926 and those of the girls' schools from 1925/1926 to 1939/1940 have been completely digitized; those of the girls' schools from 1921/1922 to 1923/1924 are currently being digitized.

The digitized school programs can either be searched for and accessed from the library catalog or used directly in the BBF's text archive, Scripta Paedagogica. Under "School Programs", it is possible to navigate through the tree structure of the available digitized copies (expand by clicking on the "+" symbol), sorted by region and below that by place and district. Alternatively, more complex searches can be performed using the advanced search.

Other libraries have also digitized annual school reports from their collections and made them available online. BBF plans to work with these libraries to create an online reference system of all digitized school programs.

Search in Scripta Paedagogica