Grammar School

Grammar School

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Grammar School


Grammar School, originally a school in which the curriculum emphasized the study of Greek and Latin grammar and related subjects. In a graded system of public schools such as that found in the U.S., the term has come to be synonymous with the term elementary school.


During the early Middle Ages, Latin grammar was the main subject taught in the monastic schools, which were the principal European educational institutions of that time. As universities and colleges developed and education became more secular, the Latin grammar school became a college-preparatory school.

Gradually the study of grammar, viewed as one of the seven liberal arts, came to include all subjects relating to written languages, such as style. Greek grammar was added to the curriculum during the intellectual phase of the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. The study of vernacular languages entered the curriculum during the Reformation but was given secondary emphasis. These subjects became the major areas of study in European secondary schools, which were generically called grammar, or Latin grammar, schools.

After the Reformation, many ecclesiastical schools were replaced by more secular institutions, especially in Protestant countries. The German Gymnasium and the British public schools were essentially Latin grammar schools. The French lycée also provided a classical education. Such schools were first established in colonial America during the 17th century. In Boston, the Latin Grammar School, founded in 1635, became the prototype of other institutions that provided college-preparatory education for boys.


When free, state-run educational systems were begun in the U.S. during the 19th century, the grammar-school curriculum was incorporated into the public school system. Although the term grammar school is still used to indicate the level of instruction next above the rudiments of reading and writing, the true grammar-school subjects have been made a part of the academic branch of secondary education in public schools. Some private academies still retain aspects of the European grammar school.

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