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Beyond the Classroom

Studies on Pupils and Informal Schooling Processes in Modern Europe


Edited By Anna Larsson and Björn Norlin

The research on educational history has traditionally focused on its institutional, political and pedagogical aspects, more or less habitually analyzing schooling as a top-down, adult-controlled phenomenon. Even if change has been visible during the last decades, there still remain important topics that are rarely discussed in the field. These topics include practices related to day-to-day school life that are not part of the formal curriculum or classroom routine, but which nevertheless allow pupils to become actively involved in their own schooling. This book provides historical case studies on such extracurricular and informal schooling processes. It argues that the awareness of such topics is essential to our understanding of school settings – in both past and present.
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V. School Culture at Fons Vitae: Capturing Pupil Experiences in a Dutch Catholic Girls School, 1914–40


If we want to learn more about the formative role of school on young people, it is important to look beyond educational policy and school curricula. The general atmosphere, written and unwritten rules and extracurricular activities are all essential in shaping young minds. While we can only gain insight into a school’s culture if we analyze the educational philosophy of educators and daily school practice simultaneously, we can only determine whether schools effectively carried out their intentions by taking a closer look at this daily practice.1

In daily practice, different agents gave shape to a school’s culture (to name a few: the head teacher, the school’s administration, teachers, parents, the inspectorate, bishops in the case of Catholic schools, and pupils). In this article, I will focus on the methodological issues concerning the pupils’ perspective. It seems to be easier said than done to pay attention to the way pupils interacted with their educators. What sources are at our disposal to investigate this and how should we analyze them? This article uses a Catholic grammar school for girls in interwar Holland as a case study.


In 1914, the Franciscan Sisters of Heythuysen founded the first HBS (Higher Citizens School) for girls in the Netherlands. This school for girls from the upper middle class offered a five-year educational program that emphasized science and modern languages. An HBS degree gave access to certain fields ← 103 | 104 → of study at university. During the next few...

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