Chapter 7 Writing in the Sand

The Impact of the Monitorial System on the Spread of Literacy in Sweden Prior to the School Act of 1842

In: Exploring Textbooks and Cultural Change in Nordic Education 1536–2020

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Abstract

This chapter investigates the link between the introduction of the monitorial system of education and the spread of literacy, especially the ability to write, in Sweden during the early 19th century. This is done by analysing handbooks concerning the teaching method as well as sources from the first schools to introduce the monitorial system in Sweden.

The chapter shows that writing instruction was an important part of the monitorial system. Although writing was mostly put forward as a tool for teaching children how to read, it was also seen as a skill that teaching could convey. Looking at how the monitorial system was introduced in Swedish schools in the beginning of the 1820s, it is apparent that the new teaching system also led to a greater emphasis on writing instruction.

Contrary to arguments in previous research on the spread of writing skills, the monitorial system’s emphasis on writing instruction does not seem to have been a response to any increased need for writing skills among the common people.

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