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Introduction of the University-Entrance Examination [Abitur] in Prussia: Edict signed by King Frederick William III, State Chancellor Hardenberg, and Minister Friedrich von Schuckmann (October 12, 1812)

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§ 3. For this reason, the necessity of a leaving certificate or diploma – received and issued in a manner to be stipulated forthwith – is hereby made universal for all youths advancing to university from the grammar schools and learned schools of the Prussian state, and with this, graduation exams are therefore ordered, without exception, for all of those schools for which they had not yet been instituted by the Circular dated December 23, 1788.

§ 4. Generally, those students who wish to enroll in a university must report three months prior to leaving school to the headmaster or principal of their school, requesting the leaving diploma necessary for university registration. It is then incumbent on the headmaster or principal, if he does not deem the pupil mature enough for enrollment in university, to raise objections about this both with the pupil himself and his parents or guardians and relatives. If these are to no avail, the headmaster or principal must nevertheless admit the pupil to the examination, in which the objective is to determine the degree of his ability and the grade of the diploma to be issued based on that ability. Only pupils who are not taking any major subject in the final school grade of the learned school may be denied this diploma outright. However, the meticulousness and conscientiousness of the teachers regarding promotion must aim to prevent anyone from reaching the final grade too early; and in order that neither pupils nor parents have reason to complain about lack of frank advice in good time, they ought to receive the well-meaning judgment by the teachers on his natural talents for scientific studies, directed only at the pupil’s best interests, as early as the marks issued in the second to last grade, and from then on even more decidedly the nearer graduation draws. This will take the place of the provisional preliminary examination that is too elaborate for the larger institutions.

However, since maturity of character is no less important than maturity of mind and knowledge, since the dignity of the tone prevailing at the universities depends on the harmony of both, and since the Department wishes most earnestly that the studying young Prussians, who will supply the future teachers, advisors, and leaders of the people, may distinguish themselves in this respect, and since the determination of character cannot be subject to rules and examinations, the Department established it as a sacred duty for the heads of the higher educational institutions to look specifically to these characteristics as well in pupils signing up for the final examination. To make clear to the parents and guardians, however, who rush too early to university with their wards, the alarming consequences of proceeding thus, if they, solely aiming at having those wards reach a livelihood and outward honors a bit earlier, drive their charges, perhaps equipped with the necessary knowledge in a pinch, though with still vacillating character, into relations whose freer independence their age, as yet requiring the loving regimentation by the father, teacher, or friend as well as their entirely impressionable soul cannot yet bear.

§ 5. The graduation diplomas are divided into three grades, according to the unconditional competence, the conditional competence, and the incompetence of the individuals [. . . ].

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