Monitorial System

The Monitorial System was developed in the 19th century by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster. The system relied upon the grouping pupils by ability. The children in the top group were taught by a qualified teacher but would also spend time teaching children in the lower groups. Bell used to say: "Give me twenty-four pupils today and I will give you twenty-four teachers tomorrow". It was claimed that this system not only proved low-cost education but helped to train working-class children for responsible jobs in the future.

Two religious organizations were formed to provide this education. Andrew Bell received support from the Church of England and its National Society for the Education of the Poor (1811) and Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker, was funded by the Nonconformist organisation, the British and Foreign Schools Society (1814).

Primary Sources

(1) Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (1947)

Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.