Spiru Haret

Spiru Haret

Hall of Fame Class of 2014

Spiru Haret (1851-1912) was one of the most important leaders of the educational system of Romania. In Europe, his reforms are appreciated for the capacity of understanding education as a continual process and the transformational role adult education plays in the policy of communities. Haret reformed Romanian schools and, implicitly, the Romanian society.

Haret earned a PhD in mathematics from the University of Sorbonne in Paris. During his life, he was an advocate of adult higher education as a professor at Bucharest University. He served as the minister of public instruction in Romania and was a member of the Romanian Academy. He authored two fundamental laws for organizing the activities of Romanian schools: the law of secondary and superior educational system and the law of the professional educational system. When he was minister of public instruction, he adopted the curriculum for secondary schools, devised regulations for all levels in the educational system, and founded school canteens, among other achievements.

Haret created the institutional framework for the development of adult education in Romania. For the purpose of enlightening peasants and workers, he founded magazines to be housed in rural libraries, which became an efficient means for educating the population in the countryside. The educational activities of the libraries were supported voluntarily by teachers and priests in the villages. He led and organized extracurricular activities of rural teachers by increasing the cultural and economic education level of the adult peasants through literacy courses, spreading general knowledge, disseminating agricultural information, and organizing the rural societies, banks, and cooperatives.

Haret founded schools for adults in rural areas and school canteens for poor pupils. The schools for adults were organized according to the level of instruction of the population: schools at the primary level, free courses designed to advance knowledge about general culture, and schools for adults who worked as apprentices in factories, shops, and workhouses. He created a pedagogical library collection for teachers, including translations from universal pedagogies, and supported the publication of pedagogical magazines featuring articles about schools for adults. The schools were invested by Haret with the mission to train pupils with the skills specific to a professional life rather than traditional agrarian fields. Furthermore, the schools focused on providing training about civic rights and obligations in a constitutional democratic state. For these schools Haret conceived the education and instruction as a primary means for delivering both basic knowledge and skills training for practical activities, especially those specific to a predominantly rural society.

The thinking and practice generated by his work resulted in, at the European level, the philosophical and pedagogical movement named Haretism, according to which the improvement of the rural and urban population is achieved only through education. Due to his actions in the beginning of the 20th century, thousands of schools for adults were founded in Romania and many of them bear his name.