Authored and posted by Emily Franzini.
So, I recently set out on a mission – thinking it would be relatively easy – to quantify the total number of people currently studying Latin and Ancient Greek at secondary and higher level education. I started with Europe, though fancying a bit of a data challenge, I soon expanded my research to the whole world.
Well, it has been no easy task. That’s why it is not finished yet, and I still need all the help I can get.
As the Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig, my team is interested in knowing how many of our Classics peers there are out there and how many would benefit from some of the eLearning tools we are currently developing. I thought it would be a simple question of looking up the national education statistics in each country, and voilà, I’d discover how many still study what was not so long ago considered, at least in the case of Latin, the universal academic language. How naïve! Apparently, national statistics centres have very little interest in knowing which subjects their young ones are studying. So, I began with emails: emails to the various ministries of education, emails to the Classics associations, emails to university professors, university departments and Classics forums.
For now, I will focus on secondary school enrolments for two reasons. First, secondary school enrolments seem to account for the largest numbers of students. Second, higher education enrolments are often much more decentralised and more difficult to identify.
Italy gave me the greatest satisfaction – it is after all, the cradle of the Roman world and both Latin and Greek are still compulsory in all Licei Classici. In 2011 the Italian Ministry of Education counted a whopping 2,000,000 students of Latin and 680,000 of Ancient Greek. Considering that the total number of secondary level enrolments amounted to 5,000,000 that year, this is indeed a good result!
Then, there was the bitter British letdown. These subjects may not be compulsory in schools, but I never expected the number of Latin and Greek students to be as low as 15,000 and 2,000 respectively. Croatia and Austria were a pleasant surprise: 7.8% of Austrian students study Latin and 0.7% of Croatian students study Greek. The latter may seem like a small percentage, but when compared with the total number of secondary level students, it places Croatia in second place after Italy. And of course, the Germans. The Germans are doing well with 800,000 students of Latin, in third place in the ranking of languages studied at school, after English and French. They are not doing so well for Greek, however, with only 7,000 students taking it in schools.
This post is really a call for collaboration: if you know the stats of your own country or know where to find them, could you send me a message at efranzini(at)informatik(dot)uni-leipzig(dot)de or leave a comment below? Your email would brighten my day!