Escuela Nautica de Manila: A Beacon of Educational Modernization in the Nineteenth Century

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Science education in the nineteenth-century Philippines has been portrayed generally as highly deficient, perpetrated by Rizal's depiction of a class in Physics at the Universidad de Santo Tomas. The historiography of education has reinforced this view by default. Yet Rizal hinted that scientific education at the secondary level was respectable, although he had in mind the Ateneo Municipal. This paper pursues Rizal's clue by studying the preuniversity vocational school, the Escuela Nautica de Manila, an educational institution largely ignored in most historical studies. This paper narrates the establishment of the school and discusses its changing curriculum in the course of the nineteenth century in relation to empire-wide initiatives as well as the constraints and possibilities internal to the Philippines, including drawbacks in basic arithmetic education. In retracing the school's history; the paper highlights some key moments: the addition of foreign language in the 1850s through the Escuela de Comercio, the admission of natives in 1860; the impact of the earthquake in 1863, and the planned closure of the school in the late 1880s. The paper ends with a discussion of the Escuela Nautica de Manila as a predominantly Creole institution and of observers' assessments of the quality of education that the school offered.