Since boyhood Rizal knew the value of good education. His exile in Dapitan gave him the opportunity to put into practice his educational ideas. In 1893, he established a school which existed until the end of his exile in July 1896. It began with three pupils and in the course of time the enrollment increased to 16 and later 21. In his letter to Blumentritt on March 13, Rizal said that he had 16 pupils in his school and these pupils did not pay any tuition. Instead of charging them, he made them work in his garden, fields and construction projects in the community.
Rizal taught this boys reading, writing, languages (Spanish and English), geography, history, mathematics arithmetic and geometry), industrial work, nature study, morals and gymnastics. He trained them how to collect specimens of plants and animals, to love work, and to "behave like men".
Formal classes were conducted between 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. In Ateneo, the best pupil was called an "emperor" and he sat at the head of the bench whereas the poorest pupil occupies the end of the bench.
During recess the pupils built fires in the garden to drive away the insects, pruned the fruit trees, and manured the soil.