Deprivation of physical and emotional needs is a formula for disaster in the human psyche. Mr. Brocklehurst's sadistic treatment of the girls serves only to destroy any self-worth in the children--not to mention in their health.
I completely agree with accessteacher's post. Since he covered the teaching aspects so well, I'll address the physical aspects of learning in Jane Eyre which Mr. Brocklehurst utilizes at Lowood. It's true this is an orphanage; however, it's also a school. The orphans were also students; therefore, how he treats the orphans is how he treats the students. Jane says this:
Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold; we had noboots, the snow got into our shoes, and melted there; our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were our feet.
Inside living conditions were not much better. Students need to be physically prepared for learning, and these students were most certainly not--and the blame for that rests solely on the avarice and callousness of one man, Mr. Brocklehurst.
Chapter 7 narrates the first visit of Brocklehurst to Lowood, his school, whilst Jane is there. During this time he takes Miss Temple to task for "indulging" the girls by allowing them an extra lunch of bread and cheese because the breakfast was so badly cooked that it was inedible. When Miss Temple explains her reasons in an attempt to justify the extra expense, Brocklehurst launches into a self-serving hypocritical tirade that seeks to explain his philosophy of education:
"You are aware that my plan in bringing up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. Should any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish, the incident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with something more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body and obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved to the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them to evince fortitude under the temporary privation."
Brocklehurst then justifies his harsh, draconian treatment of the girls at Lowood by appealing to the spiritual education they are receiving. What he is blind to is his own hypocrisy - for he obviously eats incredibly well, and he allows his girls to have their hair set in curls, which is something he punishes Julia Severn for. In looking to the eternal he is forsaking the temporary lives that the girls have to carve out of the conditions in which they are in, thus leading to the premature deaths of many of them.
Therefore I completely disagree with the philosophy of education that is presented by Brocklehurst in this Chapter - he is rightly portrayed as a hypocritical, self-serving figure of cruelty and is justly condemned in Jane's narrative.