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With respect to the Minutes of Council on Education, so far as I am capable of judging, I have always thought them fair in principle and judicious in their detail, and characterised by a great deal of talent in the way in which they have been worked out. They offer great encouragement to the well-qualified and efficient schoolmaster, both through an increase of salary and through the assistance of the pupilteachers in the management of his school.
Some, I know, are of opinion that the standard of acquirements of the school-teachers and of the qualifications for pupil-teachers are too high.* With respect to the acquirements of pupil-teachers, I feel persuaded, if the general standard were below what is fixed upon, and what in practice the inspectors seem to require, we should soon find a nume-rous class of pupil-teachers totally unfit for their position, and that the cause of education would, on account of the great expense attending it, and the small proportionate results, retrograde rather than advance. No doubt a very great proportion of the present teachers are not qualified to teach what the Minutes require ; but it is much better that they should be obliged to work up to a moderate standard, rather than that it should be lowered to a point which would render it totally inefficient for the advancement of good teaching
In carrying into practice the contemplated increase of salary to masters and mistresses, the examination seems to me defective, inasmuch as it does not make sufficient inquiry into the state and efficiency of the school of which the candidate is the teacher.
A man who is just leaving a training-school, or has only lately left it, and during the last year or two been practised in composition—in examinations on paper, etc.—will, as the examination is conducted, do much better than many of the really good, practical teachers, and whose usefulness as teachers has been proved by the state and efficiency of their schools. In this way there is great danger of the experienced, good schoolmaster being classed far below one who may not turn out half so useful when tried in the school. I think, unless the state and condition of a school is taken into account, many useful schoolmasters, and very deserving of the increase of salary, both from their past labours and their future promise of good, will be deterred from offering themselves. I don't know how far the continuance of an increase of salary depends upon the state of a school; but it is evident there ought to be some connection between them.
* These regulations, as regards pupil-teachers, are by experience found to work extremely well, and have been in operation ten years.
I see it stated in a new periodical, the “Educational Magazine of the Home and Colonial School Society," “What the country really requires is schoolmasters who have professional skill ; or, in other words, who are well acquainted with the nature of children, and the way to deal with them : (we may add, schoolmistresses also ; for their patient training and happy influences are invaluable.) Faithful teachers, of steady, hard-working, pains-taking habits, with a tolerably good English education, well informed in common every-day matters, grasping what they have acquired firmly, and having it ready for use; knowing something of the art of teaching, well trained to draw out the faculties of children, to teach them the rudiments of knowledge, as well as to read with ease, and to read fluently.” Now, all this is very good as far as it goes, and will, in many schools, be all that is wanted; yet there can be no doubt, the higher the acquirements of the teacher, and the more knowledge he is able to bring to bear on his teaching, the more likely he is to succeed.
Although the attainments aimed at in some of the trainingschools may appear of a character beyond what is wanted in the lower class of schools, yet these very men of greater attainments are by no means beyond what is wanted in our larger elementary schools, and will, if they can unite in education the children of the employer and the employed, in the end be the cheapest schoolmasters; inasmuch as they will be the means of raising up a numerous class of self-supporting schools, and make the farmers and tradesmen feel what they have hitherto never done, the real value of the village schoolmaster.
It may not be thought necessary, nor do I think that it is necessary, for the schoolmaster to teach Latin and Greek, and perhaps undue importance may have been given, or thought to have been given, to these in some of our Training Institutions; but it must be recollected that they are taught these in order to qualify them the better for teaching other things ; and what I am holding out for is an amount of knowledge in the teacher which will make him worth having when he is sent among us, and by his teaching make the parents feel that education is worth paying for, and is one of the decent wants of life.
The kind of knowledge which appears to be most useful in our schoolmasters, is sufficiently indicated in the following pages; and I think experimental science, and a knowledge of the science of common things, ought to form an important part of the instruction in all our training schools.
One very serious difficulty which the Training Institutions have had to contend with, and one really of a serious nature, has been the small amount of knowledge possessed by the candidates at the time of their admission; this is in general so great, that it is a thing totally impossible to make anything of them in less than two or three years : but when once they can draw their supplies from the best pupilteachers in our elementary schools, a very different state of things will commence ; they will then be supplied with young men and young women of eighteen or nineteen, who will have a much greater knowledge of teaching, and of the subjects in which they are expected to teach, at the time of their admission, than many of those, who had been trained there, had after a residence of two or three years in the institution ; and instead of three years, it will be quite unnecessary that any of them should remain so long. Until lately, I was of opinion that the Training Institutions were slow in making their usefulness felt in the country; but having had an opportunity of judging of the kind of materials they had to work upon (whether this may not in some measure be the fault of those who recommend I do not know), I feel confident, if sent out at the end of one year's training, the majority of them could not possiby be qualified for schools even of the lowest class, and this without any blame attaching to the teaching in the institution itself.
The system of pupil-teachers, if carried out as it ought to be, and with due vigilance on the part of the inspectors, is admirably calculated for a future supply of efficient teachers, and will, in a few years, entirely alter the character of ele-, mentary teaching throughout the country;* on this, as well as on every other account, the standard of acquirements ought not to be lowered.
The reader will find at p.40 a few short extracts from an interesting “ Educational Tour in Prussia and Holland,” by an American, Mr. Mann, Secretary to the Board of Education at Boston ; they relate chiefly to the importance of the schoolmaster having a knowledge of drawing.
This, it seems, in the Prussian Schools, is almost universal; and the various ways in which a teacher will find it useful, and in which, by means of the black-board it will give life to his teaching, make it a thing of great importance, and one which every schoolmaster, having the slightest taste for it, ought to cultivate.
The same writer, who clearly does not admire the ordinary way of teaching the alphabet, gives the following anecdote, taken from an American prize essay on Education :
“ A Mr. Ottiwell Wood, at a late trial in Lancashire, England, giving his name to the court, the judge said, “Pray, Mr. Wood, how do you spell your name ? To which the witness replied:
* This is now found to be the case.
"O double T, I double U, E double L, double U, double 0, D.' The learned judge at first laid down his pen in astonishment; and then, after making two or three unsuccessful attempts, declared he was unable to record it.'
That schools should be able to get the best elementary books at a cheap price, is a thing of the utmost importance. The regulations under which books are now supplied by the Committee of Council have been very much improved ; a new and extended book-list has lately been issued.
Another thing which ought to be borne in mind, in trying to give a wholesome direction to the education of the masses of a country, is to do it upon principles as little pauperising as possible. The exclusively eleemosynary character which many attempt to give to the education of the labouring classes, is to be regretted. One cannot but admire the conduct of those who are at great expense in doing this entirely gratis, in their own localities; still I conceive much greater good would result by establishing moderate payments even in such cases, and any saving from this might be given to school-building where pecuniary assistance is wanted. This making them pay, many, more particularly ladies, who have schools of this kind, will not hear of: they no doubt find great gratification, and are pleased in doing so much good, but why not allow the parents to join in the feeling, by doing something towards it themselves; without this it excites but little interest in them, and altogether wants that kind of vitality which leads to the best results.
I am persuaded with respect to my own profession, that if we relied more on improving the staple of education in our schools, and less on charity sermons, we should find better and less expensive results. The changes lately adopted in the examinations at Cambridge, and it is to be hoped Oxford may do the same, will eventually, through the clergy, have a most beneficial effect on the education of the labouring and middle classes.
I feel persuaded that a child educated from borrowed books, the property of the school, and one educated from its parents buying them, and their being the property of the child, in a social sense, and for all the economic purposes of life, the two are not the same beings ;—nor is the effect on the parents, or the interest they take in their children, the same in the two cases; the minds of the children are not formed in the same mould, nor are they habituated to view things connected with the way in which they are to struggle through life, through the same medium.
No one, unless he has had experience of children in the matter of education in schools of this kind, can form an idea
of the wish they have to possess books of their own, when once they have been interested in what they are learning ; and if there is any one thing which more than another, from experience here, I feel entitled to recommend to managers of schools, and to those who take an interest in them, it is by all means to introduce the plan of children purchasing their school-books; a thing which, when once established and the instruction good, there is no difficulty whatever in maintaining.
The prices of these books in the Council list are so reasonable, that the great majority of schools would be able to purchase them; and there could be no greater boon to the cause of education than enabling them to do so, and to an extent limited only by their wants, and allowing them to apply at reasonable intervals.* The dividing the list into two parts might be worthy of consideration : one of schoolbooks used in the school, for which grants in aid, when necessary, might be made ; the other, of books of a more advanced kind for pupil-teachers and masters, and to be had only at the reduced prices.
The putting in circulation a well-selected list of educational books is in itself good, inasmuch as it brings before the school-managers and school teachers the best books of the kind, which otherwise they might not have an opportunity of knowing much about; and in this way places the education of the country in a wholesome channel, so far as books are concerned.
The restrictions with which the Council regulations are fettered, may probably in some measure arise from the booksellers and publishers being averse to this mode of supplying our elementary schools, and, of course, it is not to be expected that they can sell books at a price which is not remunerating ; but if they would consider, that this is not taking away a market, which they have already had, but is opening out one in a quarter which never existed before — (the little which was wanted being supplied by the Christian Knowledge, or similar Societies) - one which, when the people are fairly in a train of being educated, so as to enable them to read when they leave school, will be of an extensive kind. If the publishers would look forward in this way, they would be anxious to supply such schools at prices which may be remunerating to the publisher, although not to the retail trade ; the latter would very soon find the benefit of this, as there is scarcely a cottage into which books, bought after leaving school, to a greater or less extent, would not find their way, when once a people are fairly educated.
* This has been done