Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

their behaviour at church, which they attend officially as singers. They also give unqualified satisfaction in Sunday-school teaching. Their conduct out of school is decorous, and becoming the character of those to whom the training of the rising generation is, in a measure intrusted.”

This master has nine pupil teachers, is a man of the highest character, and one of the most experienced teachers in London.

“ The general conduct of my apprentices out of school is very satisfactory; they are steady, attentive, and obedient; and maintain their position, yet with due respect to all parties. There is and can be but one opinion respecting the moral influence of the apprentices in the school."

This is written by a certificated master, who has three pupilteachers, and it is a fair specimen of the general reports made by schoolmasters and mistresses.

Another excellent teacher writes to me, speaking of the pupil-teachers in three large schools, who meet regularly once a-week, for the purpose of mutual examination and improvement:

“The report which has been spread in some parts of the country, that apprentices generally are conceited, &c., is quite unfounded in the case of all these, for they are quiet, humble, and obedient, and in their general character such as you would wish.”

The next point to be considered is, whether the pupil-teachers are likely to be well informed in general subjects. Whether the instruction which they receive is sufficient to enable them to understand and explain the subjects which ought to be taught in elementary schools, and to give them just notions upon those points which, though subordinate to religious and moral training, are of great practical importance to men of all classes.

It will make this subject clearer if I state briefly what is the average standard of a pupil-teacher's attainments at the commencement of his apprenticeship.

They have generally read a series of the class-books published by the educational societies. These books contain a good deal of general information, but the pupils have seldom a clear and well-digested knowledge of their contents.

They all write a good hand, and their exercises in dictation are correct. Few find any difficulty in writing from memory the substance of an easy narrative, after hearing it read once or twice.

They must of course work the four elementary rules in arithmetic with accuracy. Most of them, however, can work any sums in the higher rules, including fractions and decimals. Formerly this subject was taught on a dry mechanical system. Now, the principles are clearly explained, and the boys understand thoroughly every step in the process.

The candidates are expected to possess an elementary knowledge of grammar and geography. In the latter subject most of them have made considerable progress.

In each of these subjects the standard of attainments might be fairly raised. A boy 13 or 14 years old, who cannot pass the examination of the second year, must be deficient in ability or industry, or have been badly instructed. In the beginning of last year there may have been some difficulty in finding a supply of good boys able to pass the preliminary examination, and in fact many were brought back to school from situations in which they had forgotten nearly all that they had learned. At present the difficulty is rather that of selection from a large number of able competitors. It seems, therefore, that it would not only be reasonable and just to raise the standard, but more conducive to the interests of the schools, and of the pupil-teachers themselves, who would thus be more secure of passing the annual examinations during their apprenticeship.

The deficiencies of the candidates, generally speaking, are most conspicuous in the two following respects. In the first place, few have a competent knowledge of the English language. From want of early cultivation and sufficient reading, they have a very limited vocabulary, express themselves in ungrammatical language, and have not been instructed in the elements of English composition. Only a small proportion have been accustomed to take notes of lessons, or to write abstracts, or to give written accounts of what they have observed at home or abroad.

In the second place, there is generally a want of system in their knowledge of things. While they know something of foreign countries and remote objects, they seldom know much about their own village, county, or country. They have seldom been accustomed to observe accurately, and to describe simply and intelligibly, those natural or artificial objects which they have daily occasion to use.

We have to consider how far the system of instruction appears calculated to supply these deficiencies, and to carry on what has been fairly commenced.

Their knowledge of language is tested at the annual examinations in four distinct ways.

1. They have to examine a class, in the presence of the Inspector, on the meaning of a reading-lesson. In this subject I have remarked' a great improvement in the course of the last year:

At first, few pupil-teachers gave correct, and still more rarely complete, definitions of words in common use. At present the explanations are much clearer, and the apprentices evidently understand that it is their duty to study the subject matter carefully, and to express their thoughts in simple and correct language. This part of the system is evidently working well, but still requires great attention and care.

2. They are examined in grammar, including etymology, syntax, and prosody. Here also a steady progressive improvement may be remarked. In the papers which were given in by many pupil-teachers last year, there were many indications of imperfect teaching. At present the parsing is generally correct. The roots of all words of ordinary occurrence are readily traced, whether derived from the Anglo-Saxon or the classical languages; and the construction of complex sentences, as well as the elementary principles of metre, are tolerably well understood by the apprentices whom I have examined for the second and third years respectively. The grammars most in use are those by Dr. Latham, in which the principles of language are philosophically investigated, and by Hunter, Bromly, Cornwall, and McCulloch, in which a great variety of examples and illustrations are supplied. There can be no doubt that the pupil-teachers are now acquiring a much clearer insight into their language than was attainable by youths in their position in the best schools a few years since.

3. They pass oral examinations in many subjects, have to read difficult passages as a trial of elocution, and teach a class in any subject which the Inspector may select. The result of this trial has not yet been quite satisfactory. Most of them appear to find it difficult to bring the rules of grammar, which they really understand very well, to bear practically upon their habitual language. Early habits and association with uneducated persons counteract the theoretical knowledge which they acquire at school ; but as the attention of the masters is directed fairly to the subject, and as both they and the apprentices are aware that a vulgar pronunciation and incorrect language will be regarded as disqualifications in every teacher, there is reason to hope that the improvement, which is certainly to be remarked, will become more conspicuous every year.

4. At the end of the first year they have to write a narrative from memory, and in the following years to prepare notes of lessons, and to write essays on subjects connected with schoolkeeping. These exercises are scarcely sufficient to make them feel that one of their most important works is to acquire the habit of expressing their thoughts in a correct and perspicuous style. I am not aware that they study composition as an art at all, owing, perhaps, to a want of sufficient stimulus and encouragement. The first exercise is scarcely more than a trial of memory. It is but a test of that power of the mind which is least intellectual, and practically least useful to a teacher, viz., that of reproducing, without modifying, sentences and thoughts that have been received without effort and retained without reflection. The other exercises are far more valuable, for they require thought and systematic habits of observation, and deservedly take a high place among the subjects of examination. But they are scarcely a sufficient test of language and composition. It is not merely that they ought to be simply writtenthat is a point that should be inculcated in every exercisebut they do not involve any special attention to writing as an

art. The style and arrangement are quite subordinate to the subject matter ; and, as an exercise in the former, many papers that deserve commendation on other, it may be equally important, grounds, have scarcely any value. Since a correct and perspicuous style, showing some acquaintance with good authors, and an intelligent appreciation of their beauties, is one of the surest indications of mental culture, and is intimately connected with high and humanizing influences, it may be a question whether

the composition of an essay should not be proposed as a part of every examination after the first year. The attention of the apprentices would thus be directed to the study of those authors, both in prose and verse, whose works have been the main agents in forming the national mind of England.

It may further be observed, with reference to this subject, that although I have used the common expression “knowledge of words,” yet it is inadequate, and sometimes conveys a false impression. The knowledge of language, as shown in good composition, involves a practical knowledge of the laws of thought, and of the principles of the human mind. A word that embodies a thought is a living thing, a putting forth, as it were, and image of the inner man, whereas many facts, indeed all facts which are not traced to a cause and connected with a system, are but dead words to the pupil. Many minds have been stupified and deadened by the repetition of mere nomenclatures, which have been inculcated as scientific statements.

Upon the whole, I can report that the pupil-teachers are making very considerable progress in the knowledge of their own language, and, compared with other boys and girls, may be regarded as well informed in this subject.

It would occupy too much space were I now to report in detail upon their progress in other branches of study. There can be no doubt that the standard at the end of each year is one which they can all reach without any distressing exertion. It embraces no subjects that are not practical, and necessary for teachers, and requires no peculiar talents in the pupils. The means that we have for testing their proficiency are sufficient, although the examination must of course be compressed within so many hours as the youths can work without any straining of their faculties in one day. The reports which I have hitherto been able to make are highly gratifying. I believe that not a single apprentice has yet failed in passing the examination, whose conduct in other respects had been fully satisfactory to his employers. And the papers which have been lately produced undoubtedly show a steady and progressive improvement. A few observations on each subject of instruction may suffice to show that these pupil-teachers will be gene- . rally well informed.

The higher rules of arithmetic, including decimals, evolution, &c., appear to be thoroughly mastered by the boys before the end of the second year, while the girls work rules in compound proportion with ease and accuracy.

The former then proceed to geometry, mensuration, and mechanics; the latter to book-keeping. All masters who have obtained Certificates of Merit are fully competent to carry on these branches of instruction to the extent prescribed by the Minutes; and I do not believe that


failures will occur. In geography the progress of the pupils is very striking. They have generally read the best text-books on physical and descriptive geography, some good books of travels (Humboldt and Captain Cook being the chief favourites); they are also accustomed to work problems on the globes or planisphere-some of them understand the projection of maps—and nearly all can draw from memory a very accurate outline of any countries which enter into the course, comprising the whole world, before the termination of their apprenticeship. Some of the best collective lessons which I have heard have been on this subject, which good teachers combine with much practical information on matters especially interesting to Englishmen. The History of England is also studied carefully, and might perhaps form a subject of examination much earlier. An account of some remarkable transactions, or characters of distinguished persons, would be a good exercise in English composition, and might be required at the end of the first year.

It is not quite clear whether the deficiency which was observed in the candidates' knowledge of what may be called “material "subjects, that is of common external objects, is sufficiently taken into consideration. I am not aware that attempts are generally made, or made with any great success, to give the apprentices elementary instruction in natural history. The books lately introduced into the schools contain much general information on the subject, but perhaps more pains might be taken to teach it, systematically, and in connexion with a wellarranged series of object lessons. The pamphlets published by the Rev. R. Dawes have, however, forcibly drawn the attention of teachers to this subject. Although the proficiency of the apprentices cannot well be tested by an examination-paper, it will be sufficiently obvious to the Inspectors when they give lessons on the gallery, towards the end of their time, or are candidates for other advantages held out to deserving pupils. Every pupil-teacher should

keep notes of the lessons which he gives on this subject, and it would be an encouragement if specimens were noticed in the Inspectors' official reports.

I have hitherto considered the system with reference to the intellectual attainments and development of the apprentices; but the prospect of their becoming skilful and energetic teachers must depend upon their proficiency in the art of teaching, and



« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »