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In reporting upon the competitive examinations which have taken place under our superintendence, we feel it to be our duty to avow our continued conviction that the selection of persons for junior situations in the Civil Service by competitive examination, combined with the proper conditions as to age, health, and character, and with the check of a period of probation, and with promotion by merit from class to class, is the best mode of providing for the Public Service.

This opinion has twice received the sanction of the House of Commons; on the last occasion (14th July

1857), the following resolution was agreed to without a division:

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That, in the opinion of this House, the experience acquired since the issuing of the Order in Council of the 21st day of May 1855, is in favour of the adoption of the principle of competition as a condition of entrance to the Civil Service; and that the application of that principle ought to be extended in conformity with the resolution of the House agreed to on the 24th day of April 1856."

We may also here advert to the Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on County and District Surveyors (Ireland), appointed in July last on the motion of Mr. G. A. Hamilton. The following extracts show the view taken by the Committee :

"Although the vacancies which may be expected to occur in the offices of County Surveyors may not be numerous, yet your Committee, attaching great importance to the principle of competition for appointments in public offices, have reason to believe, from the evidence of Mr. Galbraith and other witnesses, that under an improved system of competitive examination for such vacancies as might occur, with publicity before and after, and on the principle of the examinations now established for the Engineers and Artillery at Woolwich, there would be found not only a larger number of competitors for every vacancy, but that other important public advantages would arise therefrom.

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"With regard to the Assistant Surveyors, while your Committee admit that the duties proposed to be assigned to these officers may not require any large amount of engineering or scientific knowledge, yet, considering the facilities now offered for instruction in almost every branch to the middle and working classes in Ireland, it does not appear impossible to establish such an examination for candidates, even for the offices of Assistant Surveyors, as would secure for the public the services of more efficient persons, and likewise create a very useful stimulus to education among these classes."

We retain our confidence in the opinion which we have above expressed in favour of competitive examinations, notwithstanding the objections which have been for some time urged by those opposed to them, and recently repeated by persons whose opinions are entitled to respect and carry with them deserved authority.

We shall endeavour briefly to state and to discuss the most important of these objections. They appear to be

1. That in competitive examinations too much credit is given to scholastic acquirements which are not required for the Service.

2. That there is an element of uncertainty in the results of such examinations, inasmuch as one candidate may have accidentally directed his attention to particular questions which happen to be proposed, whilst another candidate has not done so.

3. That there are important moral qualities of the candidate which are not taken into account.

In addition to the objections above noticed, two arguments, inconsistent with each other, are sometimes urged against competitive examinations. By one class of objectors it is said that competitors fresh from school must have an advantage over better-educated men who have not been at school or college for some years; while another class of opponents insist upon the unreasonableness of expecting that youths of 17 or 18 can successfully contend against the more extensive reading and more matured powers of older candidates. The objections might perhaps be left to neutralize each other, but we have thought it desirable to ascertain the facts with regard to the two largest departments, and we find the result to be as follows:

In the Customs, the average age of 17 successful candidates was 20.8 years, and that of 41 unsuccessful 22 years. In the Inland Revenue, the average age of 15 successful was 21.1, and that of 31 unsuccessful 20.2. Taking the two departments together, it appears that the average age of the 32 successful candidates was 21 years, and that of the 72 unsuccessful 21.3 years.

The time which had elapsed since leaving school was found to be on the average of the two departments precisely the same (4.8 years) for the two classes of competitors.

With regard to the first of the above stated objectionsas to the credit given to scholastic acquirements-we are able to state that in our competitive examinations we endeavour to give due weight to what will be admitted to be strictly practical acquirements, such as Arithmetic, Writing, Spelling, English Composition, and the framing a Précis, as contradistinguished from what may be described, with more or less propriety, as "scholastic acquirements," such as Latin, modern languages, history, mathematical science, &c.

Adopting for convenience this distinction, we have further to state, that whatever may be the scholastic attainments of a candidate, where such subjects enter into the examination, we require that he should at all events have such an amount of practical acquirements as will render him, in our judgment, positively competent to perform the duties of the situation which he seeks; and we have on more than one occasion rejected competitors for failure in these respects, who would otherwise have been successful. Moreover, with very few exceptions which have been necessarily owing to the nature of the subjects prescribed, we so arrange the marks of merit as to give a considerable preponderance to excellence in the practical subjects.

We can further state that ordinarily, although not invariably, a candidate who passes a good examination in the scholastic subjects also distinguishes himself in the practical subjects.

As illustrating this point we subjoin a Table, showing the results of the recent competition, already noticed, for the vacant clerkship under this Commission, so far as relates to the merits of the candidates in the practical and other subjects respectively:

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Number of Marks obtained for

Practical Subjects.

Total. Average.

3150 1050.

2037

1825

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We have in the preceding Table combined the candidates into groups of three, in order to eliminate accidental anomalies, but in the Appendix will be found a Table

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showing the number and proportion of marks obtained by each of the candidates in this competition in the practical and scholastic subjects respectively.

The results shown by the preceding Table receive strong confirmation from a careful analysis of the marks obtained in all the competitive examinations which have taken place during the year 1857. This analysis will be found in the Appendix (p. 44), and shows that out of 115 successful candidates in 76 competitions, only nine would have been replaced by others if the examination had been limited to practical subjects.

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We conceive that we have sufficiently shown that we do not give too much credit to scholastic acquirements, and that it cannot be justly said of this Commission that we can only ascertain by examination the comparative "proficiency of candidates in certain kinds of knowledge, "which can seldom be useful in carrying on the busi"ness of a public office." At the same time, we believe that examinations in languages, literature, and science are extremely useful for the purpose of ascertaining the relative ability, industry, and intellectual cultivation of the candidates.

It is as evidence of these, rather than in reference to the value of the attainments themselves (except when from the nature of the appointment they fall into the class of practical subjects, as French and Modern History, in the Foreign Office), that we regard the display of merit in these branches of knowledge.

It may be added that, apart from actual information or the knowledge of particular facts, the general intelligence, good sense, and good taste of a candidate are manifested to a considerable extent in his manner of treating the subjects proposed to him, and are not without weight in the assignment of marks.

It should be borne in mind, also, that it is almost certain that a candidate who shows by his examination in these subjects that he possesses considerable ability, industry, and intellectual cultivation, will, unless he has an absolute inaptitude for practical acquirements, soon arrive at proficiency in these when his attention is directed to them in the performance of his official duties.

With respect to the second objection above stated, founded on the alleged element of uncertainty-(which

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