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Schools in Scotland. not in connexion with the Established Church
-General Report for 1848-49, by John Gibson, Esq., one of
Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. MY LORDS,
Edinburgh, December 1849. Since my appointment in 1948, a comparatively small portion of my time has been devoted to the work of inspection. The arrangements made by your Lordships, and detailed in the letter addressed to my colleague and me by your Lordships' Secretary, rendered it necessary to spend several months in the examination of candidates for Certificates of Merit, and in work directly connected with these examinations, including the preparation of the examination papers, the review of the written answers of the candidates, and the reporting on them to your Lordships. The interest excited by your Lordships' Minutes, and the ignorance prevalent, especially in the remoter parts of Scotland, in regard to their precise nature and objects, entailed upon me a vast amount of correspondence, attention to which occupied no small share of my time, so that I have been enabled to give not more than a few months to inspection. This inspection, too, has been conducted in circumstances and for objects singularly interesting and important indeed, but ill fitted for enabling me to report upon the schools with such minuteness of statistical detail as is desirable and necessary, and as I shall be able in future very easily to give.
I propose, in the following brief Report, to submit to your Lordships a statement describing the objects, nature, and chief results of the work of inspection in which I have been occupied; the general views and principles by which I was regulated in drawing the Examination Papers; the spirit and manner in which the written answers were reviewed by me, and then reported upon to your Lordships; and the impressions made upon my own mind by the novel and animating spectacle of so many of the teachers of our country assembled, under the auspices of your Lordships, for the purpose of proving their qualifications for the high work to which they have devoted themselves.
1. Inspection. I have examined, with more or less minuteness, more than 100 schools. These schools were visited, specially, for the selection and examination of candidates for apprenticeship as pupil teachers. The specific object of my visit regulated to a great extent the nature of the examination. That object was three-fold: First, to discover among the children in attendance those who by attainment, talent, disposition, and general charac
ter and particularly by already developing or already developed aptitude for teaching, gave good promise of becoming, through a prolonged and well-regulated course of instruction and training, accomplished and skilful teachers, as well as amiable, upright, and conscientious men; and, Secondly, to ascertain the moral and religious character, as well as the professional acquirements and skill of the masters; and, Thirdly, to determine whether their schools, in point of organization and discipline, were such as to justify me in recommending that pupil-teachers should be apprenticed in them, and might be expected to be so instructed and trained, as to be prepared for entering with advantage upon a course of higher instruction and training in a Normal School, at the termination of their apprenticeship.
In regard to the masters, I was careful, before I ventured to recommend your Lordships to apprentice pupil-teachers in their schools, to satisfy myself that their professional acquirements were precise and accurate, if not also varied and extensive, solid and well arranged, if not brilliant and comprehensive; and as to their skill and other professional qnalifications, that they were tolerably well trained, somewhat acquainted with good methods, zealous in the discharge of the duties of their office, lively and cheerful in temper and disposition, and calm, vigorous, or energetic in character. In these respects, the teachers of the schools in which your Lordships have consented, on my recommendation, to the apprenticeship of pupil-teachers, are deserving of commendation, and entitled to the confidence of all interested in the young persons entrusted to their care.
The schools, too, in respect of organization and discipline, furnish fair specimens of what, with the means at the disposal of the teachers, and the amount and variety of work to be overtaken by them, it is either fair or reasonable to expect them to be. The aid of their young assistants will enable the teachers gradually to approximate to, and ultimately to realize such forms of organization as are to be found, as yet, only in our highest class of elementary schools, and in our best endowed, or most liberally maintained high schools and academies. It will also induce and facilitate a more earnest and systematic attention to a truly enlightened discipline, a clearer and steadier apprehension of the great object to which such discipline should be directed, a more deliberate examination of the means by which this object can be best attained, and a more careful, continuous, and persistent application of these means to the realization of that object. To ascertain and measure, with some degree of precision, the attainments and talents of the candidates, they were placed, at my request, in the highest class of the school, and without having been pointed out to me, were subjected, along with the whole class, to a prolonged, minute, and scarching oral examination. And it was only at the conclusion of this process, during which I had an opportunity of carefully marking the characteristics, both of intellect and disposition, by which the best scholars had distinguished themselves, that I proceeded to point out to the managers and teachers, the pupils that seemed to me, in point of attainments, well fitted for the important office of pupil-teacher.
It affords an evidence of the intelligence and perspicacity with which the teachers and managers had selected the pupils for whose apprenticeship they had made application to your Lordships, and of the purity of intention and honesty of aim by which they were actuated in seeking for them this benefit, that in almost every case, those presented by them as candidates, were selected by me as the best in disposition, in attainments, and in talent. The next subject of inquiry was their aptitude for teaching; and in regard to this, I found that the master's judgment had been carefully, and in most cases, judiciously formed. They were then subjected to the written examination prescribed by your Lordships, and on being recommended by the managers as fitted in point of moral and religious character for the office to which they aspired, they were submitted by me to your Lordships as deserving apprenticeship.
I have considerable confidence in stating that most of the young persons already apprenticed in these schools will prove, when they have completed their full course of instruction and training, not only accomplished and well-instructed, but also apt and skilful teachers. You have already apprenticed in these schools nearly 200 of the cleverest, the most accomplished, the most amiable in disposition, and the steadiest in character among the pupils. You have placed them in a position singularly favourable to the development of their moral, their intellectual, and their religious character. There have been thrown up around them safeguards from some of the influences that make shipwreck of so many. They have been enabled to start in early youth with hearts full of hope and devoted to the work of their future lives, with monitors, and guardians, and guides at every step they take. Every inducement is held out to them to prove worthy of the encouragement they have received, and every aid is given them to become skilful members of a profession inherently noble, and which promises speedily to become both honour-worthy and honoured.
Method.-Nothing has pleased me more during my recent tours than the attempt made universally, in all our schools, and by all our teachers, to practice good methods of instruction ; everywhere were they somewhat known, and everywhere were they somewhat practised with more or less success. During the first years I had the honour to hold the office of Inspector of Schools, I had frequently to report regarding some in which no attempt was made to communicate to the children more than
the more elements of the ordinary branches of instruction. Numerous were the cases in which the teacher declared not only his unwillingness to adopt new methods, but his strong disapprobation, sometimes even his entire contempt, of them. Such a phenomenon is not now to be met with. All are on the alert. All are now attempting to obtain some knowledge of the various methods that have been recently so much talked of, and so minutely, if not always very successfully, expounded; and in almost every school are they found to be practised with some degree of skill.
It must, however, be said that few but the very ablest teachers have kept themselves free from the peculiarities and trammels of each system or method, and have adopted and continue to practise the excellencies of all. Here, as in higher regions of thought and speculation, the reputation of distinguished men has secured for them a devoted and admiring body of adherents and disciples.
There are already Schools of Popular Education, as well as Schools of Philosophy. In Scotland, and especially among the teachers of whom it is my duty to speak, there may be said to be two Schools having their own distinctive excellencies and peculiarities, and the earnest and devoted disciples of which are very strongly distinguished from one another, both in the views which they hold in regard to what constitutes a thoroughly satisfactory and complete course of instruction and training; in regard to what should be its markedly prominent features, and should therefore obtain from the master the largest share of his attention ; and in regard to the methods in which the various departments should be brought to influence and form the character of the pupil, and thus direct and guide him throughout the journey of life.
In general terms, the one may be said to depend mainly, if not exclusively, upon instruction, while the other, recognising the importance of this, prizes far more highly a carefully conducted course of moral training. The one has embraced the Intellectual System, first expounded in this country in the account of the Edinburgh Sessional School, the other has drawn his convictions and views partly from the books of Mr. Stow, but mainly from the admirable embodiment of the views expounded in them, witnessed in daily operation in the Normal Seminary founded and superintended by that distinguished philanthropist and educationist. It is not meant that in the latter system the culture of the intellect does not receive a large amount of attention, any more than it is meant that in the former the moral and religious training of the pupil is undervalued or neglected. All that is indicated is, that under the one system the intellectual culture receives special attention, while under the other moral and religious training is looked