§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said: I think, Sir, looking at the lateness of the hour, and on the terms of the understanding which we have come to with some of the Scotch Members of this House, I shall content myself on the present occasion with stating very shortly the views of Her Majesty's Government on this Bill sent down to us from '' another place" leaving the general discussion of the details until we go into Committee. At the same time, it is impossible not to acknowledge the very great importance of the measure the second reading of which I have now to move—an importance which, in my opinion—and I think in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government—was not in the least exaggerated in the speech of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) who introduced it in "another place." We have spent this Session in doing, or in attempting to do, what is termed on this side of the House an act of justice to 5,000,000 of our countrymen in Ireland. But, Sir, I think it will be not less a distinction of this the first Session of the first Reformed Parliament that, while we have disestablished and disendowed the Church of the minority in Ireland, we shall have established and endowed a system of 1712 education for the whole of our 3,000,000 countrymen north of the Tweed.
I propose to confine myself at present to a simple outline of this Bill—to explain the alterations we propose to make upon the Bill as it has been sent down to us from the House of Lords. There are some things, certainly, I need not enlarge upon. I need not in this House, and speaking to Scotch Members, say a word on the importance of the education of the people. We have known it by experience, and are encouraged by that experience to attach to it the importance we do. And, at the same time, I would remind hon. Members that, while we are proposing to reduce pauperism, and are dealing with social questions in order to the removal of crime, what we can do in the way of education will prove of greater importance than anything else we could do, and if we can succeed, therefore, in founding, as we hope to do, a system of education which will thoroughly educate the people, we shall do more to diminish poor rates, to diminish intemperance, and to diminish crime than all the Bills for the direct purpose of such diminution that will be passed by this Parliament. In the second place, Sir, there is no difference of opinion in Scotland on the question that a national system of education is preferable to a denominational one. I need not prove it, because we have experienced the benefit of it. We have a national system of education, and we seek to extend it. The reasons why we are attached to a national system are, in the first place, that denominational efforts will not accomplish the work we seek to do. We may indeed in some special districts so conduct education on the denominational system as to be able to say that the average of education is high; but what is it to the district where the average is low that in some other more favoured quarter the average is high? Our object is to bring education to the door of the people, and we should not have done our duty if we had left any part of the country without the means of education furnished to it. Therefore, what we propose, and are in favour of, is that we shall have a system of national education not dependent upon voluntary effort—not resting on denominational work—not dependent, therefore, upon fitful efforts of individuals, but fixed down by legal provisions, so that it shall not be chance, but certainty, 1713 that the education of the people is provided for. But there is another element in the national system to which I attach very great value. It is strongly the view of Scotland that all the people should be, if possible, educated in the same school. All ranks, all religions, should be so educated. That was the old Scotch principle, and therefore, Sir, I need not say more for the purpose of showing that a national system of education is the right one. We have it already, and wish to extend it. The third matter of general topic I think I may exclude, is, that education in the local schools ought not to be confined to the elementary branches. We have been in the habit in our parochial schools of considering them, not as merely elementary schools, but as schools for the whole people of the district in which they are placed. Many men who have risen to eminence since have never received any education except what they received in one of these schools. I believe also that a very large percentage of the students who enter at the Scotch Universities come directly from the parish schools, and I should therefore be very sorry to lose sight of this principle indeed. I hope that, under the measure we have now before us, it may be still further enlarged. These are the general principles of our system—that, wherever an efficient school is required, such a school shall be had. That is a very simple proposition, and I think it is a noble one. It is one that has not yet been accomplished in this country, and, as far as we can see, it is not yet on the eve of accomplishment. If we can accomplish this by this Bill, it appears to me we can afford to disregard a great deal of those minor topics upon which so much difference of opinion exists. We shall have done a great work, and we may trust to other Sessions and other men to carry on the work. In the means by which this object is to be accomplished we do not aim at any theoretical symmetry; we wish to produce a measure such as can be passed into law; and we take it that the Bill I now hold in my hand is the best evidence that it is one thing to start with theoretical views of education, and another thing to pass through both Houses of Parliament a measure which shall accomplish it. I have every reason to say this, for it is now nearly sixteen years since I first had the honour to endeavour 1714 to promote education in Scotland. It was not for want of support from the people that we failed, but because we differed upon details of measures of this kind; and if we are now to succeed it will not be by standing stiff upon what we are pleased to call general principles, but by endeavouring to find out the best means we can for overcoming these difficulties. In the earliest Scotch Education Bills we were looked upon as political capitalists, and the Bills did not pass; but alas, Sir, while our Bills are brought in and lost, education stands still, but crime, intemperance, and poverty make rapid strides. I do not suppose there is a Gentleman here who does not know how great is the necessity of something to be done. The Report of the Royal Commission estimates that 90,000 children in Scotland are now destitute of education, and therefore I entreat hon. Members to take this subject in hand, and in no party spirit endeavour to make the best of it. I hope this subject will be approached purely on its own merits apart from all extraneous considerations; that it will be approached simply with a view to do what is best for the educational interests of the country. With that view, the original proposal of Her Majesty's Government was not to introduce any absolutely new system, but rather to adopt and adapt what we have. We found the venerable old system of the parochial schools, and side by side with these—and grown up from the parochial system more or less—a large number of other schools, all doing a great work in the country; and what we proposed to do was, out of the materials which we have, to construct a national system of schools, trusting to time and the operation of of the Bill for its gradual development into a symmetrical and harmonious whole. The means we took to effect this object were simple. We proposed to leave these schools exactly as they were excepting to provide for their inspection. It was proposed to throw the schools on the rates, and we afforded facilities for that being done. It was thought advisable, with the view of making the system general and equal in its operation, that there should be some central authority, and we provided that in the shape of the Board suggested by the Royal Commission. The duties of that Board were to superintend the schools 1715 generally, to ascertain what schools were required in order to supply the wants of the country; and, when it was ascertained that these schools were required, there were provisions under which they should be established in harmony with the general system. The Bill was not framed upon any theory of one party or another, but was the offspring of a Royal Commission, composed of all parties, including the Gentleman who held the Office I now have the honour to hold in the Government, and Sir James Fergusson, Under Secretary to the Home Department, and other persons strongly imbued with Conservative as well as Liberal prepossessions; and they all came to be of one mind upon the subject. They were unanimous in regard to most of the provisions of the measure, and there were only three dissentients in respect of its details. The Bill has come down from "another place" altered no doubt in many material points, but still in such a form as to be capable of being made a good working measure. The alterations that have been made relate mainly to the rural schools; the arrangement with respect to the burgh schools is left exactly as it was, in the hands of the Town Council. The result is, that we find for the first time in my experience in this House a concurrence on the part of the other House in a measure—at all events as regards education in the burghs—which would be a most material been to the country. The question now is whether the alterations with respect to the rural districts are of such a nature that we ought on that account to give up the whole Bill. I do not think they are. I was surprised in looking over the Amendments on the Bill to see how few of these involved points of material difference. But I am not going to enter generally into the provisions of the Bill. I promised to explain the alterations which we think necessary on those Amendments. In doing so I shall speak, first, of the central authority; secondly, of the local authority; thirdly, of the question of denominational grants; and lastly, I shall make a few observations with respect to the schoolmasters, and the share of the Privy Council in this process. The central authority, as originally proposed by the Government, was an elective representative body, to which it was proposed to delegate the supervision of the system, but not the 1716 command of the funds. The funds to be provided by the Privy Council were left to be managed by the Privy Council, and over these the central authority were to have no power. The central authority was to consist of representatives from the counties, the burghs, the Universities, the schoolmasters, and bodies of that kind. In the House of Lords that has been altered, and it is proposed, as the Bill now stands, that the central authority should be a paid Board, nominated by the Crown. I most carefully considered—and I considered it with a sincere desire to arrive at the conclusion—whether it might not be possible to manage the affairs of education in Scotland by the Privy Council without the intervention of any separate Scottish management, and I came very clearly to the conclusion that that was impossible. The duties which are to be devolved on this Board are duties that must be administered in Scotland. In the first place, it has to be administered geographically and locally, and from local information as to where new schools are required. In the second place, it is under the condition of the Bill a very important judicial tribunal for the trial and suspension and deprivation of schoolmasters for a number of offences. Then the whole system of education in Scotland is so peculiar that no proposition of that kind would be satisfactory or acceptable to the people of Scotland. Accordingly in all the discussions on the subject—in the evidence before the Commission, in the public meetings which have been held, in the debates in "another place," among the deputations that have come to London since the Bill was passed in the other House—there has never been any doubt or hesitation expressed upon the subject that Scotch management was essential to make the Bill effectual. Sir, I know that there are differences of opinion upon this subject. I believe that Boards, as they are called, are unpopular among a certain section of my fellow Members. Whether that view be altogether founded on fact is a question into which it is unnecessary to go; but it is at least certain that the amounts spent by the departments managed by Boards in Scotland are much less compared with the expenditure of similar departments in England and Ireland. But I will not raise any discussion on the subject. Have we not enough of difficulties to 1717 contend with on the subject of education? No Education Bill has yet been substantively brought forward for any part of the Kingdom. We have now a chance in Scotland. We have the best chance we have had for the last twenty years. Our difficulties are vanishing away, and even from "another place," where the views entertained on this question are materially different from that which prevail here, we have this year sent down a Bill in a shape in which at least it may be made useful and manageable. We ought, then, not to throw this advantage aside and enter into the discussion of controverted questions and collateral issues not necessary to the adjustment of this matter, however important in themselves. I do not want to anticipate discussion on this matter, but it involves important topics for discussion and inquiry; but surely the consideration of that matter ought not to be thrown across the question of education. I trust, in considering this proposal that I am now about to make, it will be considered entirely apart from these controverted topics and dealt with on its own merits, with this single object in view, and with our eye directed to this one end—how shall we best educate the people of Scotland. What I purpose is this—We feel that a permanent Board nominated by the Government will not be satisfactory. We do not think that the system of election and representation of the present constituencies can be very easily adapted to the purpose, and we propose a temporary Council for three years, with power to the Queen in Council to extend its existence for a longer period. We propose that the Board shall consist of the Law Officers of the Crown for Scotland, for the purpose of advising them on legal questions, of which there may be a good many at starting. We propose that there shall be other five members, who shall be paid in this way—The Chairman shall be paid £500 a year, and the other four members shall be paid three guineas for each attendance up to fifty attendances. Thus, none of these gentlemen will be in a position to make a livelihood out of their position as Commissioners or Members of the Board, and at the same time there will be an inducement to regular attendance which will not reach a very extravagant amount. The expense of such an establishment 1718 will certainly be far short of that which many such establishments cost. On the other hand, I believe it will result in a considerable degree of efficiency. I may state that in a matter of such importance, when such extensive powers and authorities are to be given to the Board, it is only right that the House should know, before ultimately deciding on the measure, whom we propose to appoint Commissioners under the Bill; and in that way the public will gain additional confidence if the names of the Commissioners are communicated. That is the proposal which we make with regard to management. There is no doubt that in three years this educational machine will be fairly started, and though some hon. Members may favour a more ideal system of management, I do not think it will be necessary to give up that machine. That, however, is a question which it will be for the country to consider at the time.
I now come to the question of the local authority, which has been very strangely dealt with in "another place." I confess I cannot altogether understand the views upon which the alterations have been made. The Commissioners came to the conclusion that the parochial schools should remain managed as they are at present, with a power to the heritors to throw them upon the rates if they thought fit. The management of the parochial schools has everything against it but one thing. It is a management which it is impossible to defend, because the management of the school is the heritors who pay £100 rent on the old valuation roll. One would suppose that they were the only heritors who paid for the school, but that is not the case. All the heritors pay, but only those who have £100 a year manage it. That is not the old law of Scotland. It was introduced in 1803. The old law of Scotland gave the voice to every heritor, and it was later on, as I have stated, that the restriction which remains to this day was placed upon it. The old valued rent is not the present valuation roll, and nothing remains of it but one or two of these ancient privileges or restrictions such as the present management of the parochial schools. The minister has also a seat upon the Board. I said that there was only one thing in favour of this system. It is only right to say that that one thing is a very important one. It is that these schools 1719 have been exceedingly well managed. The sub-Commissioners who were employed by the Commission to report upon them came to that conclusion, and I have no doubt that the conclusion is a sound one. They found a great deal of efficiency in the Free Church and other schools; but, on the whole, the parochial schools were the best. That, no doubt, arises from the fact that the schools are endowed; but it is only fair to say that these schools are very well managed. The proposition which the Government made was that the transition of the parochial schools should not be compulsory, but that it should be left to the heritors to throw them upon the rates and bring them under more liberal management. In regard to the national schools—the schools that are to be set up by the Board, or to be made over by the heritors or the managers of the denominational schools—we proposed under the Bill to place their whole management in the hands of the rate-payers—that is, in the hands of persons elected by the rate-payers. Now, the action which has been taken upon this proposal in ''another place" is very remarkable. The first part of the compromise has been accepted. The old heritors are left in the management of the parochial schools. But the second part of the compromise has been rejected, and the management of the new schools—liberally constituted, as we thought—has been put under a committee, one-half to be elected by the old heritors, and half by the rate-payers. I venture to say that that is a suggestion which it is utterly impossible to adopt. The proposal is still more preposterous when we consider the way in which the incidence of the taxation of the old parochial schools has been altered. The taxation has been placed upon the new valuation roll, and every proprietor there is to be compelled to pay up his share, and at the same time is to be deprived of a voice in the school for which he is to pay. Now, it became a question what was to be done in regard to that. I do not say that the clause I am going to suggest is one altogether satisfactory to my mind, but you have a choice of difficulties in the matter. The suggestion which I have now to make is, to read the Bill as it originally stood. It was our original proposition, and therefore it is consistent on our part to make it again; and it is consistent, moreover, with 1720 the principle of the Bill throughout, which is to leave the schools as we find them until they are thrown for support upon the rates. I am quite aware that there is a considerable feeling in favour of that course, and that there is nothing to be said in favour of the system of management which now exists. In regard to the local committees, what I propose is that two-thirds shall be elected by the rate-payers and one-third by the heritors. I think that will be a fair division, and while it will secure a reasonable amount of the popular element will not exclude the more important heritors from a share in the management of the schools. The third topic is a very important one. I am not going now to dwell upon it; I shall simply state it. The Bill, as it originally stood, provided, on the one hand, for a system of national schools, and dealt, on the other hand, with denominational grants, and prohibited competing schools, aided by the State, from being set up against those to be affected by this Bill. That provision has been altered in the strangest way imaginable, and complete license has been given by the clause as it now stands in the Bill to set up denominational schools in all parts of the country in rivalry to the national system. I think that is a very inconsiderate provision, and it is impossible for us to agree to it. But while it is impossible to allow denominational schools to be set up in rivalry to the national schools, it is another question whether we shall shut the door altogether to denominational grants to denominational schools. I do not in the least evade the question that stares us in the face. There is a very large Catholic population in many parts of Scotland. I myself should like to see Catholic and Protestant sitting upon the same bench. I am very glad to say it is a sight not strange in Scotland; but, at the same time, I am not sanguine enough to expect to see it, or at any rate to see it all at once. Neither can I, in regard to this measure, which I believe to be a great measure intended to embrace the whole population, reconcile it to myself altogether to exclude the possibility of denominational grants, were it only in regard to those of the Catholic religion. But we need not make a special exception, and what I propose to do is this—to restore the Bill to the footing on which it stood before, and leave it open to the 1721 Board, having regard to the nature of the population and the suitability of the school to its peculiar wants, to certify to the Privy Council any special school for a special grant—I do not say a denominational grant—but to leave to the Board a discretionary power to certify any particular school as requiring, or being deserving of a grant, because of the existing means of education for the population not being sufficiently available. That will not be limited to the case of Roman Catholics. It will extend to the poorer parishes throughout the whole country. I do not expect it will be largely taken advantage of, but I think it is necessary, in order to make our provision complete; and I should hope, through its operation and the operation of the remaining provisions, we shall be able to reach the very lowest class of society. I should like to go further, and to have a compulsory clause compelling education, but I consider that one thing at a time is enough. It is of no use to compel children to go to school, unless they have a school to go to. It is of no use to deal with the compulsory question until the framework of your schools is complete; but, unquestionably, if the framework of the schools were complete, I should be of opinion, for one, that the time had come when a measure, and a pretty strong measure, of compulsory education would be of the highest benefit to the people of Scotland. I think these are all the topics to which I said I would refer. With reference to the matters relating to the schoolmasters, I do not think they have any reason to complain of the shape which will be given to the Bill by the Amendments I have presented to the House. I think that at this late hour we had better defer any observations on that matter until the Amendments are on the Paper. There will be a good deal more to explain in regard to the finance of the measure—as to which there has been a good deal of misapprehension—which, I think, I can undertake to make perfectly satisfactory, so far as the means of accomplishing the end we propose to ourselves is concerned. I thank the House for the patient attention with which it has listened to my statement.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)1722
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, he thanked his right hon. Friend very heartily for the statement he had just made. It had given great satisfaction to the Scotch Members and to the House, and it would afford particular satisfaction to Scotland generally, for it was a matter of some anxiety to them to know how the Amendments made in the Bill by the House of Lords would be received by the Government in this House. Many of the Amendments proposed by his right hon. Friend on the part of the Government would be found satisfactory. There was, however, one point in the speech of his right hon. Friend, to which he must refer. He spoke of certain ideal notions entertained by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and of the undesirability of getting up a discussion on the central authority on the second reading of the Bill. Though he had been at all times willing to accept advice from his right hon. Friend, he must decline to do so on the present occasion. The central authority was the cardinal feature of this measure; and he did not see how it was possible to take any discussion, however slight, upon the second reading, without touching upon the question of the central authority. The powers to be committed to this central authority were very great; and the interests with which that authority would have to deal, were very considerable; and it therefore behaved Scotch Members especially to see that the central authority was one in which the people of Scotland could justly place confidence. With regard to the Scotch Boards, they were, no doubt, cheap—but there were many things that were cheap, were not good. There was a general feeling of dissatisfaction in Scotland, with regard to these Boards—the public knew nothing about their transactions—they sat with closed doors; and it was felt that they were not operated upon by the public opinion of the day. The Government now proposed a new and most important Board; but on this Board there would be no person directly responsible to this House; and he respectfully submitted for the consideration of the Government that, upon a question of such importance as the education of the people of Scotland, it was desirable that, if not the Chairman, at least some member of that Board should have a seat in this House, and be directly responsible for the management of the Board, and 1723 to whom any Member of the House might directly appeal for information on matters connected with its business. With regard, however, to many of the other Amendments which his right hon. Friend proposed to make in this Bill, he would give him his cordial support. With regard to the relief proposed to be given to the heritors, he would remind the House that the assessment was one which, for hundreds of years, had been levied on the heritors, and it was too much to expect that their pockets were to be relieved, and that the burden should be thrown upon the nation at large.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that he most heartily concurred in nearly every word that had fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire. He did not believe that this Board would give satisfaction to the people of Scotland—he did not believe it was possible for it to work out the objects for which it was to be appointed; and all previous experience had shown that these Boards, unamenable to public opinion, and, as it were working in the dark, were out of date; to use an expression which was not too strong, the people of Scotland were disgusted with the operation of local secret Boards. It would be most absurd, he thought, to appoint another. As to its being only temporary that was the old story. Every Board was at first appointed on that pretext. The Board of Supervision for the Poor was to be temporary; but it had existed for more than twenty years. The same story held good of the Lunacy Board. Assistant Commissioners were appointed for three years, and then an Act was passed making their office perpetual. Then there was the Board of Fisheries, of the proceedings of which the public knew nothing at all. The members of that Board were most distinguished persons; they were fitted for anything and everything except conducting fisheries. With regard to the proposed local Board, as originally formed, it was not so good as it ought to be, but still it was better than that which was proposed in the Bill as amended in the other House. In reference to the point referred to by the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), who objected to the sum which the heritors had heretofore paid for the schools being put into their pockets by being taken 1724 from educational purposes, he heartily concurred in what he had said. There never was a more unjust proposal made to this House than that of relieving the heritors from the payment of £48,000 a year and putting it into their pockets. Why, the old Act of 1696 enacted that in every parish in Scotland there should be a sufficient school provided by them for educating the children of the parish, and it required the heritors to raise a sufficient sum of money annually, in all time coming, to accomplish that purpose. From that time down to the present day the schoolmaster's salary had been uniformly deducted, just as the minister's salary was, in fixing the value of the land when offered for sale, by public advertisement or otherwise. The present heritors never bought that portion of their estates from which this school-rate came; it belonged to the public; and now it was proposed to relieve the heritors from this charge and throw it on the whole body of rate-payers, including owners and occupiers, down to a rental of £4. This would be equivalent to giving these large landowners a present of £48,000 a year. He ventured to say that the only just way in which they could touch that fund would be this—to enact that the heritors should continue to pay £48,000 a year in future, and that whenever more than that sum was required it should be fairly and equally levied on all classes, including heritors, and also owners and occupiers of houses and tenements. He trusted that the House would not touch this fund; and he was certain the people of Scotland would be willing to pay as much more as maybe wanted in supplementing that fund. He agreed with the learned Lord Advocate that the time must come—and he hoped it would come speedily—when a compulsory education Bill would be applied all over the Kingdom; but when that day did come, there must be either very low fees or no fees at all, in order to make the compulsion practically operative in the case of the humbler classes, as was the rule in the United States and in some other countries. He would conclude by saying that he was not satisfied with the provisions of the Bill as now proposed.
§ DR. LYON PLAYFAIR
* I understand it to be the wish of the House that we should not on this occasion discuss the 1725 general principles of this Bill, but that the question should be limited to the policy or impolicy of having distinct Commissioners in Scotland to put its powers in action. In other words, is the machinery to be worked in London by a Committee of Council, or by any other organization, directly and without intervention, or are there any circumstances that demand a special body in Scotland to watch over and protect the peculiarities of its education? Now I refuse to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) by introducing into the discussion of this subject the possibility of there being, sooner or later, a Secretary for Scotland. That is an important question in itself, and worthy of the attention of the House. But so, surely, is the subject of education by itself and for itself. The ignorance of the people, and the vice and misery which that ignorance engenders, is a field extensive enough and sad enough for us to traverse, but very ill fitted for playing a tournament upon, by tempting a Lord Advocate to change his purpose, and have a passage at arms with the spectre of a Scotch Secretary. An Education Bill has been presented to us involving immense interests to the people, and I for one shall not divert my gaze from its main object to any subordinate subject whatever. The only issue at present is this—Can we or can we not do without an organization in Scotland—call it a Board or call it a Commission—to promote the educational interests of the people. There is a peculiarity of Scotch education which requires the special consideration and care of any executive body charged with educational administration in Scotland. It separates so completely English elementary schools from those in Scotland, that in this peculiarity rests the justification and necessity for the creation of an educational body outside the ordinary organization of the Committee of Council. It has its origin in 1560, when John Knox and his coadjutors propounded a wonderfully wise scheme of education, embracing elementary and secondary schools, and connecting them with the Universities of the country. Such a comprehensive scheme is now in actual operation, by well-organized systems, in various Continental States, but unfortunately for us, the Government of his day did not fully adopt the wise counsels of the grand old 1726 Reformer. The Scottish Privy Council, in fact, characterized the scheme as a "devout imagination." I fear our present Privy Council would do the same if we urged upon it any educational scheme so boldly, widely, and wisely conceived. The object of John Knox's scheme was to have primary schools in every parish, and secondary schools in every town, all intimately associated with the Universities, so that boys of merit might pass upwards when their talents justified the ascent. As early as 1642, we find the General Assembly of the Kirk petitioning Parliament as follows:—That the Parliament would find out means how the children of poor men (being very capable of learning and of good energies) may be trained up as the exigencies and necessity of every place shall require.But Parliament did nothing; so the Kirk enjoined on all its presbyteries the "pious work" of finding out boys of "pregnant parts." As soon as one was reported, the session held an inquisition on his mental pregnancy, and sent him, at their expense, either to a burgh school or direct to a University. By this aid, the poorest cottar's son felt, if he had ability, that the national Universities were not beyond his reach. Thus, though John Knox's scheme never became law, its spirit has animated every Scotchman for three centuries, and has led to an unformulated but practical connection between the whole system of lower and higher education. Those who want to know the secret which makes Scotchmen thrive in this country and the colonies should read the seventh chapter of the Fourth Book of Discipline. It was felt by the meanest shepherd or the poorest Highland crofter that education would enable his son to rise in the world. Sir Walter Scott alludes to this national ambition when he makes the father and mother of Dominie Sampson wish to live to see their son "wag his head in the pulpit." Amid all the changes, both social and political, which have passed over Scotland during three centuries, this intimate bond between the lower and higher education of the nation has never been loosened. It is the glory of our system that the deserving poor, if they be endowed with talents, dare to cry "Excelsior." No less than 19 per cent of the students attending the Faculties of Arts in our four Universities are the sons of labourers. They work with 1727 their hands in summer to make money for their University studies in winter. In my own limited circle I have numerous friends who have risen in this way. Let me cite two cases by way of illustration. A few weeks since it was my duty, as University Examiner, to recommend a student for the high degree of Doctor in Science. This graduate is the son of a poor Highland crofter, and when a boy went out to herd cattle during the summer from March to October. His wages for seven months were only 25s., but they were enough to pay his fees at the parish school during winter. It is true that the school was six miles from his father's hut, but a walk of twelve miles, to and fro over a bleak moorland, does not deter a promising Scotch boy from going to school. It did deter, however, some of the farmers' sons in his neighbourhood; so at fourteen my young friend took up a little adventure school to teach these less hardy-lads, and in course of time he made enough to carry him to the burgh school at Perth, where he extended the knowledge of classics and mathematics which he had begun at the parish school. Still working, still teaching, still saving, he fought his way step by step through bursaries and scholarships won by him, till he became a certificated teacher of the first class under the Privy Council, a Master of Arts, a Bachelor of Science in the University of Edinburgh, and, as I have said, a few weeks since it was my privilege to examine him as Doctor in Science. I might quote the instance of two labourers who have lately passed through the Scottish Universities, and obtained the highest honours in the English Universities, but I shall only allude to one other instance—that of Dr. James Henderson, lately a distinguished medical missionary in China, who was footman in the country residence of the Under Secretary for India, but being born near a parish school, took advantage of it. He then went into service in Edinburgh to be near a University, and while still a footman continued his education, graduated in medicine, and then pursued his honourable career in China. Do not suppose that these are isolated cases, and that they are not true illustrations of the secondary education which may be got at our primary schools. The Church long since provided for it by enjoining the heritors to select by prefer- 1728 ence Masters of Arts as teachers of parochial schools. And the consequences are now apparent, for one-half of all the Scotch ministers pass directly from these lower schools to the Universities, and no less than 58 per cent of our Scotch physicians and surgeons spring at once from these schools to the higher platform of our Universities. If we include those who have also had the advantage of a secondary burgh school, then from 70 to 80 per cent of Scotch students at the Universities pass through the primary schools. We have nothing like this in England. Neither your professions nor your Universities are fed by the primary schools; nor would ours be if we kept them at the level of "the three R' s." But our teachers have been educated at the Universities, and they rejoice to prepare their pupils for those institutions from which they received so much advantage. This introduction of a higher education into primary schools infuses a life and ambition into them which raises the whole tone of education in the country. An hon. Member on the other side of the House once said that you cannot teach pothooks and Horace in the same school. My reply is that we have the experience of three centuries to show that they can be brought together with great advantage, and that the pothooks may ultimately be used to hang up Horace, or Herodotus, or Euclid, or Molière, in the sight of all aspiring boys. The aim of our Scotch schools has always been, after giving to children "the three R's"—the spoon, the knife, and the fork of education—to give also some sound meat to which they may be applied. This Bill brings us under the Privy Council system and the Revised Code, and you need not be surprised that we are nervously anxious that our scholars should not be deprived of their meat, while the inspectors look to the polish of the implements of education. When Scotland was first examined by the Revised Code, it is true she did not come out so well as England; but this was mainly due to her not having a general system of inspection, and to the different methods of teaching, for in Scotch schools arithmetic is not begun so early as in English schools, and the children do not enter at so tender an age. But the percentage of passes is already greater in all "the three R's," showing that our educational system is adapted to the requirements of 1729 the Revised Code. There is, no doubt, a thorough dislike of the Revised Code among the teachers in Scotland, but I believe this is mainly due to the fear that it will lower and alter our whole educational system. The first rule in Schedule A, attached to this Bill, is our Parliamentary security that the Privy Council will consult the wishes of the nation on this important point. For myself, I think the payment by results, which is the foundation of the Revised Code, is right in principle, but then the results should meet the requirements of a nation—especially when they have three centuries of success as evidence in their favour. Scotland does not want a larger Parliamentary grant than she is entitled to by the number of scholars in attendance, but she desires that grant to be distributed in a way suitable to her habits. We are willing to come under any guarantee you choose that as large a percentage of our scholars shall pass "the three R's" as you find by experience can be attained in England under the limited system; but, when this result is achieved, do not cut off the higher education of our national schools. The ladder of education is a long ladder with many steps. In England, the three lowest steps have been selected as sufficient for primary schools. It may be answered that the Committee of Council, through the Department of Science and Art, aid the ascent of twenty steps more, and this is true, but with that incoherence of organization which marks our civil administration, this scheme runs side by side but never touches the other department of primary education. The restriction of education to "the three R's" in primary schools does not exist in Scotland, nor, so far as I am aware, in any other civilized country except England. France, Austria, Prussia, Belgium, and Switzerland encourage primary schools to select from six to eight higher subjects, according to the wants of the localities. So also in Scotland. After our children have learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, they are encouraged to continue at the primary schools in order to apply these elementary branches to higher information. Having taken the evidence of many masters on the subject, I believe I am not far from the mark in saying that in good schools, about one-third of the children study geography, one-fourth grammar and history, and 1730 from 5 to 10 per cent modern languages, classics, or science. Hence, only a select few take those subjects which fit them for the Universities. But this is precisely as it should be. Instead of contending for this in my own feeble language, I will quote from the writings of a philosopher whose opinions are always listened to with respect in this House. John Stuart Mill says—The State owes no more than elementary education to the entire body of those who cannot pay for it. But the superior education, which it does not owe to the poorer population, it owes to the élite of them—to those who have earned the preference by labour, and have shown by the results that they have capacity worth securing for the higher department of intellectual work, never supplied in due proportion to the demand.This well expresses the sentiments of our old Scotch Reformer. By his counsel the Scotch people have always aimed at a selection of their meritorious poor, and have aided their advance in life. It is this which has impressed upon the Scotch a distinctiveness of character, and which has secured for their country a large measure of prosperity. We are therefore most anxious, as this Bill brings us under the Committee of Council, that the latter should not cut away the upper steps of our educational ladder, in order to bring our Scotch system into uniformity with the English system. We do not doubt the justice of the Privy Council, but we fear the rigour of its uniformity. Hence it is that there has been a universal demand throughout Scotland for an Education Board. There have been many opinions as to what should be its constitution; but every public meeting has expressed a desire for its establishment, as a guardian of the characteristics of our primary schools. The spirit of John Knox, which still animates the Scotch people, demands that the old connection between the lower and higher education of the country should be preserved. Our Universities draw their main strength from the national schools of Scotland, and you must not cut them off from the roots. You will pardon me, as a University Member, for having dwelt so long on this subject; but the Universities of Scotland belong wholly to the people. As the giant Antæus derived his great strength by contact with the earth, so do our Universities derive their vigour from constant contact with the people. Do not let the Committee of Council, by attempt- 1731 ing to assimilate Scotch schools to English schools, be the Hercules to lift our Universities above the heads of the people, and by severing us from the source of our strength destroy an educational system which has promoted the prosperity, peace, and tranquillity of Scotland, and of the great kingdom of which she is a part.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate having made some pointed allusions to him in reference to the Committee over which he had had the honour to preside, he could not allow his remarks to pass without some observations, so that the House might not assume that he agreed with what his right hon. Friend had said. He entirely agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther), and from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren). He did not at all agree to the representation made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh University (Dr. Playfair) of the statement made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire. What the hon. Baronet said was—not that he did not agree to a central authority, or Board, or Commission—but that he could not agree with the central authority proposed by his right hon. and learned Friend (the Lord Advocate). They objected to the central authority proposed in the first draft of the Bill, but ten times more did they object to the proposition—the most extraordinary proposition—made that night by his right non. Friend—the most extraordinary proposition he had ever heard for regulating education or anything else. He referred to the Board of Supervision. So far as the evidence given before his Committee went, it went in a direction directly contrary to that suggested by his right hon. Friend; nor did it seem to him that there was much difference between the constitution of that Board and the proposed new Education Board. What was proposed? There was to be a court of seven members; and who were these seven members to be? The two Law Officers of the Crown, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General. But the Solicitor General was a member of the Board of Supervision, and the evidence was that his hon. and learned Friend was unable to attend the meetings of the Board, and, more- 1732 over, apparently, did not consider it his duty so to do. The Lord Advocate was to be a member of the Board. Now, it was almost impossible for him to attend to all the multifarious business to which he had now to attend, and how could he be able to attend and advise the Board? There was to be a paid chairman of the Board, at £500 a year, with four other members, and these four members were to be paid three guineas an attendance up to fifty attendances. No doubt these members would attend, would get their three guineas, and would do nothing more. There were three learned sheriffs on the Board of Supervision, and they had worked uncommonly well. They were paid 150 guineas a year, for about thirty or forty attendances, to conduct all the legal work of the Board of Supervision. What was the practical result of the constitution of this Board? There was one paid chairman, three paid sheriffs, and the evidence was that nobody else attended that Board. But the sheriffs were frequently obliged to go to different parts of the country and attend to their duties, and the result was that the whole management fell into the hands of the chairman. He asked whether that would be a satisfactory system to introduce for the management of education? He objected to these Boards, because they did not sit in public—because they were not responsible—and because there was nobody in that House to answer for their conduct. It might be said that the Lord Advocate practically represented them here; but how could he undertake still further duties by having put upon him this new Board? The central authority was the most material and essential part of this Bill. They wanted a central authority—that that central authority should be a Scotch authority—that it should work in harmony, but not under the dictation, of the Privy Council—all these requirements were essential for the constitution of the Board. The Board should be represented in this House and responsible to this House. It was to be established for the management of the new system of education, and it should not be put upon the same footing as the close Boards in Edinburgh, which his right hon. Friend admitted that the people of Scotland condemn. [The Lord ADVOCATE said he made no such admission.] He entirely agreed 1733 with the proposal that there should be a central authority, but it was essential that it should be a central authority that should enjoy the confidence and respect of the country over whose education it was to preside.
MR. M 'LAGAN
said, he thought the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) were, at least, premature—so far as the evidence had gone it certainly did not go the length of condemning the Board of Supervision. The hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) had stated that no Board appointed to superintend education in Scotland could be satisfactory to the people of Scotland.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
What he had said was that no Board would be satisfactory to the people of Scotland if it had not direct representation in this House to answer for its conduct.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
The proposed Board would have representatives in this House—the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General would be members of the Board. He would not go further into the question of the constitution of this Board than to say that he was certain the people of Scotland would not submit to have the management of Scotch education under the dictation of a Secretary or Board in London. The Board should be a central Board and a Scotch Board, and what was still better, it should be a Board not sitting in London, but a Board representative of education in Scotland. He agreed with the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh that it would be impossible for us to control and direct education in Scotland by anyone sitting in London, on account of the great difference between education in England and Scotland. At present they had a system of which they might well be proud. It combined elementary with middle-class education. In England the Privy Council took charge only of the elementary branches of education, but he should not like to see the Scotch parochial schools placed under the same control. If they were, the result would be that they would have in Scotland what they had in England—a mere mechanical routine in the schools, instead of that intellectual training which was now given in the Scotch schools. He was in favour of a Secretary of State for Scotland; but if the choice was whether they should 1734 have the education of Scotland managed by a local Board in Scotland, or by a Secretary of State in London, he had no hesitation in saying—"Sink the Secretary of State, and let us have our education managed in Scotland by Scotchmen."
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, the hon. Members below the Gangway had spoken as if all the Scotch Members agreed with them; but that was not the case. For his part he very much agreed with the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Playfair), whose speech was the most practical that they had heard that night. He regretted that the hon. Member (Mr. M'Lagan) should have introduced this subject of a Scotch Secretary of State. It was a point on which the Scotch Members were anything but unanimous. He thought they would do wisely to confine themselves to the most important point, the education of the people, and not mix it up with other questions, which would only hinder its success.
§ MR. DALGLISH
said, he was not at all sure, notwithstanding the assurance of the Lord Advocate as to the importance of this Bill, that the people of Scotland would be inclined to regard it as a great measure of national education. He could only say that he had long held the opinion that if they were to have a national system it must be a secular system—that the clergy should have as little as possible to do with it; that they should be restrained, and not allowed to interfere with education until the children were able to understand what religion means. He held, also, that if they were to have a system of education which was to reach the 90,000 children in Scotland the Lord Advocate had told us exist there without education, they must have a compulsory system—and he trusted that if this Bill passed through Committee—which he very much doubted—the Lord Advocate would be prepared to bring in a measure in which the education of the people shall be made compulsory.
§ MR. CARNEGIE
said, the question of education was of far greater importance than the constitution of the Board, and he would rather have twenty Boards than have this Bill thrown out on the point. However bad the Board might be, they could get rid of it; but if they lost this Bill, it might be a difficult thing 1735 to get such another chance of dealing with this question.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. YOUNG)
said, he had listened with some surprise to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Fife-shire, and with still more surprise to the speech of the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs. The question was that this Bill be now read a second time? Both of these speeches, and especially the latter, were upon an altogether different question—namely, whether certain Boards entrusted with a great variety of business now existing in Edinburgh were satisfactorily discharging their duies. The hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire was perhaps hardly in a position to pronounce an opinion upon the question whether they satisfactorily discharged their duties or not, because he said that their distinguishing feature was that the people of Scotland knew nothing about them. The hon. Member was at least entitled to speak for himself, and if he knew nothing about them he was not in a position to say anything against them. The hon. and learned gentleman the Member for Ayr devoted his speech almost exclusively to a condemnation of the Board of Supervision. He spoke as if there were a general concurrence of opinion adverse to the Board upon all the evidence taken before the Committee appointed by this House to inquire into its operation. He (the Solicitor General) would take leave to say that such was not only not the unanimous opinion, but that it was not the opinion of the majority of the members of that Committee. The hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs admitted the necessity for a central authority in the Education scheme: but it had not been suggested that the central authority should be in any other form than that of a Board; and if the constitution of the Board proposed in the Bill were unsatisfactory, the proper course was to amend it in Committee. The main criticism, so far as he understood it, of the hon. and learned Member for the Ayr Burghs was that there was no provision made for the Board being directly represented in this House. But one of the proposals of his right hon. Friend (the Lord Advocate) was that the two Law Officers of the Crown, both of whom were in this House, should be members of the Board. He (the Solicitor General) 1736 presumed the purpose of having a representative of any Board in this House was that he might be able to answer any inquiry and give explanations with reference to any complaint which might be made in this House relating to the conduct of the Board. Now this Board, if it should be constituted in the manner proposed, would have two members sitting in the House, who, after due inquiries, would be in a position to give satisfactory answers to any such questions as might be put. But all this was matter of detail to be considered in Committee.
said, he did not intend to offer any opposition to the second reading, but at the same time he must complain of the way in which it had been introduced, and the consequent difficulty under which Members found themselves in addressing the House. The right hon. Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) had met with compliments, and even with expressions of affection, from below the Gangway, such as, if he (Mr. Dalrymple) were in his position, he should not be at all grateful for, especially as they had been accompanied by expressions of hostility towards some of the Amendments which he proposed to introduce. No one on his own side the House had spoken against the measure—and for himself he (Mr. Dalrymple) desired to give the right hon. Gentleman all the assistance in his power towards passing the measure.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed, for To-morrow.