HC Deb 19 July 1872 vol 212 cc1454-71

Sir, I rise to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to modify the new code of regulations issued by the Committee of the Privy Council, in such a manner as to give more encouragement to the teaching of history, geography, elementary social economy, and the other so-called extra subjects, in the Elementary Schools of the Country. In the first place I shall endeavour to show that the grants nominally offered in the New Code for the encouragement of extra subjects are to a great extent illusory; and secondly, that the educational system of the country has suffered, and is suffering, from the course at present pursued. In doing so I need not rest my case on any arguments or opinions of my own, but I trust I shall be able to satisfy the House that the Resolution which I have the honour to propose expresses the conclusion arrived at, almost unanimously, by those specially qualified to judge upon such points. In the first place, the effect of the present system has been carefully examined into by the Royal Commission recently appointed by Her Majesty to inquire into Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science. This Commission, presided over by his Grace the Duke of Devonshire, has recently reported that although grants are nominally offered for extra subjects, still in their opinion from the manner in which the payments are arranged, they will be under the new system as under the old— Almost wholly given for reading, writing, and arithmetic; and that little encouragement will be afforded to the study of other subjects, even of history and geography. It is true that grants of 3s. each are offered for proficiency in any two extra subjects, under which term the Committee of the Privy Council on Education include everything except reading, writing, and arithmetic; but, continue the Commissioners— It appears to us that the encouragement thus apparently held out is rendered to a great extent illusory by the other conditions of the Code. To make this clear, it is necessary to state the manner in which, under the Code, grants are earned. The sum of 6 shillings is granted for each scholar on account of attendance, and 4 shillings each for the three subjects, making 12 shillings for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Thus each scholar can earn 18 shillings apart from extra subjects, and as 14 shillings a-head (or 15 shillings where music is taught) is the maximum payable, it is evident that schools can earn the whole amount without teaching any of the so-called extra subjects. Indeed, it is obvious that if 75 per cent of the children pass in reading, writing, and arithmetic, the school will earn the maximum grant; and, in fairly good schools, this amount of success has been, and we doubt not will be, attained without difficulty. Having thus shown that the effect of the present system is to discourage everything except reading, writing, and arithmetic, I now come to consider whether it would not be desirable to offer inducements to instruction in other subjects. Here, again, I will rely first on the opinion expressed by the Royal Commission already referred to. After carefully discussing the whole question, they conclude with two recommendations; firstly, as regards the elder children in elementary schools—that instruction in the rudiments of physical science should receive more substantial encouragement than is given in the Regulations of the New Code; and, secondly, as regards the younger children— That Her Majesty's Inspectors should be directed to satisfy themselves that such elementary lessons are given as would prepare these children for the more advanced instruction which will follow. Again, the Committee appointed by this House in 1868, on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson), after a very careful inquiry, reported that— Nearly every witness speaks of the extraordinary rapid progress of Continental nations in manufactures, and attributes that rapidity besides other causes.… to the elementary instruction which is universal among the working population of Germany and Switzerland. All the witnesses concur in desiring similar advantages of education for this country, and are satisfied that nothing more is required, and that nothing less will suffice in order that we may retain the position which we now hold in the van of all industrial nations. And they consequently recommended— That elementary instruction in drawing, in physical geography, and in the phenomena of nature, should be given in elementary schools. That these views are very generally entertained throughout the country is shewn by the fact that, in spite of Government discouragement, the principal school boards in the country—for instance, those of London and Liverpool—have determined that history, geography, elementary social economy, and systematized object lessons, shall be taught in all the schools under their control. Nor is it only in its direct action on elementary schools that the present system is working so badly. The effect on the training colleges and consequently on the schoolmasters is also very unfortunate. Much evidence on this point has been given by the principals of training colleges. Thus, Canon Cromwell stated before the Science Commission that in consequence of the system introduced by the Revised Code, the amount of instruction encouraged and paid for in the training colleges has been very much diminished. The special subjects were all struck out in 1862, and the syllabus reduced almost to what a clever boy in the first class of a national school might have known. The amount of instruction given to pupil teachers all over the country was diminished, and he concludes— We tried to retain the higher standard as long as it was possible with the students; we taught more things in the colleges than the Government required; but year by year we found that the pupils who came in were worse and worse prepared, so that, at last, it was almost impossible to give anything more than the Government syllabus required. Much misapprehension has no doubt arisen from the use of the term—"extra subjects." Anyone would suppose that extra subjects meant mathematics, or perhaps French or German; no one would à priori imagine that Her Majesty's Government include under this term the history of England, elementary geography, and, in fact, everything except reading, writing, and arithmetic. No doubt, reading, writing, and arithmetic are very important, and form, indeed, the basis of instruction, but they do not in themselves constitute an education, however humble, any more than a knife and fork make a dinner. What should be the objects of an education? The late Prince Consort, in one of his admirable addresses, said that in education our aim should be to teach—1. The physical laws on which health depends; 2. The moral laws on which happiness depends; 3. The intellectual laws on which knowledge depends; 4. The social and political laws on which national prosperity depends; 5. The economic laws on which wealth depends. Which of these objects is, I will not say attained, but even aimed at, by our present system? We seem to be entering on a phase of history in which it will be of vital importance to us that our people should possess some knowledge of political economy. I will not, however, occupy the House by repeating on this point the arguments and quotations which I brought forward last year; I will only quote one sentence from the committee appointed in 1870 by the Social Science Association to report on the relations between science and labour. That committee presented to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education a report, in which they stated their— Strong conviction that the hostility between labour and capital, arising from an erroneous belief that the interests of work-people and their employers, and of tenants and landlords, are opposed to each other—a belief leading, in manufactures, to attempts to impose harrassing restrictions regarding rates of wages, hours of labour, piece-work, number of apprentices, and the use of machinery; and, in agriculture, to attempts to dictate the amount of rent to be exacted and the selection of tenants, and leading, in its further stages, to strikes, lock-outs, rattenings, and threats of personal violence and ultimately, in many cases, to murder itself—might have been mitigated, and in great measure prevented, had the people of this country in their youth and before the mind could be warped, been instructed in the elements of economic science. And on this and on other grounds they respectfully urge that no more time be lost in taking measures for gradually introducing this knowledge as a regular branch of education into all schools to which the State gives pecuniary aid. That the practicability of communicating such knowledge to the minds of even very young persons, and of making it both interesting and attractive, has been demonstrated on such a scale as to place the matter beyond doubt. For my own part I deeply regret that the differences which exist between us with reference to the metaphysical speculations of rival theological schools should endanger the teaching of religion in its moral and practical aspects. The secretary of the Birmingham League has indeed said in a recent report— Let the State keep to its proper work, and fit its children to take their places as citizens of a great Empire, and let it leave their religious training and all that concerns their education for the kingdom which is not of this world to the care of the Churches and the responsibility of parents. Practically, this may be necessary; but it is not the less to be regretted; partly, because the result must be to give undue prominence to those questions by which sects are divided, instead of to those more important moral lessons on which most men are agreed; partly because it seems to me that a system of education which has no tendency to fit persons for the kingdom which is not of this world, can be but ill suited to render them good citizens in this life. If, however, moral and religious culture is thus in danger of exclusion from our schools, it seems all the more necessary that some subjects should be introduced which have a tendency to educate, and are not mere matters of instruction. For such a purpose some branches of science are well adapted. I know there are many—some even in this House—who would take a different view, and who consider that science is hostile to religion. Hostile to all false religions, undoubtedly it is. Scientific men will not, and could not if they would, sacrifice truth to the supposed exigencies of temporary expediency. Science will, perhaps, continue in the future, as it has in the past, to modify profoundly our religious conceptions; it will root out even our dearest errors, and consistently oppose all but the highest possible conceptions of the Divine Nature. That there is great room for such action can hardly be denied. Without entering on the debateable grounds of the theological differences existing amongst educated men, it must be admitted that in spite of all our churches and sects, witchcraft is still rife amongst us. But whatever may be the case as regards the higher and more abstruse parts of science, the question certainly cannot arise with reference to such elementary science as might be taught in national schools. Moreover, though I admit that reading, writing, and arithmetic, are the very foundation of education, and I would not therefore say anything against them in themselves, still by themselves they can by no means be considered as forming even the rudiments of an education. Reading and writing are mechanical exercises; arithmetic is a matter of definition. Sir W. Hamilton filled a lengthy essay, with quotations from great authorities, condemning the exclusive use of mathematics as a training for the mind. A great living writer has pointed out that it is a subject which "knows nothing of observation, nothing of induction, nothing of experiment, nothing of causation." We need, therefore, some fourth subject which should train the powers of observation—some study which would give a knowledge of things, not merely of names of things. In reading, writing, and arithmetic you arrive, by one process or another, at a certain conclusion; but in life it is not so. Success or failure, happiness or misery, prosperity or misfortune, depend with most of us on our powers of observation and of balancing probabilities.

Now, the State is assuming a great responsibility. We are taking on ourselves the education of all children. It is our manifest interest, our plain duty, to consider most anxiously and carefully of what that education is to consist. At present, so far as the State can do so, it limits the education given in national schools to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Surely such a system is eminently incomplete and unsatisfactory. The light hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us once that under the present extended franchise, it was necessary that we should educate our masters. Does he, the Representative of a great University, call this education? In an address delivered before the South London Working Men's College, Professor Huxley has forcibly asked whether, if our prospects in life depended on our knowledge of chess, we should allow our children to grow up in ignorance of that game?— Yet," he continues, "it is a very plain and elementary truth, that the life, the fortune, and the happiness of everyone of us, and, more or less, of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his own. The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the Universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well the highest stakes are paid with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated, without haste, but without remorse."—[Huxley's Lay Sermons, p. 36.] It must be remembered that our Motion is especially directed to children of 11 and upwards. I should like to ask any hon. Member of this House, whether he would be satisfied that a child of his at that age should be entirely ignorant of history and geography? But, for so long as they are at school, I see no reason why children in national schools should learn less than those privately educated. I hope the House will not suppose that we are asking for any addition to the grant. That is not our object, but what we wish is that it should not be so exclusively devoted to reading, writing, and arithmetic. But the right hon. Gentleman argued last year that we "ought not to have a modification of the New Code before we had time to try it." But why should we try it? As 3 times 4 are 12, and 6 more make 18, we can tell how the system will work. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon, if I rightly understood him, that the children have earned an average of 12s. 2d. a-head. If this be the average, it is obvious that good schools must have earned the full grant of 15s. It is self-evident that any school in which three quarters of the children pass the examination in reading, writing, and arithmetic will earn the whole possible grant, and can get nothing for extra subjects. Of course, the Inspectors may pass fewer children, and then the schools may fall back upon the extra subjects. I do not know if this is what the right hon. Gentleman contemplates; but, if so, I must say that it would alter, but, far from removing, would increase my objection to the present system of grants. Anxious as I am that history and the rudiments of science should be taught in all our schools, I should shrink from introducing them by such means. Pass examinations in village schools ought not to be pitched so high that a good schoolmaster could not pass three quarters of his children; recollect that such a failure is a great disappointment to the master, and a discouragement to the children. Nor ought extra subjects to be used as a means of compensating for failure elsewhere; I should deeply regret any action which tended to discourage either masters or children. The Science Commission has specially called attention to this danger. They say— We do not think it would be desirable that the standards should be raised in such a manner as to reduce the passes below this proportion; such a course would, we think, tend to discourage both the masters and pupils. But, although the right hon. Gentleman opposed our Motion last year, he did, in fact, admit the principle for which we contend. He said that— The Motion of the hon. Member was, on the whole, in accordance with the principle of action adopted by the Government; but it would not be wise to adopt it at that point, considering how recently the Elementary Education Act had come into force. … He believed the right course had been adopted in discarding the idea that all they had to do was to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic."—[3 Hansard, ccviii. 122.] Well, then, we ask the Government to act in accordance with their principles. What is the use of a principle if you act in direct opposition to it? What is the use of "discarding the idea that all you have to do is to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic," if you act in accordance with the ideas you discard, and in opposition to those you entertain? But the right hon. Gentleman says that the Elementary Education Act has very recently come into force. That is true; but what we complain of is not the Elementary Education Act, but the principle introduced by the Revised Code in 1861, and continued by the New Code of last year, of limiting payments to mere reading, writing, and arithmetic. This system has now been in operation for 11 years, and has been almost universally condemned by those interested in education. It is sometimes said that the function of Government is only to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. I reply that even from this point of view the present system breaks down. Mr. Lingen, then Secretary of the Committee of Council on Education, gave evidence, in 1868, before Mr. Samuelson's Committee, that the children learnt reading, writing, and arithmetic more quickly in schools where other subjects were taught in addition. This is also the experience of Scotland, and hon. Members will remember that in the debates on the Scotch Education Bill this year, great dread was expressed by Scotch Members lest the effect should be to reduce Scotch schools to the English level. Moreover, what is the evidence as regards English schools? We sacrifice everything to reading, writing, and arithmetic, do we succeed in securing even so much? No; last year in the whole of England and Wales less than 20,000 children passed in the sixth standard—that is to say, shewed that they could read and write well, and had a fair knowledge of arithmetic. On such a result comment is unnecessary. Moreover, it must be remembered that if Government creates bad schools all over the country, it prevents the establishment of good ones. The right hon. Gentleman said last year that I am too sanguine. Sir, I only hope I am not too despondent; for, far from taking a cheerful view of things, I am firmly persuaded that under the present system we shall make no progress, and that Government grants, as at present administered, will, in the long run, impede, not aid, the cause of education. We shall have plenty of school-rooms but no real schools. As yet, indeed, our schools are, I am thankful to say, much better than the Government system, if continued, must ere long make them. I fully recognize the great ability which the right hon. Gentleman has brought to bear on education, as on every other subject which he takes up, yet so far from schools conducted in accordance with the New Code being satisfactory places of education, I maintain that they will be places where children will get not education, but a hatred of education; that their effect will be to check intellectual growth; that instead of being a blessing and an advantage to the country, they will prove a curse and a misfortune. Our great danger in education is the worship of book-learning—the confusion of instruction and education. We strain the memory, instead of cultivating the mind. Such a system makes intellectual exercise an effort and a fatigue. We should follow exactly the opposite course, and it would be a pleasure; depend upon it under a natural system of education the nourishment of the mind ought to be as pleasant as that of the body. In their food children yearn for what is sweet, and we know now that they are right. So also in education we may safely trust much to their instincts, and we should endeavour to cultivate their tastes, rather than to fill them with dry facts. The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should have the opportunity of teaching itself. What does it matter whether a child of 12 knows a little more or a little less? That is not the point; the question is whether we are pursuing a course which makes intellectual exercise a pleasure or the reverse. Under the present system our schools will become more and more places of mere instruction; instead of developing intellectual tastes, they will make all mental effort irksome. We have now, or soon shall have, the control of the vast majority of children up the age of 12, and we ought in that time not only to teach them to read, but to enjoy what they read. We should educate them so that every country walk may be a pleasure; that the discoveries of science may be a living interest; that our national history and poetry may be sources of legitimate pride and rational enjoyment; in short, our schools, if they are to be worthy of the name—if they are in any measure to fulfil their high function, must be something more than mere places of dry study; must train the children educated in them, so that they may be able to appreciate and enjoy those intellectual gifts which might be, and ought to be, a source of interest and of happiness alike to the high and to the low, to the rich and to the poor. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving his Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to modify the new code of regulations issued by the Committee of the Privy Council, in such a manner as to give more encouragement to the teaching of history, geography, elementary social economy, and the other so-called extra subjects, in the Elementary Schools of the Country,"—(Sir John Lubbock,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, his hon. Friend in his eloquent speech had made precisely the same Motion in exactly the same terms that he had made it last year, and he would therefore find little fault with him (Mr. W. E. Forster) if he began his reply as he began it then. He only wished that his practical experience in the matter enabled him to look at it in exactly the same light as his hon. Friend did, and to feel that he had an opportunity of carrying into practice the various and delightful expectations which his hon. Friend had so eloquently descanted on. He would be very glad, indeed, if it were possible that the schools he had to do with could make instruction as pleasant as ordinary food; but he was afraid that that would be making them much more pleasant than he himself had experience of in his youth, and if his hon. Friend had that delightful pabulum in his youth his experience must have been remarkably exceptional. His hon. Friend had stated that they ought not to be contented with mere book learning, and he complained against book learning of itself. He said it did not much matter whether there was more or less of it. Well, it was very much the case in the experience of life that a great deal of book learning was of very little use to a great number of men; but was that a guide with respect to children? What was book learning? Book learning was giving children merely a tool with which they could fight the battle of life, and the moral his hon. Friend drew was, that too much stress was laid upon mere reading, writing, and arithmetic. His hon. Friend, however, knew this—that a man or woman who had to fight the battle of life in England at this time and earn a livelihood without a knowledge of reading and writing was scarcely able to earn it. It was the one important thing which they must get. It was not a question of book learning against practical learning; it was absolutely necessary that they should have that key to unlock other means of instruction. If they were not taught to read and write, then the result was absolute failure. His hon. Friend said they would be better taught if other things were attended to. Now, would any hon. Member teach his child political economy before he taught him to read? Would he teach him science before he taught him to read? It was quite admitted that an intelligent teacher in teaching children to read and write would put such questions as would give them a great deal of information. So far, however, as he had seen in such schools, that was more encouraged and better done for the children of the poor than in some richer families. But the fact was, they must condescend to what they had to do, and he asked again, could they begin to teach political economy before they had taught the children to read? He thought they were doing a great deal more than his hon. Friend supposed. The experience of the last four months of which they had any account, ending 31st August, 1871, told them that under the new system 34,000 children had been presented in the three upper standards, 4, 5, 6, of whom nearly 20,000 had been presented in the extra subjects. His hon. Friend was mistaken, therefore, in supposing that the Code did not encourage teaching those subjects. How many of these 20,000 had passed? Some 3,500 had passed in two subjects, and 9,000 in one. [Sir JOHN LUBBOCK: What are those subjects?] They were geography, history, algebra; language including English grammar or literature, and the elements of Latin, French, or German, physical geography, and animal physiology. But the real difficulty of the Department was this—his hon. Friend said that 34,000 was a small number. So it was. That was where the difficulty lay, and that difficulty could not be got over by driving classes into political economy. The difficulty was, that the children of the poor were badly educated to begin with, and the Department had to educate them better. He would give some particulars of the examinations under the New Code during the same four months, the four months ending August 31, 1871. During that time 2,851 day schools, having room for 625,000 children, and an average attendance of 372,000, were examined by the Inspectors. Deducting infants and those not qualified by attendance, 227,000 children above seven years could have been presented, of whom the managers ventured to present 184,000. Of these 184,000 children, 150,000 were presented only in the three low standards 1, 2, and 3, and of those more than 70,000 in Standard 1, more than 56,000 of whom were above 10 years of age, showing how neglected they were up to that time. Well, it was not the fault of the managers, nor of the Department, nor of the House, that the children were so backward, though it might be said to be their fault so far as they did not set to work to make attendance compulsory. But they must take the fact as they found it—namely, that 70,000 children were in such a state of comparative ignorance that they had to be presented in Standard 1. His hon. Friend was right in putting pressure on the Department to give as high an education as possible; but he ought to remember that they had to deal with children in a most ignorant state, and he did not believe that it was by setting them to learn political economy, geography, and other such matters, that the children could be best taught to read. His hon. Friend said there was no encouragement for teaching the extra subjects in the way the grant was given. His (Mr. W. E. Forster's) reply was that there was encouragement, or else 20,000 out of 34,000 would not have been presented in those subjects, and teachers would not have troubled themselves to give instruction in them. Now, 15s. for the average attendance was the limit, but this might be increased to 18s. Six shillings was paid upon the average attendance; but the 12s. that might possibly be earned was not paid upon the same conditions as the average attendance, but only to children who had fulfilled these three conditions. In the first place, they should have attended 250 times; secondly, they should be present on the day of the examination; and thirdly, they should be offered for examination; or, in other words, they should not be absolutely ignorant, as if they had been swept off the streets. That was the explanation of the great number of children whom the teachers could not present for the average attendance. Nor would they be able to do so until the time should come when the children would be better prepared by means of infant schools, and there should be a better attendance than hitherto. Under these circumstances, he thought the House would agree with him that, in the first place, for some time to come we must make it our great point to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic; and, secondly, that our Code had not been a failure in the extra subjects, seeing that a very large proportion of those at all capable had been presented in them. At the same time, he was as anxious as his hon. Friend that the money which the country generously voted from year to year should get the best possible return in quality, as well as quantity, and he was determined, as long as he had to do with it, that the higher instruction should be given as long as it could be done without dimi- nishing elementary education; but, of course, elementary education must be first and foremost.


ventured to answer the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman, and to say that reading, writing, and arithmetic could be taught better by teaching the higher branches. It was an unceasing complaint with the managers of schools that there was increasing difficulty in providing pupil teachers and masters, and he believed that was attributable to the decreased attention which was given to those higher subjects, compared with the three points of reading, writing, and arithmetic, which were the subjects that paid. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would impress strongly on the Inspectors the importance of giving more time than at present to the examination of the schools in general intelligence and in the higher subjects.


said, he believed a good deal of the higher class of teaching was already being done in the country, as was evidenced by the fact that the valuable works of Spence and Major were sold in thousands. He did not take so desponding a view of the work now going on as was taken by the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock); but he was rather astonished at the small progress which had been made since the passing of the Education Act. There were 34,000 children who had been presented in the three upper standards, but we should have 500,000. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: Not for four months.] No; for a year. He believed, however, that his right hon. Friend was doing all that he could to improve the present state of things, and he believed that by giving premiums, say 2s. or 3s. beyond the 15s. limit to the grant, for passing in extra subjects, they would get many more children to pass.


said, that when he became a Member of the Committee of Council for Education some years ago, he found that the Parliamentary Grants for the support of education were such as to give only the merest possible educational means of fighting the battle of life to the scholars in the schools receiving these grants, and with the view of improving the standard of education, he proposed a Minute for the purpose of giving a higher rate of grant for extra subjects. The Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed his Minute, and argued that it was entirely repugnant to the principles of political economy; but he (Mr. Corry) thought it entirely consistent with the principles of common sense, and he had the satisfaction of beating the Chancellor of the Exchequer by a very considerable majority on that occasion. In the first one or two years he knew that his Minute produced very satisfactory results, and he should like to know how many of the 34,000 children who had passed in the three upper standards, and of the 20,000 who had passed in extra subjects, had passed in consequence of the money allowance made under that Minute.


said, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct in stating that the Minute which he proposed had produced a most beneficial change, and the Committee of Council were endeavouring by the New Code to develop the system of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to extra subjects. It was owing to that development that the grants to the 34,000 and the 20,000 children had been made.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Corry) deserved great credit and honour for his Minute. It was the first step taken by the Privy Council out of the "Slough of Despond" into which the Revised Code had led them. He would suggest that the Vice President of the Committee of Council, before he proposed the Code for next year, should seriously consider whether in schools where extra subjects were efficiently taught, and where a larger number of pupil or assistant teachers were employed, a limit of 17s. should not be substituted for the limit of 15s. per child in average attendance, for the purpose of encouraging schoolmasters to teach extra subjects.


said, that last year he went to Germany, and studied some of the educational establishments there. He made "surprise visits," to schools in Dresden, and was surprised to see children who had neither boots nor shoes regular in attendance at schools in which the education given was equal to the highest education given in the State-supported schools of this country. He attended a whole day in each of three schools, and he had long and intimate conversations with the masters engaged. He found that the Revised Code was in Germany universally a laughing stock, and they were astonished that a country like England could be content in teaching the mere elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic. [Mr. FORSTER said, that he was not content.] But we remained simply teaching them. German teachers were convinced that in proportion as ordinary and extra subjects were mixed together the standard of education was raised, the one class of subjects helping the other. He had also taken the opinion of English masters, and had found that they were anxious for an alteration of the Code, some of them regretting the abolition of the old system, recollecting, perhaps, only what was good in it. Under that system, however, he knew the children of agricultural labourers rise to comparatively high positions, which would be almost impossible now. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER said, it was still more likely to happen now.] He agreed with the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) that if extra subjects were encouraged a higher modicum of reading and writing would be obtained, so that the low standards might, perhaps, be abolished. In two primary schools in which he took an interest he recently offered a prize to every child who passed in an extra subject, whether above or below the fourth standard, and in one of the schools, out of 30 who thus passed, 7 were below the standard. Something more might be done in this direction, even without materially raising the present standards.


said, he had witnessed last year in Switzerland what the noble Lord had seen in Germany. In the elementary schools children at a very early age were taught something of geography, history, and natural science, and he (Mr. Baines) had been very much struck with the utility of the system of object lessons, by which the children were introduced to the study of higher subjects. Moreover, 40 years ago, at New Lanark, in the first infant school established in the country, he saw young children with maps and diagrams of plants and animals, learning something of botany, natural history, astronomy, geography, and elementary science. Such instruction stimulated the faculties, and instead of mere reading and writing, which taught by themselves were dry and difficult, there should be object lessons, as in the Kindergarten system. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER said, these were given in some schools.] He was glad to hear it, but he thought extra subjects should be begun at an earlier age than 11.


explained that many children in the fourth standard were under 10, and that a child who had been well taught in an infant school, where object lessons were encouraged, might be presented at ten, nine, or eight years of age in that standard.


said, he had not been aware of that. It might be inferred from the New Code that children would not reach the fourth standard till they were 11 years of age. He was anxious that the faculties of children should be developed by the early study of extra subjects. He hoped, however, the Resolution would not be pressed, feeling that the right hon. Gentleman was sensible of the value of extra subjects, and trusting that he would do all he could to promote them.


asked if the right hon. Gentleman would tell him what portion of the 20,000 children who passed in the "extra subjects" earned in consequence an increased grant from the schools; and, also, he should like to know in what manner the Revised Code, or the instructions to Inspectors, encouraged these object lessons, which were rightly considered to be of so much importance?


said, he could not answer the first question without inquiry. The New Code clearly did not discourage extra subjects, for of all the children in the three upper standards—scarcely any in the lower being capable of presentation—20 out of 35 were presented, and 12½ passed. As to the second question, lessons leading up to extra subjects were encouraged by the whole system. He scarcely ever went into a school without seeing an intelligent teaching of reading which gave more information than the mere learning to read.


said, that under the denominational system it was clear that reading, writing, and arithmetic would be the principal objects of study, and that the extra subjects would be neglected. The truth was, that the denominational system was intended to shackle the mind and to keep it in subjection to those who superintended that system. He denied that reading, writing, and arithmetic were the first elements of education; they might rather be called the end of it, and indeed many of the most competent and practical persons were wholly ignorant of them—were wholly free from the unhappy effects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. In a colliery with which he was connected, he knew instances in which men who could not read or write were found to be more reliable than those who possessed those accomplishments. In the case of an ill-regulated mind, reading became a most unhappy faculty; and hon. Members had only to go to the back streets of London to see the kind of literary trash that was bought by those whose tastes and passions were totally undisciplined. Further, every housekeeper in London was aware that the accomplishment of reading was not always exercised by domestic servants for their own benefit. There was a time when the Principality with which he was connected was pre-eminently the seat of learning. He spoke of ancient British times—about the time of Julius Cæsar—when the Eistedfodds were annually celebrated. At that time reading and writing were absolutely prohibited, until the children or the people could show that they had such tastes and knowledge as would enable them to be relied upon to use those accomplishments to their own advantage. Believing, therefore, that it was absolutely necessary that the tastes and passions of children should be brought under control before they were taught to read and write, he heartily supported the proposal of the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone.


remarked that until we had a new class of masters we must not expect any sudden change in the tasks of the children in the elementary schools. It might be worth while to mention to the House a plan that was adopted in the town he represented, by those who interested themselves in the cause of elementary education. It was this—that prizes were offered to the children in the elementary schools—irrespective of religious denomination—for such as showed themselves most competent in geography, algebra, and similar subjects. The results had been of a most beneficial character.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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