HC Deb 27 January 1949 vol 460 cc1075-6
3. Brigadier Rayner

asked the Minister of Education whether he has considered the results of the survey, carried out by another Government Department, which indicated that 50 per cent. of those questioned could not name a single British Colony and 75 per cent. could not tell the difference between a Colony and a Dominion; and what steps he is taking to improve the teaching of geography and history in State schools.

The Minister of Education (Mr. Tomlinson)

I have seen a copy of this survey. My Department has done a good deal over the last few years to make more factual material about the British Commonwealth available to schools, and I am sending the hon. and gallant Member a copy of a recent Circular on this matter, together with a copy of "Britain andthe Colonies," which was distributed to schools. In addition, a number of short courses for serving teachers are provided each year by my Department. During the last three years, 25 such courses have been given on history, geography and the British Commonwealth, attended by over 1,600 teachers.

Brigadier Rayner

Will not the Minister agree that this deplorable state of affairs is a grave reflection on our State education system, and will he do his very best to see that it is put right?

Mr. Tomlinson

I should hesitate to draw conclusions of such a sweeping character from a review of this kind.

Mrs. Leah Manning

Can my right hon. Friend say what other Department undertook a survey of schools and in what circumstances?

Mr. Tomlinson

That I could not say.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

Is it not the policy of the Government to let our people know as much as possible about the British Empire?

Mr. Tomlinson

Certainly, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will read my answer he will find that a good deal of time and attention is given to it.

Mr. George Thomas

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these surveys can be very misleading, because they cover only some small pockets, and will he not express his appreciation of the interest in the Empire shown in the schools at the present time?

Mr. Tomlinson

I think the response to the invitations to attend courses is itself an indication of that fact.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Could the Minister say what is the status of Togoland?

Mr. Tomlinson

Without notice, no, I could not.

Mr. Driberg

In this connection, will my right hon. Friend take note of the forthcoming Colonial Exhibition in London, and do his best to ensure that as many schoolchildren as possible are able to visit it?

Mr. Tomlinson

I think if my hon. Friend visits the Exhibition he will find some difficulty in getting in because of the number of schoolchildren who are attending.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Is the Minister aware that, during the war there was quite a considerable number of men called up for the Services who were unable either to read or write?