« AnteriorContinuar »
by the authority of Parliament, to secure a qualified teacher and a proper staff in every department, and by proportioning the amount to the efficiency of the school, as tested by examination, to prevent any school from falling below a reasonable standard.
Opinion, however, in England, has long been maturing in favor of such a change as should relieve the parents altogether of their share of contribution, and make the whole cost of primary education, as in America and France, a public charge. Of the two great English parties, the Liberals were the first to advocate this course. They have for several years past contended that since the law now compels children to attend school, it is unreasonable, also, to compel the payment of a fee. They urge that it has been in many cases difficult to obtain the school pence from needy or negligent parents, and that this difficulty has seriously affected the regularity of the children's attendance. Moreover they have avowed that one strong reason for the abolition of the parents' payments was that, by throwing the main burden of maintaining the schools on the whole community, the schools would be more likely to assume a public and national character, and would be freed in a great measure from the domination of local societies and religious parties. Until recently the Conservatives have, on the other hand, resisted the demand for the abolition of fees. They have pointed out that unwillingness on the part of parents to pay is comparatively rare, and that there has been no general demand on the part of parents for relief. The total sum contributed in the form of fees amounted to nearly two millions sterling, and as it was on the whole very cheerfully paid, and paid precisely by the persons who ought to pay it, there seemed to be no necessity to remove this charge from them and add it to the burdens of the taxpayer. Further it was urged that the existing system secured local control and the co-operation of the religious bodies; and that there was great danger of injury to the voluntary schools, if the contributions of the state, and with them the control of the state, became so large as to justify any interference with the local and denominational management to which the supporters of voluntary schools obviously attach considerable importance. These considerations, however, have in the view of the government and their supporters been outweighed by others.
It has become evident to statesmen of both parties of late, that the introduction of the free system was inevitable, or that at least its introduction was merely a question of time. The state of the exchequer fortunately made the present an opportune moment for sparing the needful sum, without imposing any new tax; and the government pointed out to their supporters, some of whom received the proposal with much reluctance, that by effecting the change now, it would be made with less disturbance of the existing compromise between the state and the various classes of schools, than would be likely to arise if it were made subsequently by the other party in the state, many of whose members are in favor of a more completely secularized system, and of superseding the managers of denominational schools by governing bodies popularly elected. The Liberal party received the measure, however, with a cordial welcome, and it was passed through both houses with little difficulty. It proceeds on the assumption that the average fee hitherto paid by parents is threepence per week, or about ten shillings a year, and it enacts that this sum may be paid to the managers of every public elementary school in addition to the present annual grant, on condition that schools in which this or any lower fee was hitherto charged shall be open gratuitously; but that where any higher fee has been charged, the excess only, or the difference between threepence per week and the customary fee, shall, in future, be imposed on the scholars. All the other conditions respecting the management, examinations, and conformity to the rules laid down in the Government Education Code remain unaffected by the new Act, which has been so framed as to involve the minimum of disturbance with existing arrangements, and to arouse the minimum of hostile criticism. It is too early at present to form even a conjectural estimate of the effect which will be produced on the regularity of the scholars' attendance, although a substantial improvement may reasonably be expected when one of the main hindrances to such regularity is removed. Nevertheless, the experience derived from other countries, some of which was collected and issued as a Parliamentary paper for the information of members, is well calculated to remind sanguine persons of both parties that a system of gratuitous instruction does not necessarily secure a high average of regular attendance, unless other influences
social, moral, and industrial-combine to produce the desired result.
It may be added that the Education Department has taken advantage of the present opportunity to repeat the counsels it had previously given from time to time, respecting the importance of School Savings Banks, and the use which might be made of a school in giving practical lessons in thrift and in insuring the habit of economy among the industrial classes. The moment at which parents are relieved of the necessity of making weekly payments for their children's school fees is obviously one very suitable to suggesting to managers and teachers the way in which the pence thus saved may be pru. dently economized.
In the department of higher or advanced education, one of the chief subjects of public interest during the last four months has been the proposed Registration of Teachers. Many abortive efforts have been made of late years to secure some kind of organization in the secondary instruction of the country. Hitherto all that has been done in England for public education, above the elementary, has been provided either by endowments or by private and local enterprise. The state has done nothing either to provide secondary schools, or to regulate, aid, or conduct them when provided. Now, it has generally been considered that one of the first steps in the direction of organized secondary instruction would be the creation of an authentic register of qualified teachers. The analogy of the medical profession has been frequently referred to, and the Medical Registration Act, which has been long in force, has been generally regarded as a precedent. That Act, as is well known, established a permanent Medical Council composed of representatives of each of the great Medical Corporations' interests, and confides to this council inter alia the power to prepare, year by year, an authorized list of qualified practitioners. At the same time it enacts that unregistered persons may not recover fees; and it imposes serious legal penalties on those who engage in medical practice without such qualification. It is contended by some of those who are most earnest in their efforts to make teachers an organized profession, that a similar course should be pursued in regard to all persons professing to teach ; and that all such persons should be required to give evidence of their qualification and to be registered, and that unregistered persons should, if not
actually forbidden by law to become schoolmasters and mistresses, at least be disabled by law from recovering fees.
To this argument it is replied that the analogy between the medical and the teaching professions is, to say the least, very imperfect. There are in medicine and surgery well-known and long-established professional corporations—the Royal Col. leges of Physicians and Surgeons, the Society of Apothecaries, and the universities which grant the degrees of M. D.-and all of these have been empowered for many years past to grant licenses to practice. There is no grievance in a law which forbids any man who is not provided with a diploma from one of these authorities to practice the medical profession. But in the teaching profession no similar system of diplomas can be said to exist. There are university degrees for teachers of the highest rank, and these are often regarded as sufficient, although after all they do not afford evidence of any knowledge of the art or philosophy of education. And in the elementary schools which receive aid from the Parliamentary grant, it has long been required that the master or mistress should possess a certificate of competency, which, though it does not attest any very high scholastic attainments, is always a very real testimony to the holder's professional experience and power to teach. But between these two classes—those engaged in the highest and in the primary schools respectively--there is a large class of intermediate teachers who possess no certificate or diploma whatever; and who, however well qualified by natural aptitude or by proved success, have had until very recently no means of obtaining official recognition ; simply because there was no tribunal or public authority which had the power to award it. The universities of Cambridge and London, Edinburgh and St. Andrew's, and the College of Preceptors, have of late instituted very good examinations in the art, theory, and history of teaching: and these are held in increasing esteem by young men, and especially by women, now entering the profession. But from the rank and file of teachers now employed in secondary and intermediate schools, whether public or private, it would be manifestly unfair to exact any new test; and in their case a registration bill which imposed upon them any legal or social disqualification would be a serious injustice.
These being the preliminary difficulties in the way of a general measure for the training and registration of teachers, it is
interesting to know that two bills of a more or less tentative character were introduced by private members in the last session of Parliament—the one by Sir Richard Temple, understood to have been prepared by the College of Preceptors, and the other by Mr. Acland, who was the representative of the large and increasing body of schoolmasters and mistresses who compose the Teachers' Guild. Both measures provided for the formation of an educational council composed of representatives of the Crown, the universities, and the general body of teachers; and both contemplated the preparation of a scholastic register, which should ultimately contain the name of every qualified teacher, and there was also in both bills a further provision that after a certain period no unregistered person should be legally entitled to recover fees. The government adopted a course not unusual in such cases, and referred both bills to the consideration of a select committee composed of members from both sides of the house, and presided over by the vicepresident of the council. This committee examined a great number of witnesses, and has recently published the evidence so collected, and a short report of its own. To American readers analysis of the evidence offered would be uninteresting and would certainly appear to be lengthy and tedious, especially as at present the whole question, though advanced a stage, has not come within what Mr. Gladstone calls the "sphere of practical politics.” Whenever a measure of this kind is proposed by the government, and either becomes or is likely to become added to the statute-book, your readers may like to know something more of its provisions and of the nature of the problems which it purports or intends to solve. At present it may suffice to record that the committee, after hearing evidence, expressed a general approval of the principle affirmed by both bills, and summed up their report with these recommendations: (1) That registration of teachers in secondary schools is desirable ; (2) that existing teachers should not be put on the register merely as such, but should not suffer from any legal disability ; (3) that both existing teachers and future teachers should be admitted to the register on producing such evidence of intellectual acquirements and teaching capacity as might be required by the council; (4) that additional facilities are required for the training of teachers in secondary schools; (5) that any educational council to be established for the furtherance of such registration should be