§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
I rise to move that the provisions of the English Education Code should be assimilated to that of Scotland as regards the class and extra subjects. We have no doubt much reason to congratulate ourselves on the progress which has been made in national education of late years; the increased number of schools, the improvements in the buildings, the larger proportion of teachers to children, the better appliances, the smaller number of absentees, with results which have gone far to prove the truth of Victor Hugo's aphorism that, "he who opens a school closes a prison," and, I may add, does something to empty a workhouse also. We must not, however, "rest and be thankful"; at least, we may be thankful, but we must not rest. And there is one aspect of the subject which seems to me to be in far from a satisfactory position. We had last Session two so-called Educational Bills in Parliament, but they were really financial Measures, they dealt with, rates and grants rather than directly with education. On the Educational Estimates in the House of Commons the discussions turn mainly on the merits and demerits of Voluntary and Board schools, on structures, and playgrounds, and rates, but very little on the education itself, excepting, perhaps, under its theological aspects. Yet the Code exercises a most important influence in this respect, and for good or evil does much to determine the character of the education given. Under the Code the subjects taught in our elementary schools fall, I need not say, into three categories—the obligatory subjects, the class subjects, and the so-called specific subjects. The obligatory 588 subjects are in the case of boys—I say nothing about girls—reading, writing, and arithmetic. The specific subjects comprise various sciences, domestic economy, and one or two languages. With the exception of domestic economy, however, they are not largely taken up. The class subjects are English, geography, elementary science, and history. Elementary science is simply some knowledge of the world in which we live, some knowledge of the facts of nature by which we are surrounded. Now, I submit that all these four subjects are essential. Which can be wisely omitted? Geography is certainly most important; so is history, and English; and last, but not least, elementary science. I should not, however, propose to make these four subjects obligatory; but surely we should encourage schools to take them up. So far from this, however, we actually preclude them from doing so. The Code provides that no child can be presented in more than two subjects. If, therefore, a class takes geography and elementary science, they must omit history and English; if they take history and English, elementary science and geography must be omitted. I am not sure whether anyone will maintain that more than two subjects cannot be taken with advantage; but if the Vice-President of the Council, or anyone else, is disposed to take this line, I would refer to the Scotch Code. The Scotch Code contains no such limitation. Scotch children, more fortunate than English, are permitted to take all four subjects, and they take advantage of it. Out of 3,000 departments in Scotland, no less than 2,200 take three or more class subjects. Moreover, not only did the children take three class subjects in the great majority of cases, but they learn them well, for the Report for 1895 goes on to say that in no less than 3,018 departments, out of 3,013, almost, therefore, the whole, and comprising 457,000 children—Grants are awarded according to the Report in each cast, the average sum earned by each of these scholars being 5s. 6d. This shows that a large proportion of departments received grants at the higher, or two shillings rate.Perhaps I had better quote the actual words of the Code—As regards class subjects the English Code provides, 'a Grant for class subjects of one shilling or two shillings for a first-class 589 subject, and one, shilling or two shillings for a second class subject.'… No more than two class subjects may be taken by any class, and the same number must be taken throughout the school; except that where needlework is taken by the girls its a class subject, a corresponding subject need not be taken by the boys.Thus four shillings is the most that can be earned, and two subjects only may be taken. In the Scotch Code the provisions are wiser and more liberal—A Grant on the examination in class subjects amounting to 4s., 5s., or 6s., according as the Inspector reports that the teaching is fair (4s.), or good (5s.), or very good (6s.). Subjects may be grouped, and the lower standard 5, must show knowledge of at least two class subjects (Schedule 5).Thus 6s. may be earned, and the children must be presented in at least two subjects, so that the Scotch schools can earn 2s. more per head; and while two subjects are the maximum in England they are the minimum in Scotland. Passing now to the specific subjects, we find similar differences. The English Code provides—A Grant on the examination of individual scholars in specific subjects of 2s. or 3s. for each scholar presented in any specific subject.… No scholar may be presented for examination in more than two specific subjects.Thus two subjects only can be taken, and 6s. is the maximum that can be earned. The Scotch Code, on the contrary, provides—A Grant of 4s. per subject may be made for every day scholar, presented in Standards 5 and 6 (Article 28), who passes a satisfactory examination in not more than two of such subjects.Here the number of subjects is the same, but a Scotch child who passes in two subjects earns 8s. for his school; while on English child who passes equally well, and in the same subjects, only earns 6s. Now, how do these provisions work? Out of 24,000 English schools, geography was taken as a class subject in 16,000, English in 15,000, history in 4,000, and elementary science in only 2,200. No doubt elementary science is creeping up, but under the existing regulations it can only do so at the expense of either geography or English. Nor is the deficiency in any way repaired by what are known as the specific subjects, for out of 5,500,000 children in our schools only 590 140,000 (of whom, I may add, over 4,000 were in London, were presented for examination in any of these subjects, and of these 40,000 were in domestic economy. The other principal subjects were algebra, etc., 50,000; mechanics, 25,000; French and German, 13,000; physiology, 18,000; chemistry, 5,000; shorthand, 10,000; some of the children being presented in two subjects. These numbers are for the whole of England. None were presented in history. Now, I bring this subject before the House on two grounds—firstly, educational, and secondly, financial. To take the financial aspect first, the managers of Voluntary schools complain that they are cramped and starved for want, of funds; London occupiers complain of the ever-increasing rates. Now if we could induce the Government to alter the English Code so as to put our schools on the same platform as the Scotch—and this is surely a fair claim—our London schools might earn 4s. a head more than they do now. At present the Scotch schools earn £1 1s. 4d. per scholar, and the English only 19s. 11d., a difference of 1s. 5d. a head, which is equivalent to a very large sum. Now if this were due to the greater excellence of Scotch schools—to the children being better taught, more industrious, or more intelligent, however much we might regret our inferiority, we should have no cause to complain. But this is not so. The difference arises from the difference in the condition of the two Codes. Scotch schools are allowed to send in their children for four class subjects, and to earn 8s. English schools are limited to two class subjects, and cannot earn more than 4s. That the difference is due to this cause is shown by the fact that the Scotch schools do earn 5s. 6d. from the class subjects, while the English schools are only able to earn 3s. 6½d., or 1s. 11½d. less. But for this arbitrary difference we should actually earn more per head than the Scotch. In our London schools there are 600,000 children in average attendance, so that 2s. a head would come to a good round sum. Surely, then, on financial grounds we may fairly ask to be placed on the same footing as Scotland. But I have put the finance first, because, to my mind, it is far the less important aspect of the case. Education falls under three heads, that of the body, of the mind, 591 and, lastly, of the heart—the most important of all. The education of the mind may be again subdivided into the three convenient—not, perhaps, natural—divisions of arithmetic, literature, and science. Certainly I am not likely to undervalue literature. Indeed, I have often felt a difficulty in tearing myself away from my books to take the necessary exercise. But though books are so enchanting, and teach us so much, they cannot teach us everything. The Greeks were great philosophers and thinkers, but not as a rule great observers. There is an essay in one of Plutarch's works on the question, "Which was first, the bird or the egg?" And one reason given for deciding that the hen preceded the egg is that everybody calls it "a hen's egg," and no one speaks of "an egg's hon." We are not ourselves free from the same error. But it is an error. We learn, or ought to learn, much from Nature direct. Mr. Crabb Robinson once went to call on Wordsworth. The maid said he was out, and Robinson then asked if he could see the study. The maid kindly took him in and showed him Wordsworth's sitting-room. "This," she said, "is master's library, but he studies in the fields." There is a great deal we may learn in the fields. It is extraordinary how little we know about the beautiful world in which we live, and what little we know is too much ignored in our schools. The neglect of physical science has been, and still is, the great blot in our educational system. Everyone, however, should know the rudiments of arithmetic, geography, physics, chemistry, and biology before attempting to proceed further. I say should be "well grounded," which is a very different thing from having a smattering. Smatterings are always mischievous. What is a "smattering"? The knowledge of a few isolated facts. That is, no doubt, of comparatively little use. To be well grounded is another matter. Let me illustrate what I mean by a reference to astronomy. The boy or girl who knows a few of the fundamental truths of that marvellous and inspiring science—that the moon goes round the earth, and why it changes its shape; that the earth and the other planets are going round the sun; that we are moving at the rate of 1,000 miles a minute; that the sun is one of many millions of stars; that 592 comets are heavenly bodies, and not warnings of impending catastrophes; who has some idea of the almost infinite time and distances and velocities of the heavenly bodies—is not, indeed, an astronomer, and yet knows even more than the great Ptolemy himself, or all the wisest of the ancient philosophers. This is the kind of instruction that could very well be given in our schools, and where it has been tried it has been found most interesting to the children. There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that in many cases, and that is I know especially the case in London, the children do receive instruction in history, though they are not presented for examination. The system in the schools is, in fact, better than that in the Code. At the same time the Code, of course, exercises a great influence. It ought to exhibit a model to be aimed at, and not an example to be avoided. No doubt the Code, on the whole, has been well and carefully thought out. I should be sorry to give an impression that I am attacking it generally. On the contrary, I cordially recognise how much we are indebted to the staff of the Education Department for the ability with which it has been drawn up. In this particular point, however, it seems to me to need amendment. No scientific man, I venture to say, would wish to exclude literature from education. Such an education would, indeed, be imperfect and one-sided. But what we do say is that an education, if so it can be called, which excludes science, is also imperfect and one-sided—that it is only half an education. I am not asking for the introduction of any new class subject, but only that those now on the list should have fair play. This, I submit, is not the case. Yet under the Code, when geography and English are taken, science and history are excluded. The Code says you had better take two of them, and not more than two. My contention is that this is a radically wrong ideal of education; that English, geography, elementary science, and history are all of them important subjects, and that the influence of the Education Department should be exercised, not to prevent, but to encourage, their being taken up in all our National schools. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether he cannot see his way to modifying the Code so as to approximate to the Code 593 of Scotland. We know how sound Scotchmen are on the educational system, and we hope the Government will take the matter into consideration, so us to induce the Education Department to encourage, and not to prevent, the children in our elementary schools from being instructed in these important subjects. I beg to move the Motion of which I have given notice.
§ MR. R. C. JEBB (Cambridge University)
I rise to second the Motion of my right hon. Friend, and I do so because I have a great deal of sympathy with the objects of the Motion. It seems to me to be desirable that the children in elementary schools should acquire at least some knowledge of the subject to which he has referred. And here I may perhaps be allowed to say that I am one of those who believe firmly, as firmly as any man, in teaching a few things well, rather than many things deficiently. I am strenuously opposed to taxing the brains of young children with a great many kinds of miscellaneous knowledge; but I do believe that the work in our elementary schools might be made more interesting to the children, more fruitful to their minds, more useful to them in later life, by some modification in the direction which my right hon. Friend desires. He has entered into many particulars which I need not recapitulate, but I should like to say one word as to the difference between schools in England in respect to class subjects. As my right hon. Friend has reminded the House, in England only two class subjects can be taken up, though in Scotland three class subjects may be taken up. Now, Sir, this difference is no mere accident or caprice of administrative detail. It arises from the different circumstances of the two countries. In Scotland, the appetite for education is keener and more universal than it is south of the Tweed. The fact that knowledge is power is a truth which is thoroughly appreciated in Scotland by all classes, and, more than that, in many matters it is valued in Scotland by all classes for its own sake. It was found impossible to restrict elementary schools in Scotland to two class subjects, and so they were allowed to take three, and this raised the maximum grant to 6s. That grant was fixed in 1895 on the basis of the average earnings of the Scotch schools for a series 594 of years before that date. It came out at about 5s. 6d. And then it was urged that it was a mistake to make all the three subjects a necessary condition for obtaining the maximum grant. This maximum grant, it was said, ought to be within the reach of schools which took only two subjects, and it should be left to the discretion of the Scottish Government Inspector to advise the Department whether a particular school ought to be required to take three subjects before it could earn the full grant; and that is the option which is left in the latest issue of the Scottish Education Code, the Code for 1898. It is an elastic system, and a system which gives the Scottish Education Department, the power of making discretionary allowances, for the various circumstances of different schools. Now, Sir, the question which we have to consider to-night is, how my right hon. Friend's proposal will work in England under the existing system. There exists in England a very large number of schools so circumstanced in regard to staff and equipment that if they had permission to take three subjects instead of two it would be a distinct advantage to them in every respect. The most obvious and, perhaps, the gravest objection which my right hon. Friend's proposal has to encounter is that there are many larger schools which might be induced, by the prospect of earning a larger grant, to undertake more than they can efficiently perform, and to take up three subjects instead of two. In so far as that might occur, it would be a sacrifice of the true interests of education to the prospect of pecuniary gain. Now, Sir, this, of course, is no new danger. It is a danger to which the English Education Department, and I suppose other Education Departments everywhere, have long been fully alive. It is a danger which the English Education Department has long endeavoured, and with no small measure of success, to counteract. The results for which grants are at present given are obtained not by examination, but mainly by inspection. The former test—the test of examination—has reference to the performance of the individual child; the test of inspection has reference to the character of the work of the school as a whole. Under the old examination test there was a temptation to create an intelligent child into a grant-earning 595 machine. Under the inspection test it is difficult to convert the whole school into a grant-earning machine, because, if a number of children are taught superficially, the result is inevitably to lower the average quality of the work in that school. Now, if my right hon. Friend's Motion had been brought forward in the days of the examination test, I should have felt more hesitation in supporting it. I should have felt that it might possibly increase the evil which flourished under the examination test, the evil of cramming children in order to obtain a larger grant. But with the inspection test the case is different. Suppose a particular school, which ought to have confined itself to two subjects, chooses to take up three, with the result that the teaching in that school is rendered thinner and less efficient, that fact ought to come out when the Inspector visits the school and inquires into the quality of the work done in that school. Inspection provides, or ought to provide, an automatic safeguard; and a too ambitious school would defeat its own object. Now, I do not deny—indeed, I do not doubt—that if the Motion of my right hon. Friend were adopted, there would at first be a tendency to take up all three subjects even were that course undesirable. But, notwithstanding, I do feel that on the whole there is a great balance of advantages in this proposal. I believe that any harm, which might at first result from the introduction of the new subject would tend to defeat, and probably at last to banish, it when the new option had been submitted to the test of actual inspection. Too ambitious schools will learn sooner or later, probably sooner, by their experience, and which greater prudence would have saved them from the necessity of learning, that it is better to teach two subjects well than three subjects badly. On the other hand, there can, I think, be no reason to doubt that there is a very large number of elementary schools in England in which the permission to take up three subjects would be an educational gain of a very important kind. It is conceivable that if the modification of the Education Code suggested by my right hon. Friend were adopted it might be supplemented by some modification of the English grant system in the direction of the more elastic system which I mentioned the 596 new Scottish Code had had introduced into it. For my part, I should welcome such a modification; but in any case it appears to me that the Motion of my right hon. Friend is one which raises a question which deserves the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Committee of Council; and I have little doubt that, whatever his decision may be, he will bestow upon it that careful attention which he never fails to give to any proposal for the improvement, of education in this country. Sir, I thank the House for having permitted me to offer these few observations, and I beg leave to second the Motion of my right hon. Friend.
§ THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir JOHN GORST,) Cambridge University
Mr. Speaker, I think I need hardly say that I entirely sympathise with my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London, and my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for the University of Cambridge, in their bringing forward this Motion. I sincerely desire, as they do, that the utmost possible amount of instruction should be given to the children of the elementary schools of England, and that we should not be behind Scotland in any way which can possibly bring our schools up to the Scottish level. But the terms of the Motion which my right hon. Friend has proposed go very much beyond that point. This is not the first occasion on which he has brought this subject to my notice, for on both the occasions on which I have had the honour of proposing the Education Estimates in this House my right hon. Friend has impressed upon the Government the desirability of giving more freedom to the managers of English schools, as is given to the managers of Scotch schools, in having three instead of two class subjects taught in their schools. But this Resolution goes much beyond that. It proposes to assimilate the provisions of the English Education Code, as regards both class and specific subjects, to those which do not exist in the present Scotch Code, but were contained in the Scotch Code of 1897, and which the Scottish Education Department has now abandoned. In making any comparison between elementary education in England 597 and elementary education in Scotland, I regret, as an Englishman, to have to say that Scotch elementary education is very much more advanced than ours. In the first place, in Scotland they get a much greater percentage of the child population upon the registers of their schools than we do in England. And then in Scotland the age of the children in the elementary schools is from 10 upwards. I will now give the Committee some statistics, and, first, I will take the case of children between the ages of 13 and 14. In Scotland the percentage of children between the ages of 13 and 14 is 5.91; in England it is 4.17. But, besides the greater age of children in Scotch schools, they have there many more teachers. Here again I will only trouble the Committee with one figure. In England there is one certificated teacher to every 78 children; in Scotland there is one certificated teacher to every 62 children; so that in discussing the comparisons between English and Scotch schools it must be remembered that in Scotland there were older children and more teachers. Then there is another thing in which Scotland has the advantage. In Scotland the law relating to the attendance of children at school is in a very much more advanced stage than in England. In Scotland, by Statute, no child is entitled to total exemption unless it is in the fifth standard; nor to partial exemption unless it is in the third standard. Whereas, in England, partial exemption is allowed to some children in the first standard; in some cases it can be claimed by children in the second standard, and there are a very large number of schools in which total exemption from attendance at school can be claimed by any child in the fourth standard, because by Statute law every child in England can say "good-bye" to school provided it is in the fifth standard, and no bye-law of any corporation can all or that statutory provision. Therefore, in Scotland the education of the children is superior to the education of children in England to this extent—they have better laws, they have more teachers, and they remain at school till a very much more advanced age. That being the relative position of affairs in the two countries, both Education Departments desire to give as much class instruction as possible. 598 Class teaching is teaching beyond elementary education. Elementary education in both countries comprises, as my right hon. Friend admitted, reading, writing, arithmetic, and drawing. These are compulsory subjects which are taught every child. But the list of class subjects differs in the two countries. In England it includes English, in Wales English and Welsh, and French in the Channel Islands, geography, elementary science, history, etc.; and for girls domestic economy and needlework; whereas in Scotland the list of class subjects is history, geography, and elementary science. In Scotland drawing is a class subject, and not compulsory. In Scotland, no doubt, a regulation was made by the Scottish Department by which three instead of two elementary class subjects might be taught in the schools, but the advisers of the English Education Department hesitated to follow this example. They thought that it was very possible that, with the very strong desire that existed to earn the grants, the licence might be abused, and that the children might be pressed by over-study and exertion to earn the additional grants from these class subjects. They thought that the compulsory subjects, with the two class subjects additional, were quite as much as could be put into a child at the very tender age at which children in this country go to school. The experience of Scotland in allowing three class subjects to be taken was not altogether successful. It was adopted in 1886, and the conclusion to which the advisers of the Scottish Education Department came as time went on was that there was a tendency to take too many subjects in Scotch schools at the expense of proficiency and care in teaching, and, therefore, inconsequence of that, the block grant system was invented, by which the school did not take two or three class subjects as the managers think fit; but the inspector determined in the school year whether, in the case of any particular school, one, two, or three class subject shall be taken; and it has sometimes been the case that schools taking only two class subjects earn a higher grant than schools taking three, and it happens in this way: a school taking only two class subjects attains a high state of efficiency and earns 599 the full grant of 6s. per child; whereas in another school taking three class subjects the efficiency may not reach so high a pitch, and there is only a grant of 4s. per child. It does not depend upon the number of subjects taken at all, but entirely upon the efficiency with which that number of class subjects in the opinion of the inspector at the beginning of the school year is taught. It is asked that the English Code shall be altered so as to be in accordance with the Scotch Code, but, as I have stated, and I think my right hon. Friend will agree with me, it will be wise to wait for the result of this experiment of the new regulations in the more advanced elementary education of Scotland. I can assure my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge that the officers of the Education Department are quite alive to the desirability of teaching as much as you possibly can that is practicable, and particularly elementary science. They have shown by the regulations which have been made from time to time with regard to elementary education, and with regard to science classes and continuation schools, that they are alive to the progress which they hope to see made in the education of this country. I trust that the right hon. Baronet will not think it necessary to take a Division on a Resolution which asks the House to commit itself to an arrangement which Scotland has abandoned. If, on the other hand, the right hon. Baronet amends his Resolution by adopting the words "the Code of 1898," I shall still object to it, because it is hardly reasonable to invite the English Educational Department to undertake an experiment which is being tried in Scotland, and which I hope will be successful. If that is so, it will be open to us to consider whether it may not be copied in this country.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
In supporting this Motion, which is an abstract one, I take it to mean this: that we desire that with regard to the English Education Department and the English Code, the English elementary schools may be put in the same favourable position with regard to class subjects as Scotch schools. The right hon. Gentleman says that they have 600 now abandoned that system—the Code of 1897. Well, we ought to endeavour to place our schools on the same basis, because they have really taken a step forward in regard to elementary education. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for the London University was justified in putting his Motion on the Paper, because all he asks for is that we shall be aided to arrive, if possible, at the point from which Scotland has taken a further step forward. The right hon. Gentleman has shown in his comparison between the English and Scotch systems that the latter is established on a much more advanced basis than the English system; but, whilst admitting that it is unfortunately true that the attendance in Scotland is better, that there is better education there, and that higher subjects are taken, we do think that it ought to be the duty of those who are responsible for the education of the children of this country to encourage improvements rather than discourage them, and it is on this basis that my right hon. Friend desires the House to accept his Motion. The Vice-President of the Council has said that he feared, if more class subjects were taken in elementary schools, that teachers may endeavour for the sake of the extra grant to over-press the pupils in their schools, but I think that we may trust to the common sense of the managers in this matter, who, I am glad to say, are taking a very intelligent interest in the education of the children. I do not think that any one of us would have objected had the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing this proposal, introduced at the same time the block system, because any suggestion which might lead to the prevention of any particular school from taking subjects which the children cannot manage would, I am sure, be welcome. At present, under our system, the only two class subjects taken practically are English and geography; history and science, both of them most important subjects, are practically, to a large extent, omitted from the curriculum of our schools altogether. It is all very well to say that one of the class subjects is English, but English is only a very high-sounding term for English grammar, and I for one think that of all the useless subjects taught, that of English 601 grammar is by far the most useless. I do not think that any human being ever learned anything from acquiring a knowledge of English grammar. I am quite certain that none of our great writers ever learned a single word of English grammar, and the only reason for this being taken is that it is comparatively a very easy thing for any teacher to take in an elementary school. A course of English grammar can be taken without any very great trouble and without any very great facility. On the other hand, the class subjects of history and, especially, of elementary science, mean that the teacher must devote a considerable amount of time and intelligence to these subjects. They are encouraged by the Education Department to teach grammar and geography, and they are discouraged from teaching two of the most useful of class subjects—namely, history and science—because, practically, out of the schools which take class subjects at the present time something like 30,000 take grammar and geography, and only 6,000 take history and science, which are much more useful subjects. The reason of that is, as the right hon. Gentleman knows full well, that there is practically, to all intents and purposes, no choice for teachers to take any class subjects besides geography and grammar. What we desire is this: that greater elasticity shall be given to the managers, and more power, and I do not believe that they would abuse that power if it were given to them. Where teachers show their aptitude to take these two other much more useful class subjects, instead of being tied down to take grammar and geography, they should be given an opportunity of taking them. The right hon. Gentleman has appealed to the House to allow the new Scotch Code to have a fair opportunity of experiment before we make any alteration in the English Code, but the point which we wish the House to commit itself to is one which has had a very large number of years' experience in Scotland, and though the right hon. Gentleman says that occasionally there have been cases in which this power has been abused, I do not think for a moment that he would allege that it has not been a great advantage in Scotland to have this choice in regard to class subjects.
602 Under the new Code of 1898 there is a greater opportunity for the Scotch schools to take class subjects than before, and though, to a certain extent, the option is limited, the result under this Code will be that the Scotch schools will do more efficiently a larger number of class subjects and earn a larger grant than they did under the previous one. We in England desire also to take a step forward, and I support this Motion upon the general principle that if this House pass this Motion it will be an instruction to the Education Department to deal with the matter, and that it will give to the children of the elementary schools a greater opportunity to acquire that knowledge which would be of greater use and of greater interest to them to acquire than the knowledge they receive at present.
§ *MR. J. H. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
I shall not be accused of any desire to depreciate the work in the elementary schools of England and Wales, but, upon the whole, I am against the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am bound to say that the views of the Education Minister commend themselves to me more than this Motion, because I know the difficulties of the schools and the superficiality and the evanescence of much of the work done in the class subjects. I should hesitate to support in this House any action which would increase the temptation to teach, subjects superficially by exciting the cupidity, if I may without offence use that term, of the managers of the elementary schools. We frequently hear and read of accusations against the management of the elementary schools of this country. We frequently hear that a great deal of the money spent on the elementary schools is wasted, and as evidence of that we are referred to office boys and warehouse boys, who, after passing the sixth standard, are found by their employers to be destitute of that knowledge which they might reasonably be expected to possess. I want to point out to the House that, so far from increasing the subjects in the curriculum, the whole aim of the House and the Education Department ought to be to strengthen and to make more permanent—[Sir JOHN LUBBOCK: I do not want to increase the number of subjects.] I apprehend that the 603 effect of this Motion will be to increase the number of subjects in the school curriculum; there is no other alternative. If there are one or two class subjects at the present time, and there is an option given to teach three or four, there must be an increase. I quite concur with all that is said as to the superiority of the chances of the child in Scotland. In Scotland you have a higher percentage of adult teachers than in England, and of teachers who are certificated. You have a larger percentage of children who stop at school to a later age, and you have a better school attendance. In every respect you give to the Scottish child a better chance than you do in England; and until you establish in England, as you do in Scotland, a school in every parish which may call upon the rates, with adult and properly qualified teachers, it is ridiculous to expect that in an English school, even in a great number of Board schools, you can give to the child as much thorough education as you give to the Scottish child. What is the condition of the English schools? You have an attendance of 27½ hours a week. The child is taught in classes of 60 or over; they sometimes go up to 100, but the average class is 60. Most of the classes of 60 are not taught by a certificated teacher, a great number of the adult teachers not being certificated. The children who ought to attend school for 27½ hours a week are not there regularly—one out of every five on the books is always away; but, besides that, there are nearly 1,000,000 children in this country who are not on the books at all. Now, see what chance you give the child while his school life lasts; he is very irregular in his attendance, and when he does attend he is taught in too large classes, and in a great number of cases by unqualified teachers. Nor, how can you expect to give him under those conditions a greater education than he gets now? The school managers of the voluntary schools are at their wits' end now to provide the teaching which they do. If you lay before the managers of a small Board school in a village, or a struggling voluntary elementary school, the chance of earning 2s. or 3s. per child more than they do at present, you place a very great temptation 604 before them. The managers will say, "You must earn this 2s. more; you must take up this additional class subject," and you may have the teachers worrying and grinding and over-pressing the unfortunate child for the short period that he is at school in order to earn this extra 2s. a year, for if the teacher does not do it he must give place to somebody who will. Now, I gather from this Motion that the main motive of the right hon. Baronet is to encourage the teaching of elementary science in our schools, but I find from the Report of the Scotch Education Department for 1896–7 that even under that system, out of 3,094 cases, in only 50 was elementary science taught. I submit to this House that the Motion of the right hon. Baronet will not accomplish the end he has in view, but, on the other hand, will only increase the overpressure and superficiality which are engendered by the present system. The right hon. Gentleman says he will observe for 12 months the new departure of the Scottish Education Department, and see if it is successful. The Scottish Education Department, after 10 years' experience, were compelled to abandon the suggestion put forward by the right hon. Baronet. I hope we shall be able at the end of 12 months to adopt the block grant principle for English schools; and I would suggest that we ought to do away with this system of rewarding teachers by a few shillings here and a shilling or two there. This huckstering method of dealing with education is subversive of the interests of the children, and I should suggest it should be discontinued, and we should substitute for that method the plan of assigning for every school a fixed income, such as the school needs, so long as it satisfies the agents of the Department, the inspectors, that efficient work is being done in the school. That only is the true method to obtain reform, and not by the Motion now before the House. If the Motion goes to a Division, I regret that I shall be compelled to vote against it.
§ *MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)
Unfortunately, it is not the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen who have brought forward this Motion which will be placed upon the records of the House for future 605 reference, but only the Resolution, and therefore if this Motion be pressed to a Division I shall be compelled to vole against it, though I agree with very much that has been said. It has often been stated that this House desires to restrict the curriculum in our schools, but I have never admitted that that was a fair statement of the attitude adopted by the House. Here is an effort to extend the curriculum in our elementary schools, and with that effort I have every sympathy, provided it is possible and practicable. But what is the position of the right hon. Gentleman who brings the Resolution forward? He admits he does not desire to add to the number of obligatory subjects now in the curriculum, but to extend the number of those subjects which may be taught in the school. Now, is that possible under the existing conditions? The number of obligatory subjects has been referred to—reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework for girls, and drawing for boys, and one of the class subjects—these must be taught in every school. Now, the fact of the matter is that when you have taken away from the ordinary school day 45 minutes for religious instruction and for the registration, which is compulsory in every school, and eliminated the 10 minutes which must be devoted to physical exercise, both morning and afternoon, in every school, and also excluded the time occupied in changing the lessons, you have left only three hours and 40 minutes a day, which gives you 18 hours and 20 minutes a week for school subjects. There are nine subjects which must be taught in that period, and if you add two specific subjects to that you have to divide the 18 hours and 20 minutes by the 11 subjects, which gives one hour and 40 minutes per week for each subject. You take a class of 60 children, that being considered by the Education Code a sufficient number for a certificated teacher, and you work out this startling result: that of the individual attention given by the teacher to each of his scholars, only 1⅔ minutes will be available for each scholar for a particular subject in each week. Now, I want to know how, under those circumstances, you are going to teach another subject. I have always felt that it matters very little how many subjects you teach in a school, 606 but it matters very much how those subjects are taught. More good will be done by getting the children to love educational work than by cramming them with overwork, which becomes distasteful. It is much more desirable that the child shall love the educational work, and come back to the evening or continuation school, than that the love should be killed in him by over-pressure. The tendency of the age has been to put into the schools a large number of subjects, with a very limited amount of time and an inadequate staff, and to encourage school managers and teachers to take up these various subjects by putting two shillings on this, eighteen-pence on that, and half-a-crown on another. I object to the word cupidity as used by an hon. Member, because I do not think it represents the attitude of teachers and school managers in this matter. The word, to my mind, implies a greed for personal profit, and that is not their object. They want to keep their schools going, and they endeavour to secure every halfpenny the Education Department offers to them. There is, therefore, an irresistible temptation placed before them, and they take up a number of subjects which they know they cannot satisfactorily teach in order to earn the grants attached to them. My right hon. Friend says he does not propose to incorporate this system, of payment by results. It is not in the Scotch Article 19 in connection with class subjects. That is perfectly true, but in Article 21 the system of payment by results exists in all its objectionable form. There is to be a grant of four shillings per subject for two specifics, and a child may take a third specific and get another four shillings for taking up the subject. That is a direct temptation to take up subjects, not for the good of the child, but in order to earn the grants attached to them. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, so far as I am familiar with the primary school system, instead of adding to the number of subjects, care must be taken at the present time to prevent school managers and teachers taking an unnecessarily largo number of subjects. They had far better restrict their attention to the subjects in the Code, and direct their best efforts to teaching these subjects well, separating them altogether 607 from the Government grants, and using those grants as a means of encouraging education throughout the country, enlarging the grants where education is starved, and where the surroundings are poor, and not using them as prize-money to be awarded in large amounts in rich districts, and cut down to small proportions where the surroundings are poor and unsatisfactory. I believe, myself, that if the Scotch clauses were incorporated bodily, as this suggestion would recommend, into the English Code, the last state of the English schools would be worse than the first. My own impression is that the Scotch Code offers a fertile field for profitable revision, and I would recommend Scotch Members to take it in hand, and they will find in going through its clauses that in many cases the Scotch system is far behind the system adopted by the English Education Department. We had an example of that at one o'clock this morning in the matter of audit. The Scotch Code is in some particulars what the English Code was seven or eight years ago. The results grant in connection with specific subjects still exists in the Scotch Code, and the merit grant, strongly condemned by the Cross Commission as a most pernicious system to adopt in primary education, still remains in the Scotch Code. My right hon. Friend suggests we should put those clauses into the English Code, and, if I am compelled to vote—I hope he will not go to a Division—I shall be compelled to go into the Lobby against him. The Debate has, however, served a good purpose by suggesting that as much elasticity as possible should be at the disposal of school managers, that they should be able to adapt the curriculum to the necessities of the surrounding districts, that we should not have one cast-iron form for the whole of the country, and that there should be a large amount of latitude given. But, so long as we have children leaving school at an early age, so long as the half-time system is rampant in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and elsewhere, we cannot accomplish wonders in primary instruction in elementary schools. Just as the children are on the borderland of the attractive stages of school work, out they go under the half-time system. If those children remained at school during three more 608 years of child life, and learned something of the benefits of higher training than they are able to gain in the lower standards of the schools, then there would be some reasonable hope that they would come back to continue work in the continuation schools of the country. Until that day, however, I can only hope that the restrictions now in the English Education Code will remain, and until we can keep the children three or four years longer I should not favour any proposal to extend the curriculum.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I have listened with great attention to this most instructive Debate. We have had a great deal of very useful information as to the present condition of education, in this country. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London proposes that there should be given in the elementary schools of this country instruction which certainly, at first sight, would appear to be necessary instruction and ordinary information for the English people. What is the answer, and, I am afraid, the conclusive answer, that is given to this proposal? That we have not got the material or the machinery in this country to give to the English subject a decent education, and that is what we have heard from, those most competent to give an opinion. On both sides of the House we have as high authorities as to the condition of education in the country as can anywhere be found. We have heard the argument of the Vice-President of the Council of Education. He is asked to allow such a subject as elementary science, and other subjects, which, in my opinion, are most important, and which are taught in other countries, such as foreign languages. But what is his answer? That it is impossible to teach them in the schools we have in this country. The hon. Member who has just sat down says that the children of this country are given in secular education something like eighteen hours a week, and that for a less number of years than I venture to say is given to the education of children in any other country in Europe. Our children, as the hon. Member says, are turned out at an age when they have not had time to acquire the most elementary subjects of a decent education. They are turned out to seek their fortunes, and they get no 609 further education except, perhaps, what they can pick up themselves. The Vice-President of the Council points to Scotland, and he says how inferior is English education to Scotch education. But why is English education inferior? The children in England remain in school for a shorter time, they are worse instructed, and there are fewer certificated masters in proportion to the number of children. We have a lower grade of education in England as compared with Scotland. And yet the complaint—the favourite topic of the Party opposite—is that the Board schools are giving too high an education. But I venture to say that even the Scotch system, superior as it is to the English, is not up to the mark of the educational systems of the countries which are our competitors. I have been reading, and every man who is interested in this subject, and not alone in this subject, but in the fortunes of his country, should read what Germany has been doing for secondary education. I refer to a Yellow Book which has just been issued by the Education Department, containing special Reports on the system of education in Germany, and particularly the Report of Mr. Sadler on the Real-scules in Berlin. And here we confess to-night that we are utterly unable to give to English children the education now being given to children in every country in Europe because our machinery is defective. The instruction we provide and pay for is utterly inadequate. What a confession is that! Here we have a Session of counts out. Why should we not have a Secondary Education Bill, which, I venture to think, is one of the first reforms of which this country stands in need. We hear of continuation schools. No doubt they are good things if they are attended, but there is no compulsion to attend, and the regular education of this country is the miserable quantity given to children 10, 11, or 12 years old. That is the education of the English people. Well, Sir, I venture to say that, of all the subjects of Party discussion on which we are encaged, there is not one half so important as this question. We talk about commercial competition. But why have we above all the world fallen back in that competition? In the Yellow Book to which I have referred it is pointed out that the new reforms which have been made in 610 Germany have been made, not so much in the direction of what is called technical education as to giving the pupils a thorough general education. I believe the manufacturers and artisans of this country are equal to any in the world, and I do not believe that better work can be turned out anywhere than is executed by the great firms of Glasgow, Leeds, and Sheffield. That is not the great advantage which our competitors have. What they have been devoting themselves to in the middle schools in Germany has been the teaching of the art of extending commercial connections and distributing goods in various parts of the world, and for that purpose you want a good general education. Our elementary education ought to lead up to that, and lay the foundation of an ordinary, general, sound education, which we do not now give, because we do not keep the children hours enough and years enough in school, or give them competent teachers to teach them what they ought to know. I think that the first thing we ought to endeavour to do—each acting in our several capacities and localities—is to awaken the minds of the people of England to this, the greatest of their deficiencies. Why is Scotch education superior to English? Because the people of Scotland care more about education, and because they understand better its practical value in life. If this Debate has served no other purpose, it has, at least, revealed the absolute insufficiency of the whole machinery of our educational system; and if it is impossible to accept the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, at all events the discussion ha smade plain, what ought to have been made plainer every day, the absolute deficiency in which we stand with respect to what is, after all, the basis of the prosperity of the country.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
I am very loth to detain the House, but after the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman I should like to say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman and myself have been in this House for a great many years together, and he will remember the long struggle and the Debates over the Bill of 1870. Well, Sir, those Debates, at all events, showed that the 611 country was at that time passing through a great educational crisis. The Government of that day had to face difficulties with regard to education which no Government, I believe, in any country had to face. We fought through that crisis. The Act of 1870 was a compromise, and has been loyally supported by all Parties in the State; but, after all, it was only a compromise, and that is the answer to my right hon. Friend when he asks why it is that there is a better system of education in Scotland than in England. When Mr. Young succeeded Mr. Forster, and when he went to work in Scotland, he had a far different task before him. He had to meet a state of feeling in Scotland which did not exist in England. He found a keenness among all classes on behalf of education. He found also there no religious difficulties standing in the way and obstructing him at every turn. Therefore he gave a uniform system of education. That is my answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend should have gone a step further, and endeavoured to elucidate this tangle, and shadow forth some scheme of release from our difficulties. I do not think that he nor any other man, whatever his political power may be in this country, would attempt to disturb the educational compromise. That is the difficulty that is checking us on every side. One word with regard to the matter before us. A very excellent Debate has been initiated by my right hon. Friend, and I think the whole House will be grateful to him for having occasioned it; it is a very interesting subject, which affects us all. My right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Council has pointed out a technical difficulty. It appears that this Resolution, if the House accepts it, and places it on its records, will cause some educational difficulty, because it would establish a position which would be more or less absurd. It may consequently be difficult to support the Motion of my right hon. Friend, but I do wish to put a little pressure on my right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Council. Whatever differences of opinion in other respects there may be, we are all united and unanimous upon one thing, that we wish the children, in the education for which we pay very heavily, to have a useful 612 and practical education. That is what we want; and we also wish to have the code so drawn that it may be elastic in all its details in regard to these matters of practical education. It has been said again and again, in this House and elsewhere, that what we do require is an education which will enable our children to get the best living possible in the particular locality where they are brought up, whether with regard to manufactures or whatever it may be—technical instruction or other instruction, modern languages, or any other specific class subject. And here I would say that if this code is to be made more elastic, I would not have it made so as regards elementary science only, but as regards any other extra class subject that would prove of practical utility in a particular locality. What I wish to urge upon my right hon. Friend below me is this: he has mentioned a system which is now obtaining in Scotland; he says it is an experiment. And, as I understand, it works somewhat in this way: an inspector, after having visited a school and having inspected it, may put that school on a certain list, whereby power is conferred on the management to take an extra class subject. What I would ask my right hon. Friend to do is to apply this experiment in England, for this reason, that it will not involve a very large expenditure of money; it will be an experiment that will be slow in operation, and in the result it will not make a very extensive call on the taxpayer's pocket, because, as I have said, it will be a very slow and growing movement. That being so, I wish to ask my right hon. Friend to give us some indication next year in the code to show that this same experiment—for, after all, it was only in December it was applied to Scotland—may also be applied to our schools in England. The whole question resolves itself into a question of the teaching staffs in the schools. In any school where the teaching staff is strong—where there is a good and thoroughly efficient staff—you will find no difficulty whatever in teaching an extra class subject; but we know there are a vast number of schools where that does not obtain, and in these schools, no doubt, it would be a grievous strain on the existing staff of teachers to make the addition suggested by my right hon. Friend. I have 613 detained the House already as far as I intend, but I do wish to put before my right hon. Friend this important point, that it affects really the future training of the youth of this country, for good or ill. And that being so, I wish to ask if he can see his way to make such a change as he has indicated in his speech concerning Scotland, and I think it will be a very valuable addition to the English Code.
§ *MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I venture to express the delight with which I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth. I venture to say, on behalf, I think, of all who sit on this side of the House, and, doubtless, many on the other side of the House, that he has hit the right nail on the head. The fact is, we are trying to put a quart into a pint pot. It is absolutely impossible to cram into the minds of children of 11, or 12, or 13 years of age, all the subjects which are considered essential in a modern education. That, in fact, is the kernel of the whole question, and I am glad the discussion to-night has emphasised that point, that unless we can give the children continuation teaching it is practically impossible to improve them in any way. What are the facts? I say it is ridiculous that we should attempt to force high-class education into these little children, many of them of the very poorest, and many working very hard in their spare hours—for a great number of them are kept working for hours a day as well as attending school—I say the thing is impossible, and unless the country is willing to enforce much longer attendance at schools, unless the country is willing to walk in the path of every advanced nation of Europe, we shall remain a badly educated people. I confirm what the right hon. Gentleman has said about Germany. Perhaps the House will allow me to state that I once made a tour through Germany to inquire into education in that country. I visited many of the schools, and was greatly struck with the much longer period at which children remain in school, and the much more thorough system of education. There was no cramming. The teaching was deliberate; it was intelligent; it depended entirely for its results on appealing to the intelligence of the children. 614 There was nothing of the nature of mere cramming of memory, and I know that a large portion of these children were under education in one form or another until the age of 17—children who in our own country would have left school at 13 or earlier. I found the same thing in many parts of Switzerland, where children are under education more or less until 17, and I have heard in some cantons of some young men attending evening classes up to the age of 19. Time is required for digestion; cramming young children with a multitude of subjects before the age of 13 merely leads to mental confusion. And what is the result? We find a large proportion of children when they attain the age of 16 who have forgotten even the rudiments of arithmetic, and can scarcely read and write, and are not fit to take up the technical education that is now being supplied to them. I entirely agree with what has been said, that in this desperate struggle in which we are now engaged, this commercial competition of all the nations of the world, nothing but better education will enable us to hold our own. We are competing with Germany, which is much better educated; and France, too, is becoming a better educated country than we are; the progress made in France within the last 20 years is remarkable. I hope one result of this Debate will be to strengthen the hands of the Government to bring forward a scheme of compulsory evening schools. If they cannot bring themselves up to the point of increasing the school age of day children, which they ought to do, they ought to lay down a principle that 14 should be the standard age for attendance, and exemption from the day school only to be given on condition that they attended an evening continuation school. Unless the Government does something of this kind we shall go on having these futile Debates to which I have listened for many years past. Year after year the same things are said, and no progress is made. I have myself brought forward, for 12 years in succession, a Continuation School Bill. I was constantly met with the assertion that the country was not prepared for it. I believe the country is much more prepared for it than hon. Gentlemen are aware, and I believe that if any Government had the courage 615 to face the question, and to lay down the principle that the children of the country must remain under education long enough to get their minds cultivated to a tolerable degree, they would awaken a response of which they have very little idea. For many years past I have consulted leaders of the working classes and members of trades' unions again and again upon this point, and the opinion is unanimous that they wish to have the children kept off the streets. You are going the way to ruin these little children. They often leave school at 12, and live upon the streets, and they lose nearly everything they have learnt; and the great mass of the intelligent artisans of this country will feel thankful to the House if it will provide them with some compulsory means of taking care of these children until they are 15 or 16 years of age. Therefore I hail with delight the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in front of me (Sir W. Harcourt), and I look forward with pleasure to a period, not very remote, in which he will take his part in forming a Government of the country, and will put in the forefront of his programme a higher and fuller and richer education than we have ever had before.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
I think there is very much force in the speeches we have listened to from the Vice-President of the Council and hon. Members below the Gangway, who speak with so much authority on the subject. I admit that the Scotch Code of the present year is an advance on that of last year, but, as an hon. Member has pointed out, I do not think we shall be satisfied in England until we have got the provisions of the Scotch Code at least. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Poplar that although grammar is a popular subject with schoolmasters, it is not at all popular with school children, and I think it is about the most useless subject you can teach in our schools. Neither Mr. Gladstone nor Mr. John Bright learnt grammar at school, and I think that if our children speak the English language as they did we shall have nothing to complain of. I regret the practical exclusion of elementary science—as it is known—from the school code. This really lies at the base of all industrial education. It includes husbandry for children in the 616 country, it includes a knowledge of mechanics necessary for those who are to engage in our great manufacturing processes or engineering works, upon which the prosperity of the country so greatly depends. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Kent very truly said that the education given in our schools should be a practical education, one fitted to the occupation which the children have to fulfil in after life. That is precisely what is done by teaching the rudiments of science, which you are precluded now from teaching in our English schools. What are these class subjects? Really, to listen to some of the remarks made in the course of this Debate, anybody would have supposed it was proposed to introduce some very abstruse subjects in the code. We are not proposing to add any subjects to the code. We are only asking that greater power should be given in the selection of subjects to those who are engaged in the management of schools. What are these subjects? Elementary science means knowing something of the conditions of the world in which we live; the history of our own country; the elements of some modern language. I think these four elementary subjects now included in the Scotch Code are necessary in every decent education. We are told here by the right hon. Gentleman responsible for the Education Department that children are turned out absolutely ignorant of two of these four elementary and all-important subjects. I should like to ask hon. Members of this House, which of us thought we had done enough when, as children of 13, we knew nothing of either the history of our country or the conditions of the world? Sir, those are subjects which we ought to teach to our children. Because children leave school at 14 is no reason why they should not have learnt something of these elementary matters. I do not think we are asking anything impossible. We ask that our English schools should be allowed to send children up to the Education Department to be examined on these elementary and necessary subjects. Why, if the Vice-President of the Council cannot trust the managers of our schools, if he cannot trust English schoolmasters, does not he trust to the English inspectors? Why should he not permit his own inspectors to allow children in the schools to be examined in more than 617 two of these important subjects? We have been told over and over again in this Debate that the Scotch system is superior to ours in England. Let us make an effort, if possible, to improve our English system, and assimilate it with the Scotch system, about which we hear so much. If we are really to improve our education, and make it of interest to the children, we must make it more real and more interesting. The hon. Member for West Ham spoke with great force, as did my hon. Friend who has just sat down, with reference to the Scotch continuation schools. What is it that will induce our children to go to continuation schools when they have left day schools? They will never do so until you make education in our elementary schools more interesting and varied, as we have endeavoured to secure by the Resolution put before the House this evening. We have been glad to hear an interesting Debate, and I do really hope that my right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Council will listen to what has just been said by the hon. Baronet, the Member for Kent, and if he finds this Scotch system does work well, that next year he will give us also the advantage of it in our English schools. I now beg leave, Mr. Speaker, to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.
§ The Motion was by leave withdrawn.