admitted and are now becoming generally known to the people at large. I apologize for giving a short popular account of it without figures or statistics once more. Elementary education, the foundation upon which higher instruction has to be built, is provided by two rival systems-the Voluntary and the Board schools. In the former considerably more than half the school-going children of the country are at the present time taught. In a large proportion of them, though by no means in all, religious instruction is given in accordance with the tenets of some particular form of Christianity. Their income consists of Exchequer grants, fees (dwindling away since the Free Education Act), endowments, and voluntary contributions. Some of these schools are excellent, better than the best Board schools, but most are inefficient for lack of proper means. The buildings are antiquated; the staff small and often inferior; child labor extensively used; the teaching apparatus inadequate. The weaker Voluntary schools have a tendency to drop off, but, if let alone, it would be generations before they were extinct.

Voluntary schools are spread over the whole of England and Wales; but the School Board system has been established in about two-thirds of the country only; and there the Board schools, which are richer than the Voluntary schools, show a tendency slowly to supplant them. Board schools in large towns are the most efficient part of our elementary system; and it would be a drawback to any scheme of reform if their existence or excellence was imperilled. Great praise has been deservedly bestowed up. on the public spirit and personal devotion of those by whom these great schools have been created, and the schools themselves have been the means of raising the standard of ele

mentary education and stimulating a desire for better instruction on the part of the masses of the people. Of late years there has been a regrettable tendency to establish Board schools of enormous size. In these the personal influence of the head teacher on the character of the school and children is reduced to a minimum. The school becomes a child factory. The instruction is mechanical, and produces little permanent effect on either the intellect or character. It is said by some that this is part of a general neglect by School Boards of elementary education, consequent upon the greater time and attention devoted by them in recent years to extending their operations into the sphere of higher education, to which I shall presently refer. But if the School Board system has been a success in the towns, it is generally admitted to have been a failure in the country, where the school area is the parish. Some rural Board schools are certainly good; many are indifferent; and some are very bad. The worst elementary schools in the country are to be found, not among Voluntary schools, but among rural Board Schools.

All public elementary schools, Voluntary and Board, are under the supervision of the Board of Education, which distributes among them a parliamentary grant. But the sum out of the rates by which the Government grant is supplemented in Board schools is on an average much greater than the subscriptions which supplement the grant in Voluntary schools. Some of the latter subsist wholly on the Government grant and have no subscriptions at all.

Such is the dual system under which public elementary education is now provided in England and Wales. But in the higher instruction, which is to produce the leaders and foremen of the commerce and industry of the Eng

land to come, the confusion and want of system are greater still.

First of all, and outside the present controversy, are the universities, colleges, and schools, established under charters, Acts of Parliament, and schemes, with which governments, central and local, interfere at present little, except to grant to some of them small subsidies of public money for teaching science, art, or technology. Alongside these are private institutions, some good, some bad, which give, or profess to give, instruction of every sort to those who can afford to

wide as to include everything but a classical education. Their money is spent not only in the establishment of new schools, but in improving and subsidizing existing schools, and in giving scholarships to deserving children to enable them to receive higher education. Their work, which is spread over town and country alike, is on the whole extremely well done, and no question has been raised as to its legality.

The School Boards' operations in higher education are mainly confined to the great towns. In them Higher Grade schools have been established, at the expense of the rates, which give gratuitous instruction, extending in many of them to preparation for the University, to all comers. There are free Evening Continuation schools, open to persons of all ages, in which amusement and instruction of every kind are provided for all who will accept them. Even materials, such as those for painting and drawing, are gratuitously supplied. By a decision of the Courts of law, all the proceedings of School Boards in relation to higher education have been pronounced illegal, and the application of local rates to the maintenance of schools other than elementary unwarranted by the Education Acts. But the schools are there, in full operation; they could not be suddenly closed without great damage to education, and Acts have therefore been passed to sanction their temporary continuance by School Boards under the license of the Municipal Authorities.

pay for it. With these Government

does not interfere at all. Those who buy are left to judge for themselves the quality of the article they purchase. Public inspection of such schools is offered by the Board of Education on payment of the cost by the proprietors, but it is not compulsory.

Such instruction higher than elementary as is now given by public authorities at the public expense falls, like elementary education, under two separate and rival systems-that of the Technical Day and Evening schools maintained by County and Municipal Councils, and that of the Higher Grade and Evening Continuation schools maintained by School Boards. Each system has been supported and supervised by a separate branch of the Education Department. Each school has drawn Exchequer grants from one or other of these branches, and the cleverer ones from both. The County and Municipal Councils are carrying out powers given to them by the Technical Instruction Act passed thirteen years ago. Their funds are derived mainly from an Exchequer contribution, vulgarly known as the "whisky money." made applicable to technical instruction in 1891; but this may be supplemented by a local rate not exceeding one penny in the pound. The definition of technical instruction is so

The schools of the Municipalities, and those of the School Boards, are capable of indefinite overlapping and rivalry. In some cases the united wisdom of the Council and the Board has averted this danger, and the consequent loss to the ratepayers. Joint Committees have been appointed, by which the schools of the two authori

ties are regulated, and made to supplement and not supplant each other. But in many places it is not so, and the ratepayers and taxpayers' money is wasted in a senseless competition. But waste of money is not the worst consequence of the dual system. The character of the instruction itself suffers. Schools are tempted to teach not that which is most profitable to the scholars and the nation, but that which is most popular and will attract most pupils. Preparation for examination has taken the place of real education. In the day schools the mechanical acquisition of knowledge, which can gain marks in an examination, has supplanted all methods for cultivating the power of finding things out for oneself, and of applying knowledge to some more useful purpose than merely answering the questions of an examination paper. In evening schools an increasing number dance and swim, and gaze at magic lanterns; a decreasing number avail themselves of the opportunity for real study. As a plan for giving innocent recreation to the masses, the system of Evening Continuation schools has been a success; as a means of making up the terrible deficiencies of our people in commercial and technical capacity it is a failure.

Such is the present state of public instruction in England. In Wales, which in education is linked with England, the Intermediate Education Act has mitigated to some extent the defects of higher education; the statements on elementary education apply equally to both. The mischief produced by the dual system which prevails in both elementary and higher education calls for instant and effective remedy. The blow which the decision of the Law Courts has inflicted on all the higher instruction given by the town School Boards has made the emergency more pressing. The Government could not have put off legis

lation, even if they had desired to do


Their proposal for meeting the emergency is simple and effective. It is to make the County Councils and the Municipal Councils of the great boroughs solely responsible for education of every kind within their districts; for the granting to existing schools of such aid as will increase their efficiency, and for the supply of such additional schools and institutions as may be requisite. This is the Education Bill. All the specific provisions that have been, and may hereafter be, inserted in it are restrictive of the indefinite and unlimited power in relation to education which the general words of the Bill confer. They prescribe the mode of action of the Councils as education authorities in particular matters, instead of leaving them to their unfettered discretion. Important and necessary as some of these provisions are, not one of them is so important or so necessary as to be worth endangering the principle of the Bill on account of it. The proposal is not new. Its principle was placed before Parliament by the Government in 1896. Their Bill was never rejected by the House of Commons. It passed its second reading by an overwhelming majority. Its subsequent withdrawal was on grounds which did not involve the condemnation of the principle either by Parliament or the people. The progress which County and Municipal Councils have made since 1896 in organizing higher education under the Technical Instruction Acts, and the decision of the Law Courts that the rival authority has no lawful powers in relation to higher education, have made the people of the country more familiar than in 1896 with the arrangements proposed. But even in 1896 the proposal was not novel. It was a reversion to the original principles of the Education Bill of 1870,

which proposed to entrust elementary education to the municipal authorities in towns. It was the absence of any such authority representing the ratepayers in counties that led to the subsequent change of plan. Had there been County Councils in 1870, School Boards would never have come into existence.

One part, and that the most important part, of the principle of the Bill is universally admitted. It is agreed, so far as I know without a dissentient, that all public instruction of every kind should be under the control of one local authority, and that the conflict between Municipalities and School Boards should cease. It seems to me to follow from this that either the powers in relation to education of School Boards must be transferred to Municipalities, or those of Municipalities to School Boards. So far, I think I may assume, agreement will extend. But between the adoption of Municipalities or School Boards as the one authority there is a great and legitimate controversy, affecting to a minor extent the principle of the Bill. I say to a minor extent, because either Municipalities or School Boards alone would be an improvement on the divided jurisdiction which exists at present. This question of principle has been fully discussed and so far decided by the House of Commons in favor of the Municipality, but it will no doubt be again revived in the further stages of the Bill. The strength of the School Board case is in the great towns. The results of their labors are visible to, and valued by, the people. Sentiment is on their side; and many resent the idea of their extinction. The members of the great School Boards are quite fit, under proper legal sanctions, to undertake the general supervision of public instruction of all kinds. If, on the other hand, it were proposed to take away from the

Town Councils their powers in relation to education, a sentiment of hostility, just as strong, would probably be evoked. But the weakness of the School Board case is the difficulty of applying the system to rural districts. Parish areas are given up. Boards of Guardians and School Attendance Committees are a sample of the kind of School Board that would be elected in rural district areas. Are such bodies fit to control and provide for public instruction, elementary, secondary, and technical? A County School Board would be the only solution possible. The County Council would be stripped of all the functions of education, which it is now exercising so well, in order that they might be transferred to a new and untried body without experience or prestige. The strength of the case for making the Municipality the authority for education depends on considerations not so much of education as of local government. Local selfgovernment can never be strong enough and independent enough to resist the encroachments of a central bureaucracy, and can never administer the money of the ratepayers with due regard to efficiency and economy, until there is one single body representing the ratepayers which has the sole control of local finance. Bodies elected for specific purposes, and dipping their hands at will into the local purse, without knowledge of or regard for the general economic interests of their district, whether School Boards or Boards of Guardians, are an anachronism which modern wisdom has condemned as destructive of self-government, and which modern legislation will sooner or later sweep away.

There is no reason to suppose that the transfer of the powers of School Boards to Municipal Councils would cause any serious dislocation of educational work. The members of School Boards may be entirely changed

every three years, and on occasions a new Board is almost entirely composed of new men. The Town Council would manage the Board Schools by a committee: the committee would represent the same interests, and might largely consist of the same persons as the Board which it replaced. Nor is there any magic in direct popular election or in the cumulative vote. In platform and parliamentary speeches School Boards are represented as carefully selected for their educational qualifications by an interested and intelligent people. The ratepayers generally take very little interest in School Board elections; only a small percentage take the trouble to vote; they are wholly unfit to judge of educational qualifications, if they tried to do so; and they never do try, but the few who go to the poll vote for the most part on sectarian, sectional, or party considerations. Everybody knows this to be the fact, but it is contrary to the conventionalities of public life to say So. Nomination by a Town Council is quite as likely to provide a competent body.

These are the principles upon which the Bill of the Government has been framed. But Bills which are to become law must not only be framed on sound principles: they have to be got through the House of Commons. Some members of that assembly are not exclusively guided by national interests, not exclusively illuminated by the broadly diffused light of national opinion. They are liable to be disturbed by special agitations, and to be distracted by the cross-lights of sectional interests. Every body which conceives itself to possess vested rights capable of being affected by administration or legislation has in these days its Association, whose function it is vigilantly to scrutinize from a sectional point of view every administrative Act of Government, and every Bill laid be

fore Parliament. If it is supposed that their interests can by any possibility be injuriously affected, the Association is up in arms at once. Letters are despatched from headquarters to their constituent members in every part of the country, asking them to expostulate with every member of Parliament who represents them or with whom they have influence. Sometimes, though not by the most adroit Associations, the very draft of the letter to be sent is inclosed. By this method hundreds and even thousands of letters are received by members of Parliament within the space of a week or two, all to the same effect; and thus a fictitious appearance of public opinion is created, by which Parliament is perturbed, and to which the Government has often reluctantly to give way.

Many Associations have been busy with the Education Bill-some upon points which are not educational at all, but affect their interests in other ways. Among them are two very powerful Associations-that of the County Councils and that of the Municipal Boroughs. Such towns as are not county boroughs are for purposes of local government partly autonomous and partly under the jurisdiction of the county. Between them and the counties there is a chronic controversy as to whether, when any new power of local government is to be conferred, it shall be given to the county or to the town. The creating of a local education authority afforded an occasion for the revival of this controversy. The towns claimed the right to be the new education authority. The claim has no special relation to the subject of education; it would have been put forward, whatever the nature of the new power had been. The political influence of the Municipalities is great in the House of Commons: it was necessary in order to secure the passing

« VorigeDoorgaan »