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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30


decorative feature

The cry in every direction just now is retrenchment. Many and varied are the plans for cutting down the expenses of Government. But, however the platform of candidates for Parliamentary honours, or Political Reform Associations, may differ as a whole, they, with few exceptions, include reduction in the cost of Education as a plank. And, as Josh Billings would say, where they do agree, their unanimity is wonderful.

One party comes out boldly and declares that whatever may be the results, the cost of Primary Education must be cut down by at least £200,000. This party includes the sworn enemies of any system of National Education. Men who do not believe in the education of the masses, but are, in many cases, afraid to say so, take refuge here. It includes those who would like to see Denominational Schools revived and supported in part by the State. It includes those who would have no objection to the masses being educated, if education cost nothing; but, as part of the cost has to be borne by property, they object, for they are large property holders.

Of this party New Zealand may well be afraid.

page 4

Another party that believes saving to be possible, consists of those who, in the main, are supporters of the system. But, fully conscious of their power, they intend to cut down the cost by say £100,000, without seriously impairing the system.

This latter party is, we fear, in danger of being misled by looking too exclusively at the large annual vote which is made for carrying on the Primary Education of the country, and not giving sufficient consideration to the vital importance of the system. The question of cost is an important one, but it is not the most important. Whether, as the result of any interference with our present system, in future years the poor will become poorer, and the rich, richer; whether class distinctions will be created and intensified; whether our industries will be crippled by reason of a population less intelligent than those with whom they have to compete, these are questions of infinitely more importance than the saving of a few thousand pounds, much as New Zealand has need to save.

The writer of this little pamphlet does not profess to be able to say anything original on the question. But he has had more experience in the working of the system than the general public, and now tries to put into handy form for reference, a few of those things which all friends of Primary Education ought to know, and make use of, during the next few weeks.

The proposals made by those who think that it is possible to greatly reduce the cost of Primary Education, without impairing the efficiency of the system, are few.

1.To raise the school age from five to seven years. This finds most favour, for it appears, at first sight, feasible. This being the most important is dealt with first, and at some length. It is well worth the study of every man who has a vote.page 5
2.To limit the Standards to four.
3.To close some schools, as they are supposed to he .superfluous ones. This question is not dealt with separately, as it is impossible to discuss 1 and 2 without fairly exhausting it.
4.To abolish Education Boards.
5.To cut down the general grant per head and leave the authorities to do the best they can.