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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Abolishing Standards V. and VI

Abolishing Standards V. and VI.

Next to raising the school age as a means of retrenchment, the abolition of Standards V. and VI. finds favour. In support of this notion the most startling statements have been made. For example: A writer in the Lyttelton Times, June 16th, stated that the V. and VI. Standards are 10 per cent of the whole, or, to use his own words, "Standards I. to IV. comprise 90 per cent of the whole." This is true. He further states that the total cost of Primary Education is £381,509 (the estimate of the Minister for the current year). This may be true, or it may not. Then working out his own figures he makes the astounding assertion that "by the limitation to four Standards we reduce the capitation down by £110,000." The total cost is £381,509. Cut off one-tenth of this and you save £110,000! Had some person but devised an "insane system" in time for this writer to have passed the page 9 "absurd V. and VI. Standards," he would not have been making such blunders in his figures to-day. If these much abused Standards comprise only 10 per cent of the whole, then by cutting them off you can only save 10 per cent of the money—something over £38,000.

But, as in the case of raising the school age, the process can be applied only to the larger schools. Cutting off the numbers in the small schools means increased capitation grant for those that remain, a process much like Pat's, who, wishing to lengthen his cow's tether, cut off a piece from each end to put in the middle. In the town and suburban schools something might he saved, undoubtedly. But anyone who will trouble to make the calculation, will find that the saving, by reducing the Standards to four, could not, by any possibility, amount to one shilling per head of the population of the Colony. Is it worth while, for the sake of less than a shilling per head, to reduce the system, thereby making it inferior to that of every nation with which we have to do, and, in many respects, to compete?

Before leaving the V. and VI. Standards, it may be well to state that their enemies have made as foolish assertions about the subjects taught in them as about their cost. Many people believe that in these Standards, Latin, French, Euclid, Algebra, and Ancient History are taught, in addition to the more elementary subjects. Some of these assertions have been made in ignorance, while others have been made wilfully. To give those who care to know what is really required by the Act to be taught in the Primary Schools, we subjoin a copy of the Standard Regulations, printed by permission of the Minister for Education, the Hon. Sir Robert Stout. A careful study of these regulations will convince most persons that a very little more, if anything, is required, than is necessary to enable our boys and girls to read the newspapers and conduct their correspondence, in ordinary life, intelligently. And are we prepared to page 10 allow the education of our children to stop short of this? No man who wishes to give his family anything approaching a fair chance in life will stop short of it. This is pre-eminently a poor man's question. The possession of wealth already gives to the rich a thousand advantages. Why should this one advantage of a fair education he relinquished by the poor man. He need not give it up unless he choose. Let him hear this in mind when he records his vote. Let him remember that the closing of school doors against either those who are between the ages of live and seven, or those who have passed the IV. Standard, means the closing of vast numbers of small country schools, or the increase of grant per head. Let the electors contemplate the former of these alternatives. Let them imagine the condition of the children of small farmers and labourers without schools. Let them remember that whether they have education or not for their children, they must continue to bear a part of the burden of taxation; they must continue to help to pay the interest on money that has been spent mainly for the benefit of large landed proprietors. Let them remember that what they get in the way of education for their children, is nearly the only benefit they reap in return for the heavy taxes they pay. Above all, let them remember that any action that impairs the efficiency of the Primary Schools will tend to create and intensify class distinctions. The rich will continue to have their children highly educated, to a great extent at the expense of the country. The best and most lucrative positions will be filled by the children of the rich or middle classes; the children of the poor will become more and more drudges, and we shall, as a country, lose the grand opportunity that has been put within our reach, of doing something towards solving the great problem of the age—how to give to every man a fair share of the blessings of life.