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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30



In constructing a syllabus care should be taken to include those subjects the study of which will afford a training fitted to turn out men and women best able to discharge their duties in life. In this view the acquisition of knowledge is not looked upon as everything, and a child's training is not gauged by the number of subjects it has been set to study. On the contrary, only that knowledge is considered valuable which the pupil has assimilated, and which forms a basis for still further acquirements. A syllabus constructed on this principle will discourage all attempts to cultivate children's minds, regardless of their bodies; "for, after all," as Herbert Spencer says, "success in life is far more a matter of energy than information."

I.In a rational syllabus the subjects of each standard ought to be suited to the mental development of children of the age at which the standard is usually passed. Progress, as far as possible, should be from the concrete to the abstract. Those abstract studies which require careful reasoning ought to appear late in the syllabus.
II.The subjects should be such as provide each natural power with suitable exercise.
III.Special attention and prominence ought to be given to such subjects as give a power of acquiring knowledge, to those subjects which, when mastered, become instruments of knowledge. (Heading, for example, may be looked upon as a key fitted to unlock the vast treasures of learning.)

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and English Composition will thus form the important subjects in a rational syllabus. The highest importance ought to be attached to intelligent reading, and this might very well be done by lessening the requirements in arithmetic, which appear to be too high in the New Zealand Code. So much stress is laid on the ability to solve problems page 11 in arithmetic, that in a number of schools one and a-half hours per day are devoted to this subject, often, doubtless, with the result that the brain is overworked. Ability to work mechanical examples correctly ought to secure a pass, and ability to solve problems to earn special commendation.

Geography ought to be made a class subject, and should not be taught under the Fourth Standard. The requirements in History for the Third Standard are ridiculously extensive.

Formal Grammar ought to be made a class subject, and greater importance ought to be attached to English Composition. Grammar ought to follow Composition, and not to precede it. This is Nature's method, and ought to be followed in practice.

Elementary Science, as at present taught, is perfectly useless. In the most of cases it is taught like a literary subject, and not experimentally, and therefore degenerates into mere cram.

Drawing ought to be made a class subject, and not as at present a pass subject.