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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Oamaru, 18th June, 1886



I am convener of a Committee of Education Board of Otago "to inquire what is best as to amount of instruction and number of subjects to be prescribed for common education, especially as affecting health, and healthful culture of mind, with a view to preparation for the duties of mature life."

It is feared by some that we are in danger of erring through excess of prescription, either in amount of task-work or in number of subjects, occasioning undue repression of individuality in teachers and pupils, over-cultivating the memory at the cost of the mind, injuring the education as a training for life's career by overstrain upon the vital forces at the outset. And it has been suggested that in framing a scheme of prescribed work, what we ought to aim at is, not to have in it as much work and as many subjects as possible, but to have in it as little and as few things as possible, compatibly with secured provision for due promotion of mental culture by sustained progressive exercise of mind in all its opening powers.

The Committee desire to have the benefit of opinions of men qualified to judge. I, therefore, respectfully request you to take this matter into consideration in connection with our existing syllabus or practice as otherwise known to you, and to favour me at your early convenience with any notes that may occur to you—(1) As to details in relation to syllabus of subjects prescribed. (2) As to the regulative principle or view upon which a syllabus ought to be constructed.

I trust that the importance of the subject will secure your kindly consideration of it.

Your obedient servant


James Macgregor.