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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

State Schools

State Schools.

"Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit."—Virg.

My space is gone, and oven were it not I am afraid of wearying, and therefore can go into no details, except briefly to indicate what appears to me as amongst the main defects in the practical working of our public schools, viz.:—
(1).That education is not practically recognised therein—as fully detailed in my first article. And since writing it I have lighted on a paragraph quoted from the "Times," which markedly corroborates the conclusion I then expressed—viz., "The public elementary scholar now emerges from the six standards, a mere useless pedant, his head filled with worthless stuff, and without either the will or the power to turn it to account."
(2.)That the minimum school age should be 7 not 5, because earlier school tuition is not only physically hurtful, but mentally injurious.
(3.)That in respect of teachers there is not only no sufficient test examination of their competency: but that not even qualified junior teachers, but actually pupils only learning to be teachers are employed to teach the most impressible scholars—i.e. the juniors—as I also in my first article pointed out.
(4.)That the visiting examiners in standards should be periodically changed: to prevent examinations constantly in the same groove; and prejudices for or against any particular teacher.
(5.)That there has been no universal examination of scholars, but only of a few selected at the caprice of teachers, which is not only a grave injustice to the un-examined children and precludes the Board and the public in forming even any such conclusions as examinations afford on the efficiency of scholars and teachers, but creates public delusion and thereby public detriment.
(6.)That there is no systematic inspection of the schools—in this district at all events —some schools remaining uninspected for years—a most serious omission, as I think. page 25 For remember the real state of a school can only be judged, not by the annual standard examinations, but by inspection.
(7.)That large classes, such as 70 to 80 in a class, as at Wellesley-street School, are tolerated, rendering tuition of individual scholars a farce.
(8.)And that school materiel is not supplied by Boards, but by teachers, which is wrong; for the reasons I have already fully publicly expressed.
These are grave defects, which, I conceive, require immediate correction; and then, and then only, may we hope that State schools will fulfil their mission; which I have already elaborately explained, and which—as far as the intellect is concerned—Mr. J. S. Mill, in his work of Political Economy, expresses to be as follows:—

"It may be asserted without scruple that the aim of all intellectual training for the mass of the people should be to cultivate common sense; to qualify them for forming a sound practical judgment of the circumstances by which they are surrounded."