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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Elementary Agricultural Teaching

Elementary Agricultural Teaching

The next subject was the necessity of having elementary agriculture taught in the Government schools. The remarks of the Sub-Committee were as under:—"Few persons will care to dispute the general excellence of our system of national education, up to a certain point. But when it is considered that agricultural and pastoral pursuits must for an indefinite period form the chief source of income for the people of New Zealand, it is time that the subject of agriculture should be brought more prominently before the public mind by including it in our general scheme of education; especially so when it is considered that almost every other civilised nation is doing so, as well as devoting considerable sums in fostering agriculture in all its branches. If we search the chapters of the reading books from Standard I. to Standard VI., we shall not find one devoted to rural affairs. It is proposed that Government be asked to encourage the production of reading books such as are used in the State schools in other countries, devoted to the descriptions of stock, crops, implements, and plants of the farm, illustrated with plates of the best types of the above; such reading books to be placed in the hands of boys when they reach the Fourth or Fifth Standard. It may be argued that the majority of teachers would be incompetent to explain the subjects as read. Is there any reason why teachers should not qualify themselves for such work by attending courses of lectures at stated periods, and receiving certificates of competency, which would entitle the holder to preferment when applying for employment? Such instruction might be given at Lincoln College, at least to Canterbury teachers. Provision might be made for courses of such instruction in the existing colleges. Agriculture is now taught in most if not all the Universities in Great Britain, and there is a regular system of lecturing upon dairying and agricultural pursuits prevailing throughout that country, under the supervision of the Board of Agriculture. Another great incentive to the boys of the rural districts to follow up the profession of farming would be by the establishment of Agricultural Scholarships for boys from the State schools who had passed the Sixth Standard, and who had further qualified themselves by mastering one or other of the elementary text books on Agriculture to be put into their hands during their last year at school. We believe that we are correct in stating that the Board of Governors of Canterbury College contemplate establishing a set of Scholarships to take boys on to Lincoln College, and if Boards of Education would also inaugurate another set, the sons of farmers would then be able to avail themselves of the higher education to be had at that institution."

Mr Waby moved—"That steps be taken to introduce elementary agricultural teaching into State schools."

Mr Fitzroy seconded the motion.

Mr Sinclair said the present syllabus in the schools was quite ample to occupy the children all the time they ought to be at school. Unless, therefore, they took out some of the subjects now taught and put in agriculture, they would find that they were adding burdens to the children more than they could bear. He might say that, with regard to the syllabus, it seemed to him that this was the work of a few theorists, and not of practical men or experts. (Hear, hear.) It seemed to him that, as taught now, there was a very large amount of education given which was not of the slightest practical use.

Mr Brown fully endorsed the remarks of Mr Sinclair. He felt it would be for the good of the children, and of the colony generally, if some of the useless subjects now taught .were done away with, and more useful and practical ones substituted.

Mr D. Thomas said it was not intended page 15 to add any more to the amount which the children had to learn, but to substitute reading and text books on agriculture for some of the useless subjects.

Mr D. McLean said that what he would like to see as a measure of justice to the country settlers, was that facilities should be afforded to the children of country settlers to obtain scholarships at Lincoln College.

Mr Fitzroy said he thought the Conference ought to make it quite clear that they did not desire to add any more to the present work' of the children, but simply to substitute something practical and useful for what was now taught, and which to a large extent was useless. He would ask Mr Waby to amend his resolution in this direction,

Mr Waby said he would accept the suggestion. He thought that it would be a very good thing if instruction in farm bookkeeping were added. Agriculture was now becoming so scientific that a knowledge of elementary agriculture was most important.

Mr Coleman Philips thought that children would learn practical farming far better on the farm than in the school. They also proposed to teach the children elementary agriculture, which was really chemistry and would be far too exacting for young children.

The Chairman pointed out that it was only intended to use reading books.

Mr Borrie thought these were subjects which either ought to be taught in the seventh standard or in the secondary schools. He saw great obstacles in the way of introducing this into the primary schools, because it would prevent the uniformity of books, which was so much desired.

The Chairman pointed out that the Governors of Canterbury College intended to establish scholarships in connection with Lincoln College, and it was thought that this would enable boys in the primary schools to prepare for these scholarships.

The resolution was ultimately amended as follows:—"That steps be taken to introduce instruction in elementary agriculture and farm bookkeeping in State schools, such education to be substituted tor some part of the present syllabus of less general importance, and not to be made an additional subject."

The motion was then put and carried.

Mr T. Mackenzie, M.H.R., moved—"That scholarships gained in the primary schools be available if desired by pupils or parents for Lincoln College." What he wanted to see carried into effect was that the holders of a scholarship in the State schools should be enabled if they desired, to attend during the duration" of their scholarship at Lincoln College.

Mr McLean seconded the motion.

Mr Carswell thought the Government should be asked to give some subsidy to enable the children of settlers at a distance from Lincoln College to attend.

The Chairman pointed out that the students at Lincoln College had their expenses paid to the North and South once a year.

Mr Mackenzie pointed out that the scholarship if held by the child of a country settler carried a sum of £40. If properly managed, this sum should be sufficient to enable the holder to take advantage of Lincoln College. If was not a matter of finance, but a question if the Board of Education would allow the children to take advantage of Lincoln College.

The motion was put and carried.