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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

[Address of the Educational Institute of New Zealand]

Gentlemen,—It is first my pleasing duty to welcome the delegates from the other provincial districts to Christchurch on behalf of the North Canterbury Institute. This is now the third annual meeting held in this city, and although many of you have come from districts which can boast of more natural beauties than Canterbury, I trust that your visit to Christ-church, although intended mainly for business, may not be altogether devoid of pleasure. If we cannot show you the diversity of scenery of Auckland, with its lovely harbour and gardens ornamented with the graceful Norfolk pines; although our city is not situated amidst a wealth of virgin bush, like the great city of the south; and although our nor'-westers and son'-westers may contrast so unfavourably with the charming restfulness which one feels in Nelson, yet we have beauties of our own with which I trust you will be duly impressed. You may have an opportunity of seeing some of our famed wheat land, rivalling in fertility the Taieri Plain, and perhaps carry back with you some of that confidence in the future of New Zealand which is characteristic of Canterbury. This Institute has now been in existence seven years, this being its ninth meeting, and it seems to me a fitting opportunity to take stock, as it were, of our position, and consider what we have done in the past, and what we may do in the future. Of the men who assisted in the formation of this Institute only four are present, to-day; of the rest some are still taking an active interest in the affairs of the District Institutes, and some have passed away. Of the latter, we all remember with regret our late esteemed fellow teacher, Mr J. B. Park, who, although not a delegate during the last few years, has taken a warm interest in the affairs of the Institute. He was an enthusiast in the cause of [unclear: the] fession, and a man whose warm [unclear: friend] and genial hospitality many of us [unclear: because] to remember. On looking [unclear: thra] the resolutions of the Institute which [unclear: has] been passed during these seven [unclear: years], cannot but be pleased to notice that [unclear: ma] of our suggestions have been acted [unclear: a] by the Education Department, [unclear: although] perhaps somewhat tardily, especially [unclear: ft] relating to the syllabus. I know [unclear: this] some dissatisfaction has been [unclear: expr]from time to time with the small [unclear: re] arising from our deliberations, but I [unclear: i] these complaints are made by men [unclear: i] take no part in the affairs of the [unclear: Institut] but expect reformation to be [unclear: immedii] evident without any active [unclear: assistance] their part. In the past we have [unclear: give] great deal of attention to the details [unclear: of] own work; for example, we have [unclear: give] our opinion at various times [unclear: on] maximum amount of arithmetic, [unclear: grams] geography, &c, which can be [unclear: taught] the course of twelve months. The [unclear: ti] may come when we shall be able, [unclear: with] neglecting those necessary details, to [unclear: the]a broader view of educational matters, [unclear: i] attack some of those larger questions [unclear: which] have so great an influence on the [unclear: system]

The question of irregular attendance [unclear: for] a long time, been trifled with; but [unclear: time] must come, if New Zealand [unclear: chilldren] are to hold their own against [unclear: immiruigni] from older countries, when [unclear: irregular] will not be allowed. In order to [unclear: see] disastrous effect of irregularity, [unclear: one] only to pass through the schools in [unclear: the] agricultural districts and see how few [unclear: day] reach the upper standards. This does [unclear: as] appear to be owing to the children [unclear: learn] school at an early age, but because [unclear: the] attendance is so irregular that they do [unclear: get] through the standards [unclear: during] page 5 [unclear: ordinary] period of school life. It is often [unclear: imposed] that in agricultural districts child [unclear: abour] is only required at certain seasons. [unclear: From] what I have gathered I understand [unclear: that] the irregularity extends over the [unclear: whole] year. The schools are closed during [unclear: narvest], but there are many other [unclear: seasons] in the year when boy labour is [unclear: greatly] in requisition; in fact, the children [unclear: of] small farmers appear, in many cases, to [unclear: be] sent to school only when they are in [unclear: the] way at home. Without entering into [unclear: a] consideration of that phase of the [unclear: quesion], which belongs rather to the politician [unclear: and] the political economist than to the [unclear: educationist], the matter seems to resolve [unclear: itself] into the consideration of these two [unclear: questions]. Is it for the good of the [unclear: comunnity] that all children should receive an [unclear: education] up to an agreed-upon standard? [unclear: Is] it possible for small farmers to send their children to school with reasonable [unclear: regularity], and, at the same time, to make [unclear: their] farms pay? If these questions can [unclear: both] be answered in the affirmative, then it [unclear: evidently] is the duty of the State to [unclear: enforce] attendance at school, even against [unclear: the] wishes of those parents whose selfish [unclear: attention] to their own interests makes [unclear: them] blind to their children's welfare. I [unclear: have] spoken mainly of country schools, [unclear: where] irregular attendance is most severely [unclear: felt] by the teachers, but the necessity for State interference is greater in the towns, where the absentees are not even profitably Occupied, but are rapidly acquiring in the streets an education which will fit them [unclear: hereafter] for the reformatory and the prison. It is well known that, although there is a "compulsory clause" in the Education Act, it is seldom put into force; but who will wonder when they consider the machinery employed? In the towns there may be, and probably are, thousands of children who are not attending any school, and whose names are not known to any School Committee. In the country, toe members of the local Committee cannot be expected to risk the odium which would inevitably result from a prosecution in which they would appear as complainents, and their neighbours, and probably fellow Committeemen as defendants.

The subject of technical education is also one which promises to require our most careful consideration. Of late years there has arisen in England a great cry for technical education, and there is no doubt that the manufacturing supremacy of England was in some danger from the want of such education. This cry has extended to New Zealand, and in deference to it our syllabus of instruction has been considerably increased within recent years. We now find that, in order to educate the artistic capacities of the few, drawing is enforced upon all children, both in town and country, while, even amongst ourselves, we have advocates for the teaching of fruit culture, carpentry, lathe-work, and so on. Agriculture and agricultural chemistry are now taught in many of our country schools, while there are specialist in those sciences who agitate for the teaching of these subjects in one form or another in our towns also, so as to give the children a liking for country life. The professor of science would insist upon physics and chemistry being taught in all schools, while airithmetic, which is getting such an old-fashioned subject, you know, might be taught in a few months of school life. Then there are others who, fearful lest our girls should be neglected in the general rush for more technical education, would add cooking to the number of subjects to be acquired, not forgetting that they must also become accomplished needlewomen by the age of fourteen. Whilst so many specialists are clamouring for a share of the school time for their favourite subjects, this Institute, as representing the teachers, who have been to a great extent ignored in the discussions, should meet the difficulty boldly, and point out that these constant additions to a syllabus must necessitate reduction either in the quantity or quality of the other work.

There is yet another matter to which the Institute may, in the near future, direct its attention without encroaching upon the functions of the statesman. I refer to the mode of electing Boards and Committees. No one who has taken any interest in the elections in the past, whether as candidates or as voters, can admit that the method adopted is a satisfactory one. Considering the vast importance of the interests administered by our Education Boards, it is only right that those bodies should consist of capable as well as representative men. I notice that the opinion is gaining ground page 6 in some parts of the Colony that the present method of electing members of Boards on the basis of one vote for every School Committee, whether the Committee controls twenty or two thousand children.. should be altered. Since, however, the Boards, under present conditions, must be elected by Committees, how important it is that the latter should consist of men having at heart the good of the education system. When we consider the vast issue at stake, viz., the successful training of the minds of 120,000 children, indeed the intellectual welfare of the bulk of the coming generation of New Zealand's men and women, how important it seems that there should be no room for those personal animosities, trade jealousies and other petty feelings which so often militate against the usefulness of School Committees. The qualifications of teachers have so often been publicly discussed that we shall hardly be thought impertinent if at this annual opportunity for the discussion of our grievances we draw attention to the fact that sometimes among our Committees are to be found men whose main object in seeking election seems to have been to annoy some other member of Committee, or to induce the teacher to migrate to some other sphere. I have sufficient faith in the principle of election by householders to believe that the right men will be found patriotic enough to offer their time and services for the good of their districts, and that these men will be elected, if only sufficient opportunity be afforded for the accurate expression of the opinions of the voters. We teachers have had many opportunities of judging of the mode of elections in the past, and are pretty well agreed that neither of the two methods yet devised has been satisfactory. It is utterly impossible, for example, that the voice of the householders can be fairly expressed when all the electors of a town district are asked to vote personally on one evening in one room in the district. It is also impossible for a Chairman of an election meeting to say which candidates have the confidence of the voters when there is no electoral roll, no check on a man voting three or more times, or in two or three districts; and when the nominations may be made in the room at the time of the election. I admit that the [unclear: alteration] this condition of things is a matter [unclear: rtf] for the Parliament than for this [unclear: Iustitt] but teachers as a body feel the [unclear: necesary] in the inferests of education, for [unclear: it] change, and this is our [unclear: opportunity] pointing out where changes are [unclear: require]

I have alluded in my short [unclear: address] few only of the subjects which the [unclear: Institute] may do well to take into [unclear: consideration] in the near future, because [unclear: I] that the concentration of our [unclear: effect] upon a few points at a time is [unclear: a] likely to be effective than the [unclear: distrib] of our energies over a large [unclear: number] have one word to say with regard [unclear: to] Institute and its objects. I have [unclear: met] persona, and amongst them some [unclear: teach] who ask what good our Institute has [unclear: in] the past, and what it will do for [unclear: teas] in the future. I am afraid it would [unclear: be] no use to specifically name the [unclear: suggest] made by this Institute, which have [unclear: be] adopted by the Government, as [unclear: evidence] of our success in the past, because [unclear: I] afraid our interrogators are under [unclear: the] pression that all our efforts are or [unclear: oug'c] be in the direction of [unclear: reducing] teachers' work. Those who think so [unclear: his] a total misconception of what this [unclear: Insti] was framed to do. Our intentions [unclear: are] I hope, as were the intentions of its [unclear: the] ders, to endeavour to make the work [unclear: of] teacher of the greatest value to the [unclear: commumunity]; to improve the [unclear: surrounding] the teacher in his relations with his [unclear: committee] and the authorities [unclear: generally]; to induce the Government to [unclear: modify] regulations from time to time, so [unclear: that] capacity for usefulness may be [unclear: enhase] If the Institute is successful in [unclear: the] objects, the work of the teacher will [unclear: in] case be less in quantity, but will [unclear: be] far more pleasurable character, the [unclear: reach] of his efforts will be more [unclear: succes] and the country as a whole will [unclear: be] gainer. In conclusion, let me hope [unclear: the] present session will be marked [unclear: by] much unanimity as is compatible [unclear: with] free discussion of the subjects [unclear: on] order paper, and that when [unclear: unanimity] impossible the minority will [unclear: graceh] accept the views of the majority.

Mr D. White, M.A., asked the [unclear: meai] of the Council to accord Mr Scott [unclear: an] hearty vote of thanks for the [unclear: sensible] page 7 [unclear: practical] address they had just listened, It was not necessary to criticise the address, as the points on which the President had touched were such as they were in thorough accord with him upon. He regretted that Mr Scott had been compelled to say that the Institute had not done in the past what it might have done, but such was the fact. There were some who gave no support to the meetings of the Institute, but stood apart and offered impediments to their movements.

Mr R. D. Stewart seconded the motion, which was carried with acclamation and acknowledged by Mr Scott.