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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Over-Pressure in the Schools. — By a School Mistress

Over-Pressure in the Schools.

By a School Mistress.

That over-pressure does exist in our educational system nearly everyone now acknowledges, and lest the present splendid arousing of public opinion should be idlowed to die away, leaving no tangible result, I beg to state clearly what the issues are and what, in my opinion, are the remedies for the present unsatisfactory state of affairs.

First, the "age limit" causes the parents to bring pressure to bear upon head-masters of the primary schools to promote the children through the standards fast enough to enable them to enter the high schools at the required age.

Secondly, in the primary schools there are money rewards for the brightest of the junior scholars, who must therefore be pressed on for board, national, and other scholarships.

Thirdly, at the high schools all pupils are expected to compete in their second December in an examination called the continuation examination, while some sit for a senior scholarship.

Fourthly, the pupils passing the last named examinations must in two years [unclear: mo] pass the matriculation or some [unclear: "equival] examination.

Fifthly, the best of these latter [unclear: pu] must next compete in that hardest of [unclear: a] tests, the junior scholarship examination [unclear: of] the university.

Sixthly, the university student has [unclear: a] hast five examinations to pass to [unclear: gain] B.A., B.Sc, etc.

Seventhty, the cleverer university [unclear: st] dents are further urged on to overwork [unclear: by] senior scholarships, money prizes, and, [unclear: lac] but not least, by the hope of gaining first class honors degree at the M.A. [unclear: exa] nation, or its equivalent in medicine, [unclear: scien] law, etc.

These facts being granted, and they [unclear: cas] hardly be controverted, even the [unclear: "man] the street" cannot fail to see that [unclear: soc] thing is wrong.

Our remedy would be (and let [unclear: education] authorities settle the matter as they [unclear: th] best, for they should know) to adopt the [unclear: Cer] man and American methods. First, our [unclear: pri] any schools are free. Secondly, our [unclear: secondary] schools are or can be made free. [unclear: Why] then, grant junior scholarships? The [unclear: head] masters of the primary schools in [unclear: Dunned] and the large towns should be allows [unclear: of] recommend to the education boards the [unclear: par] ticular cases of any children of poor [unclear: paren] who might not be able to provide [unclear: books] etc., for the high schools. The boards [unclear: co] inquire into these cases and award [unclear: th] moneys now spent in junior scholarships [unclear: t] all such children.

The vexed question of the age limit [unclear: be] admission to the high schools is a [unclear: difficult] one, for after all it is only the brighter [unclear: bl] dren who can benefit by secondary [unclear: tra] ing. Therefore, why attempt to force [unclear: a] quick or slow, through the same mill? [unclear: It] a pupil has not reached the Sixth [unclear: Standar] by the age of thirteen and a half he [unclear: s] probably better at a technical or [unclear: trad] school.

In the high schools things are more [unclear: com] plex. There the continuation [unclear: examination] is a very severe strain. Why test [unclear: th] pupils by a leaving examination? Why [unclear: not] take a report every three months, [unclear: and] grant a continuation of the free tenure [unclear: on a] certain average of work done all the [unclear: time] and not merely at a fixed stage [unclear: in] that work? The syllabus of the [unclear: continu] tion examination is admittedly too [unclear: sever] I append it for consideration.

Personally, I think that the [unclear: matriculati] examination in the third December would [unclear: be] an easier and more suitable test of the page 15 pupils' progress and ability. Our secondary schools have three different standards to aim at—the Education Board scholarship, the continuation (or Civil Service), and matriculation (which leads on to the University junior scholarships). It is an anomaly that these three standards should have different subjects and scope, and the sooner one definite standard is apopted the sooner things will take a better turn in our schools. Senior scholarships are even more unnecessary than junior scholarships, seeing that the high schools have admitted the pupils free, and the pupils have at least two other ways of gaining their continuation pass. But the money prizes, again, attraet competitors. These moneys should also be expended in helping poor students, or wholly given to country pupils as boarding expense, not as school fees or rewards.

All experts are agreed that competition and hurry in mental work are more injurious for growing girls than for boys, and more injurious for girls in their early teens than later on. For that reason I have suggested that high school pupils should have three years before being asked to sit for any public examination, and I have recommended the matriculation test because it is a pass one and not a competitive one, which relieves the stress of rivalry and emulation.

It has been suggested that the University might be induced to offer a certain number of junior scholarships for boys and a certain number for girls. In this way boys would work against boys, and girls against girls. Though competition would remain, it would not be felt to such a severe extent as at present. If the universities should in time be made free, then these examinations could safely be abolished.

School prizes are an encouragement to further rivalry and competition. All pupils gaining a certain number of marks should receive a certificate, and those gaining a certain number of such certificates be the only ones qualified to sit for outside examination. These certificates should be granted for gymnastics, handwork of various kinds, punctuality and attendance, as well as for mental attainments, thereby encouraging the pupils to do every kind of work well. In boys' schools certificates should be given for sports and games, and in girls' schools for cooking and sewing as well as for outside games.

The University course I leave to the professors' wise consideration.

To sum up I would say:
1.Abolish junior and senior scholarships in town schools.
2.Make the free school period three years instead of two.
3.Let matriculation and not Civil Service be the continuation test.
4.If possible, let the University set apart special scholarships for girls only.
5.Abolish school prizes, and substitute certificates counting towards a special standard or test.

I append two pertinent paragraphs on the over-pressure question:—

"But the freedom from the examination system, which weighs so heavily upon secondary and higher education in England, is an advantage for which we may well envy Americans. In our elementary schools we have to a large extent exorcised the examination fiend; but our whole system of public school and university education has got into a vicious groove of incessant competition, which represses individuality on the part of teachers, discourages experiments, and elevates subordinate motives for industry into undue prominence, while the strain of constant examination sends many young persons out into life intellectually exhausted, with no conception of seeking learning for its own sake. Examination, useful and necessary, within due limits, as a test of progress, is unfit to be the main object of education. It is a good servant but a bad master, and from its tyranny American- educationists have wisely kept themselves free. The universal belief in education for its own sake has perhaps made it easier for them than, for us to dispense with external motives. It is easier, also, to fore go the aid of scholarships and other prizes as an incentive to learning under a system which claims to provide gratuitously for every citizen sufficient education to fit him for life. . . . This use of scholarships and prizes is necessary for us, and will have to be considerably developed by our new local authorities. But if the whole system of college and public school scholarships and prizes, involving perpetual examinations from the age of nine or ten to the university degree, could be dropped into the Atlantic, America would not care to fish it out, and England would be wise to leave it there."—(From the report of the Moseley Commission, p. 248.)

The American system of "accrediting" is thus explained in the report of the Moseley Commission (pp. 116 and 117):—"The degree to which examination by external bodies or examiners is regarded as baneful both to the pupil and for educational organisation is shown by the fact that it only exists for the purposes of professional qualifications in certain States, and for the purposes of admission to universities and col- page 16 leges in certain other States. Even when it exists the evils that have been so strongly felt in this country have been largely guarded against. . . . While this has been done in the East in order to obviate a multiplicity of examinations, and in order to remove the difficulties that beset the old fashioned matriculation examination, which was mainly conducted by college or university professors, in the Middle West an even more significant plan, known as the 'acctediting' system, has been originated. . . . The University of Michigan determined, therefore, to institute a list of high schools, to be known as 'occredited schools.' from which school pupils who presented certificates of having satisfactorily passed the full four years' high school course would be received without examination into the university. One of the university professors of education has for his main function the visitation of schools with a view of testing their fitness to be placed on the 'accredited' list. When a school has been placed on the list it is still subject to inspection. It receives a report from the university upon each student that it sends thereto at the end of his first session or first semester, as the case may be. The university reserves to itself the right to refuse a student who is found to be insufficiently prepared to go on with his studies, and also the right to withdraw from the accredited list the name of any school that is proved by the pupils that it sends up to have an unsatisfactory standard."

Some idea of the scope of the continuation examination which high school pupils are expected to pass in two years, some in fifteen months, may be gathered from the subjoined excerpts from the regulations governing Civil Service junior examinations :—

English (compulsory).—The requirements will be based on the programme of work prescribed for Standard VII. in clause 38 of the Regulations for the Inspection and Examination of Schools, but will be more advanced in character. Great importance will be attached to composition and to the comprehension of literary English.

Arithmetic (compulsory).—The requirements will be based on the programme of work prescribed for Standard VII. in clause 39 of the Regulations for the Inspection and Examination of Schools, and will include the fundamental rules, vulgar and decimal fractions, approximations, proportion, percentages (including interest, profit and loss). stocks square root, cube root of numbers reducible to prime factors not greater than eleven, metric system, areas of plane rectilinear figures and of circles, mensuration of the prism, pyramid, sphere, circular [unclear: cylin] and circular cone. The use of [unclear: algebr] symbols and processes and of graphical methods will be permitted.

Geography.—The requirements will be based on the programme of work prescribed for Courses A and B in clauses 41 and 42 of the Regulations for the Inspection and Ex-animation of Schools, but will be somewhat more advanced in character. Special stresa will be laid on physical geography.

Heat.—Sources and nature of heat, [unclear: Th] terms "hot" and "cold": distinction between temperature and heat; effects of beat Thermometers and the use of them; methods of ascertaining the fixed points. Linear expansion of solids: effects and applications of unequal expansion: real and apparent expansion of liquids, especially of water; a pansion of gases. Transmission of heat; conduction in solids and liquids; convection is liquids and gases; hot-water heating terns; ocean currents: ventilation. The oaf of heat; capacity for heat; specific heat; simple methods of finding specific heat of solids and liquids; consequences of the high specific heat of water: methods of finding the melting and boiling points of substances; meaning of "latent heat" of water and of steam.

Elementary Botany.—Candidates will be required to show a knowledge of the following:—The organs of flowering plants, their functions, the method of their arrangement, their principal modifications; the general structure, arrangement, and distribution of plant-tissues in so far as they can be made out with the aid of a good pocket lens Pollination and the formation of seeds; special adaptations in flowers; fruits, their various kinds and modes of formation; arrangements for preservation and for dispersal of seeds. Germination. The establishment and growth of plants. Elementary knowledge of the chemical constituents of plants and of the sources from which the plant obtains them. Reserve material; the methods adopted for its storage. The phenomena of nutrition, of respiration, and of transpiration. The distinctive characters of the monocotyledons and the of cotyledons. A knowledge of the characters (including the general propertied of the following natural orders:Liliaceæ, Ranunculaceæ, Cruciferæ, Umbelliferæ, Leguminosæ, Myrtaceæ, Rosaceæ;, Compositæ, Graminaceæ; with a special know ledge of at least one indigenous and one exotic typical member of each of the abort-named orders. Ability to describe, dissect and refer to their natural orders (as abore) fresh specimens of plants. A knowledge of the megascopic structure of a conifer, a fern a liverwort, a moss, and a brown seaweed.

Elementary Mathematics.—(a) Algebra; Fundamental operations; easy fractions involving the knowledge of the factors of expressions that are the product of two binomial factors . . only numerical coefficients being used; common mul- page 17 tiples and divisors to correspond; simple equations involving one or two unknown quantities, and easy quadratic equations involving one unknown quantity; easy problems; graphs of simple algebraical functions within the limits of the foregoing work, and graphical methods of solving simple equations involving two unknown quantities. (b) Geometry: The examination in geometry shall include questions on practical and on theoretical geometry. Every candidate shall be expected to answer questions in both branches of the subject. The questions on practical geometry shall be set on the constructions contained in Section A, together with easy extensions of them. In cases where the validity of a construction is not obvious, the reasoning by which it is justified may be required. Every candidate shall provide himself with a ruler graduated in inches and tenths of an inch and in centimetres and millimetres, set-squares, a protractor, compasses, and a hard pencil. All figures should be drawn accurately. Questions may be set in which the use of the set-square or of the protractor is forbidden. The questions in theoretical geometry shall consist of theorems contained in Section B, together with questions upon these theorems, easy deductions from them, and arithmetical illustrations. Any proof of a proposition shall be accepted which appears to the examiners to form part of a systematic treatment of the subject; the order in which the theorems are stated in Section B is not imposed as the sequence of their treatment, In the proof of theorems and deductions from them, the use of hypothetical con[unclear: uetions] shall be permitted. Proofs which are applicable only to commensurable magni[unclear: dues] shall be accepted.